John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.
John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.
John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.
John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.
John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.
John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.
John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.
John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.

John Mitchell : The Miner’s Champion.

Philadelphia: Clinton Rhod[?], ca. 1900. Lithograph, with half-tone central portrait, 50.7 x 66 cm, plus margins.

A rare lithograph honoring John Mitchell—here dubbed “The Miner’s Champion”—who served as the President of the United Mine Workers of America from 1898–1908, with vignettes of coal mining scenes, including depictions of child labor.

This print consists of central portrait of John Mitchell set against a background of coal mining operations. A legend in a star above the portrait indicates Mitchell was “born at Braidwood, Ill. Feb. 4th 1869.” A mining family to the left of center looks with admiration at Mitchell. To the right, two coal miners are shown at work. A vignette appears in each corner. These are captioned “The Miners Automobiles,” “The Miners Pets,” “Children of the Mines” and “Breaker Boys.” The latter three depict child labor and are especially germane, as the orphaned Johnnie Mitchell himself started working in the mines at the age of 10.

By his late teens, Mitchell joined The Knights of Labor union which was in decline at the time. In consequence, Mitchell became a member of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at its establishment in 1890. Mitchell quickly rose through the Union ranks and by 1898 had become UMWA President. In 1900, he turned to assisting anthracite miners working near Scranton, Pennsylvania who were earning paltry wages and working in harsh conditions. Mitchell brought the 48,000 hard coal miners into the UMWA’s anthracite division and subsequently ordered a strike. By the strike’s 6th week, capital finally bowed to the pressures of the union and promised meliorations to labor. October 29th—the day the miners resumed working—was declared John Mitchell Day in honor of Mitchell—a day that continues to be observed in hard coal territories.

Not a militant labor leader by any stretch, Mitchell was soft-spoken and of moderate fighting temperament. His approach to brokering labor’s rights was expressed by him thus: “I wish to see the interest and ideals of labor and capital fairly reconciled, not by surrender, but by mutual understanding.” In another remarkable episode, the near 6-month-long Great Strike of 1902 prompted President Teddy Roosevelt to create the Industrial Commission to examine charges brought forth by Mitchell addressing the terrible work conditions that miners endured. Scared by Roosevelt’s inquiry the coal capitalists hurriedly met the union halfway. In the wake of the strike Mitchell and Roosevelt would strike up an amiable friendship; Roosevelt would describe him thus: “cool, calm, self-controlled and polite, earnest and forceful in presenting the cause of the miners, yet never overstepping the bounds of gentlemanly courtesy.” While Mitchell’s conservative approach to industrial relations won him public acclaim, his tactics would in time alienate UMWA members and in 1908 he was forced to step down as President. In turn, he served as Head of the National Civic Federation’s trade-agreement Dept.; Second Vice President of the American Federation of Labor; and Chairman of the New York Industrial Commission—the latter from 1915 until his death by pneumonia in 1919. In 1990, Mitchell was inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame.

No copies recorded in OCLC.

REFERENCES: Phelan, Craig. Divided Loyalties : The Public and Private Life of Labor Leader John Mitchell (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994) at nps.gov; National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, Mitchell, John at mininghalloffame.org

CONDITION: Good, re-margined, stabilized on verso, a few minor losses filled and short tears repaired at edges of image.

Item #5024

Price: $1,500.00

See all items in Prints & Drawings