History 430: Theory and Practice

Document Type

Undergraduate Research

Publication Date

Fall 12-10-2009


"Among the Falstaff army of industries of this country, too poor to fight, too cowardly or virtuous to steal, the coal mining industry presents itself as one of the most bedraggled members of these ragged recruits," state mine operator attorney, D.W. Kuhn in 1911. Although Kuhn sided with coal operators for business interests, his description of the industry was not flattering. By calling the coal mining industry a Falstaff army, Kuhn was comparing the industry to a celebrated Shakespearean character, "a very fat, sensual, and witty old knight; a swindler, drunkard, and good-tempered liar; and something of a coward." In Southeast Kansas during the 1890s, coal mine operators were"cowardly or virtuous" enough to steal from their employees. The wages paid to miners were so low that mining men and their families could not afford to pay their bills. Left with no other option, the miners declared a strike against the coal operators of the Little Balkans on May 19, 1893. With the support of the United Mine Workers of America, these fought to improve their wages. All summer their strike held with the support and aid given by the UMWA and other union brothers throughout the country. By late August, after months devoid of work or pay, the miners' demands were still not met and the UWMA's power and influence in Southeast Kansas was virtually nonexistent. The mine operators had defeated the strike with patience, intimidation, force, and by secretly shipping in a scab labor force. With winter fast approaching, the strike was officially called off August 23, 1893, and mining resumed in the Crawford-Cherokee coal fields with wages marginally better than before the Strike of 1893.