Posted By admin on October 26, 2010
Oct. 26, 1903
This was the day F. Augustus Heinze stood on the balcony of the Butte courthouse and warned 10,000 laid-off miners: “If they crush me today they will crush you tomorrow.”
The “Great Shutdown” was the response by Amalgamated, a holding company for Standard Oil, to unfavorable mining claims rulings in Butte district court. The rulings were made by judges allied with Heinze, Amalgamated’s chief antagonist.
“They will cut your wages and raise the tariff in the company stores on every bite you eat and every rag you wear,” Heinze told the miners. “They will force you to dwell in Standard Oil houses while you live, and they will bury you in Standard Oil coffins when you die.”
The shutdown would last until Nov. 11, the day after Gov. Joseph Toole agrees to call a special legislative session for Dec. 1 to consider the Amalgamated-backed Fair Trials Bill. The law allowed either party in a lawsuit a change of venue if it thought the judge was prejudiced against its case. The law passed quickly and remains in effect today.