Once upon a time in Bisbee, miners and sympathizers were forcibly evicted by a conspiracy of lawmen, businessmen and “good Masons” who met and planned the violent deportation at the Masonic Hall, which is now the Bisbee Mining and Historical Society.
On the morning of July 12th, 1917, a well armed band of vigilantes and lawmen rounded up and deported over one thousand members and sympathizers of the International Workers of the World, known as the IWW. Its members favored worker owned and operated industries, and proposed to abolish wages, while controlling industrial production through labor councils.
Cochise County Sheriff Harry Wheeler met with Phelps Dodge officials, and secretly organized a round-up of strikers and sympathizers within two local groups: the Citizen’s Protective League, and the Worker’s Loyalty League. Their members supported the mining companies, while distrusting the IWW’s growing support among Mexican and other foreign workers. These photos are from the Walter Reuther Library, and the University of Arizona’s Bisbee Deportation Collection.
Bisbee, Arizona is notable for many curiosities and tall tales, and Bisbee folks have often found themselves “between a rock and a hard place.” This phrase originates in Bisbee, and has its beginnings in the labor struggles of the early twentieth century. The phrase described the circumstances of the workers of Bisbee, who were both fighting the local mining companies, while trying to survive with their families.