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Western Federation of Miners/International Union of Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: COU:1690

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 852 boxes of files, correspondence, publications, and cancelled checks; 500 bound volumes of minutes, ledgers, magazines, and court proceedings; and the Research Department Library consisting of individually cataloged books, pamphlets, and periodicals. Acquired with the collection were a number of artifacts and curios: union banners and seals, convention delegates, ribbons, photographs, membership cards, etc. Some of these are displayed in the archives. The collection includes documentation of operational activities, such as those maintained by the Bookkeeping Department; items pertaining to elections, conventions, executive board meetings and officer’s correspondence; and organizing campaigns, strikes, contract negotiations and settlements documented in the President, Secretary-Treasurer and the Research Department files. In addition, the collection contains photographs, microfilm, and video recordings, union banners and seals, convention delegates, ribbons, photographs, membership cards, and similar material.

First and Second Accessions: I. Bound Material including Western Federation of Miners (WFM) ledgers; WFM court records; Miner’s Magazine, 1900-1921; CIO News, 1938-1947; The AFL-CIO News, 1955-1960, 1964-1967; The Mine-Mill Union, 1942-1967; The Mine-Mill Herald, 1955-1966; WFM Convention Proceedings, 1901-1916; IUMMSW Convention Proceedings, 1918-1967; and the WFM and IUMMSW Executive Board Minutes, 1902-1958. II. Files, Correspondence, and Publications are organized in 475 containers (1-475). Included are: WFM and early IUMMSW material, mainly correspondence, constitutions, financial data; International Union (IU) papers, 1935-1967, including the IU Presidents’ and Secretary-Treasurers’ topical files, and International Representatives’ reports. III. Research Department Files including correspondence, publications, educational material, and topical files. There is considerable data related to political and social action, contracts and contract analyses from Mine-Mill and other unions, the Secession Movement and expulsion from the CIO, and economic data concerning the nonferrous metals industry. Also filed with the Research Department material is union defense material from the post-World War II period, including trial transcripts and SACS hearings. The files cover the approximate period 1939-1967. IV. Press Department Files from about 1942-1967, including topical files, correspondence, clippings, and copy material. V. Minutes, Ledgers, Magazines, and Court Proceedings consisting of 500 bound volumes. VI. Local Unions, includes material from various local unions such as: minutes, correspondence, arbitration, and financial material; and bound volumes and ledgers in numerical order by union. Sizeable collections exist for Butte Local #1 (including the minutes from 1933-1961), Great Falls Local #16 (including the minutes from 1894-1960), Coeur d’Alene local #18, and Anaconda Local #117. VII. Approximately ninety IUMMSW Ledgers, 1930-1960. VII. Mine-Mill Financial Data from approximately 1935-1960, including expense vouchers from 1947-1960. VIII. Artifacts and curios including union banners and seals, convention delegates, ribbons, photographs, membership cards, and other ephemera and reality. Some of these are displayed in the Archives. IX. The Research Department Library consisting of approximately 360 linear feet of books, pamphlets, and periodicals. The majority of the Research Department Library, consisting of published material, is individually cataloged and is listed in a Separated Material document. Research Department Library volumes can be identified in the Libraries’ online catalog (Chinook) by conducting a Title search for the Western Federation of Miners and International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers Research Department Library. Other material from the Library, consisting of internal notes, memos, clippings and similar material is housed in containers in the Archives Department. X. Cancelled Checks, 1938-1960.

Third Accession: I. Elections and Referendums includes samples of election and referendum material, election correspondence for several districts and ballot notifications to the Executive Board for year the year 1965. II. International Executive Board includes meeting materials such as minutes and notes for several months of the years 1966 and 1967. III. Conventions contains materials on convention speakers, proceedings, resolutions, and misc. correspondence related to conventions in the United States and Canada in the years 1963, 1965, and 1967. IV. Office of the President includes materials pertaining to Amalgamated Clothing and Meatcutters, American Communications, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, as well as other miscellaneous correspondence through the President’s office. V. Vice-President contains materials such as election materials, board member reports, individual district and organization information as well as correspondence. VI. Office of the Secretary-Treasurer contains many different categories of correspondence including Executive Board and International Representative, chronogical, local union, and defense correspondence as well as circulars and board member reports. VII. Canada Correspondence includes correspondence between United States and Canadian districts. VIII. Bookkeeping Department contains local audit reports, checkoff lists, vouchers, and other miscellaneous related files. IX. Research Department contains topical and data files. X. Printed Material contains convention proceedings (duplicates), miscellaneous printed items, and duplicates of the Mine Mill Union.


  • 1940 - 1967

Conditions Governing Access

This collection contains banners in boxes 951-953 that have significant preservation concerns and may not be handled by researchers. For most research use, a digital copy is available upon request by contacting Researchers wishing to view the original item(s) must contact at least two weeks in advance of their planned visit with a detailed explanation of their research and specific need to view the items in question. All requests are reviewed jointly by the Reading Room Coordinator and Head of Archives, in collaboration with other Archives staff where necessary, and permission is dependent on the preservation impact to the item(s), as well as staff availability to supervise research use.

Historical Note

In 1893, Western Federation of Miners (WFM) organized the hard rock miners of the Rocky Mountain States into a labor union regarded as radical by most mine owners and investors. The WFM gained a reputation for violent strikes and militant action from the outset. Their first strike at Cripple Creek was successful. Armed conflict frequently characterized early WFM strikes, as the miners were often arrayed against armed company guards and Pinkerton agents. State militia and federal troops were sometimes called in to keep order in strike areas, such as Telluride, and Leadville in Colorado and in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

The WFM joined the American Federation of Labor in 1896, but the AFL’s conservatism led the WFM to pull out in 1897. In 1898, the WFM tried and failed to organize a rival Western Labor Union. In 1901 the WFM adopted a policy of using the ballot, and direct action when considered necessary, but did not endorse the Social Democratic party and its doctrines. While the membership appeared reluctant to commit to socialism, the leadership expressed a clearer commitment. The violence associated with WFM strikes and the publicity surrounding the debates over socialism contributed to a general perception of the WFM as a radical and dangerous union.

The WFM played a major role in the formation of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905. When Frank Steunenberg, a former governor of Idaho, was murdered in 1905 by former union member Harry Orchard, the State of Idaho sought to implicate the WFM. Charles Moyer, president of the union, William D. Haywood, secretary, and labor activist George Pettibone, were arrested and stood trial for Steunenberg's murder; defended by legendary attorney, Clarence Darrow. The defendants were acquitted.

Factionalism within the IWW led to the WFM’s defection to the AFL (1911). The failure of a number of strikes, its reputation for violence and radicalism and economic depression hurt the union. Declining in membership and power, the WFM changed its name in 1916 to the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW). In the anti-labor climate of the 1920s, the IUMMSW stayed a shell of its former organization. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal revitalized the IUMMSW and other unions. The IUMMSW worked to reclaim its position and rights in the western mines. Following a long strike in Butte and Anaconda, Montana (1934), the IUMMSW was not only revived as a labor union, but also as part of the New Deal coalition of labor leaders and social reformers. Internal factionalism persisted under the presidency of Reid Robinson, who was committed to renewing the union's aggressive organizing and bargaining strategies. Robinson controversially appointed accused Communist Party members to international IUMMSW offices. Anticommunist IUMMSW members forced Robinson's resignation in 1947, but were angered when Travis succeeded Robinson as IUMMSW president. While Travis formally broke with the Communist Party to meet the Taft-Hartley Act's prohibition against communist party membership in labor unions, the publicity surrounding the issue drew unfavorable attention to the union during the McCarthy-era red scare.

The IUMMSW, a founding member of the CIO in 1935, was one of eleven unions expelled from the CIO in a purge of communist elements in 1950. The IUMMSW faced renewed charges of communist influence with the 1954 movie Salt of the Earth, based on a strike against Empire Zinc by IUMMSW Local 890 in Hanover, New Mexico. The strike, combined with the fact that the producer, director, screenwriter, and lead actor had been blacklisted, the film appeared to justify the accusations of communist influence in the IUMMSW.

During the 1950s, the IUMMSW encountered continuing threats from the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), which used anticommunist and racist rhetoric in its “raids” of Mine Mill locals. While holding onto 37,000 members in 300 local unions, the IUMMSW eventually merged with the USWA on 30 June 1967. Thirteen thousand more workers from Canadian Mine Mill locals joined the merger the following day.

From its inception to the 1960s, the union expanded from its western origins throughout the country and into Canada to dominate labor representation in mining, milling and smelting. By the 1950s and 1960s, the Mine Mill had done much to replace the old paternalistic company town mentality with a corporate acceptance of labor-management bargaining and a recognition of its mutual benefits.


1113 linear feet (855 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Western Federation of Miners (WFM), which in 1916 became the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW) was, from its founding in 1893 to its merger into the United Steelworkers of America in 1967, the major American union in the nonferrous metals industry. The WFM was involved in many of the important labor disputes during the turbulent period from 1893-1915, including the two Cripple Creek strikes, the Leadville strike of 1896, the Coeur d'Alene labor troubles, and the Goldfield, Nevada strike of 1908. When the IUMMSW merged with the United Steel workers in 1967, the former's files and records were donated to the University of Colorado. The collection includes files, correspondence, and publications; bound volumes of minutes, ledgers, magazines, and court proceedings; and the Library of the Research Department. Acquired with the collection were a number of artifacts and curios. Most of the material dates from the 1940's through 1967.

Physical Location

Some material in this collection is located at offsite storage (PASCAL). Allow at least 5 days for delivery. Contact for questions and requests.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Jencks began coordinating the acquisition and preservation of the IUMMSW’s records and also the records of its predecessor, the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). Through correspondence and field trips he located and secured documents, and also had records microfilmed. In 1967, Clinton Jencks gave the 1,095 linear feet of WFM/IUMMSW to the University of Colorado in addition to his own papers.

Related Materials

This collection is related to the Clinton Jencks papers, COU:869.

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Rules for Archival Description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States