Erik Lomis has a very good post on the Battle of Blair Mountain, which began on August 25, 1921, ninety two years ago today and about which I am shamefully ill-informed. Since I'm deeply interested in another violent tragedy from earlier in the year in 1921, I should be much better informed about this than I am. Lots of violence in 1921, for sure.
Because I'm working a little on the nature of Gilded Age legal thought, I was just reading two companion opinions from the West Virginia Supreme Court that struck down a West Virginia statute that prohibited coal companies from paying working in company script and also from charging workers more than regular customers. If you haven't read State v. Fire Creek Coal and Coke Company, 10 S.E. 288 (West Virginia, 1889) and State v. Goodwill, 10 S.E. 285 (W.Va. 1889) you might find them illuminating about the judicial ideology of the era.
Quite an opinion that Fire Creek. In discussion of freedom of contract, the Court says the act "is an insulting attempt to put the laborer under legislative tutelage, which is not only degrading to his manhood, but suversive of his rights as a citizen of the United States." Not quite sure what to make of the reference to manhood. It's been cited a few times in the past couple of decades but was once rather notorious. Pound used it as part of his discusison of mechanical jurisprudence.
Also, I see through the magic of westlaw that it was the subject of a recent case note in the third volume of the Harvard Law Review back in 1890. (Who know that westlaw had journals going back that far?) But get this -- the following is the entirety of the case note:
Constitutional Law -- Liberty -- Police Power. -- Owners of factories and mines were prohibited by statute from paying their employees in orders on the stores of the company, and from selling goods from the stores to their employees at a greater profit than they obtained from strangers. Held, the statute was opposed to the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States and to the “life, liberty, and property” clause in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of West Virginia, and could not be supported as an exercise of the police power. The court lay great stress on the fact that it does not apply to all employers, and is therefore class legislation. Goodwill, 10 S. E. Rep. 285 (W. Va.); State v. Fire Creek Coal & Coke Co., 10 S. E. Rep. 288 (W. Va.).
In Pennsylvania a similar statute was curtly declared “utterly unconstitutional and void.” Godcharles v. Wigeman, 113 Pa. St. 431.
I guess it was easier to get a publication in 1890, huh?