HARD ROCK EPIC: Western Miners and the Industrial Revolution, 1860-1910 by Mark Wyman

HARD ROCK EPIC: Western Miners and the Industrial Revolution, 1860-1910

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Hard Rock Epic is the tale of ""men who drilled and blasted, mucked and trammed"" in western metal mines during the late 19th-century transition from picturesque placer mining to the industrialized, profit-oriented, deep-mining business. According to historian Wyman (Illinois State Univ. at Normal), the miner's life was shaped by ethnic rivalries, as Chinese, European immigrants, and native-born Missourians vied for limited jobs; by uncertain paydays; by technological ""improvements"" likely to increase production at the cost of miners' lives; and by the law which was apt to blame anybody but the mine owner for accident and disaster. In response, by the 1870s, hard-rock miners here and there began to organize to help themselves, their families, their survivors. Historic names like Leadville and Cripple Creek mark Wyman's account of the growth of the Western Federation of Miners, the bitter struggle for the eight-hour day, the romance with the radical IWW, and the ultimate failure of radicalism to capture the allegiance of miners interested, rather, in working things out with the owners. Wyman is more balanced and pedestrian in his economic and political analysis than Big Bill Haywood fans might wish, but his account of men and machines down the mines (well illustrated with historic photos and drawings) is grim and compelling.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1979
Publisher: Univ. of California Press