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Battle of Blair Mountain: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1921, West Virginia coal miners revolted at Blair Mountain and forced President Harding to intervene. This guide provides access to material related to the “Battle of Blair Mountain” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Machine guns repulsing an attack by miners on Blair Mountain, West Virginia." September 11, 1921. The Washington Times (Washington, DC), SUNDAY MORNING, Image 36. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Touted as one of the largest civil uprisings in American history, thousands of coal miners in West Virginia rose up against mining owners because of poor wages and poor treatment. In nearby Logan County, police and miners clashed as fighting erupted at Blair Mountain. Miners, unified by their appalling treatment inside these mines, fought bravely for a week. The situation became so dangerous for nearby civilians that President Harding sent federals troops and warplanes to quell the uprising. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

May 1921 Early fighting begins in Mingo County West Virginia.
August 20, 1921 Don Chafin, a W. Va Sheriff, denounces growing mob on the border and claims that they will not enter Logan County.
August 25, 1921 Around 5,000 miners have gathered about 2 miles from Logan County; another round of early fighting begins.
August 29, 1921 Heavier fighting commences. President Harding demands that the miner “mob” disperse and threatens to send in federal troops.
August 30, 1921 Four deputies taken prisoner, presumed dead.
September 1, 1921 Three officers killed when 4,000 to 5,000 miners march into town.
President Harding orders use of airplanes to drop bombs on mobs.
September 3, 1921 Troops march into coal fields. Miners wage all-day battle.
September 5, 1921 Miners give up fight.
October 15, 1921 Coal owners seek help from the government to destroy the miners unions.
October 28, 1921 Mining owners reject proposed peace plan put forth by the labor unions. Mining labor unions subsequently fall out of favor in West Virginia.