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Origins: Who killed Joe Hill?


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GUEST,Genie 04 Sep 01 - 04:57 PM
Susanne (skw) 04 Sep 01 - 05:42 PM
Jim Dixon 04 Sep 01 - 06:06 PM
toadfrog 04 Sep 01 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,Genie 04 Sep 01 - 09:22 PM
Airto 05 Sep 01 - 10:18 AM
ard mhacha 05 Sep 01 - 05:23 PM
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Subject: Who killed Joe Hill?
From: GUEST,Genie
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 04:57 PM

Was Joe Hill executed (by firing squad?) after being framed for and convicted of murder, or was he lynched (shot?) by someone hired by "copper bosses"? Is a "copper boss," an industry boss for the mining industry or is it a slang term for something else?

If someone has the history, please direct me to the source or post a brief account.

This will help settle a question that came up in a recent song circle after we sang "Joe Hill" and the parody "J. Edgar."


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Subject: RE: Help: Who killed Joe Hill?
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 05:42 PM

As far as I know he was executed for murder in Utah in 1915. This is what Joe Klein has to say about him in his biography of Woody Guthrie:

[1980:] Joe Hill [Joseph Hillstrom, né Joel Haaglund] was probably more rogue than radical, and the songs he wrote were often little more than doggerel ... but he came to symbolize the spirit of the Wobblies in the public mind, mostly because of the phenomenal success he achieved in orchestrating his own martyrdom. After arriving from Sweden in 1902, he wandered through the West for the next thirteen years. Not much was known about him except that he often hung around the San Pedro I.W.W. hall. Some of the old-timers suspected he made his living as a robber, and only used the Wobblies as a social club. Then, in 1914, he was arrested in Utah for the murder of a market owner, a murder he probably didn't commit. But he refused to say where he'd been at the time of the shooting (to protect the honor of a lady, it was said), and was convicted. In the years that followed, Joe Hill became a cause célèbre among radicals and liberals all over the world. He did some of his most inspired work while awaiting his death, including the famous line he sent to Big Bill Haywood, the Wobbly leader, in a telegram just before his execution: "Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize." (Klein, Woody Guthrie 82ff)
And a less sceptical bit by Ailie Munro:
[1984:] At first a rather marginal figure in the I.W.W. struggles, [Joe Hill] was known chiefly for his songs which came to be sung across the world and were linked with working-class agitation as far afield as Australia. In 1914 he was arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah, on a murder charge, convicted on highly circumstantial evidence, and executed after 22 months in prison - despite an international defence movement, and petitions which included two pleas from President Wilson and one from the Swedish minister for further consideration of his case. The grim story of his trial by a hostile court, and the outcome, can be read in Barry Stavis's 'The Man Who Never Died'; written after five years of research into the facts, it fully endorses Joe's claim that he was framed as an anti-union, anti-I.W.W. move. This claim is also supported by the Labour historian Foner.
Joe's last message to his friends was "Don't mourn for me - organise". And his last will, written in the death-cell the night before he was shot, has a timeless nobility:
Joe Hill's (Last) Will
Set to music by Ethel Raim in 1961, as Joe Hill's Will.
Joe's body was reduced to ashes, which were placed in many small envelopes: "These were sent to I.W.W. ... sympathisers in all forty-eight states of the U.S. except ... Utah", and to many other countries throughout the world, to be scattered over the earth on May 1, 1916. But the Harvard-educated revolutionary John Reed wrote, "I have met men carrying next their hearts, in the pockets of their working clothes, little bottles with some of Joe Hill's ashes in them." His funeral in Chicago was attended by an estimated 30,000 sympathisers, who marched through the streets to the cemetery.
Some twenty years later, Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson wrote this song. [...] Robinson's fine tune is in the hymn-like style [...] which was popular among Labour songs up till the forties and the fifties.
In the sixties, the English composer Alan Bush based his fourth opera on the life and death of Joe Hill as told by Barry Stavis. 'Joe Hill: the Man Who Never Died' was first performed at the German State Opera House, East Berlin, in September 1970 and ran for the whole winter season. (Munro, Revival 27f)

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Subject: RE: Help: Who killed Joe Hill?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 06:06 PM

Here's a quote from Encarta, from its article on the history of Utah:

Bad feelings grew between unions and the Mormon church, and the animosity increased in 1914 after the murder of a grocer and his son. Joel Haggelund, a Swedish immigrant better known as Joe Hill, was arrested, charged with the murder, convicted, and sentenced to be executed. His case became widely known around the country because of Hill's membership in the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor organization. Although many around the nation felt that Hill had been convicted unfairly because he was a radical union member and an immigrant, he was executed at the state prison on November 15, 1915.

Here's a longer article from the Utah History Encyclopedia.

The "Copper Bosses" seem to be the industrialists who ran the copper mining industry in Utah.

And there seems to be a lot of information on the Internet about Joe Hill. Just putting "Joe Hill" (in quotes) into a search engine like Google yields 12,000 hits!

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Subject: RE: Help: Who killed Joe Hill?
From: toadfrog
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 06:38 PM

Wallace Stegner, a novelist who thought like a historian, did thorough research before writing his novel, "Joe Hill." I believe Stegner's account. Joe Hill was known to carry a pistol. He roomed with a man who was a known felon. There was a robbery in which a storekeeper and his son drew weapons and fired them, and were shot dead. Joe Hill and his roommate disapeared at the same time. The roommate was never found. Joe Hill was found in hiding, recuperating from a bullet wound in one lung. He was tried for murder. His defense was financed, for reasons unknown, by the wife of the President of the LDS Church. He refused to testify at his trial, which became a political cause celebre. Opinions on his guilt or innocence became a litmus test of one's political orientation. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

He became a martyr. Earl Robinson wrote a song about him, which became a favorite of the American Left, and I think also of the Irish Republican Army (correct me if I'm wrong about the IRA). He is the hero of a chapter in John Dos Passos' U.S.A.

The offense is called "felony murder," meaning if a person commits a felony such as robbery and someone is killed as a result, that person is deemed responsible, even if it is not known whether he/she actually did the killing.

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Subject: RE: Help: Who killed Joe Hill?
From: GUEST,Genie
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 09:22 PM

Suzanne, Jim, and Toadfrog, thanks for the info! Genie

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Subject: RE: Help: Who killed Joe Hill?
From: Airto
Date: 05 Sep 01 - 10:18 AM

The song Joe Hill is well known in Ireland thanks to recorded versions by the Dubliners et al but I'm not aware of it being part of any IRA repertoire. They've never had any interest in the cause of organised labour.

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Subject: RE: Help: Who killed Joe Hill?
From: ard mhacha
Date: 05 Sep 01 - 05:23 PM

Airto, You are right about Joe Hill being a popular song in Ireland and with no political affiliations. As Joe was pardoned a number of years ago, the State of Utah murdered him. Slan Ard Mhacha.

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