minewar.org documenting the 1930's Illinois Mine War

“We’ll blow that damn thing off of the foundation.”
P.M.W.A. President Joseph Ozanic and V.P. Ben Kunz Examine Model of Mother Jones Memorial -  1936/09/26" West Virginia and Regional History Collection

“P.M.W.A. President Joseph Ozanic and V.P. Ben Kunz Examine Model of Mother Jones Memorial – 1936/09/26”
West Virginia and Regional History Collection

Here’s a short excerpt from an oral history interview with Joe Ozanic, conducted in 1974 by Bobbie Herdon as part of the COAL MINING AND UNION ACTIVITIES PROJECT, University of Illinois Springfield. Ozanic was a coal miner and a leader of the Progressive Miners of America during the Illinois Mine War.

 


 

Ozanic was also a driving force for the construction of the monument: “I conceived the idea that we built a monument to the memory of Mother Jones, which should also include the 21 martyrs who died in the Illinois mine war up to that time.”

He tells the story of transferring the Union Miners Cemetery deed from the United Mine Workers to the newly founded Progressive Miners Local 35 in Mt. Olive. (The Mt. Olive UMWA local was among the many Illinois locals that “went Progressive”.)

Ozanic also discusses fundraising and construction of the monument, the dedication ceremony attended by over 50,000, and the search for the Pathe Newsreel and KMOX recording of the dedication event.

He also tells the story of guarding the monument during the nights that led up to the dedication, having overheard a local “thug” claim that: “That monument will never be dedicated. We’ll blow that damn thing off of the foundation. There’ll be nothing there to dedicate.” (A well-intentioned late night visitor was almost shot as a result.)

Finally, did you know that Joe Ozanic modeled for the miner figure displayed on the right side of the monument?

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One Response to “We’ll blow that damn thing off of the foundation.”

  1. Joan Kenevan says:

    “I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitator’s.” Mother Jones

    After previously reading Mr. Ozanic’s oral history, I found it interesting to note that he had the idea for a monument honoring Mother Jones when he was with the United Mineworkers, but the union felt it was unnecessary and too expensive.

    It is incredulous that there is no known photograph, newspaper article or newsreel of the 1936 dedication of the Monument with 50,000 people in attendance. How were the 21 Progressive Mineworker martyrs who are listed on the north and south side bronze plaques of the Monument killed between 1932 and 1936, Greg?

    It is also interesting to note that at the 2015 rededication ceremony the Progressive Mineworkers of America and it’s Women’s Auxiliary were not designated as the Union who sacrificed greatly, financially and with their own lives, to build the Monument, neither by spoken or written word.

    As a grand daughter, whose maternal and paternal grandfathers were both Progressive Mineworkers, I find it puzzling that the Progressive Mineworkers’ of America and its’ Women’s Auxiliary were not acknowledged for their contributions to honor the spirit of Mother Jones and their progressive union movement, which was modeled after Mother Jones and her ideas. This is an important part of our history and should not be neglected or forgotten.

    Thank you for the webpage, Greg!

    Joan Kenevan

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