Historical Note

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Guide to the Industrial Workers of the World Seattle Joint Branches Records

Manuscript Collection No.: 0544
Accession No.: 0544-001
Creator: Industrial Workers of the World. Seattle Joint Branches , creator
Title: Industrial Workers of the World Seattle Joint Branches records
Date Span: 1905-1950
Bulk: 1916-1939
Quantity: 4.39 cubic feet (9 boxes)
Languages: Collection materials are in English

Historical Note

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a radical labor organization in the United States that was most active between the turn of the century and the 1930s. The Wobblies, as they were known, believed there must be radical changes in American capitalism to improve the oppressive conditions that workers faced. Many IWW members believed in socialist or communist ideology and some advocated whatever means necessary to effect change, including sabotage and violence.

The Seattle chapter of the IWW was founded in 1905 and contributed to the city’s reputation as a hotbed of labor radicalism. The local office showed a keen interest in labor- and Wobbly-related activities across the nation, but most of its activities focused on organizing labor within the state. Beginning in 1907, the Seattle IWW undertook a campaign to organize Washington’s lumber workers. Wobblies believed that the poor treatment and low wages in the industry would make lumberjacks and mill workers receptive to leftist ideas. However, the employers in mill towns and lumber camps fought these attempts vigorously by screening out Wobbly workers and sympathizers, using detectives, and directing vigilante groups. For the most part, the timber companies’ efforts to drive out the Wobblies in the early 1910s were successful, but World War I and the accompanying economic boom in the lumber industry strengthened the hand of unions.

Everett had been one of the few mill towns where labor radicalism remained strong in spite of the business community’s concerted efforts to drive it out. Wobblies in Everett, joined by members of the Seattle IWW, continued to deliver radical rhetoric and face vigilante beatings and arrests. After brutal beatings of forty Wobblies whom deputies had taken out of jail and turned over to a group of vigilantes, Seattle Wobbly leaders rallied 250 supporters to sail to Everett on November 5, 1916. Upon their arrival the agitators confronted a force of almost 200 newly-deputized citizens. After a heated confrontation involving gunfire, five agitators and one deputy were killed, over thirty men were wounded, and an unknown number of Wobbly sympathizers fell overboard to their deaths before the boat cast loose and returned to Seattle.

Although most of the Seattle community and its mayor condemned the Everett Massacre, the agitators who returned to Seattle were arrested and faced murder indictments. However, none of the agitators were convicted and the Massacre became a rallying symbol for the IWW and brought the organization sympathy from many outsiders.

1919 was one of the most eventful and promising years for the local IWW because of the Seattle General Strike. Sixty-five thousand of the city’s workers, from hotel maids to garbage collectors, announced they would not work until the federal government and local shipyard owners granted wage increases to workers in the city’s shipyards, which had boomed during the war. This walkout virtually shut down Seattle from February 4th to the February 9th. Although the more conservative American Federation of Labor was mainly responsible for the strike, the Seattle IWW nonetheless participated and saw the strike as an omen of more worker solidarity and radicalism to come.

Instead of fulfilling radical dreams, the decade following the Seattle General strike proved disastrous for the IWW With the war ended, the federal government shut down its shipyards, taking away much of the strength of Seattle’s economy, which in turn made it more difficult to organize labor.

The conservatism and anti-communism of the 1920s proved even more harmful to the IWW, as the events in Centralia in 1919 would show. On November 11th the American Legionnaires planned to destroy the local IWW office at the end of the Armistice Day parade. Alert to the Legionnaires’ plans, the Wobblies armed themselves to protect their headquarters. After a bloody gunfight, the Legionnaires took over the IWW meeting hall and pursued the fleeing Wobblies, castrating and lynching one of them. Unlike the public sympathy that followed the Everett massacre, the Wobblies received little public support after the Legionnaires’ raid in Centralia. No Legionnaire served prison time for the murder or the destruction of the meeting hall.

The repression of the IWW in the 1920s came not only from vigilantes. In 1920 the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the state’s criminal-syndicalism law, which made it illegal to advocate crime, sabotage, and violence as a means of accomplishing political or industrial reform. Criminal syndicalism laws made it much easier to prosecute Wobblies and forced them to conduct many of their activities underground. IWW members in Washington and many other states faced prosecution for various offenses and often lost their cases, despite the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union often lent them legal support. During the Red Scare of the 1920s, federal and local authorities were able to raid the Seattle IWW office with impunity, destroying many of their records and files.

The Great Depression of the 1930s brought an end to the Red Scare and improved the fortunes of the IWW somewhat, but the organization was not as strong as it had been earlier in the century. A major campaign that the IWW undertook in Washington was the organization of agricultural workers in the Yakima Valley. However, local farmers managed to counter agitators’ efforts through vigilante efforts and with the cooperation of the local prosecuting attorney. However, Seattle attorney Mark Litchman managed to defend the agitators successfully through bargaining. World War II, and especially the anti-communism of the postwar era, made it particularly difficult for the IWW to function effectively. The Seattle IWW office closed in 1965.

Scope and Content

Reference files of the Seattle Office. Primarily court papers and publicity materials.

Also includes some of the following: speeches and writings, reports, incoming correspondence (1924-35), minutes, financial records of the Butte, Montana office, legal publications (mainly printed appeal briefs in criminal syndicalism cases, plus four volumes of briefs and testimony from California vs. Richard Ford (1917-31), periodicals (IWW and other), leaflets, scrapbooks, and other materials (mostly clippings) relating to the Centralia Tragedy, Everett Massacre, the Seattle General Strike, Landwehl, et al. vs. Equity Printing Company et al. (1924-25), the Colorado Mine Strike (1924-28), and the Sacco-Vanzetti defense campaign. The accession spans 1905 to 1950, bulk 1916-1939. Most of the files consist of reference materials that the office gathered, rather than the office’s working files.

The accession contains court papers, appeal briefs, letters, pamphlets, clippings, and leaflets. Legal publications comprise a large portion of the records. Many of the these relate to prosecutions under criminal syndication laws and a large portion of these are from within the state. Many of the materials in the accession relate to IWW activities outside of Seattle. Also, many of the papers relate to the court battles that IWW members found themselves in, in Washington and elsewhere. A large portion of these relate to prosecutions under criminal syndicalism laws. Items from the national IWW and other local chapters include minutes and reports from IWW conventions, financial records from other locals, information related to IWW campaigns in other parts of the country, and a large collection of publications from the national organization. There are also items related to the major IWW events in Washington, including the Everett Massacre, the Seattle General Strike, the Centralia events, and the Yakima Valley legal battles.

Digital Content

View selections from this collection in digital format.

Terms of Access

Open to all users.

Terms of Use

Creator's literary rights not transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info

IWW Seattle Office, May 18, 1965.

Processing Info

More than a hundred photographs were transferred to the Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection 922, many of which are related to the Everett Massacre.


Chaplin, Ralph The Centralia Conspiracy (Chicago: 1920, 1973).

Clark, Norman Mill Town: A Social History of Everett, Washington (Seattle : University of Washington Press, 1970).

Copeland, Tom The Centralia Tragedy of 1919: Elmer Smith and the Wobblies (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993).

Daniel, Cletus E. “Wobblies on the Farm: the IWW in the Yakima Valley,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 65 (1974): 166-175.

Dubofsky, Melvyn We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1969).

Friedheim, Robert L. The Seattle General Strike (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964).

Kornbluh, Joyceed., Rebel Voices: an IWW Anthology (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1964).

Lampman, Ben Hur Centralia, Tragedy and Trial (Centralia: 1920).

Schwantes, Carlos Radical Heritage: Labor, Socialism, and Reform in Washington and British Columbia, 1885-1917 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979).

Tyler, Robert L. Rebels of the Woods: the IWW in the Pacific Northwest (Eugene: University of Oregon Books, 1967).

Williams, William J. “Bloody Sunday Revisited,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 71(1980): 50-62.

Related Material

There are also IWW materials at the Washington State Historical Society, Everett Public Library, Everett Community College, and in the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan.


1/1Speeches and Writings, Seattle Officeundated
7 items

1/2Court papers, reports
5 items

1/3-1/6General correspondence
25 items
1/3General CorrespondenceUndated
1/4General Correspondence1924-1929
1/5General Correspondence1930
1/6General Correspondence1932, 1935

3 items

1/8Minutes, Washington State Branches1935
10 items

1/9Library Book List, Seattle
1 item

1/10Financials records1925-1928
2 items
Scope and Content: Audit: Butte, Montana, Metal & Coal Mine Workers Industrial Unions, 17 July 1925-31 February 1928

1/11-1/14Convention Minutes and Reports1912-1950
1/11Report, 7th Annual Convention1912
1/11Minutes, 13th Annual Convention1921
1/11Minutes, 15th General Convention1921
1/12Extracts from the Verbatim Report, 16th General Convention1924
1/12Minutes, 16th Constitutional General Convention 1924
1/12 Minutes, Lumberworkers Industrial Union No. 120, Spokane1924 September 20
1/13Minutes, 17th Constitutional General Convention1925
1/13Minutes, 18th Convention of the Agricultural Workers Industrial Union No. 110, Spokane1926 October 11-14
1/13Minutes, 18th Constitutional General Convention1928
1/13Minutes, 20th Convention of the Agricultural Workers Industrial Union No. 110, Williston, South DakotaOctober 10, 1928
1/1321st Annual Convention of the Agricultural Workers Industrial Union No. 110, Seattle1929 November 4
1/13Proceedings, 19th General Convention1931
1/13Minutes, 20th Constitutional General Convention1932
1/13Report of Joseph Wagner, General Secretary-Treasurer, to 21st General Convention1934
1/13Minutes, Annual Convention, Lumber Workers Industrial Union No. 120, Seattle 1935 November 9-12
1/14Minutes, 22nd Constitutional General Convention1936
1/14Minutes, 23rd Constitutional General Convention1938
1/14Minutes, 24th Constitutional General Convention1939
1/14Minutes, 25th Constitutional General Convention1946
1/14Minutes, 26th Constitutional General Convention1950
1/14Minutes, Central California Conference1950 July 23
1/14Minutes, 7th Convention, Metal and Machinery Workers Industrial Union No. 440, Union No. 440, August 18-19, 1950, Cleveland, Ohio1950 August 18-19

2Legal Publications1917-1950
33 items
California Appellate Decision, Vol. 49, No. 2171, April 24, 19261926 April 24
2 California Appellate Decision, Vol. 65, No. 2705, June 6, 19311931 June 6
2 William H. Adams, Governor of the State of Colorado, et al., vs. The People of the United States of America, ex rel. Frank L. Palmer, et al., Brief for appellees in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from the U.S. District Court, 19281928
2 State of Washington vs. Ed Aspelin,appellant's opening brief to the Supreme Court of the State of Washington from the Superior Court of Jefferson County, 19201920
2 State of Washington vs. F. A. Brown, et al., respondent's brief on appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of Washington from the Superior Court of Benton County, 19201920
2 State of Washington vs. F. H. Brown and C. T. Neilson. Appellant's reply brief in the Supreme Court of Washington from conviction for criminal syndicalism in the Superior Court of Benton County
2 William Burns vs. U.S. Brief for plaintiff in error in the U.S. Supreme Court from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, 1925. Criminal syndicalism1925
2Judgement of the U.S. Supreme Court. Petition for rehearing afid for stay of mandate in U.S. Supreme Court, 19261926
2 State of Idaho vs. William Dingman. Brief of appellant to the Supreme Court of Idaho from a criminal syndicalism conviction by the 8th District Court of Idaho, 19191919
2 Harold B. Fiske vs. The State of Kansas. Opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court on a criminal syndicalism conviction. State of California vs. Richard Ford. Testimony, Vol. II, III and IV. Points and authorities
2 State of Washington vs. Chester Gibson, et al. Appellants' reply brief in the Supreme Court of Washington from conviction for criminal syndicalism by Superior Court of Yakima County
2 State of Washington ex rel J. B. Lindsley vs. John Grady et al. Appellant's opening brief in the Supreme Court of Washington from conviction for violation of injunction by the Superior Court of Spokane County, 19201920
2 William D. Haywood et al. vs. U.S. Petition for rehearing to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals (7th Circuit) from conviction under Espionage Act of 19171917
2 Mike Hennessey vs. State of Washington. Appellant's opening brief in the Supreme Court of Washington from the Criminal syndicalism conviction by the Superior Court of Clarke County, 19191919
2 State of Washington vs. Frank Hestings and Elias Matson. Appellants' opening brief in the Supreme Court of Washington from criminal syndicalism conviction by Superior Court of Thurston County, 19191919
2 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, et al. vs. J. H. McGrath, U.S. Attorney General. Decision of U.S. Supreme Court, 19501950
2 State of Washington vs. O. Kowalchuk et al. Appellants' brief in the Supreme Court of Washington from sabotage conviction by Superior Court of Walla Walla County, 19191919
2 State of Oregon vs. Joseph Laundy. Brief of appellant in Oregon Supreme Court from criminal syndicalism conviction by 4th Circuit Court, 19191919
2 State of California vs. Charles B. LaRue. Appellant's opening brief in District Court of Appeal, 3rd District from criminal syndicalism conviction by Superior Court of Sacramento County, 1919 (?)
2 State of California vs. Charles B. LaRue. Appellants' reply brief
2 State of Washington vs. C. E. Payne. Appellant's brief in Washington Supreme Court from criminal syndicalism conviction in Superior Court of Pend Oreille, 19191919
2 State of Washington vs. John Fico. Appellant's opening brief in Washington Supreme Court from criminal syndicalism conviction in Superior Court of Clallam County, 1919
2 Bernard Parent vs. State of Washington.Brief of petitioner in re application for writ of habeas corpus to Washington Supreme Court (contempt of court for violation of injunction)
2 State of Washington vs. Archie C. Shoemaker. Brief of appellant in Washington Supreme Court from criminal syndicalism conviction by Superior Court of Franklin County, 19201920
2 State of Oregon vs. L. A. Sorllie. Brief of appellant in Oregon Supreme Court from criminal syndicalism conviction by 4th Circuit Court, 19191919
2 Charlotte A. Whitney vs. State of California. Decision of U.S. Supreme Court in criminal syndicalism conviction, 19271927

3/1-3/8Centralia Tragedy1919
3/1Leaflet issued by IWW before raid warning of trouble
2 items
3/3Brochures, leaflets
16 items
4 items
6 items
3/6Correspondence: John Lamb, Britt Smith 2 Court papers, mostly affidavits
2 items
3/7Court papers, mostly affidavits
7 items
3/8Appeal briefs (printed) in State Supreme Court
4 items

3/9Everett Massacre
17 items

3/10Seattle General Strike Leaflets
11 items
General Notes: These are photocopies of the fragile originals stored in box 8

3/11-3/13 Landwehl, et al. vs. Equity Printing Company, et al.
1 item
3/12-3/13Correspondence and legal documents1924-1925
116 items

General correspondence and court papers
16 items
Court papers
11 items

4/3-4/8Colorado Mine Strike1927-1928
23 items
36 items
4/5Industrial Commission of Colorado correspondence, reports, minutes
7 items
4/6-4/7Court papers
9 items
4/8Reports, general correspondence
7 items

4/9-4/12Sacco-Vanzetti Campaign
25 items
4/10Miscellany, Ephemera
7 items
4/11Minutes, Sacco-Vanzetti United Front Committee, Seattle. 1927 May 24
1 item
6 items

4/13-4/14, 5/1-5/8Industrial Workers of the World Periodicals1908-1947
4/13 Agricultural Workers Industrial Union No. 110 of the IWW Bulletin
4/14 California District Defense Committee Bulletin 1921-1924
California District Defense Committee Bulletin Issues1921-1924
California District Defense Committee Bulletin Financial Statements 1922-1924
5/1 Defense Bulletin
5/2 General Office Bulletin 1924-1925
5/3 General Organization Bulletin January 1, 1929, July 1, 1929, Sept. 1, 1939, January, 1947, February, 1947, March, 1947 (continuation of the above)1929-1947
5/4 General Recruiting Union, New York, Bulletin Undated
5/5 The Industrial Union Bulletin 1908, May 23
Oversize Box 8 Lumber Workers Bulletin    OVERSIZEMay 1923
5/6 Solidarity 1914 May 16
5/7 Tie Vapauteen 1934 April
5/8 The Young Rebel Christmas, 1929

5/9Leaflets, Small Brochures
30 items

5/10Miscellaneous Clippings
20 items

5/11-5/17Non-IWW Periodicals
5/11 The Challenge (Y.P.S.L.)1935 March
5/12 Fourth International 1946 June
5/13 The Communist International 1928 March 15
5/14 Law and Freedom Bulletin, (ACLU)1924 December 31
5/15 Masses 1917 March
5/16 104 Reporter 1945 July 26
5/17 The Road to Freedom 1927 June

5/18Non-IWW Leaflets
5 items

5/19Oversize Box 8 Scrapbooks
1 volume in folder, 2 volumes in oversize

5/20Proposed Pamphlet Manuscript1950

5/21Government Documents
6 items

6/1-6/2Socialist Party

6/3-6/8Socialist Party of Washington
6/3Reports and circulars1932-1934
21 items
6/4King County Executive Committee, Minutes1935
4 items
6/5-6/8Seattle Branch No. 11934-1935
6/5Reports and Financial records
9 items
6/6Outgoing correspondence
6 items
6/7 Incoming correspondence
13 items
12 items

6/9, 7Workers Alliance of Washington
6/9Membership book1937
1 item

Oversized Items1917-1928
8/1Charters, Seattle, Washington    OVERSIZE
Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union No. 510February 20, 1917
Lumber Workers Industrial Union No. 120July 15, 1921
General Industrial Union District CouncilFebruary 18, 1924
Building Construction Workers Industrial Union No. 330March 20, 1924
General Recruiting Union, Branch No. 1April 4, 1926
General Defense Committee, Local 12June 4, 1928
Poster, "To All Members and Friends of the Industrial Workers of the World"
The One Big Union
The One Great Union
Large photograph labeled "IWW Prisoners Just Before Surrendering at Federal Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kan."
General Notes: Photograph relocated to IWW Photograph Collection #922
8/3Seattle General Strike Leaflets1919
9 items

Subject Terms

Industrial Workers of the World. Seattle Joint Branches--Archives.
Labor History
Labor Unions
Personal Papers/Corporate Records
Washington (State)
Last modified: June 26, 2015
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