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Politics, Labor, and the War on Big Business: The Path of Reform in Arizona, 1890-1920

Politics, Labor, and the War on Big Business: The Path of Reform in Arizona, 1890-1920

by David R. Berman
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Politics, Labor, and the War on Big Business details the rise, fall, and impact of the anticorporate reform effort in Arizona during the Progressive reform era, roughly 1890-1920. Drawing on previously unexamined archival files and building on research presented in his previous books, author David R. Berman offers a fresh look at Progressive heritage and the history of industrial relations during Arizona's formative period.

In the 1890s, once-heavily courted corporations had become, in the eyes of many, outside "money interests" or "beasts" that exploited the wealth of the sparsely settled area. Arizona's anticorporate reformers condemned the giant corporations for mistreating workers, farmers, ranchers, and small-business people and for corrupting the political system. During a thirty-year struggle, Arizona reformers called for changes to ward off corporate control of the political system, increase corporate taxation and regulation, and protect and promote the interests of working people.

Led by George W.P. Hunt and progressive Democrats, Arizona's brand of Progressivism was heavily influenced by organized labor, third parties, and Socialist activists. As highly powerful railroad and mining corporations retaliated, conflict took place on both political levels and industrial backgrounds, sometimes in violent form.

Politics, Labor and the War on Big Business places Arizona's experience in the larger historical discussion of reform activity of the period, considering issues involving the role of government in the economy and the possibility of reform, topics highly relevant to current debates.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781607321811
Publisher: University Press of Colorado
Publication date: 07/15/2012
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David R. Berman is a senior research fellow at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, a professor emeritus of political science at Arizona State University, and author of Reformers, Corporations, and the Electorate and Radicalism in the Mountain West, 1890-1920 (both UPC).

Read an Excerpt

Politics, Labor and the War on Big Business

The Parth of Reform in Arizona, 1890-1920

By David R. Berman

University Press of Colorado

Copyright © 2012 University Press of Colorado
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60732-182-8


"The Beasts"

In the 1860s Arizonans set out on a quest for economic growth. Acting in a united fashion to promote development of the area's natural resources, territorial leaders obtained much of what they had wished for by the late 1880s — in came the railroads and the investment needed for large-scale deep–shaft mining operations. Development, however, brought concerns over corporate economic and political power and drew attention to problems that had surfaced in regard to taxation, regulation, and labor conditions. At that same time, development and population growth led to considerable heterogeneity, social and economic tension, and the emergence of partisan politics.

* * *

Arizona in the 1860s was a dry and barren land of 4,000 Anglo-Americans and Mexicans, isolated from each other by distance and physical barriers, and 30,000 American Indians. The territory lacked the capital and, mainly because of Indian wars, the conditions of law and order necessary for economic development. Government or the lack thereof was also a problem. Arizona was part of the New Mexico Territory, the capital of which was Santa Fe, 500 miles from Tucson where most of Arizona's Anglo settlers lived.

Tucsonans wanted a more effective government, especially when it came to protecting persons and property from crime and hostile Indians. They saw separate territorial status for Arizona as a solution. President James Buchanan agreed — arguing that without it, Arizonans would continue to be plagued by lawlessness and would be unable to develop their mineral and agricultural resources. In urging the US Congress to grant separate territorial status in 1858, he declared that Arizonans "are practically without a government, without laws, and without any regular administration of justice. Murder and other crimes are committed with impunity."

Members of Congress with constituents who had invested in Arizona mining ventures joined the demand for separate territorial status, hoping this would bring greater security and prosperity. One of these members, Representative John A. Gurley of Ohio, said to his colleagues: "I wish to say here that the people of the states have already spent more than one million of dollars in opening the silver, copper, and other mines of that Territory. Several of my constituents have been engaged in that work, and one gentleman of Cincinnati has spent $50,000 in opening silver mines. The question arises, whether the Government is not in good faith bound to protect those people who have gone out there to open these mines." Congress came through in 1863, in part because of pressure from silver mining interests for better protection of their mines from Indian raids.

Although they enjoyed separate territorial status, Arizonans remained outsiders in national politics. They could not participate in presidential elections and sent only a single nonvoting delegate to the US Congress. They had limited control over their own affairs. A governor, a secretary, judges, and other officials appointed by the US president presided over them.

Governors met with an elected two-house legislature — an upper house called the Council and a lower house called the House of Representatives or Assembly. Under federal statutes, however, governors were the "supreme executive authority" in the territory, and up to 1876 they had an absolute veto over acts of the legislature. They served as the principal symbols of outside control and an unpopular form of government. Many Arizonans resented the fact that governors, in contrast to most of residents of the territory, were often easterners and Republicans.

Many, if not most, Arizonans in the 1860s and 1870s viewed the territorial government as little more than a local arm of the federal government. Overall, the federal government played a dominant role in territorial affairs. It conditioned the authority of territorial officials, controlled the purse strings, and provided the troops necessary for security.

Anglo-Americans started coming to the territory in the 1850s. This influx increased considerably after the Civil War. The migrants were often from rural areas in other states who went west to engage in mining and farming. Settlers from eastern and midwestern states tended to locate in the northern part of the territory. Many of those who migrated to the southern part of the territory came from Texas and other southern states. Migrants brought their political party allegiances, setting the stage for a battle between Republicans in the northern part of the territory and Democrats in the southern part. Coupled with this were deeply felt divisions between northerners and southerners as a result of the Civil War. North-south divisions also set northern and southern Democrats against each other.

The potential for partisan conflict existed in the early years of the territory, but Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to set aside their differences in the interests of survival and territorial development. During the 1860s and most of the 1870s, a nonpartisan clique called the "federal ring" provided unity and largely controlled territorial affairs. The governing elite formed by the ring included Republicans, Democrats, newly appointed officials from the East, and prominent merchants from Tucson with ties to the Hispanic community. The ring had close contacts with merchandising and freight firms that survived from Indian and US Army contracts. For many inhabitants, Apache hostilities were a business rather than a war and constituted a valuable source of income.

Republican territorial governors led the ring, but their emphasis on nonpartisanship and their ability to secure needed assistance from the federal government soothed relations with prominent Arizona pioneers and the large segment of the population that had roots in the South and strong ties to the Democratic Party. The first three territorial governors — John N. Goodwin, Richard C. McCormick, and A.P.K. Safford — all Republicans, looked to establish a framework conducive to the development of the territory, especially its mineral resources. Goodwin took the lead in urging the adoption of laws to protect private property in an effort to attract the "ever timid and ever exacting" capitalist.

McCormick and Safford sought out capital investment, in particular the extension of railroad lines into the territory. As did other territorial officials of their time, they personally invested in railroad and mining activities and other ventures. McCormick, Safford, and another Arizona territorial governor, John C. Frémont, were among the incorporators of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1866 (later the Santa Fe Railroad). Safford, though leading a crusade for public education and mine taxation, remained closely tied to the railroads and lobbied their cause in the legislature; as noted later, he did not hesitate to resort to bribery.

Political life in the first decades of territorial status featured regional disputes and factional infighting among political leaders. Still, at least initially, there was consensus on the need to overcome — if not eliminate — hostile Indians, secure various forms of federal assistance, improve transportation (especially the provision of rail services), and attract private capital to develop the territory's mineral resources.

On their own, territorial legislatures chartered railroads and, unable to finance wagon road construction, granted franchises to toll companies and allowed them to charge whatever rates the market would bear. Meanwhile, Arizona politicians looked to Washington for various forms of help. A succession of delegates elected to the US Congress ascribed to the single pledge made by McCormick: "If elected I will vigorously labor to procure from Congress and the Departments those measures of assistance to which the people are entitled and which are essential to the speedy and successful development of the rich resources of the Territory."

* * *

To help out, publicists quickly published several promotional books for consumption by investors in other parts of the United States and abroad. Arizona journalists, largely writing for subscribers in the states or foreign countries, chipped in by providing a continual flow of information — some of dubious accuracy — about the territory's economic potential. Competition for investors prompted newspaper editors to be highly suspicious and critical of claims reported in papers published elsewhere in the territory. For example, the editor of a newspaper published in Globe wrote in 1884: "Whenever a mine is discovered in Pima County, the newspapers of Tucson publish exaggerated accounts of its richness and predict it will be the biggest bonanza ever discovered."

Throughout the territory, editors actively promoted their part of the territory. Populist-to-be Buckey O'Neill was among them. In the early 1880s he promised that, under his direction, the Arizona Miner in Prescott would do its part in "attracting the attention of capitalists and emigrants to the thousands of inducements here awaiting them."

With the easing of Indian hostilities in the early 1870s, thanks largely to intervention by federal troops, Arizona experienced a flurry of mining activity. Prospectors found gold, silver, and copper throughout the territory except in the northern counties that came to be known as Apache, Coconino, and Navajo. Initially, gold captured most of the attention. From the 1870s to the mid-1880s attention shifted from gold to silver as a result of changes in market conditions. When the richest silver loads had mined out and the price of silver declined, investors returned to gold and began to look at copper.

The once booming city of Tombstone declined rapidly when its silver mines were no longer profitable. The settlement of Globe also began as a silver producer but survived by becoming a copper producer. In 1881 the Old Dominion Mine in Globe opened and began mining copper. Globe at the time, however, was an isolated and crude mining camp with few comforts. George W.P. Hunt, who got there in 1881, later recalled: "The only lights were kerosene lamps and candles. There was, as I recall, one bathroom in the town, and that was in the barber shop. There was no water works; all the water was drawn from shallow wells along Pinal Creek. There was no hospital, no nurses." Supplies came into the camp by pack train; the wooden boxes that contained canned goods were used for household furniture.

The discoverers of copper deposits rarely developed their mines. Many lacked the capital necessary for deep–shaft mining and sold their claims to wealthy investors, often out of state corporations. Small copper companies often failed or sold out because they lacked the capital to compete with larger corporations or to withstand declines in the price of copper.

Chief among the early investors was the Phelps Dodge Corporation (PD), an import-export trade business headquartered in New York, which in 1881 began buying up claims in the process of cornering a large segment of the territory's mineral wealth. It began by purchasing the Copper Queen mine at Bisbee, near the Mexican border, and the Detroit Copper Company, located 200 miles northeast of Bisbee in the Clifton-Morenci-Metcalf mining district along the border with New Mexico. In making these investments, company officers acted on the advice of Dr. James Douglas, a Canadian-born metallurgist. Douglas — after whom the town of Douglas was named — later directed the company's mining operations in Arizona, which also included mines in Jerome, and in Nacozari and Cananea in Sonora, Mexico. Douglas also headed the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad, a line he created following a feud with the Southern Pacific.

Acting more as a solo entrepreneur was William A. Clark, later a US senator from Montana, who took over the United Verde in Jerome in 1888 — outbidding Douglas and Phelps Dodge for the property. Clark was one of the leading Bonanza Kings, an entrepreneur who came out West as a placer miner prior to the industrialization of mining activities, made his first money from claims in Montana, used it to make more money in merchandising and banking, and returned to mining as an active investor in the 1870s. Along the way, Clark developed a reputation for bribing legislators. In something of a defense, Clark was reported as saying, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."

Leaders of the New York syndicate that sold Clark the United Verde thought they had been clever. They felt they had mined out all the rich ore and that there was little likelihood of making a profit with what remained, especially because the lack of access to railroad transportation made it costly to get supplies to the mining camp and to market the ores. Clark, undaunted, went to work: "When Clark took hold of the United Verde, everything connected with its management changed. There was no 'Hoo-raw' good fellowship. There was no hesitation. Men were put to work to open the ore bodies at depth and the entire machinery of the mine [was] systematized to insure the elimination of waste and to secure an efficiency in every department." Here, as elsewhere, the advent of big capital meant increased mechanization of the mines and the diminishment of whatever rapport existed between labor and management. Clark soon struck a large body of enormously rich ore and built a narrow-gauge rail line that connected up to the Santa Fe, thus solving his transportation problems.

Small companies and even individuals could profitably mine and transport gold and silver. Development of the territory's copper resources, however, was more difficult and awaited the railroads and large infusions of capital. These eventually came; by the 1890s copper mines were in full production at Clifton-Morenci, Bisbee, Jerome, Globe, and other parts of the territory. In 1890 mining was the most important industry in Arizona, accounting for over 20 percent of the labor force in the territory. Arizona ranked behind only the Lake Superior region and Montana in total copper production.

Mining areas in Arizona were the first to feel the impact of industrialization. During the last few decades of the nineteenth century, mining for many was an individual activity that required little more than a pick, a shovel, and a pan to go into business. Placer mining began to give way to deep–shaft mining in the 1880s. With the transition, the Arizona miner turned from a self-reliant prospector who stood a chance of striking it rich to an industrial worker or wage miner dependent on a large corporation — often owned by absentee capitalists — for his livelihood.

The transition also challenged the myth of success, that poverty need be only a temporary condition, because everyone had a good chance of "striking it rich" — a myth that had functioned as a psychological safety valve against labor unrest. The changing character of mining in Arizona was comparable to that which had already occurred in California in the 1850s and 1860s: from an occupation described as one that offered "to all the world the chance to be one's own master" and "an equal opportunity for wealth" to one whose "attractions were only those of an eastern factory town."

Absentee ownership made matters worse because it ended the rather close relationship that had existed between employees and employers in locally owned mining companies. With absentee ownership, those who profited the most resided far away from the conditions under which profits were made. Employees discovered that owners were more difficult, if not impossible, to reach; and owners found it easier to ignore workers' demands. Local managers, critics charged, were incompetent — especially in personnel matters — and too eager to please owners with bottom-line results.

Many miners found employment in isolated company towns such as Morenci where virtually everything, including the homes in which they lived, belonged to the mining companies. As pay, miners received trade tokens or scrip redeemable only at overly expensive company stores. Those who thought about striking knew they risked losing their company-owned homes and being denied credit at company-owned stores. Companies had less control in Bisbee and Jerome, where homes were privately owned and several businesses competed with the company store, but the dominant employer's overall influence remained considerable.

Miners had little, if any, control over their pay, hours of work, or safety conditions. They had to constantly guard against employers' efforts to find cheaper labor by hiring immigrants. They also had to worry about pay cuts. Employers frequently took such action in response to downturns, in an attempt to increase returns to investors, or simply to reduce compensation to the lowest amount for which the least demanding employees were willing to work.


Excerpted from Politics, Labor and the War on Big Business by David R. Berman. Copyright © 2012 University Press of Colorado. Excerpted by permission of University Press of Colorado.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

Preface xi

Introduction 1

1 "The Beasts" 15

2 Stirring the Political Pot 29

3 Populists Make Their Case and Their Mark 43

4 Statehood and the Path of Reform 55

5 Worker Unrest, Organization, and Confrontations 69

6 Rising Tide 83

7 Finishing Up, Looking Ahead 95

8 Reformers Take Charge 107

9 Making and Selling a Constitution 121

10 New Regime 137

11 Bringing in the Voters 153

12 Radicals at Work 167

13 Drawing the Battle Lines 181

14 Going after Hunt 193

15 Hunt, War, and Wobblies 205

16 Aftermath 219

Concluding Observations 233

Notes 241

Bibliography 303

Index 317

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