Founded in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World captured the attention of a generation with its fiery rhetoric, daring tactics, and program of revolutionary industrial unionism. Pledging to replace the narrow craft unionism of the American Federal of Labor with massive industrial unions, the organization grew in numbers and reputation in the years before World War I, demonstrating an ability to organize workers neglected by the AFL, notably immigrant steel and textile workers in the Northeast, miners, timber, and harvest workers in the West.
But the IWW's revolutionary program and class-war rhetoric yielded more enemies than allies. Frequently jailed or beaten when they tried to organize, Wobblies faced something more serious after the United States mobilized for war in 1917. Federal and state goverments moved to suppress the organization, imprisoning hundreds of Wobblies, passing criminal syndicalism laws that made membership a crime. The IWW survived and is active today, but never regained the momentum of its early years.
This project explores the history of the IWW in its first three decades, presenting information that has never before been available. We have compiled databases of more than 1,800 strikes, campaigns, arrests, and other incidents involving IWW members and present this information both yearbook format and in elaborate interactive maps. We also map more than 900 IWW locals, revealing a geography of activism that include more than 350 towns and cities in 38 states and 5 Canadian provinces. Here you will also find accounts of important events and issues and a wealth of photographs and documents. The timeline/brief history provides a quick introduction to the history of the IWW.
Co-directed by Professor James Gregory and Labor Archivist Conor Casey, the project utilizes the resources of the Labor Archives of Washington and University of Washington Libraries.
Tour the Project
This slideshow introduces key events in the story of the IWW from its founding in 1905 through the early 1920s. Links provide additional information.
Here are maps and charts that locate more than 1,800 strikes, campaigns, protests, arrests, raids, and trials from 1905 to 1920. Fully interactive, you can follow the events year by year or month by month.
These yearbooks provide the most complete account of IWW events -- a day-by-day database of hundreds of strikes, protests, campaigns, arrests, prosecutions, and attacks aimed at IWW members -- as recorded in the pages of the Industrial Union Bulletin, Industrial Worker, and Solidarity
These maps show more than 900 IWW unions in 350 cities and towns in 38 states and territories of the United States and 5 Canadian provinces. They are color coded by industry and you may filter by industry and state.
Here are maps and descriptions of ninety newspapers and periodicals affilitated with the IWW in its early years. They were published in nineteen languages.
Articles about important events, issues, and people:
- Local 8: Philadelphia's Interracial Union, by Peter Cole
- IWW Newspapers 1906-1946, by Kenyon Zimmer
- Upton Sinclair, the 1923 San Pedro Strike, and the Battle of Liberty Hill, by Lauren Coodley
- Justice Department Campaign Against the IWW 1917-1920, by Stephen Parfitt
- Wobbly Wheels: The IWW's Boxcar Strategy, by Arianne Hermida
- The Songbird and the Martyr: Katie Phar, Joe Hill, and the Songs of the IWW, by Senteara Orwig
- The IWW, the Newspapers, and the 1913 Seattle Potlatch Riot, by James Larrabee
- The Industrial Workers of the World in the Seattle General Strike, by Colin M. Anderson
- More essays
Here are nearly 500 digital photographs, documents, news articles, and oral histories from the Labor Archives, University of Washington Libraries.
This site is part of the Mapping American Social Movements Through the 20th Century consortium based at the University of Washington under the direction of Professor James Gregory.
- IWW Project Directors: James Gregory, Conor Casey
- Research Associates: Josue Estrada, Rebecca Flores, Arianne Hermida
- Contributors: Colin M. Anderson, Nick Bragg, Alison Cheung, Peter Cole, Laren Coodley, Morgan Cottle, Shaun Cuffin, Mike DiBernardo, Michael Hanley, Oliver Janders, Michael Kirkman, James Larrabee, Christopher Mulcahey, Kiyomi Nunez, Sentera Orwig, Chris Perry, Oscar Rosales Castañeda, Jack Ross, Danielle Simmons, Victoria Thorpe, Austin Upton