The Glucksman Ireland House
I learned yesterday that my most recent paper has been accepted for the Mid-Atlantic regional meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies. The conference is being held at the Glucksman Ireland House on the campus of New York University. NYU has an outstanding Irish Studies program and it is exciting to be on their campus for this conference. Below is a description of my paper:
The Butte Bulletin: Ireland’s Voice in the Western Labor Camps
The Butte Bulletin held the largest circulation and reach of any paper in Montana between 1918 and 1921 – a period rife with labor unrest and a time when entire communities were shackled by martial law. At the center of the conflict was the State’s rich deposits of copper and the corporations that mined, processed and transported the precious metals to munition companies arming America’s allies. The Butte Bulletin was labor’s organ during this tumultuous time, reaching mining and timber camps throughout the West – but it also held an equally radical pro-Irish agenda, a focus that has been given little attention by historians. Past research into the paper’s origins and operations has focused on ties to the IWW and Communist Party, and the intense focus of the Military Intelligence Division on the paper’s seditious editors. In this paper I look specifically at the Irish roots of the paper’s start-up. Two of the principal promoters of the paper were James A. Murray and his nephew, NYU alum James E. Murray. My recent article in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, titled “Rocky Mountain Radicals; Copper King James A. Murray and U.S Senator James E. Murray, and Seventy-Eight Years of Montana Politics, 1883-1961” provides a political biography of the pair, and reveals their role with the Butte Bulletin. Here, I delve further into other Irish connections to the paper, and consider the influence the paper had in promoting Ireland’s cause during the final push for freedom.
New in the Spring edition of Montana: The Magazine of Western History
The labor movement in the Gilded Age and New Deal era found an unlikely pair of allies in a wealthy miner and his nephew.
James A. Murray started his business empire with a few dollars in his pocket in 1863 prospecting in Rocky Mountain mining camps along Mullan Road. Over the next fifty-eight years he built a fortune that today would exceed $2.0 billion and stretched from Seattle to San Diego, and from San Francisco to Wyoming. Murray was a staunch advocate for labor and never stopped supporting their cause as anti-union corporations enveloped the American West. He funded a radical pro-labor newspaper affiliated with the Wobblies during the height of labor strife in World War I, and extended his radical legacy with a significant bequest to his equally radical nephew, future U.S. Senator James E. Murray. The younger Murray rose to the top of Eamon de Valera’s support group in the U.S. and became the Senate’s strongest proponent of labor and progressive politics from the New Deal Era until the dawn of the Civil Rights movement.
The story of the radical Murray family is told in depth for the first time in a beautifully illustrated twenty-page article in the Spring 2016 Edition of Montana: The Magazine of Western History. Copies of the Spring edition can be purchased individually from the Montana Historical Society. The publication is also available in over 700 libraries across the globe. Find a copy near you on the World Catalog.
Coming next year: The biography of radical Copper King James A. Murray will be published by Montana Press Publishing Company in the Fall of 2017.
The theme of the conference is Ireland: Memory and Monument. My presentation is about the potential meaning behind three monuments commissioned by James A. Murray, an Irish immigrant; a Celtic cross, a theater stage, and a pick and shovel.
Murray built a fortune in the American West with discipline, ruthless determination, deception, and colorful shenanigans that made him a favorite of the press. Murray’s accentuated personality included a remarkable radical streak unmatched by other Western millionaires. His radicalism first surfaced during the Irish Land League protests of 1883, and reached a zenith when Irish-American nationalism surged following the Easter Rising in 1916. Estranged nephew, NYU-trained lawyer, and future U.S. Senator James E. Murray served as elder Murray’s main political operative following The Rising. Elder’s money and younger’s ambition formed a powerful combination that rattled military agencies tasked with protecting wartime industries and filled coffers for Ireland’s revolution.
My paper explores the motivation behind Murray’s remarkable actions to support radical Irish organizations and labor unions, using three unusual monuments he commissioned over 100 years ago.
Next week I will be speaking on the campus of University of Wisconsin – La Crosse at the Midwest Section of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS). The theme of the conference is “Towards Revolution,” and my contribution will be a paper on the path of James E. Murray to the top of Eamon De Valera’s support group, the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic. Murray’s involvement with De Valera started when the Irish leader first toured America in 1919 and ended with the start of the Irish civil war in 1922.
Murray’s climb was promoted by the Butte Bulletin, a radical labor daily funded by his wealthy uncle. The paper, distributed to labor camps throughout the West, was backed by the IWW and championed labor, socialism, and the end of British Imperialism. New information will be presented at this conference on the relationship between Uncle Murray and the Butte Bulletin.
In 1953, Representative Wesley D’Ewart (R) ran against Senator Murray’s liberal record, casting him as a communist sympathizer. Vice President Richard Nixon campaigned for D’Ewart using the same approach. D’Ewart’s campaign produced a booklet listing Murray’s affiliations with communist sympathizers, adorned with compelling graphics that would make even the most aggressive campaign managers today hold their nose.
These images of a Russian “Spyder” were featured in the booklet Senator Murray and the Red Web over Congress.