Coal mining operations were begun in northwest Erath County in 1886 by William and Harvey Johnson. Miners were recruited from other states, Mexico and some ten European countries. The founders of the Texas & Pacific Coal Company bought out the Johnson operations in 1888, and named the new company town for one of the owners, H.K. Thurber of New York. Relations with the predominantly foreign workforce were contentious over the years. In 1903, the United Mine Workers not only unionized 1600 Thurber miners, but established locals for bartenders, carpenters, brick makers, meat cutters and clerks. As a result, Thurber became the only 100% union town in the U.S. At its peak (1918-1920), Thurber was the center of bituminous coal production in Texas and boasted a population of some 8,000 to 10,000 people. Mining operations in Thurber ceased circa 1927. Pictured here is a float sponsored by Thurber Bartender's Local 717, fully dressed for an undated Labor Day parade.
Thurber Collection, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington