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Joe Hill's Ashes

14 Feb 03 - 09:52 AM (#890271)
Subject: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Jeri

I didn't give this a 'BS' prefix. If anyone thinks it ought to have one, please let me know. It's simply a 'best guess' that Joe Hill figures prominently in music and folks with filters might be interested.

This thread came about because of a PM conversation I'm having (started with the Utah Phillips thread) regarding the distribution of Joe Hill's ashes. I also remember something Mark Ross said at the Old Songs Festival this past summer. He had a piece of tape inside his guitar which had some of the ashes stuck on it, and he talked a bit of how the ashes were distributed by the folks in the Chicago office of the Wobblies.

What exactly happened? Where did the ashes travel, to whom, and what did folks do with them? Do you have any stories about Joe Hill's earthly remains?


14 Feb 03 - 09:57 AM (#890275)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Hippie Chick

There's an interesting song on an album of songs about and/or by Joe Hill, and it explains that his ashes were mailed to every state except Utah, where he was killed. An envelope tore open, spilled his ashes and the government confiscated them; then sent them to the Smithsonian (?) and the Wobblies in Chicago have finally reclaimed them.   I am quoting you the gist of the song lyrics. I don't remember the titles at this hour of the morning....

Perhaps a search engine could provide more information.


14 Feb 03 - 10:03 AM (#890279)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: curmudgeon

From "The Wobblies" by Patrick Renshaw:

In accordance with Hill's last request, the IWW carried his coffin out of Utah to Chicago. Thirty thousand people attended the funeral at Graceland Cemetary, where graveside eulogies were delivered in nine European tongues. His ashes were scattered in every state of the Union and in many overseas countries on May Day 1916.

Don't mourn, organise - Tom

14 Feb 03 - 10:13 AM (#890289)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Rick Fielding

I mentioned this before in the "Utah" thread, but here it is again. I was commissioned to make several little leather pouches to hold some of Joes ashes ('bout 15 years ago) by Toronto Wobblie "Smokey George".

George gave the ashes to me in a small film container and there certainly was no certificate of authenticy, so they MIGHT have been the final remains of Rin Tin Tin, but I believe they were as described.

It's a long time ago, but I believe that the folks who got the pouches were Canadian Activist singers Arlene Mantle, Len Wallace, Smokey George, Ann lederman, myself, and Utah.

Whatever, I didn't have any ashes left when I finished the pouches. I still keep mine in my guitar case.

Jeri (and I'm serious about this) "Why in Gawd's name would you even CONSIDER designating this thread "BS"?



14 Feb 03 - 10:32 AM (#890303)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: belfast

Slight digression. One of those who spoke at the funeral of Joe Hill was James Larkin (Big Jim Larkin), the Irish (yes, yes, I know he was born in Liverpool) trade union leader and founder of The Transport and General Workers Union and the Citizen Army.

And, as said previously, by no means BS!

14 Feb 03 - 10:39 AM (#890308)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: InOBU

About twenty years ago, I was asked to write to the FBI by the NYC Wobs, (of whom I am a member...) because they still had a huge archive of our stuff from the Chicago office, Palmer raids in 1919, teliphones, file cabinets, tons of literature, and a small envelope with some of Joe's ashes not yet scattered. I sent a letter saying that as we had not recieved any requests from their shop for membership, could they return the bulk of the litterature they picked up in 1919, and in future if they had literature requests, could they ask for specific amounts rather than taking all of it. Also, could they leave the furnature and teliphones and other items in place. Finally could they return fellow worker Joe Hill now residing in an FBI file cabinet.
This is the ashes that are now floating about, I think the FBI responded to the Chicago office.
yours in the One Big Union

14 Feb 03 - 10:54 AM (#890322)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: curmudgeon

In "Rebel Voices" by Joyce Kornbluh, there is an undated letter from FW George Carey explaining how he disposed of an envelope of Joe Hill's ashes. He had rescued this packet from the ruins of the Toledo (OH) IWW Hall that had been vandalized after a "Palmer Raid" in 1919.

In June of 1950, while living in Peekskill, NY, shortly after the Robeson Riots, Carey went out to his garden and carried out Joe's last request.

"The grass was green, there was a yard covered with flowers and trees. Birds were singing all over the place. No place could be more fitting. i arose and walked out into the garden and with no more ceremony than a murmered 'Good Bye, Joe,' I carefully scattered the contents of the little envelope over the soil."

14 Feb 03 - 11:05 AM (#890328)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Ian

Is He the subject of the song
I thought I saw Joe Hill last night
as might be you or I....

It was regularly sung by Jason Hill in The Folk club in
Stoke on Trent UK. I would guess he still sings it as he still runs the club.

14 Feb 03 - 12:12 PM (#890372)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Art Thieme

Dear Ian,

YES, that is the very same JOE HILL whose ashes are being discussed here. Joe was a great working people's songwriter who was mudered by a firing squad in the state of Utah (USA) in 1915 after being convicted on trumped up charges. If you ever doubt the power that songs can have, review the details of Joe Hill's life. Joe was murdered by the state because his songs were viewed as too dangerous to the poers that be/were who were the mining interests of Utah. Put his name into a search engine and you will have so much reading material that you could easily spend the next month in front of your computer.

What might be confusing to you is that sometimes when we talk about "Utah" we are speaking of our great friend, a real person, whose NAME is Utah----U. Utah Phillips (sometimes known as Bruce Phillips. Please don't confuse this good man with the U.S.A.'s State of Utah.

Art Thieme

In solidarity,

Art Thieme

14 Feb 03 - 12:14 PM (#890376)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Mark Ross

I will swear on a stack of Little Red Songbooks that both Utah and I have some of the ashes of Joel Emmanuel Haaglund in our guitars. I was running the Missoula office of the IWW in the late '80's when the box of documents that the government had confiscated in 1917 was turned over to the National Archives(actually there were 50 boxes). In that box was the aforesaid envelope. After long discussion the OBU decided to distribute the ashes, and as office manager in Missoula I put in a request for some to be used in ceremonies around Montana. Utah came to town about that time before the ceremonies and he and I both taped them in our guitars. He mentioned that at a recent concert an old man had requested, "Can you do a few lines of Joe Hill?". The thought occurred to him that a number of well chosen Wobs could snort some of the ashes, and on their demise, could then have themselves cremated in turn, and have their ashes distributed and inhaled, etc.,
We decided that putting them in our guitars was safer bet. By the way, Joe has been joined by some of Canadian singer's(and fellow Rose Tattoo)Al Grierson's ashes.

Mark Ross

14 Feb 03 - 12:16 PM (#890378)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Art Thieme

sorry for signing twice above


14 Feb 03 - 02:04 PM (#890450)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Greg F.

From: Smith, Gibbs M. Joe Hill Salt Lake City, Peregrine Smith Books, 1984 (which I highly recommend):

    The day after the funeral, the I.W.W. committee in charge of the
arrangements returned to Graceland Cemetery to witness the cremation.
The body was photographed and identified for the last time on the
morning of November 26, then the casket was put on a slab of
stone and pushed into a blast furnace. Chaplin* relates:

       "Through a small hole in the side of the furnace, each
committeeman viewed the flame-lashed casket containing
the fine body and placid features of Joe Hill, dreamer, poet,
artist, and agitator, which had four purple bullet holes in
his young chest as punishment for the crime of being
"true blue" to his class-and to himself."

      Hill's ashes were placed in envelopes and distributed to
I.W.W. locals in every state but Utah. Envelopes were also
sent to South America, Europe, Asia, South Africa, New
Zealand, and Australia. On May 1, 1916, according to
Chaplin, the ashes were released to the wind.
Joe Hill's last will was fulfilled….

Printed on the envelopes that contained the ashes was the following:

       In compliance with the last will of Joe Hill, his body was cremated at Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois, Nov. 26, 1915. It was his request that his ashes be distributed.
       This package has been confined to your care for the fulfillment of this last will.
       You will kindly address a letter to Wm. D. Haywood, Room 307,
164 W. Washington St., Chicago, Ill., telling the circumstances and
where the ashes were distributed.


* Chaplin, Ralph. "Joe Hill's Funeral in Chicago" Solidarity 4 Dec 1915, p.1

The foregoing material can be found in the Labadie Collection at the
University of Michigan or in Joyce L. Kornbluh, ed., Rebel Voices:
An I. W. W. Anthology (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of
Michigan Press, 1964), pp. 156-57.

14 Feb 03 - 05:47 PM (#890609)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Big Mick

Absolutely NOT a BS thread. I love doing a medley I worked up that involves the song "Joe Hill" and "Joe Hill's Will" as well as "This Land is Your Land". This man's life and death are a true testament to the promise of our land, and to the danger of unbridled capitalism.

With regard to Big Jim Larkin being born in Liverpool, yep that is a fact. And while you are at it, James Connolly, I believe, was born in the The Cowgate section of Edinburgh.

Rick, you need to show me that pouch.

All the best,


14 Feb 03 - 09:38 PM (#890725)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Jeri

Thanks to all who have responded so far and to those who still may - fascinating!
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he
"I never died," says he

Sure seems like he never died, doesn't it? He's attained the status of legend and, as such, probably has more power than he ever would have alive.

15 Feb 03 - 12:50 AM (#890833)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Art Thieme

Ask Presidente Fox of Mexico if Emiliano Zapata is dead ! The man is still sticking his thorns in the sides of those he would've fought and opposed "back then". And Joe Hilstrom (or Haglund or Hill or whatever) tells me that he never died every time WE sing the song.

Art Thieme

15 Feb 03 - 03:03 PM (#891090)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Hippie Chick

"The ashes of this rebel voice are still too hot to touch."

15 Feb 03 - 04:38 PM (#891135)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Frankham

In 1915, my father was in Union Square protesting the death of Joe Hill. He was subsequently arrested and made the pages of the New York Times. He was an active socialist at the time.

Frank Hamilton

16 Feb 03 - 01:40 PM (#891618)
Subject: RE: Joe Hill's Ashes
From: Rapparee

I have a book called "After the Funeral," which details what happened to various (in)famous people after they died. Naturally, it's buried in storage right now, but I believe that it reports that the National Archives found an envelope containing some of Joe's ashes back in the '80s. It had ended up in the Archives after being forwarded there from a post office which couldn't deliver it to the person to whom it was addressed.

The Archives contacted the IWW in Chicago, who would be considered the owners of the mail. A deal was made: the IWW got the ashes and the Archives got the envelope (the original one, with "Joe Hill's Will" printed on it). I don't remember what the book reported the IWW did with the ashes.

I'm going to be awfully glad when half my life is no longer in storage. "Don't mourn, organize."