Butte Miner’s Union No. 1 Strikes Anaconda Copper Company, 1959
Harvey Richards went to Butte Montana in the winter of 1959 to make a film in support of the miners on strike against Anaconda Copper Company. He produced a film called Perch of the Devil to publicize the strike and the conditions the miners faced at that time. He also took photographs during his filming which are presented in the image gallery on this post. The color images in the gallery are screen captures taken from Perch of the Devil.
Harvey Richards traveled to Butte, Montana in the 1959 when union organizers he knew there agreed that making a film for the miner’s cause could help in the strike effort against Anaconda Copper. Harvey Richards had recently refused to testify before the House Un American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1957 and was under surveillance by the the FBI wherever he went. Nevertheless, he believed the film could be made and be useful in spite of government and company hostility towards dissent and union organization. He was followed around Butte, sometime by three police and FBI vehicles simultaneously. “It was a regular caravan,” he once said. Neither Harvey nor the union organizers and workers were intimidated by police tactics and the film was successfully completed in 1960 and used to support the last major strike in the copper mines.
Although the miners got some concessions from the company, the strike was doomed because underground mining itself was doomed. Open pit mining replaced tunnel mining rapidly after 1960, and with it, the underground miner’s union faded into history. The film and these photos offer viewers today a glimpse into the lives of hard rock miners who played an important role in the industrialization of the continent and our way of life.
The next mining photo gallery features images of the deep open pit mines and their impact on the environment and surrounding communities.