Although mining made some of the company owners rich and supported much of the economy, Colorado miners did not always feel they got enough of the rewards. In 1880 at the Chysolite mine in Leadville, miners struck after they were told they could not talk while on the job. Mine owners organized a private army and persuaded the governor to declare martial law. They forced the strike leaders out of the area and the strike ended.Other, more violent strikes followed. At Cripple Creek in 1893 miners struck after mine owners tried to increase the work day from eight to ten hours. In 1903 another strike broke out at Cripple Creek; it was settled only after the governor sent troops.
The worst strike occurred near Ludlow in 1913 and 1914 at coal mines owned by John D. Rockefeller. Striking miners, many of them Greek and Slavic immigrants, had built a tent settlement after they had been evicted from company-owned housing. On April 20, 1914, National Guard troops attempted to clear the camp, but the miners resisted; 39 people were killed in the ensuing battle.
Ten days of near civil war followed, as armed miners tried to destroy mine property, while militia and private guards tried to protect it. The violence ended only after President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to the area.
Prosperity did not return to Colorado until after World War I began in 1914. Britain, France, and the other Allied Powers needed raw materials, especially metal and food products, and Colorado’s economy grew by supplying them, especially after the United States entered the war in 1917.
The state’s mining industry was greatly expanded, and new mineral resources, such as molybdenum and tungsten, were also developed. The economic boom continued into the 1920s.
Several years of good rainfall encouraged many farmers to extend cultivation to the drier parts of the plains. Oil production, which had started in the 1860s, approached 5 million barrels in the 1920s with the opening of new fields near Fort Collins and Craig. In 1930 Colorado had more than one million people for the first time in its history.
But the Great Depression, the economic hard times of the 1930s, hit Colorado and the rest of the nation hard. There was widespread unemployment in the state, and many people, including bankers and farmers, went bankrupt. In addition, between 1932 and 1937 a prolonged drought struck the Great Plains. There was little or no water for crops, soil erosion was extensive, and many farms were abandoned. Farm prices throughout the nation dropped to very low levels. In an attempt to help farmers and those without work, Colorado and the federal government created programs to build highways and public buildings. Despite the general economic stagnation during the 1930s, the state’s mineral production increased. Silver and gold mining grew after 1934, when the Silver Purchase Act and the Gold Reserve Act were passed by the U.S.
The price of gold increased, and unemployed people panned for gold in streams miners had originally worked in 1859. In 1893 a major economic depression hit the United States. Congress repealed the silver-purchasing act of 1890 and Colorado’s silver mines immediately closed when silver prices fell far below profitable working levels. The free-silver issue continued to dominate politics in Colorado and across the nation and the Populist Party and the Democratic Party attracted support in Colorado during the 1890s by supporting free-silver policies. In 1896 both parties supported the Democratic Party candidate for president, Nebraska editor William Jennings Bryan, but his defeat by Republican William McKinley effectively killed the free-silver movement. During the problems in the Colorado silver-mining industry, new deposits of gold were discovered at Cripple Creek in 1891, and for many years Cripple Creek was one of the world’s leading gold-mining regions. Gold mining helped compensate for the state’s silver-mining troubles and depressed farm economy. Some old silver mines were found to contain recoverable gold. "Colorado" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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