‘I.W.W. ‘Red Special’ Overall Brigade’ by J.H. Walsh from The Industrial Union Bulletin. Vol. 2 No. 24. September 19, 1908.

‘I.W.W. ‘Red Special’ Overall Brigade’ by J.H. Walsh from The Industrial Union Bulletin. Vol. 2 No. 24. September 19, 1908.

In my last article to the Bulletin, I concluded just as we were ready to get to the railroad yards, to take our “Special” en route to Chicago.

Well, we’re in the yards, gathered together at the water tank. In order to know if all are present, we have numbered ourselves. The numbers run from one to nineteen, Mrs. Walsh making twenty. A switchman is seen and he informs us where our “Special car” will be found. The train is late however, and we are delayed a few hours. “Fly Cops” are pretty busy in the yards. They are watching their master’s property that some hobo may not break a sacred seal and pile into a car where valuable merchandise is stored.

Two blasts of the locomotive whistle are heard and the train is starting on its journey, and simultaneously nineteen men, all dressed in black overalls and jumpers, black shirts and red ties, with an I.W.W. book in his pocket and an I.W.W. button on his coat, are in a “cattle car” and on our way.

In a short time a glim (lantern) appears and the breakman jumps into the car. His unionism is skin-deep. He belongs to the B. of R. T., but never heard of the class struggle. He is unsuccessful, however, in the collecting of fares, and we continue are journey.

Our first stop, where we expect to hold a meeting is Centralia, and when about halfway there, “our car” is set out. There is only one now left in the train to ride on. It is an oil car, so nineteen men will be found “riding” on that car as soon as the train starts. Being delayed for a few hours again, while the train is being transferred across the ferry, we are hovered around the first campfire toward the wee sma’ hours of morning. At last two short blasts of the whistle are heard, and all are aboard. It is only a short distance to our destination and the train is whirling along at passenger speed. The morning is turning cold and spitting a little rain, but all are determined to stick to the car, when again, appears the brakeman and tells us we cannot ride since daylight has come, but he is informed that we must get to Centralia. He insists we’ll get off at the next stop, but we fail to get off, and in a few minutes we arrive at our first stop.

It is early Sunday morning, and we are off to get a cup of coffee, after which we will congregate around the campfire in the “jungles.” The morning is bright and all are sleeping on the jungle grass, with our arms for pillows, and coats for covers.

About noon we are all up and wending our way toward the depot, here we meet Mrs. Walsh and the whole “bunch” congregates. The rubber necks of the little country city are all stretched on us. Later in the day the “To Night Bells” are distributed and at 8 p.m., we find a good crowd at the park to listen. They all like the songs and close attention is given to the lecture. The literature sales are fair, the collection fair and the songs sell like hot cakes.

We have finished our first propaganda meeting, and taking all in all, it is a grand success. Now, for the next date which is Tacoma. The train committee has ascertained that “our special car” will not leave until 2 a.m., so off to the campfire again. The time has arrived for departure and we are again on our way. Another brakeman appears and after a conference he decides to let us ride. A few minutes later he appears again with two large watermelons. We are in an empty coal car, but the train is making passenger time. A long blast of the whistle tells is that we are near Tacoma. Now for a few blocks’ walk and we are at the I.W.W. hall. The bills are being distributed and a big meeting is expected. The street is packed and a great meeting is the result. The sale of literature is good, the collection is fair, and again the songs sell like hot cakes. Four new members are secured for the Tacoma local.

Having finished our work here, we are ready for a start toward Seattle. On arrival in the yards, we find a “train ready.” We are off, but on arrival at Meaker Junction, we find a walk in store for us of eight miles, in order to catch a train that will land us in Seattle in time for a propaganda meeting. The eight miles is undergoing repair work, and the Italians are on strike, so you can imagine what a beautiful roadbed we have to “hike” over in the night.

The trip has been made and luckily we strike another train ready to land us in Seattle. We find “our special car,” and several hobos are in it. They are telling of the bad “shack” (brakeman) on the train who packs a big gun and makes the “boes” get. The shack arrives with a big gun. He is a small man, but says in a gruff voice: “Get out of here! Every G– d— one of you,” and the strangers in the car all pile out. Three of our bunch step up to him to tell him that we are all union men, and desire to get to Seattle. He is not a union man and again gives the command that we must get off. At this juncture the whole bunch is awakened and told that we must get off and that the shack has a gun. The command is given, “call the roll” The roll is called, and as they sound their numbers from one to nineteen the brakeman turns white and meekly says: “I did not know this.” He piles out and we are on our way.

In Seattle we held several good meetings and then departed for the east. We met a very nice train crew apparently, out of Seattle. They claimed to all be union men, but they proved to be cheap dogs of the railroad. Fearing such a large bunch, they telegraphed ahead to Auburn Junction for a force to take us off. When we arrived at the junction we were surrounded by a band of railroad officials-the papers stated there were 25-when we were covered by guns and told to unload. We were marched to jail and held overnight. In the morning the writer was separated from the bunch, but finally we were all turned loose. Being separated, we did not learn until evening where each and all were. However, all except the writer had gotten back to Seattle, and secured the services of Attorney Brown, to take up the case, should it become necessary. It was not necessary. The boys held a street meeting in Seattle, and part started from there for Spokane, over one road, and the rest over another road.

We continued our work of propaganda without missing a single date, and all reunited at Spokane, where we held several good meetings. Leaving Spokane, we took in Sandpoint, Idaho, and then rambled into Missoula, Montana, where we had some of the best meetings of all the places along the route.

We put the “Starvation Army” on the bum, and packed the streets from one side to the other. The literature sales were good, the collections good, and the red cards containing the songs sold like hot cakes.

At Missoula, Mont., we have completed two full week’s work on the road. We left Portland with 20 members. We lost 4 of them, but we picked up one at Seattle, and two at Spokane, so our industrial band is practically the same as when we started.

There are “Mulligan Bunches” all along the road. We had scarcely gotten out of the city limits of Portland, when we saw the campfires of the “boes” along the road, and we have never, as yet, been out of sight of those camp fires. In fact, the further east we get, the more numerous appear to be the “boes.” On investigation, we find that the “Mulligan Bunch” is not composed of pick and shovel artists alone, but that all kinds of tradesmen can be found among them.

There is still three weeks between us and the Fourth Annual Convention, and we expect to be in Chicago by that time. So far we have made every place on schedule time, and we hope to keep up the record.

The receipts from the sale of literature and collections for the first week, were $39.02 and the second week was $53.66, a total of $92.68. Of course, do not imagine that this is all profit, for its necessary to buy a passenger ticket for the wife of the writer, and as we are carrying 160 pounds of excess baggage-literature-these receipts are eaten into at a lively rate.

This may not be a “Red Special,” but it is leaving a red streak behind it. All fellow workers can get a meal at our special car-the jungles-free of charge, any a poor, hungry devil has been fed by the boys around the camp fires.

In the above money of literature and collections, the song sales are not counted. The boys in the bunch have that money to themselves. It runs from two or three dollars to eleven dollars per night.

It is time for another street meeting, and so I must close to join the revolutionary forces on the street, who are now congregating, after a big feed in the jungles.

Yours for the I.W.W., J.H. WALSH, National Organizer.

‘ABROAD THE NATION’ from The Industrial Union Bulletin of October 24, 1908.

The “Overall Brigade,” en route from Portland, Ore., to Chicago to the Fourth Annual Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World at this point, has finished another successful propaganda meeting at Missoula, Mont. This makes three successful meetings in this city. Literature sales have been the best here of any place so far on our route, while the song sales have doubled, running as high as $10 or $12 per meeting. The collections have been in the same proportion. In fact, it is the first place where the audience has thrown dollars into the crowd at the feet of the singers, as well as many smaller pieces of change that came jingling along at the same time. One collection in the hat was $14.25. This all tells one story in brief-and that is the growing sentiment toward Industrial Unionism.

It is plain to see that the lumbermen’s union, which was generally understood to be a part of the W.F. of M., will soon be a part of the I.W.W. But with all the favorable conditions and enthusiasm, and a thousand invitations for the “bunch” to return, we are off again for the railroad yards to continue our journey to the city of Butte-the noted mining camp.

Our special car is found. It goes in our direction as far as Garrison Junction. It is not a long ride, and we are now spinning along at passenger speed. The long blast of the whistle which sounds and resounds through the mountain tops and valleys on this cold morning, announces that we are approaching the junction. We are there, unloaded and off for the jungles. The cook and a delegate are on their way to the store for supplies, while the rest and the “bunch” is shivering around the campfire.

Soon the fire is burning bright, the breakfast is cooking and the sun is making its appearance above the horizon, which adds some comfort to our condition on these cold mornings in the Rocky Mountain country. The delicious breakfast is ready and the “bunch” is congregated to partake of the passover.

The revolution and its scientific doctrines are now receiving a practical application. John D. Rockefeller, it is said, offered a million dollars one time for a working man’s appetite, but if he could get the appetite of any one of this “bunch” he would evidently give several times that amount. Further, if he really desires to get one of these appetites we can show him how it is done.

The great morning passover is to an end, and just as luck will have it, a train is starting for Butte. It runs directly past the jungles, and as it comes along nineteen passengers climb aboard. Here we find two fairly decent union breakmen, and by a small contribution we have arranged a quiet, peaceful ride in an open ore car-really a proletarian observation car. After a few hours’ ride and viewing the beautiful mountains and farm valleys, as well as a number of wage slave crews working for the Milwaukee railroad, for their board, or possibly a little more, we arrive in the great city of Butt. This, the greatest mining camp on earth, is in a lethargic stage. Times have changed. Butte is no more Butte. Thousands of idle men swarm the streets. And thousands are broke and bumming meals. As a result, our literature sales are small, our collections small, and the song sales are not what they should be.

The miners’ union election is on, and it is attracting about as much attention in the city as the election of the mayor. There are some strong opponents here to the I.W.W., and at the same time there are some strong and enthusiastic supporters of the organization.

A few meetings finished our work at Butte, and we are off for Bozeman, our next stop. Our car is ready. We have but a short delay. It is a fine trip, as there is some hay in the car to sleep on. We arrive at Bozeman to find a street fair in full blast. One meeting concludes our work in this farmer town. The wrath of the powers that be was raised by the solo singer when he told the crowd that he would sing a song entitled “The Red Flag,” and which was the people’s flag- “not the one,” he continued, “like that one hanging up there” pointing to the stars and stripes, “which floated over the Colorado bull-pens.”

Our next stop was Livingston. It was only a short distance and we were soon there. At this point are some fine jungles along the Yellowstone river. Here we are for a whole day of perfect pleasure-in fact, a sample of freedom to be universal under the co-operative commonwealth. The order of the day is plenty to eat first. A bucket of “spuds” have been “bought” of the farmer. Meat has been secured. The “punk” has been cut up and with the jungle Mocha and Java steaming under your nose you are certainly glad you are alive.

Livingston is a railroad town, and our meeting was a success. A goodly amount of literature was sold, and a fairly good collection was taken, while the song cards sold extra well.

Overall Brigade.

The next place on the map is Billings. Again we strike it lucky in getting “our special car” on a freight that is running second section to the North Coast Limited. We certainly are whirling along at a rapid rate. The whistle blows, and in a few seconds the train is at a stand-still in a small station, when the side door to our sleeper is shoved open and an order comes from a man at the door with a gun about two feet long, pointed into the car, to “Line up! I want to see who all is in this car.” The breakman is with him. He is puzzled, and so are we. But it proves to be some county sheriff looking for a man who shot a woman that evening in that vicinity. He is not in our bunch and the door is closed.

Soon we are all asleep again. Such fast time is made that we arrive in Billings away too early for a proletarian on this kind of a trip to arise but as “our car” does not stop we must unload. When we pile together and the air pretty chilly, and several hours between us and morning. So down in the yards we go to find an empty. It is there. One with hay in it, and soon all are in and asleep. Scarcely an hour’s rest is enjoyed until the switch engine backs in and disturbs our peaceful slumbers, and once more we are forced to look for a place to continue our sleep until morning. Luck is with us, for we find another car containing hay, and our slumbers are disturbed no more. The jungles are discovered, but they are poor and far away from the city.

In this city-Billings Mont.- we held five big meetings. The first was Saturday night, then two on Sunday, and as the Monday following was Labor (?) Day, we held two more. All were good meetings. The literature sales were fair, and also the collections, while the songs sold extra well. At the fifth and last meeting the police notified us that we could hold no more meetings, but on a referendum vote of the “bunch” to quit, or talk and go to jail, the decision was unanimous to proceed with the program. So we continued, and with the assistance of some of the local Socialists held the streets to the extent that the chief of police said: “Let them talk.”

Of course, all this excitement created considerable attention and assisted in getting a larger crowd than ever. Even the mayor came down to listen to the truths of Industrial Unionism. This meeting completes our work here and we are ready for another move east.

Our next stop is Glendive, Mont. We are off to the yard and “our special car” is located. Soon we are on the move. It is a long trip.

Part of the time we are going at a good speed and some of the time we are waiting at a small station while cattle are being loaded. This is a long, hard drill. But after a long and patient wait we hear the blast of the whistle that tells us we are near our destination. Unload and clean up is the order of the day. The bills are distributed for tonight’s meeting. Although this is a small place, the turnout was fine. A number of pamphlets were sold and a small collection taken, while the usual quota of songs were sold. With a little propaganda work carried on here a local could be started. Glendive possesses a union spirit generally prevalent in the state of Montana.

Again we are down to the yard to look for “our special car,” but this time luck is not with us, and we learn that there is no train out until 8 a.m. However, the night is fairly warm and the “bunch” is soon hid away in the tall grass and weeds near the roundhouse, with an arm for a pillow and his coat for a cover. This certainly was a night of rest, and many were the dreams of the work to be done at the Fourth Annual Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World.

It was 9 o’clock a.m. before “our train” was ready to start. This time we are off on another long trip. Our next point is Minneapolis. As the time is getting short between now and the convening of the convention, the “bunch” has decided to make the jump to Minneapolis. This is a long trip, through a farming country, but we are off.

After many hours of fast and slow riding, with troubles of a thousand different descriptions, we have arrived in the great city of Minneapolis and are on the streets holding a meeting. The program has not gone far when a guardian of the law, in beautiful blue uniform, notifies us that we are getting too large a crowd together, and that we must move down the street two blocks. We move and again proceed with our program. In a few minutes the blue coat appears again and tells the writer, who was talking, to come with him to the police station. As we start off he says: “Tell your whole bunch to come along.” So, in compliance with this invitation, the “whole bunch” soon find themselves at one of the sub-stations of the police department, but the “powers that be” at this sub-station are puzzled to know what to do, and after long consultation decide to have us all taken before the chief of police.

We arrive before his royal majesty, and a number of the “bunch” are put through a slight sweating process, but the chief of police finally decides that we can talk on the streets at certain points. The place designated is just about what we want, however. We are free people again, and the news has been heralded up and down the proletarian streets. Rain in the evening prevents a meeting. However Sunday morning, when the writer and his wife appeared on the street near a large crowd that was listening to the Starvation Army, the crowd gathered around us and the Army was left with practically no one.

On this occasion again came Mr. Policeman and notified us that if we did not move on he would lock us up. We moved across the street and the whole crowd came also. Again appeared the police and said we must go down and hold our meeting where the chief said we should. We informed the police that we were not holding any meeting; that we had simply stopped on the street to read a letter received from the west by one of the boys. By this time we had all the crowd in that part of the city and we moved down a half block and started a meeting of the Industrial Workers of the World. It was a howling success. Every person there, apparently, wanted one of those song cards, as it was over the sale of these cards, which contained “The Red Flag,” that the trouble hinged the day before.

By this time several of the true revolutionists showed up, and several big meetings were held. The literature sales were fair and the collections were good, while the song cards sold at a rapid rate. Minneapolis is a good field for future constructive work for the industrial movement.

After surveying the field at St. Paul, the “bunch” has decided to make the next jump to Chicago. Only a few days now remain until the convention, and it is not deemed advisable to take too many jail chances or we may be denied the pleasure of being at the Fourth Annual Convention. So we are off for Chicago. The “bunch” has split up on this trip, some going over one road and some over another. Little trouble was experienced on this trip, as the union card was generally good for a ride.

We arrived in Chicago a few days ahead of the convention, and held meetings here the same as en route, but the poverty-stricken condition of the workers here results in poor sales of literature, very small collections and limited sales of song cards.

This finishes five weeks of propaganda work, dating from the time that we left Portland until we arrived in Chicago. Very few nights were lost in travel, but on the other hand, nearly every date was made on schedule. We left Portland with twenty in the “bunch.” We lost one at the first stop. We got a new recruit at Tacoma and one at Seattle, and picked up two more at Spokane. We lost a couple between Spokane and Minneapolis. They stopped to work. Two more dropped out at Minneapolis, while the rest of the “bunch” all showed up in Chicago and were in attendance at the convention.

We were five weeks on the road. We traveled over two thousand five hundred miles. The railroad fare saved would have been about $800. We held thirty-one meetings. The receipts of the first week from literature sales and collections were $39.02. The second week, $53.66. The third week, $45.78. The fourth week, $28.10. The fifth week, $8.57. Total, $175.13. These figures do not include the song sales. The song sales were approximately $200.

The Industrial Union Bulletin, and the Industrial Worker were newspapers published by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1907 until 1913. First printed in Joliet, Illinois, IUB incorporated The Voice of Labor, the newspaper of the American Labor Union which had joined the IWW, and another IWW affiliate, International Metal Worker.The Trautmann-DeLeon faction issued its weekly from March 1907. Soon after, De Leon would be expelled and Trautmann would continue IUB until March 1909. It was edited by A. S. Edwards. 1909, production moved to Spokane, Washington and became The Industrial Worker, “the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism.”

PDF: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iub/v2n24-sep-19-1908-iub.pdf

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