Synchronize with the table of contents  INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION :

PROVENANCE:

John Lawson donated his papers ca. 1937-1940 to the Denver Public Library.

ACCESS:

The collection is open for research.

OWNERSHIP:

Literary rights and copyrights have been assigned to the Denver Public Library.

PUBLICATION RIGHTS:

All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.

PREFERRED CITATION:

[Identification of item], John R. Lawson Papers, WH 215, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library.

SIZE:

Number of Boxes: 3

Oversize: 2 boxes, 1 folder, 3 folios

LOCATION:

WH215

PROCESSED BY:

Carol Mead

July 2000

REVISED AND ENCODED BY:

Merrie Jo Schroeder

July 2004

PROJECT MANAGER:

Ellen Zazzarino

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE :

John R. Lawson was a miner, an early member of the United Mine Workers of America union, and a labor leader. Born in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, in 1871 to Scottish parents, Lawson was the third of nine children. His father, John Lawson Sr., labored as a miner and served as an active member of the Knights of Labor union. In 1879, he left school to work as a breaker boy in a local mine. At the age of 17, Lawson moved to Philadelphia to learn the stone-cutting trade.

In 1893, Lawson joined his father in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon to lease coal land and open a mine. In 1894, when the mine did not open, Lawson and his father moved to Rock Springs, Wyoming. They migrated to Colorado in 1895. Lawson and his father lived first in Walsenburg, and worked in the Walsen Mine; then, they moved to New Castle to work in the Consolidated Mine.

When a local United Mine Workers of America union formed in 1898, Lawson joined. In 1906, the union elected him to the International Executive Board of the United Mine Workers of America, representing District 15. The District comprised Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Lawson served on the board until 1917. He participated in the strikes of 1900, 1903, 1910, and 1913. After Lawson’s house was dynamited in 1903, he served on the investigating committee to determine who committed the crime.

In 1913, Lawson served on the State Federation of Labor Investigating Committee, commissioned by Governor Ammons, to investigate militia activity in southern Colorado. That year he also served on the Strike Policy Committee. The Committee attempted unsuccessfully to secure a conference with Colorado Fuel and Iron Company and other coal companies to avert a strike. The strike began on September 23, 1913. Between 1913 and 1914, numerous battles occurred between the mine guards and the strikers, culminating in the Ludlow Massacre on April 20, 1914. In 1915, the Industrial Relations Committee, investigating labor relations across the country, heard testimony concerning the strike from Lawson, employees of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, and the owner of the company, John D. Rockefeller Jr.

In April 1915, Lawson was arrested in Trinidad for the murder of John Nimmo, a deputy sheriff shot at the Ludlow tent colony during a confrontation between strikers and mine guards in 1913. In May 1915, a Trinidad court found Lawson guilty and sentenced him to life in prison. He appealed the sentence to the Colorado State Supreme Court. In June 1917, the Court reversed the judgement and Lawson went free.

Lawson remained active in labor. He worked for the Victor-American Fuel Company in 1917 as a labor agent. In 1918, Lawson resigned as President of the State Federation of Labor and founded the National Independent Union of Mine Workers of America. He served the union as President. During World War I, Governor Julius Gunter appointed Lawson to the Council of Defense to act as a consultant in the effort to win the war. Between 1918 and 1920, Lawson headed an Americanization project at the University of Colorado’s extension division. In 1927, he served as the coal mine inspector for the state compensation insurance fund. From 1928 to 1939, Lawson served as vice president and director of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company. From 1933 to 1936, he was dean of the labor college of Grace Community Church in Denver.

John married Olive B. Hood in October 1898. They had one daughter, Fern Lawson Doring, in 1900. Lawson and his family moved to Denver in 1908. He died in 1945 at the age of 74.

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE :

The John R. Lawson Papers spans 1894 to 1962. Documents record mine labor events between 1894 and 1918. The majority of papers document the strike of 1913-1914, including the investigation by the Industrial Relations Commission and Lawson’s trial. Papers include newspaper clippings, labor journals, legal documents, correspondence, reports, and book manuscripts. Materials also record labor issues between 1919 and 1938.

SELECTION OF RELATED MATERIAL :

Research conducted by Winifred Banner and Barron Beshoar for a book, Struggle Without End - The Life of John R. Lawson Miner and Man, appears in the collection. The published version of the book, Out of the Depths: The Story of John R. Lawson, a Labor Leader(C331.89 466ou1), is in the Western History and Genealogy holdings. Notes made by other researchers are also in the collection.

Lawson worked closely with Edward L. Doyle, the secretary-treasurer of District 15. The Denver Public Library Western History Department has Doyle’s papersWH126

The Denver Public Library’s Western History and Genealogy Department houses a collection of publications regarding Colorado mining labor conflicts, strikes, the Ludlow Massacre, militarism in Colorado, and Mother Jones.

SERIES 1 UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA 1894-1945 BOX 1-3 :

The series records Lawson's labor career, Colorado mine strikes between 1904 and 1913, and labor issues. Materials include newspapers, newspaper clippings, labor journals, legal documents, testimony transcripts, union by-laws and constitution, reports, booklets, statements by union officials and mine operators, correspondence, political documents, and meeting minutes.

SERIES 2 RESEARCH BY OTHERS 1938-1962 BOX 3 :

Papers include notes on Lawson and Edward L. Doyle, manuscripts by Winifred Banner and Barron Beshoar, newspaper clippings, and correspondence.

SERIES 3 OVERSIZE 1904-1915 OVBOX 1-2, OVFOLDER 1, OVFOLIO 1-3 :

The series documents the mining strikes of northern and southern Colorado, Ludlow, the Industrial Relations Commission investigation, and Lawson's trial. Materials include labor journals and scrapbooks containing newspapers, and newspaper clippings.

SUBJECT ACCESS :

: SUBJECT ACCESS - :

  • Lawson, John R., 1871-1945 -- Archives.
  • Banner, Winifred -- Archives.
  • Beshoar, Barron B., 1907- -- Archives.
  • United Mine Workers of America -- Archives.
  • Colorado State Federation of Labor -- Archives.
  • Rocky Mountain Fuel Company -- Archives.
  • Coal miners -- Colorado.
  • Strikes and lockouts -- Coal mining -- Colorado.
  • Coal Strike, Colo., 1913-1914.

CONTAINER LIST