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Blood Passion Ludlow and Class War in the American West Essay


              The Book Blood Passion: Ludlow and Class War in the American west is a narrative exploration of the most violent labor showdowns in the history of America. It portrays the deaths of seventy-five people who were killed in a period of seven months. It explores the guerilla war that erupted at the brink of collapse of political structures whereby only the intervention of the U.S army could end it. The book by Scott Martelle provides insight into the life and times of the miners in Colorado at a time when working in the mines was just as dangerous as living above the mines.

The author of the book brings to life through vivid pictures taken during the times of the war. He tries to summarize the fact that there had been lawless killing of miners who had been on strike for more than fifteen months. The miners had been kicked out of their company homes when they had begun the strike, but they had built a tent colony for both themselves and their families. However, the Baldwin-Felts detectives who had been hired to protect the mines were given instruction to remove all strikers from the company’s vicinity, which consequently led to the guerilla wars that followed, killing men, women and children.

The author states that the miners had the right to strike given the fact that they lived in the company houses where they paid rent, shopped in the company’s shops and drank in the company’s saloon, but later, their wages were cut by ten percent. On the other hand, the Baldwin-Felts detectives who had been hired had fought harassed and killed union miners at the same time carrying out evictions. For this reason, the author states that the miners were fighting for their livelihoods against a system that was trumped by greed and prejudice. However, the thesis proposed by the author is not fully developed because he claims that this incident “marked the beginning of the modern era of labor disputes” (Martelle, 3). This is because he did not compare this strike with the other strikes in other locations and other industries where the same number or slightly fewer numbers of fatalities were recorded.

There are also some weaknesses in the author’s arguments because his side of the story was too rigid and did not consider the miner’s traditional views of gender roles and at the same time working in an all-male working environment. He also did not mention the Catholic and Greek Orthodox religions, which played a major role in intensifying the miners’ fury against the guards and their depredations against women. By his statement that this was one of the defining moments for American labor histories, Martelle did not contradict himself. Although his evidence was one sided, the incidents that happened under John D. Rockefeller were a defining moment.

The book is an efficient source of historical information when it comes to the Colorado incident that was recorded by history. For instance, the author lays note of the letter written by Lamont Montgomery Bowers who was Rockefeller’s man in Colorado who suggested a reduction of wages by ten percent. This is a piece of valuable evidence that gives insight into the escalation of the guerilla warfare between the company guards, the detectives, the mineworkers and innocent bystanders who were caught up in the crossfire. The Ludlow Massacre has helped to shape labor management in the 20th century because of the evidence brought up during a time when lawlessness was the order of the day. It serves as a cautionary reference about a market that was unregulated and the consequences of not having strong labor unions that fight for the workers. Although the labor market has been revolutionized since those fateful days, the Ludlow Massacre serves as a turning point for this advancement.

There are some biases that spring up when reviewing the book. One of it is that the book focuses mainly on the plight of the miners while it should consider the economic times of the massacre. It was during this time that the coal, fuel and steel had become a precious commodity for American trade. Fuel, like oil and coal, had been the driving factors for the modern America where tough decisions had to be made. Although companies made fortunes from the mining of coal, the book does not focus on the impact that the strikes would have in case the production stopped in Southern Colorado, as compared to other coal-mining regions. The Ludlow Massacre clearly depicts misuse of power by individuals and corporations in positions of power and authority such as John D. Rockefeller and his cronies. Modern labor laws allow that the power should not be misused regardless of position of power of the amount of wealth that an individual has. The book describes Lamont Montgomery to have had a smart suit and a twitchy push broom mustache. It also states that even after a heated debate with the federal mediator, Bowers came out as the winner of the suit as a result of his affiliation.

In conclusion, the Ludlow Massacre has been a pivotal point of reference in modern day labor laws. The importance of the memory of those fateful years traverses any economic or political affiliation that any scholar might have. However, it also shows the plight of mine workers and labor unions in a time when the country was gaining ground in terms of development and economic awareness.


Martelle, Scott. Blood passion: the Ludlow Massacre and class war in the American West. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2007. Print.

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