The Stand

‘Injury to One is an Injury to All’ Everett Massacre exhibit at UW

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This first edition of “Saving Solidarity,” a new regular series of columns by Conor Casey, was co-written by Assistant Labor Archivist Crystal Rodgers.


SEATTLE (Jan. 5, 2017) — The Labor Archives of Washington’s latest exhibit, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All”: The Legacy of the 1916 Everett Massacre and the Industrial Workers of the World in the Pacific Northwest, is currently on display in the University of Washington Allen Library North lobby through Jan. 29. Featuring photographs, books, and ephemera from Labor Archives’ collections, several contributions from collections at related repositories, and digitized interviews, the exhibit highlights the history of the IWW in the Pacific Northwest and looks deeper into the events leading up to the Everett Massacre.

This exhibit was designed to use surrogates of photographs and documents, ensuring that the originals can be preserved and secured while sharing the information contained in them with a broader public. This enables the archives to host the exhibit at a variety of community venues.

Portions of the exhibit have already been displayed at the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association Conference in May 2016 in Portland, Ore., as well as the Everett Massacre Commemoration Centennial Boat Tour in Nov. 12, 2016, on board the historic steamship the Virginia V. The exhibit is lightweight and portable and mounted on hardware of backdrop frames from a photographer’s studio to facilitate moving it and installing it in diverse venues.

As a way to make the exhibit more dynamic and augment the existing materials with new content, we added new materials in planned waves throughout the exhibit run. This unique approach to exhibit design creates an anticipatory experience that invites viewers to frequent the exhibit to view new additions. By providing additional historical context, it also builds onto what viewers have learned from previous visits, enhancing the educational impact of exhibit content.

About the IWW and the Everett Massacre

Nov. 5, 2016, marked 100 years since the Everett Massacre, remembered as the bloodiest day in Pacific Northwest labor history. On this day in 1916, 300 IWW members (often called “Wobblies”) aboard the boats Verona and Calista traveled from Seattle to Everett to support a labor strike of the International Shingle Weavers of America that had been underway in Everett since May.

The IWW saw the current labor unrest as an opportunity to win striking workers over to their vision of industrial unionism and to support the strikers. As it tried to dock, the Verona was met by Everett Sheriff Donald McRae and 200 armed citizen deputies at a dock in Everett. After the sheriff refused the Wobblies permission to land on the municipal dock, a gunfight broke out.

In the aftermath, at least five Wobblies lay dead, and two citizen deputies had been killed by “friendly fire” by their fellow deputies. Countless others were injured. It is also likely many other IWW members drowned when the ship began to capsize. The 74 IWW members who made it back to Seattle were thrown in jail, and leader Thomas Tracy was put on trial for the murder of the two deputies. Those in jail were released and Tracy eventually acquitted.

Why was the IWW repeatedly met with such hostility?

Everett, a thriving city of industry in the period, had a strong organized labor presence as well as a class of rich industrialists who owned the industries in which the union members worked. Sheriff McRae, who organized the citizen deputies and orchestrated a campaign of escalating violence against the Wobblies, was also pro-labor and a former shingle weaver himself. These are puzzles the exhibit seeks to examine, investigating the leading figures involved, the state of the economy in Everett, and the history of the escalating tensions between labor and business as a result of the shingle weavers’ strike.

The IWW was met with varied responses by Everett trade unionists as a result of their emphasis on industrial unionism, internationalism, radical politics, and direct action organizing tactics. Many members subscribed to socialist and anarchist ideologies, seeking to organize workers under “one big union” and advocating for an end to oppressive working conditions under a capitalist system in favor of a cooperative commonwealth of industrial democracy governed by working people. The exhibit includes a look at this broader IWW history, featuring books on the IWW as well as leaflets, stamps, and stickerettes created and used by the organization to educate the public.


Conor M. Casey is Labor Archivist at the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Special Collections. To learn more about the Labor Archives of Washington, visit laborarchives.org or LAW’s Facebook page, or follow LAW on Twitter.

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