Monday, March 06, 2006

How Hoover became a catalyst for Italian migration to the goldfields

When 23-year-old Herbert Hoover became manager of the Sons of Gwalia gold mine in 1898, he was keen to cut costs and maximise profits by introducing new efficiencies and implementing labour reforms. Unhappy with the growing power of the union movement and its push for better wages and conditions, he decided to engage a small number of Italian miners on contract, promising that "if they prove satisfactory, it will open the way to the employment of many more". They proved to be more than satisfactory, and in one of his mine manager's reports, Hoover noted that "the rivalry between them and the other men is of no small benefit". Managers of other Bewick Moreing-controlled mines, started to follow his example, actively engaging Italian and other southern European miners through the agency of various contractors such as Pietro Ceruti. The provinces of northern Italy were the single greatest source of young men who were keen to escape poverty and unemployment in their homeland. As Hoover's Gold (Mago Films, 2005) reveals, many would find an early grave through mining accidents or lung diseases stemming from exposure to deadly silica dust deep underground.


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