‘Redneck’ Miners

Origin of the term “redneck”. [Audio]

Back during the early 20th century, the term redneck had a much different meaning than in modern times.

The United Mine Workers of America (UMW) and other unions appropriated both the term redneck and its literal manifestation. While on march, all of the miners wore the famous red bandanna in conjunction with this term; in order to build multiracial unions of white, black, and immigrant miners in the strike-ridden coalfields of northern and central Appalachia between 1912 and 1936.

The earliest printed uses of the word red-neck in a coal-mining context date from the 1912-1913 Paint and Cabin Creeks strike in southern West Virginia and from the 1913-1914 Trinidad District strike in southern Colorado.

UMW national organizers quite possibly transported “redneck” from one section of the country to the other. Then again, its popularizers may have been agents of the Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency, which supplied company guards and spies in both the West Virginia and the Colorado strikes.

Perhaps, the best explanation of redneck to mean “union man” is that the word refers to the red handkerchiefs that striking union coal miners in both southern West Virginia and southern Colorado often wore around their necks or arms as a part of their informal uniform

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Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 10:42 pm  Comments Off on ‘Redneck’ Miners  
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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 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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Welcome and Overview

"Sept. 5, 1921"

Normally I would establish a more formal website for reenacting purposes, but I want to try out WordPress for a change.

Anyways, I have an interest in reenacting the largest armed class conflict in US history. Since this year marks the 90th anniversary and the site is in danger of being literally blown to Kingdom Come, I think that we, as reenactors should help spread the word of this important event in US labor history.

From Friends of Blair Mountain Site

Blair Mountain in Logan County, West Virginia, was the site of the largest open class war in U.S. history. In 1921, after a generation of violent suppression and exploitation of the people in the southern coalfields of WV, 15,000 coal miners rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the control of coal barons.

They met the anti-union forces of the coal-operator army on Blair Mountain and the surrounding ridges. The battlefront was roughly 15 miles long, and more than one million rounds were estimated to have been fired over the course of the five day battle. Both sides were heavily armed with machine guns, high powered rifles, and explosives. The anti-union forces even employed airplanes for reconnaissance as well as for dropping homemade bombs on the miners.

With the battle raging in the hills and hollows around Blair Mountain, federal troops were called in and were able to peacefully stop the conflict without a shot fired. The miners dispersed and went back to their homes, and the news reporters returned to their editors. The battle received above the fold coverage in major newspapers of the day, including the New York Times. But soon, the battle faded into obscurity, and over time has been largely forgotten.

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 4:32 am  Comments Off on Welcome and Overview  
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