Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dulofsky, Melryn

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Haywood; Big Bill; 1869-1928; Industrial Workers of the World; Working class--United States


The Industrial Workers of the World (nick-named "Wobblies,” but christened "Imperial Wilhelm's Warriors" and "I Won't Work" by American businessmen) represented one of the first American Industrial union movements. Created in 1905 by the Western Federation of Miners and militant socialists such as Eugene V. Debs, Daniel DeLeon, Mother Jones, Father T.J. Hagerty, William E. Troutman, and others, the IWW set out to organize unorganized, exploited American workers, men and women ignored by the labor elite in Gomperg's American Federation of Labor. Recruiting immigrant workers in the East and migratory laborers in the West, the IWW, by the outbreak of the First World War, loomed as a serious menace to American entrepreneurs, especially those of the Midwest and West. Although In 1912 the Wobbly-directed strikes at Lawrence and Paterson had aroused a national furor, the union by 1914 was a sick organization. The next year, however, a campaign to organize western migratory workers gave the ailing IWW new life. During 1917, 100,000 singing Webs, determined to win the class struggle, threatened to unionize vital western industries. The Great War provided western businessmen with a perfect opportunity for using the federal government to exterminate the growing IWW. In peacetime secure, middle*class patriots considered any aggressive union as inimical to the growth of American civilization. During the war those who equated capitalism with righteousness and wage-slavery with freedom viewed the activities of the IWW as immoral and treasonable. The political representatives and purchased press of harassed western employers appealed to the federal government for action. On September 5, 1917, at 2 p.m. central standard time, the Department of Justice responded by simultaneously raiding IWW of offices throughout the country. Federal agents seized practically all of the union's possessions, its records, literature, furniture, and negotiable instruments. On September 28, 1917, a Chicago federal grand Jury indicted William D, "Big Bill" Haywood, Secretary-Treasurer of the union, and 165 Wobbly organizers. Immediately, the government arrested the indicted men, and those who could not raise ball remained in the cook county jail until their trial began on April 1, 1917. The prosecution and defense had agreed upon a jury by May 1, and the ensuing trial consumed three and a half months and required the Jurors to consider 17,500 alleged offenses and 40,000 type-written pages of testimony. Nevertheless, in less than an hour the jury condemned the Wobblies, and the court sentenced 15 of the most influential union officers to 20 years imprisonment and fines of $20,000. George F. Vanderveer, the IWW's attorney, carried the appeal to the Supreme Court only to meet with disappointment. The government incarcerated 95 of the defendants in Leavenworth, Kansas. There many of them stayed until President Harding's amnesty for political prisoners freed them in 1923. United States v. W.D. Haywood, et al. demonstrated the extent to which a "jingo" democracy could deviate from democratic principle in a time of national crisis. The conviction of the Wobbly leaders, moreover, delayed the rise of industrial unionism in the United States until the advent of the Congress of Industrial Organizations of 1936.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 113-126)


vi, 126 pages




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