A Tragedy in 1914 — Ludlow, Colorado

Plaster bust by Paul Manship, photo by moi

The dour looking fellow above is John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), founder of Standard Oil. His son was a philanthropist, BUT he kept one of his father’s businesses, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. When the workers, fed up with the terrible conditions and lousy pay, went on strike the company brought in the state militia.

The New York Times described the scene: “The Ludlow camp is a mass of charred debris, and buried beneath it is a story of horror imparalleled [sic] in the history of industrial warfare. In the holes which had been dug for their protection against the rifles’ fire the women and children died like trapped rats when the flames swept over them. One pit, uncovered [the day after the massacre] disclosed the bodies of 10 children and two women.”

This event figures prominently in my book, The Burning Bride, which opens with an article (fictional) in Mother Earth (not fictional):

How quickly the people forget the transgressions of their overlords. Let us take, for example, one John D. Rockefeller, the richest man on Earth and a scourge among humanity. Fourteen years ago — at the turn of the century — he was rightfully despised for his monopolies and his trusts. His company, Standard Oil, was depicted in the papers as an octopus with its tentacles around the halls of governments. Today, he’s seen as a wise old Solomon (with an eye for the ladies), but the leopard’s spots haven’t changed.
His son, the great “philanthropist,” pretends to be a different sort of man, a man who cares about the poor, who gives and gives and yet somehow never gets any less rich. What does this philanthropist care for the coal miners at the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, living in tents under the cold glare of machine guns as troops rampage through their encampments — all for wanting a decent wage to feed their families? Make no mistake, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., is to blame for the Ludlow Massacre yesterday, when the Colorado militia fired on strikers, killing at least 25 people that we know of, including two women and eleven children!

Yet now we see this younger paragon fawned over by sycophant society writers, and I quote: “Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., hosted a dinner at their newly built nine-story mansion on W. 54th St. to celebrate the family’s donation of one million dollars for research into animal medicine. The home is exquisitely decorated with some of the finest modern art from Europe.” I suppose society writer Louisa Delafield thinks it’s fine that children die, shot down in the streets, as long as hogs get their cholera treatment and Mrs. Rockefeller gets her paintings.

I prefer the sentiments of Mother Mary Jenkins, who said in her testimony today, “The laboring man is tired of working to build up millions so that millionaires’ wives may wear diamonds. It is awful when you think of decorating women with diamonds representing the blood of children.”

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