Welcome to our blog!

Author: PI Kirsti Salmi-Niklander

The project: what you can expect?

In this research blog we will present our research materials and interpretations, and reports on archival tours and fieldwork. Our project explores the transnational poetics and networks of the migrant left in North America through the unique character of “T-Bone Slim”. Matti Valentininpoika Huhta (1882–1942), better known under his pseudonym “T-Bone Slim”. He was a legendary hobo, songwriter, poet, and columnist in the periodicals of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World). T-Bone Slim’s writings went on to inspire the Chicago surrealist movement and the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. However, he stayed out of the limelight and his identity remained as a mystery for most of his readers.

The idea for this project originated during John Westmoreland’s Kone Foundation residence period in May – September 2021. An important event was the symposium “T-Bone Slim (Matt Valentin Huhta 1882–1942) – a poet, a radical and a hobo”, streamed at Finnish Literature Society on 30 August 2021. The symposium brought together researchers, artists and activists from Finland, the U.S. and Great Britain, and was the first academic seminar on T-Bone Slim. John Westmoreland continues his artistic work on the new interpretations of T-Bone Slim’s songs in the project, in collaboration with Paleface and Laulava Unioni.

Laulava Unioni’s version of T-Bone Slim’s ”Popular wobbly” first published on their Facebook page on 6.9.2021. Translated to Finnish by Karri Miettinen, transcription by Ossi Peura. 

The blog: what you can expect?

Pile of booklet bindings
Example of our material: Booklets and translated literature published in Ashtabula, T-Bone Slim’s childhood town in Ohio, in the turn of the century. Most of these old booklets are bind as odd volumes. Available at the National Library of Finland. Photo: Lotta Leiwo, 2022.

We will explore different networks, communities, and contexts which T-Bone Slim acted in, and which affected his life history and his writing. These networks and communities include his family history in Kälviä, Central Ostrobothnia; his childhood, youth and family life in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio, and Erie, Pennsylvania; his studies in the Work People’s College in Duluth; his life as “a hobo”, literary networks and involvement in the IWW labor movement; his last years in New York.

Example of our material: T-Bone Slim’s manuscript. T-Bone Slim approx. 1934–1942. Click the image to view it in full size. Available at Modern Manuscript Digital Collection, Newberry Library.

These networks will provide also wider perspectives on the frictions, boundaries, and possibilities in immigrant communities. We will explore these issues in a series of blogs, based on new archival findings, and new interpretations of the old materials.

The blog posts will be short, popularized texts about our research introducing our materials, research trips, Westmoreland’s artistic work, and much more.

Welcome to follow us and T-Bone Slim on this journey!


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