Ludlow, Colorado (Class War in Colorado)
Drawing for an illustration in the New York Call, April 25, 1914
Lithographic crayon on wove paper
Gift of John and Helen Farr Sloan; D.952.44
Since its initial publication as a cover illustration, both for a socialist newspaper, the New York Call, and soon thereafter for the magazine The Masses, John Sloan’s drawing of a coal miner’s suicidal vengeance after the murders of his wife and children has become an icon of American labor history. It is an enduring memorial to the twenty individuals—thirteen of them women and children—who were shot at or burned to death when Colorado National Guardsmen fired upon an undefended union tent colony on April 20, 1914, in what was quickly dubbed the Ludlow Massacre. This watershed event dramatized the abuse of unregulated authority by industrialists and their agents and won widespread national support for the cause of the miners. With its powerful strokes of black crayon, Sloan’s drawing shows a miner silhouetted against the inferno of his burning tent, protectively straddling the bodies of his family while clutching his dead child to his chest. The remains of his makeshift home are symbolized by a stove, kettle, and chair; everything else has been consumed by fire. In a radical stance of resistance, the miner shoots back with his pistol, most likely to meet his own death. He therefore embraced the motto of the New York Call: “The emancipation of the Working Class must be accomplished by the workers themselves.” Sloan later distanced himself from socialism and is more often remembered for his ebullient images of working-class city street life.
Last Updated: 4/29/09