1999.328.1 | Mine, near Thetford Mines, QC, 1916

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Mine, near Thetford Mines, QC, 1916
December 13th 1916, 20th century
Silver salts on paper
20.5 x 25.4 cm
Gift of Mr. Alfred Penhale Estate
This artefact belongs to :© Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines
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Keys to History

Beginning in 1915, the First World War, which had begun the year before, prompted a phenomenal increase in asbestos production: it was now used to make things as diverse as ships and submarines or gloves for handling rapid-fire guns. Even gas-mask filters were made of asbestos fibres. Companies needed a bigger work force than ever. The workers at Thetford Mines became aware of their bargaining power and objected to the fact that their wages had dropped 14% from the year before. On October 18, 1915, urged on by two Ukrainian fellow workers who were socialists, they went on the first real strike in the history of the asbestos industry. Close to 2,500 mine employees took part, and the other workers of the town were getting ready to join them. But on October 20, company executives, "to avoid further delay in this matter," gave in to the demands of most of their employees, whose wages were brought back to the levels of August 1914.

This victory led almost immediately to the formation of two unions, one socialist and the other Catholic. These two organizations were very active in 1916, but spent most of their energy fighting each other. The socialists often dreamt of overthrowing the establishment and building a more egalitarian society, and at that time, such "revolutionary" ideas worried the clergy. The Catholic union therefore made much more moderate demands than its socialist rival. Mine executives took advantage of the disagreement between the workers to recognize neither union.

  • What

    This is a view of an open-pit mine in winter.

  • Where

    This "moon crater" could be any mine at Thetford Mines or Black Lake.

  • When

    As the writing in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo indicates, it was taken on December 13, 1916.

  • Who

    As we have no pictures of the 1915 strike, the faces of the strikers have not been captured for posterity. The strike leaders, who later urged the people of Thetford Mines to unionize, were Ukrainians Nicolas Kachook and Ivan Chaprun. Practically nothing is known of these two socialist miners.