Miner’s Cap

During the early 1900s hard hats were uncommon. Most of the time miners would have worn a soft canvas cap like the one above or their everyday soft caps. By the 1920s, the lamps were of the “Carbide lamp” variety.

Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on Miner’s Cap  
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Battle of Blair Mountian – David Rovics

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm  Comments Off on Battle of Blair Mountian – David Rovics  
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1910s Sack Coat

The Sack Coat was the “uniform” of early 20th century working class persons. The sack coat refers to any sort of man’s hiplength coat with a straight back. The earliest known examples date back to the 1840s and was the main style of coat used by Union soldiers during the American Civil War. By the late nineteenth century distinctive characteristics of this coat included a small collar, short lapels, a fastened top button close to the neck and had a slightly baggy appearance. Most work coats would have 3 to 4 patch pockets on them and would have been made out of cotton but wool is always a good option to use as well.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm  Comments Off on 1910s Sack Coat  
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On the Topic of WW1 US Uniforms

If you watched the UMW’s video, “Into the Darkness,” one of the narrator’s mentions that some of the miner’s wore the uniforms that they had worn in France during the Great War. There is enough evidence to prove that this statement is correct through picture’s taken during the ten days that the battle took place and the surrender to Federal forces.

From what I can tell, the most common items would have been the “Bordie” helmet, M1910 ammo belt, and occasionally the M1903 Bandolier. Some men did wear the full uniform into battle, though. My general opinion of guerrilla fighters, however; is to keep full military dress to a minimum

Since the subject of US Army uniforms is rather detailed I’d highly recommend visiting theHeartland Doughboys. They are an American Expeditionary Force reenactment group based in the upper-Midwest.

Schipperfabrik and What Price Glory are amongst the best and most recommend vendors for items.

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm  Comments Off on On the Topic of WW1 US Uniforms  
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UMWA Video on the Battle

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 11:11 pm  Comments Off on UMWA Video on the Battle  
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Matewan Massacre returns to region

For those that may be interested, more of a play group than living historians:

Matewan history comes to life

By Big Jim Charles

Lots of our visitors who come to Southern West Virginia visit the trails in Mingo County and enjoy the town of Matewan. Ironically, before the trails opened up in our area Matewan had been a town that was hard set and many people felt it’s best days were behind it.

Which is sad, considering how world famous Matewan is.

Back in the 1980s, the story of the Matewan Massacre was brought vividly to life in the critically acclaimed John Sayles movie, “Matewan.”

The story of that conflict actually came from a novel called “Union Dues” written by Sayles after he lived and worked in Mingo County during the 70s as a coal miner. Everything in that classic, critically acclaimed movie is told in one chapter of the novel “Union Dues.”

Visitors to Matewan often like to watch the movie. The last time I was at Historic Matewan House they were still playing it on a wide screen in that wonderful establishment.

And many of our visitors who come back early in the spring enjoy the reenactment that takes place in Matewan on the very streets where the real shoot out took place, early in the 20th century.
Now, I have some big news for our visitors.

The reenactment of the legendary Matewan Massacre will be coming to Logan County on St. Patrick’s Day and it is the first time the reenactment has been staged on the stage.

The reenactment will be presented indoors at the Savas-Kostas Theater at Southern West Virginia Community Technical College at the Mount Gay campus in Logan. The Matewan Massacre reenactment will be featured twice at SWVCTC on March 17 at 11 a.m. for local gradeschool students and at 6 p.m. for the public. The events will be free of charge.

The reenactment will also do two performances in the streets of Matewan in May. This will be the most times that the production has been presented in a year one cast member told me recently.
The Matewan Massacre took place in the era of the mine wars when the coal barons who brought in an army of “gun thugs”, private detectives who were in effect a private army working on behalf of the coal barons to keep Union organizers out of the area.

In those tough times, when mine operators found out a worker had joined the union they often sent gun thugs (who had been deputized) to evict miners and their families from mine owned housing. The miners were virtually slaves as they lived like indentured servants thanks to the company stores, and traveling from one community to the next could be extremely difficult in those days, making a mine operator that much more powerful.

A group of miners had formed a tent city in Lick Creek which lead up to the Matewan Massacre. Baldwin-Felts Detectives were ordered to crack down on striking miners. On May 19, 1920, 11 Baldwin-Felts detectives stepped off the train in Matewan and started evicting miners. They were stopped by Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield and several townspeople then went to the sheriff in Williamson and got a warrant to arrest the detectives.

The Baldwin-Felts detectives claimed to have a warrant to arrest Sid Hatfield. When the two groups met again sparks erupted and guns were drawn. To this day, nobody knows who fired first, but when when the smoke cleared, three of the miners group, including Mayor Testerman were gunned down in the street. Testerman died later in a hospital in Welch.

Court proceedings followed in Mingo County and Hatfield, Chambers and the miners were declared innocent. The detectives then filed charges in McDowell County. Hatfield and Chambers went to Welch to answer the charges. Right before that, Sid Hatfield married Mayor Testerman’s widow and he was unarmed when he went to the courthouse.

When the men were on the courthouse steps, C.E. Lively and several other detectives opened fire, gunning them down in cold blood. That was the final straw to a series of events that culminated in the unionization of southern West Virginia and lead to the Battle of Blair Mountain.

John Christopher “Chris” Gray portrays Mayor Testerman in the reenactment and Gray has made a study of the life of C.C. Testerman, who came to Matewan, married into a local family and became close friends with Two Gun Sid Hatfield, who actually married Testerman’s widow ten days after the shootout where the mayor was gunned down, supposedly by Baldwin-Felts detectives. But Gray can explain how there is a conspiracy theory behind that one if you stop and talk with him!

For many years, cast members have wanted to present the reenactment on stage indoors and to take it on the road. Now they will, and if you are in Logan during that week, you can get the chance, or if you are in Matewan in May, you will have another chance.

In addition to the presentation of the Matewan Massacre reenactment at Southern’s Savas Kostas Theater on March 17 at 6 p.m. you can see it in the town itself in Matewan on May 14 at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“People from all over the United States come to Matewan to see the reenactment,” Gray told me, explaining that he first heard of the Matewan Massacre as a kid, in regards to the later gunning down of Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers on the streets of his hometown in Welch at the courthouse steps.

Published in: on March 17, 2011 at 11:28 am  Comments Off on Matewan Massacre returns to region  
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Red Scarves

A characteristic of the miners in the Coal War of 1920-21 was the red bandanna that was worn around his neck; it was a part of the revolting  miner’s “uniform.”  Not only was it used to identify one insurgent from the next, but it also helped unify the group.

When people bring up the wearing of red bandannas, most people tend to be drawn to the fancy paisley patterns that are out there. So the question is, where the miner’s handkerchiefs the “railroad” style or were they something else?

This requires a quick look at the history of paisley. Though the recognizable paisley print pattern was originally crafted by Indian artisans, it was brought to Scotland in the early 19th century, where it received its name. Paisley print was named after the Scottish town of Paisley, where printed cotton and wool fabrics were heavily manufactured.

Paisley on cotton and wool in the 19th Century was major and by the beginning of the 20th century the paisley pattern was being printed, rather than woven, onto other textiles, including cotton squares which were the precursors of the modern bandanna. Being able to purchase printed paisley rather than woven paisley brought the price of the costly pattern down and added to its popularity.

I don’t recommend using this style since it appears to have come out later than the 1920s.

However, the paisley print, as we know it, didn’t see its first acclaimed popularity until when the Beatles decided to wear it during the “Summer of Love” in 1968.

These styles are an example originals found in the 1800s-1930s.

Proper styles should be made from old material, such as shirts that were no longer wearable or from scraps not used. I’d recommend going with a basic solid red color made from wool or cotton. I’d recommend checks, non-railroad style paisley patters, or calico prints.

Here is a slight update, this is one of the Hatfields from Matewan, WV in the late 1800s. Note that he is wearing a paisley neckerchief. Do keep in mind that the Hatfields were a colorful group, so they could afford fancier items; however, notice that it is different from the railroad ones you see in most shops.

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm  Comments Off on Red Scarves  
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The Battle of Blair Mountain Documentary

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Comments Off on The Battle of Blair Mountain Documentary  

Piecing Together an Impression

We started out going through the thrift clothing stores, but now we’re searching around for other sources. Most of the photos of the miners at Blair Mountain show them wearing every day clothes vs. work clothing, with the exception of over alls and denim trousers.

This is a basic listen of items that one can use to do a reasonably accurate impression.

Clothing for the Miners would have been denim over alls and a red bandanna. Overalls tended to be a mass produced item of clothing with the first commercial “do it at home” patterns for these garments coming out in the early 1870’s. The straps are generally fairly narrow and can be either stitched or buttoned at the rear and at this time it seems that pre-1874 overalls usually have a button instead of a buckle to secure the straps in place on front of the chest. The most common material for overalls for this period is going to be denim and to a lesser extent waterproof material. The slits tend to be reinforced to prevent tearing. The garments for this time period can be without pockets but it seems that two patch pockets in the front below the waist level is very common as are two back patch pockets in addition. Pockets on the bib are correct for this time period, but don’t seem overly common.

Shirts would have varied from man to man, though the styles back in the early 1920s looked closer to the Victorian and Edwardian pull over style with three to four buttons that reached to mid-chest. Wool flannel was a popular material and sturdy. Chambray was also used. Cotton shirts are also correct. Contrary to what some reenactors suggest, collared shirts were around. Most of us have the “Grandfather” shirts, but we’re pushing people to get other period correct shirts. Again, some of the westernwear shops have plain collarless shirts with detachable celluloid collars that are correct. Worn with the red bandanna, you’ll have an image just like many shown in period photos. Suspenders are required, but avoid the tuxedo type and go for 1-1 1/2″wide cloth ones with buckle adjustments.

It appears that the most common types of pants seen in photos of civilians are the standard dress trouser pattern dating from the mid 1800’s, the biggest difference is that many of these high waisted pants also had belt loops. These trousers are generally called fish tails because of the V shape on the back. Most had adjuster pads on the back, as well. If this is not available, use simple straight legged trouser. They should be of period materials and design. Wool, denim, or corduroy is the best choice. Trousers are indeed the most challenging part, as the ones you’ll often find in the thrift shops with the suits are going to gave zipper flies waist belt loops. Therefore, those black or dark grey or denim “westernwear” trousers can fill the gap. They’re all cut correct, except you’ll want to make a one inch (1″) cuff at the bottom of the legs.

A variety of jackets appear in photos of the civilian population. The most common type appears to be that of a suit coat style in a variety of colors, styles and materials. These coats were generally loose fitting. Most, if not all had three-four button, rever-collared jacket with 3-4 patch pockets, these were usually made of cotton drill, wool, or denim. These are easy to find at very cheap prices at second hand shops and thrift stores. Most of us are wearing thrift store suit coats of 3-4 button front, no splitin the back, one breast/two lower pockets with flaps, or patch pockets, and in as a heavy weave wool as you can find in darker plain tones. You’ll often find a vest that matches in these shops, but a mismatch is just as good, sometimes better. It should have six to eight buttons, so that when worn with the coat you can see the top of the vest. Pockets should be w/o flaps, and back can be polished cotton or satin. The bottom of the vest should meet in an offset ‘V’, suggesting a ‘W’.

There were a variety of shoe styles in use at that time. Any sort of leather round toed ankle boot is the norm. Leather soled shoes preferred, those can be found if hunting around. One of the best civilian shoes that fits the bill is the Stacey Adams Boot. You can find them online through various vendors. They runanywhere from about $80 – $110, so shop around. May boots had captoe, ankle height w/eyelets and hooks, all leather sole w/rubber heel. Black would be the best, but a dark brown is also useable.

It appears that the most common type of general head gear is what is often referred to as a “newsboy” “newsie” “cabbie” and are a hat made out of various materials with multi panels and a visor on it. There is also another type by that name which is different and is not made of multi panels. Personally I would stick with the multi-panel version but both would suffice. These should be of period materials and design. The “Newsboy” hats are easy to find new and used and are inexpensive. Some wide brim fedora-like hats do show up in a lot of photos. However, they should be in poorer shape than the classy gangster style.

There are reports of former soldiers from the Spanish American War and First World War that wore their uniforms into battle. There was also one former Italian officer that showed up in his uniform and commanded the miners in battle. It seems that the US bordie helmet was in use by many men. I would personally avoid using too much military items besides for ammo belts, firearms, and in some cases headgear.

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm  Comments Off on Piecing Together an Impression  
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The First “Rednecks”

When Miners March

The earliest example I can find used within the US dates from the 1890s. The term had also been used in the 1600s to describe Presbyterian Scottish rebels by the British nobles just prior to the English Civil War. It seems that some historians say that with the large amounts of Scot and Scot Irish that moved to the south, the term stuck around. What I learned was that it’s from farmers that got sunburned on their necks from being out in the fields all day. It meant a poor farmer, because he doesn’t have field hands working for him, so he had to do it himself.

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 4:39 am  Comments Off on The First “Rednecks”  
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