CALUMET -- The centennial of the 1913 Italian Hall Tragedy will be commemorated at 3:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve at the Italian Hall Site on Seventh and Elm Streets in Calumet. Surviving family members are cordially invited to attend the ceremony and gathering afterward, both of which are free and open to the public.
The Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan, photographed the day after the Dec. 24, 1913, Italian Hall disaster. The flag is at half-mast to honor the victims -- mostly striking miners' children enjoying a Christmas party, who perished in a stairwell when someone yelled a false alarm of "Fire!" (File photo courtesy Michigan Tech Archives)
The 45-minute ceremony will include a solemn reading of the victims’ names as well as hymns and reflection offered by Rev. Laura Eaton of Christ Episcopal Church. The site will be lit with 73 luminaries, which are placed every year by the C-L-K Rotary; and the arch will be graced by a wreath containing 73 white tea roses, which will be offered to surviving family members attending the event.
The Italian Hall Tragedy occurred on Christmas Eve during the nationally significant Michigan Copper Miners’ Strike of 1913. A Christmas party for the miners’ children ended in a calamitous rush for the stairway exit precipitated by a false cry of "Fire!" resulting in 73 deaths. These victims included 57 children below the age of 16. The tragedy remains a source of community grief, scholarly research, film documentaries, books of both fiction and non-fiction, exhibits, a dance performance, and debate.
A display of photographs depicting the tragedy and its aftermath will be available in the Council Chambers of the Village Office at 340 Sixth Street during normal office hours, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., from Dec. 18 through Dec. 30. A Book of Remembrance will be available for those wishing to record thoughts and reflections. The display will include 73 white lilies representing the victims and handouts detailing the ages, relationships, and lineage of those lost that fateful evening.
This historic photo of the funeral for the Italian Hall victims, which was held on Dec. 28, 1913, was part of a display of historic photos in the Calumet Village Council Chambers on June 20, 2013, as part of the Italian Hall Ceremony held during FinnFest USA. A similar exhibit will be part of the Christmas Eve Centennial Ceremony to be held on Dec 24, 2013. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)*
The Calumet Theatre will also have the "Tumult and Tragedy" exhibit, produced by the MTU Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, available to the public during the same hours, as well as during Theatre events, through Jan. 16. The "Tumult and Tragedy" exhibit is located in the Calumet Theatre Ballroom on the second floor of the Village Hall.
Poster for "Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-14 Copper Strike," a traveling exhibit of the Michigan Tech Archives. (Poster courtesy Michigan Tech Archives)
"Tumult and Tragedy" explores the story of the 1913-14 Copper Miners' Strike. The conflict, sorrow, and tragedy of this confrontation between organized labor and mining companies affected local residents from all walks of life, created headlines across the nation, and continues to resonate in Michigan’s Copper Country today.
The Village is collaborating with Calumet Township, the National Park Service at Keweenaw National Historical Park, Main Street Calumet, the Calumet Theatre, and the C-L-K Rotary Club to produce the Italian Hall Tragedy Centennial Ceremony. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, please contact the Village of Calumet at (906) 337-1713. You may also wish to visit the website of Keweenaw National Historical Park at www.nps.gov/kewe for more information about the Italian Hall Site.
* Editor's Note: See our July 7, 2013, article with videos and photos of the June 20, 2013, Italian Hall Ceremony in Calumet.