The Caledonia Company, a Michigan socialist coal mine

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1906 [unknown]
Location: Saginaw, Michiganmap
Surnames/tags: Coal_Mine Michigan
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The history of coal mining in Michigan includes this mine, The Caledonia Company:

“The man who pays me my wages is my master,” he said; “I am dependent on him for my bread and butter, and I am just as much his slave as if he had an actual title to me ; and so is my wife, and so are my children. Oh! There isn’t anything so low I wouldn’t stoop to, to rid myself of the employers. I’d do anything—I hate them.” His whole face was flushed and convulsed as he stood with clenched hands and chokingly repeated over and over again, “I hate them, I hate them, I hate them.”

There were some among the socialists, however, who looked around for something more practical than verbal expressions of hatred; and among these the general plan of the Caledonia Company was formed.

It was planned to make this essentially a workingman’s mine, the company to be composed of practical mine-workers. The idea of working for the benefit of another was to be largely obviated, for each member of the company was to have an equal share of the stock, and was, accordingly, to be equally interested in the output. Thus, every man was, in a sense, working for himself, and whatever his ability and industry gained was of direct value to himself. The company was to consist of 100 men, with a total capitalization of $50,000. (Recently it was voted to increase this to 500 men and a capitalization of $250,000.)

In government, the plan of the company was democratic. The mine itself was to be under the direct control of the superintendent, who was accountable to a board of managers; and the decision of this body was to be at all times liable to review by the general assembly of the miners. The general business of the company was to be in the hands of the board of managers, always subject to review.

To a socialistic mind, the plan had no small charm, and many were attracted to the company. The individual contributions were not large. Some were to pay in labor. If it was worth anything, it was worth the trial. Accordingly the formation of the company was soon under way.

There lacked only the coal land, and this was a serious defect. Although there was more or less coal available, it was imperative to have a favorable location; and the other companies had secured control of the best, economically located land. It was chance that the mine was not developed at Corunna, instead of Saginaw; but fortune favored the new company.

Although they have since consolidated, there were at that time two main companies, or combinations of companies, in the vicinity of Saginaw. Lying in the midst of the land controlled by one of these, was a little tract of forty acres, on which advance royalties were being paid. To save these royalties, believing that the land could be picked up again without difficulty when required, the company allowed the lease to lapse. Almost immediately the members of the Caledonia Company became apprized of the fact; the land was secured, and the preliminary work begun. The greatest secrecy attended this; and it was only when the work of sinking the shaft had actually begun, that the formation of the company became known. The shaft was put down with extraordinary rapidity; and on September 1, 1905, coal was sold from the new mine, which lay at a depth of 165 feet.

Detail, Loading coal, Caledonia Mine

...But the point is this. The Caledonia Company has already exerted a strong influence on the mining world. No sane man believes a complete socialism possible; but this mine has pointed out a peaceable way to the partial realization of some of the highest socialistic ideals. Others have already begun to follow, and there is no reason why the plan should not be extended still farther in this and other branches of labor. Source: A Mine Owned by the Miners.



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