Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives logo

Guide to the Kentucky Miners Defense Records TAM.032

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Hillel Arnold, 2009; Edited by Maggie Schreiner to include oversize materials, 2013.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 24, 2018
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Kentucky Miners Defense
Source - dnr: Mahler, Mrs. Herbert
Source: Milwaukee Public Library
Title: Kentucky Miners Defense Records
Dates [inclusive]: 1931-1937
Abstract: The Kentucky Miners Defense was formed to help free miners and local mine union officials convicted of conspiracy to murder three sheriff's deputies in Evarts, Harlan County, Kentucky during the miners' strike of May 1931. The committee was headed by Herbert Mahler, a former official of the Industrial Workers of the World. The collection contains court transcripts, statements and other documents relating to the miners' cases, as well as news releases, United States Senate subcommittee hearing reports, and excerpts from the Daily Worker.
Quantity: 3 Linear Feet (6 boxes)
Call Phrase: TAM.032

Return to Top »


Historical/Biographical Note

The Kentucky Miners Defense was an organization formed to help free seven imprisoned miners who had been convicted of murdering three coal company guards in Evarts, Harlan County, Kentucky during a hard-fought miners' strike in May 1931. Intense conflict between coal company agents and local authorities, on the one hand, and desperate locked-out miners, many of them homeless and destitute resulted in numerous incidents of violence. On May 5, 1931 a large group of armed miners attacked a convoy of deputies; a heavy exchange of fire, lasting thirty minutes, left 3 deputies and 1 miner dead. Local union officials W. B. Jones and William Hightower and more than forty miners were arrested in connection with the killing of the deputies. After several trials, Jones, Hightower and six others were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, although the facts of the case were unclear.

Herbert Mahler (a former activist in the Industrial Workers of the World), director of the organization, spearheaded the publicity campaign to bring national attention to the miners' cases. Fund-raising publicity was often aimed at unions and their members since the Kentucky miners had been attempting to organize under the auspices of the United Mine Workers when they were violently blocked by the coal companies and their allies.

Sources:

  • American Civil Liberties Union. The Kentucky Miners Struggle. (New York: ACLU, 1932).
  • Hevener, John. Which Side Are You on? The Harlan County Coal Miners, 1931-39. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978.
  • Publications relating to Kentucky Miners Defense. (Tamiment Library Vertical File).

Return to Top »


Scope and Content Note

Series I, General Files, 1931-1937, consists of statements, briefs and other documents related to the cases of Bill Hudson, Chester Poore, Elzie Phillips, Jim Reynolds, W. B. Jones and William Hightower, in both Circuit and Appeals courts. Also included are reports from a United States Senate subcommittee hearing on labor conditions in Harlan and Bell Counties, Kentucky Miners Defense news releases, and excerpts from the Daily Worker documenting events related to labor unrest in Kentucky.

Series II, Transcripts, 1931-1933, contains court transcripts from the cases of Al Benson, Chester Poore, Elzie Phillips, Jim Reynolds and W. B. Jones from Harlan and Montgomery County Circuit Courts.

Arrangement

Folders are arranged alphabetically.

The files are grouped into 2 series:

Missing Title

  1. I, General Files, 1931-1937
  2. II, Transcripts, 1931-1933

Return to Top »


Access Points

Subject Names

  • Poore, Chester.
  • Reynolds, Jim.
  • Benson, Al.
  • Mahler, Herbert.
  • Phillips, Elzie.
  • Hightower, William.
  • Jones, W. B.
  • Mahler, Mrs. Herbert

Document Type

  • Transcripts.
  • Correspondence.
  • Press releases.

Subject Organizations

  • Kentucky Miners Defense
  • United Mine Workers of America
  • Milwaukee Public Library

Subject Topics

  • Coal mines and mining -- Kentucky -- Harlan County.
  • Coal miners -- Kentucky -- Harlan County.

Subject Places

  • Evarts (Ky.)
  • Harlan County (Ky.)

Return to Top »


Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Tamiment Library has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Materials in Series I: General Files are expected to enter the public domain in 2058.

Materials in Series II: Transcripts of this collection are in the public domain. Permission to publish or reproduce is not required.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Kentucky Miners Defense Records; TAM 032; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Kentucky Miners Defense Photographs (PHOTOS 016)

John Nicholas Beffel Papers (TAM 055)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Mrs. Herbert Mahler in 1963. The accession number 1963.009 is associated with this gift. One pamphlet (Governer Chandler Denies...) was added to the collection as a donation from the Milwaukee Public Library in 2010.

Return to Top »


Container List

Series I: General Files, 1931-1937.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Bloody Harlan: The Story of Four Miners Serving Life for Daring to Organize a Union, Daring to Strike, Daring to Picket; Governer Chandler Denies Pardons to Harlan Miners.(2 pamphlets)
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Elzie Phillips(Harlan Circuit Court): Opening Statement by Defense Counsel John M. Robison
Jun 1932
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Witnesses
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Conditions in Coal Fields in Harlan and Bell Counties, Kentucky: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Manufactures(United States Congress)
1932
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Correspondence: William Turnblazer (United Mine Workers of America) to W. B. Jones
Apr 1931
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Daily Worker: Excerpts from Articles
1931
Box: 1 Folder : 7 E. Phillips v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Bill Hudson v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Chester Poore v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Jim Reynolds v. Commonwealth of Kentucky(Court of Appeals of Kentucky): Brief for Appellee
May 1933
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Kentucky Reports: "Jones v. Commonwealth. Hightower v. Same"
1933
Flat-file: 1 Drawer : 10 Map of a Part of Evarts, Kentucky and Vicinity Showing the Scene of the Killing of Jim Daniels and Others: Map No.1, Exhibit B
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 9 News Releases
1935-1936
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Notes: General
1937
Box: 1 Folder : 11 W. B. Jones v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, William Hightower vs. Commonwealth of Kentucky(Court of Appeals of Kentucky): Brief for Appellee
Feb 1933
Box: 1 Folder : 12 William Hightower vs. Commonwealth of Kentucky(Court of Appeals of Kentucky): Motion to Withdraw Exhibits
1937

Return to Top »


Series II: Transcripts, 1931-1933.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 1
Jan 1933
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 2
Jan 1933
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 3
Jan 1933
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 4
Jan 1933
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 1 (carbon copy)
Jan 1933
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 2 (carbon copy)
Jan 1933
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 3 (carbon copy)
Jan 1933
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Al Benson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 4 (carbon copy)
Jan 1933
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Bill Hudson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 1-2
Sep 1932
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Bill Hudson(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 3-4
Sep 1932
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Chester Poore(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 1-2
Sep 1932
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Chester Poore(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 3
Sep 1932
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Chester Poore(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 4-5
Sep 1932
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. E. Phillips(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 1-2
Aug 1932
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. E. Phillips(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 3-4
Aug 1932
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. E. Phillips(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 5-6
Aug 1932
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. E. Phillips(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 7
Aug 1932
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Jim Reynolds(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 1-2
Oct 1932
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Jim Reynolds(Harlan Circuit Court): Volumes 3-4
Oct 1932
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Jim Reynolds(Harlan Circuit Court): Volume 5
Oct 1932
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 1-2
Nov 1931
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 3-4
Nov 1931
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 5-6
Nov 1931
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 7-8
Nov 1931
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volume 9 (2 copies)
Nov 1931
Box: 5 Folder : 4 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 10-11
Nov 1931
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 12-13
Nov 1931
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 14-15
Nov 1931
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volumes 16-17
Nov 1931
Box: 6 Folder : 4 Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. W. B. Jones(Montgomery Circuit Court): Volume 18
Nov 1931
Box: 6 Folder : 5 Transcript Excerpts
1931-1933

Return to Top »


Return to Top »