One of Michigan's worst tragedies was either caused by a prankster or a disgruntled anti-union flunky. The 1913 Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet took place on Christmas Eve, 1913 where 73 people – most of them children – perished.

What led up to it?

A worker strike. The Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, the largest in the Keweenaw Peninsula, was holding one of the longest strikes in Michigan's copper country. A strike was favorably voted "for a conference with the employers to adjust wages, hours, and working conditions in the copper district of Michigan." However, the company managers refused to attend any meeting, therefore crushing hopes of the afore-mentioned changes.

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In retaliation, the strike began on July 13, 1913. Months passed, and by Christmas the strike was still in full force. To help cheer things up, the Ladies' Auxiliary sponsored a Christmas Eve party for the miners and their families on the second floor of the Italian Hall. The only way to get to the second floor was up a steep staircase.

While approximately 400 people were enjoying the festivities, someone yelled “FIRE!” which caused immediate panic. Frantic, the party-goers rushed to the staircase. With only so much room and a horde of frantic, panicking people, 73 people were stomped and crushed to death.....59 of them were children.

The thing is, there was no fire.

So who yelled 'fire' in the first place? The person's identity was never discovered. Some feel it was a prank, but others think differently. Many locals and historians believe it was the deed of an anti-union stooge who worked for the mine management in order to ruin the party.

The strike would not end until April 1914.

The Italian Hall Tragedy: Calumet, 1913

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