Cartoon art

Item no. 28203
September 1917
Collection: Other

"A Plea to Our Fellow Workers" by Ralph Chaplin, Solidarity September 1, 1917.

War contracts had made profits compatible with patriotism and organized labor synonymous with treason. Any IWW agitation in contracted industries could expect to be met with the deployment of federal troops. Under pressure from businessmen, bankers, and industrialists, a number of states passed criminal syndicalism laws between 1917 and 1920, which were used in conjunction with the federal Espionage Act to destroy the IWW once and for all.

Finally, on September 5, 1917, federal investigators raided IWW headquarters, meeting halls, and members' homes confiscating Wobbly literature, records and books. One hundred and eighty-four IWW members and organizers were rounded up from all over the country and brought up on charges of conspiracy and treason. IWW pamphlets on capitalism, articles about internationalism, and poems praising sabotage were read aloud in the courtroom to illustrate the conspiratorial nature of the organization.

With public hysteria at its peak, the Justice Department needed very little solid evidence to convict the Wobblies and put the IWW out of commission. With the cost of defense sapping its funds, its records confiscated, and virtually all of its primary organizers behind bars, the IWW slowly disintegrated, fading into the annals of American labor history.

See this image in the Solidarity Forever: A Look at Wobbly Culture exhibit.

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View other items in the thematic set Pre-1920s