Virden-Pana Coal Mine Wars


Virden-Pana Coal Mine Wars


Labor disputes
Labor unions
Labor unions--Organizing
Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing
Strikes and lockouts
Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining
Coal miners--Labor unions
Military camps
Illinois. National Guard
Coal miners
Mining industry
African Americans


In September 1898 representatives of the United Mine Workers of America stopped a railroad car in Virden, Illinois, filled with potential African American strikebreakers. The train continued on to Springfield after the union members informed them of the strike between the members and the Chicago-Virden Coal Company.

On October 12, 1898, a second train of African American strikebreakers from Birmingham, Alabama, and security guards arrived in Virden. The security guards opened fire when striking miners attempted to surround the train at the entrance to the mining facility. The train departed Virden after twenty minutes of gunfire and headed for Springfield. By the end of the conflict four security guards and seven striking miners were killed and 30 people were wounded. The mine owners accepted unionization at the mine in November 1898 and the mine remained segregated for many years after.

Similar conflicts occurred in Pana on April 10, 1899, Lauder on June 6, 1899, and Carterville on September 17, 1899.

Items in the Virden-Pana Coal Mine Wars Collection

Members of Company B gather for a group photo. On verso: "Co B (Elgin), Sons of Veterans Regiment at Pana and Virden."

Members of the Illinois National Guard stand armed outside two small buildings in Virden.

Members of the Illinois National Guard stand outside of a train.

A man stands ready in a watchtower at a coal mine in Virden.

Members of the Illinois National Guard pass time in Virden by tossing another member on a sheet.

Collection Tree

  • Illinois Photographic Collection
    • Virden-Pana Coal Mine Wars