Although she was not well documented elsewhere in Issaquah’s past, Mrs. Elsie Wendt made the news for working in the coal mines. On December 31, 1922, this Seattle Times article documented Elsie Wendt’s conviction that women should learn to do their husband’s trade. Click on the image to view it in its entirety.
|Dorothy Hailstone Beal (right) ca 1936|
|believed to be Jake Jones Jr. ca 1890|
|Bill Evans in uniform|
|Arline Nikko and family ca 1953|
|Janice Ott ca 1970s|
Today the CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, will appear before a Senate panel in order to answer questions about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, which occurred on April 5, 2010. Twenty-nine miners perished in the explosion, whose immediate cause is still unknown. High methane levels may have been a contributing factor.
The following exchange was part of NPR coverage about Blankenship’s appearance in front of a Senate panel:
STEVE NEARY (anchor): And what has Massey been saying about all this?
FRANK LANGFITT (reporter): Well, they insist over and over again that they really care first and foremost about safety, not about coal production. I can tell you, I’ve talked to a lot of the miners who work for Massey. They say it’s the exact opposite. They don’t want to say this on tape because they’re afraid of losing their jobs. Massey pays extremely well, so it’s a great opportunity for people in southern West Virginia.”
The Associated Press also reported on Blankenship’s appearance:
And what on earth does this have to do with the history of Issaquah?
Issaquah owes its first period of rapid growth and expansion to coal mining. Between 1892 and 1904, Issaquah’s mines averaged more than 100,000 tons annual production. It was no coincidence that the same time period saw the rise of labor unions in mines all over the area. There were fewer incidents of death and injury than there were in places like Black Diamond and Roslyn, but mining was inherently dangerous. Large scale disasters aside, injuries were not uncommon, and many of them resulted in permanent disabilities. Labor unions sought to secure fair pay and safer working conditions. Safety measures cost money and ate into corporate profits. And so the balancing act began.
One of hundreds of items on exhibit at the Gilman Town Hall is a certificate of membership in the United Mine Workers of America, dated 1907. The text reads, “Miner’s Record. This is to certify that Andrew Hendrickson was admitted as a member of the United Mine Workers of America in Local Union No. 2362, District No. 10 located at New Castle State of Washington on the 19th day of July 1907.” The certificate is in full color and features drawings of mine workers on the job, men leaving home for work, returning home with a disabled brother, and at a union meeting (“In Union there is strength”). There is also a sketch of “Pay day for the miners, doctors, and agents,” as well as a large picture of posh homes and well-dressed people labeled, “Homes of the Operators.” This is an interesting statement on a poster that otherwise focuses on the hard work of the miners – a pointed reminder that all their hard work profits those who own the mines.
Today coal mining is still one of the most dangerous professions, and still an industry where workers and management struggle over the balance between profitability and worker safety.
By Julia Belgrave
My last post regarding anti-German propaganda and the use of the term Hun during WWI created quite a discussion. You can read the comments and my response in that post. I want to continue along the same vein of German hatred during WWI, and how it directly affected someone involved in a large part of Issaquah history. Around 1912, Gustav Konstantin von Alvensleben held stake in Issaquah and Superior Mining Company. Von Alvensleben was the godson of the Kaiser Wilhelm and came to America with millions of dollars to start his businesses. He became directly involved in the Issaquah mines, helping to turn the business around after it faced bankruptcy. The mine facilities were brought up to modern standards of the time and he worked to ensure fair wages, humane working conditions and cooperation with the unions. The mine was booming once again.
When WWI came around von Alvensleben was living in Canada. Canada entered the war as a part of the British Empire and so von Alvensleben had to flee to America as he faced arrest for being German. Leaving all his assets behind to be seized as enemy property, he escaped to an America not yet involved in the war. But in 1917, when the United States entered WWI, von Alvensleben became a suspected spy by the Counter Intelligence section of the United States Secret Service.
A business associate of von Alvensleben’s happened to be a part of this Counter Intelligence section and was able to arrest von Alvensleben. He was transferred to an internment camp at Fort Douglas in Utah.
I was surprised to learn of internment camps during WWI. We are taught about the Japanese internment camps during WWII, but not so much about German ones during WWI. Fort Douglas in Utah housed Prisoners of War, Alien Enemy Civilian Internees, and Conscientious Objectors. Von Alvensleben was one of about 785 Alien Enemy Civilian Internees. These men were rounded up by the Justice department mostly from the western United States and were civilian men of German and Austro-Hungarian citizenship.Von Alvensleben was arrested on August 8, 1917 and interned 10 days later. He remained at Fort Douglas until March 3, 1920. For reference, the German armies surrendered on November 11, 1918. After the war he was acquitted of all charges – among his defenders was his arresting officer. He was naturalized as a citizen in 1939. He was never able to return to the economic success he had prior to the war because of the assets seized by Canadian government.
For more information on German hatred in WWI and Fort Douglas Internment Camp see the following:
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