The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company was one of the first institutions in the state of Colorado to push the importance of education to its workers and to Colorado as a whole. CF & I would push the value of education to its workers because of the hidden value in the Americanization of its workers. By educating and Americanizing its workforce CF & I could create a long lasting and stable connection with its labor force and in turn create a long lasting and stable work force. By educating its works children the company also sought to de-emphasize and stall the unionization of its mines and mills. CF & I had kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools in nearly all of its mine camps by the early 1920s. These schools would push education on the young in order to Americanize their parents. This Americanization would have far reading social, political, and economic impacts throughout the remainder of the twentieth century. Education is often seen as a noble cause but CF & I did this not through altruistic motives but through the desire to increase profit while decreasing unionization attempts. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company used the mining and mill camp schools in order to Americanize the labor force through the education of the laborers children.

The mining an mill camps were haven for new immigrants mostly form eastern and southern Europe, precisely because of the work they were to perform. These immigrants did not speak English and sought refuge in smaller ethnic communities within the camps they lived in. Even the CF & I newspaper, the Bulletin, was printed in several Eastern European languages so that the workers it was intended to influence could read it. In order to increase labor productivity among these immigrant workers the CF & I sociological department began several efforts to Americanize the labor force at the turn of the century. The most successful and longest lasting of these efforts was the educational programs at many of the mining camps.

CF & I would create the Sociological Department early in the nineteenth century to help stabilize and Americanize its workforce. The major push of Dr. Corwin, the creator and director of the Sociological Department, was to find ways the company could enhance the lives of its workforce so that they could increase productivity in the mills and mines without the overturning of that labor force. The department was instrumental in the creation of the Y.M.C.A., mine libraries, camp stores, and most effective the mining camp schools. The department oversaw dozens of these schools throughout all the company properties in Colorado and Wyoming. After the dissolution of the department years later, the schools would be the most dominant and longest lasting legacy.

The Sociological Departments efforts to Americanize the workforce began with their children. Through the course work the children would bring this new American way of thinking home to their parents. According to the Bulletin, “Particular interest has been shown in cooking and sewing lessons, and instruction along the lines of home-making according to American ideals. These teachings have been of especial value to the daughters of foreign-born employees and have formed an important factor in the Americanization of pupils and their families.”[1] This approach saw much success and helped to stabilize much of the labor force throughout the first twenty years of the 1900s.

As World War I erupted across the world in 1914, a wave of Americanization would sweep the United States, and CF & I would ride that wave. Throughout the next several years of war, the company would push the Americanization of its workforce full force. Hardly an issue of the Bulletin would go by without mention of its Americanization efforts in its schools. The stated motto of the educational department was, “First, education for citizenship; second, education for power; third, education, for leisure.”[2] The company saw tis role as one of creating a new way of life for its works so that the worker would see a new life within the company. According to the Bulletin, education was a means to an end, it was “an adjustment of the individual to his environment, as here understood, means not adjustment to the actual things around him, but also to the larger life he must lead as an individual, a member or parent of a family, a member of society and a citizen of a state. Education should bring each individual into harmonious relations with all the activities which go to make up his ordinary life.”[3]

The role of the school in the mining camps was one of labor force creator. Schools today are seen as institutions of learning and socialization. At the turn of the century CF & I, saw the learning that took place in schools as secondary to that American socialization. The socialization of the labor force children in order to obtain a harder working laborer and anti-union feeling among its work-force was foremost in the company’s backing of these schools. For the most part the company was extremely successful in this socialization. The schools of the mining camps would go on to create the School districts that Colorado relies on today to educate its youth. While the motives behind the schools of the early mining camps can be called into question, the legacy of those schools cannot.



[1] “Fom A.B.C. to Cicero.” The Bulletin, June 21, 1920, Volume V, Number 3 edition. Bessemer Historical Society.[2] “Educational Activity:” (n.d.).[3] Dessz, Louis A. “Industrial Education at Miinequa.” The Bulletin, July 31, 1919, Volume IV, Number 4 edition. Bessemer Historical Society.