Technocracy and T-Bone Slim’s Break with Ralph Chaplin

Author: Owen Clayton

Technocracy and T-Bone Slim’s Break with Ralph Chaplin

One of many mysteries in T-Bone Slim Studies is why he did not publish any new material for two and a half years, between Oct 1933 and April 1936.[1] However, in recent research trips to the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan and the IWW Collection at Wayne State’s Walter P. Reuther Library, I think I have found the answer.

There is no central location of T-Bone Slim’s writings, scattered as they are in several different libraries and special collections. His complete works have never been collected and published. Indeed, such an undertaking would be very difficult since, as the T-Bone Slim and the transnational poetics of the migrant left in North America project has uncovered, the total number of his published pieces is over 1000. Getting an overview of his work is challenging, but the large number of articles he wrote also leads to a mystery of why he did not seem to publish any original material between Oct 1933 and April 1936.

The reason is that he had a personal and political falling out with Ralph Chaplin, the then-editor of Industrial Worker. Author of the famous song ‘Solidarity Forever’, as well someone who had gone to jail during the years of repression during and immediately after WWI, Chaplin was something of a literary giant not just for the Wobblies but on the American Left in general. He was a ‘Great Man’ within a movement that did not believe in Great Men.

Ralph Chaplin and Technocracy

Chaplin was also something of a political wanderer, someone whose politics shifted over time and meandered into some dark corners. By the early 1930s, he had become a devout follower of Technocracy, a movement that sought to replace political democracy with rule by experts, in particular scientists and engineers. In the US the Technocracy Movement was led by Howard Scott, and in Canada by, among others, Joshua Haldeman, Elon Musk’s grandfather (whose views shape Musk’s own projects in the 21st Century). In a Technocratic society, energy would be the default ‘currency’ (pun intended), with experts constantly monitoring how much energy individuals and organisations needed. In theory the amount of energy could be the same for all people, which made Technocracy appealing to some on the Left, like Chaplin. However, Technocracy’s status as an anti-capitalist or even ‘Left Wing’ movement was much contested, and today most scholars see it as a fascistic phenomenon.

Chaplin’s aim in taking over the editing of Industrial Worker was to make the paper more ‘professional’, which meant moving away from opinion pieces and towards more news coverage. Chaplin’s intention for this increased news coverage was, however, that it would be written from a hard-line party position, in effect making the paper less diverse and more propagandistic. His approach, which divided the IWW, meant that there would be less tolerance for the bizarre and sometimes politically-opaque writings of T-Bone Slim.

T-Bone Slim on Technocracy

In the period before Chaplin took over on 17th May 1932, Slim had been publishing regularly, sometimes having several pieces in a single issue. He wrote for the paper for 17 months during Chaplin’s editorship but tensions soon emerged. These tensions spilled out onto the pages of the Industrial Worker, but they did so in ways that were implicit rather than explicit. On 7th Feb 1933, Slim wrote an attack on ‘bosses’ and at the end sarcastically signed off as ‘T-bone Slim, Technocrat (Not connected with trust)’, the trust in question being Scott’s Technocracy Inc. If this was a dig at Chaplin, it was subtle. It is often difficult to work out the meaning of Slim’s sarcasm, but it does seem that tensions with his editor were rising.

For the 7th March 1933 issue, Chaplin seems to have requested pro-Technocracy articles from several of his writers, including Slim. While the other published pieces are straightforward peans to Technocracy, Slim’s article was different. He wrote: “it is almost unbelievable that an adding machine puts the essence of victory into Labors [sic] hands…along comes a set of mathematicians, impervious to all sentiment, and dissect the Industrial World in cold blood”. The quote drips with irony, even sarcasm, so that we might infer that it is indeed ‘unbelievable’ that Technocracy has solved the longstanding contradictions of capitalism. This kind of ironic prose was certainly not what the propagandistic Chaplin expected from his authors.

On the 4th April, Slim once again had technocracy in his sights, writing “A Technocrat is one who rubs elbows with work, is on speaking terms with it.” Given how derisive Wobblies were about managers who did not perform the work they expected from others, this is hardly a ringing endorsement! On the 4th July, he followed this up with: “Beware of practical men. They dream only of what can be, not of what should be.” While this quote is not definitely about Technocrats, I would argue that it is an attack on a movement led by ‘practical’ engineers and scientists such as Howard Scott.

Slim’s Fluctuating Writing Career

By October, Slim’s articles vanished. No other wobbly papers existed by this time and so he seems to have simply stopped publishing. A note held in the Reuther Library indicates that some writers who once appeared in the Industrial Worker were now staying away, as they no longer wished to appear in a paper edited by Ralph Chaplin. Slim seems to have been among this group. He does not appear in the paper again for two and a half years, notably returning within only three issues of Chaplin’s departure, once the Editorship had passed to Fred Thompson. His first article back, on 11th April 1936, attacks the concept of leadership, presumably with the ‘Great Man’ Chaplin in mind, and, once again, critiques those whom he calls ‘practical men’. By now the Wobblies had turned away from Technocracy and, over time, would come to see Chaplin as a troubling, even Right Wing figure.

Slim’s handwritten notes held in the Newberry Library, it seems to me, mostly date from the period just discussed. Indeed, some of the material in those notes would appear in the paper during the late 1930s under Thompson, who claims to have been given a stack of Slim’s earlier writings, almost certainly the Newberry notebooks. As research continues, we are beginning to see how different archives build up a more complete picture of the fluctuations of Slim’s career.


[1] Slim had had publication gaps before, but this is by far the longest. Earlier gaps are often to do with illness or being away for work.

Archival "digs"


A sketch drawing of a woman (Marija Dalbello) with glasses standing behind a desk, holding a piece of paper in her hand. She is wearing a name sign band. On the table is an Apple laptop, two glasses and a bottle. Above the drawing is the text "MANIFESTO! Marija Dalbello 17.7.22". There is also text below the drawing. Some of the text is unreadable.
Sketchbook drawing by Louisa Preston.
AUTHOR: Marija Dalbello

From my Archival “Digs”

The Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) collection in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University documents the immigrant working class struggle from a century ago. Most of the documents are from the period between 1916 and 1922, the time of unrest and war, I.W.W.-led strikes, strikers’ imprisonment, and trials. This atmosphere was echoed through the letters, letter-poems, and some envelopes (yes, envelopes!) leading back to L.S. Chumley, a “wobbly” activist and editor of the Rebel Worker.

Through their transmission, the envelopes’ surfaces can accumulate information such as postal markings and inscriptions. They record interpersonal epistolary exchange. The envelopes are the skins that transmit the correspondents’ touch alongside the letters’ writing, folding, sealing; then tearing, cutting, un-folding them, and reading. In the envelopes, epistolary texts travel — enclosed, safe, and protected. They rarely survive in archival contexts to document transmission. So, when possible, I like to examine them as evidence. I found three such envelopes in my “dig” that carried an ‘excess’ of meaning, real and imagined.

The First Envelope: A Drawing 

On the face of my first archival envelope is a pencil drawing in the style of I.W.W. satirical cartoons that depicts a mail carrier, whistling “Toot Toot,” a sack-full of packages on his back, hand-delivering a letter addressed to “L.C. [sic] Chumley” at 1001 W. Madison St. in Chicago, Illinois. The sender is “The Can Opener Publishing Co., Apts. 25 & 41, CC Can, 440 No. Dearborn St., Chicago, Illinois” (Fig. 1). This ‘publishing company’ was in the Cook County jail, its punned name a sarcastic reference to the ‘can’ (jail) and anything that could be ‘canned.’ The drawing is signed by Raymond Corder. This illustration makes it possible to imagine what this emptied out envelope contained. It could have been used by the ‘canned’ Wobblies to send their writings to Chumley. In the satchel or the envelope arriving to Chumley’s door could be any of the Wobbly letters or poems found in this collection. It could have been the narrative poem “Bisbee” (dedicated to the I.W.W. organized miners’ strike and deportation of over 1,000 strikers, their families, and other citizens in July 1917) including this message to the editor by someone who self-identified by their prison cell and the I.W.W. card numbers:

Dear Sir
How about it, too raw?
I would like to see this little reminder in the Rebel Worker
I am up against it or I would write you a decent letter
Yours truly
Card 575210 No. 300.

Color photo of white envelope. Left upper corner is an ornamental sending address, in the middle is the cartoon drawing with receiver’s address and red 2 cents US stamp in the right upper corner. Other details are explained in the text.
Fig. 1: Envelope addressed to L.S. Chumley, illustrated by Raymond Corder, ca. 1916-1917. Industrial Workers of the World collection, 1916-1922, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York. Click the image to view it in full size.

Alternatively, the emissary could be delivering the vision of another working-class poet Richard Brazier titled “The Girl Across the Way,” which he wrote in jail in the “year of conspiracy, 1917” and sent it to Chumley. Or it could be the prose poem, with the opening: “On Land or Sea wherever you may be stearing [sic] the ship in the tempests breath or behind prison bars of freedom bereft you who gain riches regardless of danger … ,” and closing: “To fellowworker Chumley. If you have use for this [,] put in the Rebel Worker Wigand Allen.”

The Second Envelope: A ‘Defaced’ Container

Browsing on, I find the envelope from Underwood’s News Photo Service series, World Events in Pictures. A diagonally placed note in black and red alerts to its intended contents (stereographs): “Press Matter, For Editor.” In branded stationery, the envelopes may ‘own’ their content but scribbled on its face is another message. I find the words “Secret Prison Newspaper” in a collector’s or archivist’s hand (Fig. 2). Intended for delivery of stock photos, it doubles as a container for prison journalism. This envelope was meant to keep, not send or receive.

Color photo of brown envelope branded to “Underwood’s New Photo Service”. “First Class” in red capital letters and “Do Not Fold” in black capital letters in the middle. Other details are explained in the text.
Fig. 2: Underwood & Underwood envelope with inscription “Secret Prison Newspaper.” Industrial Workers of the World collection, 1916-1922, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York. Click the image to view it in full size.
The Third Envelope: The Blast  

Found in the archival folder labeled “Various envelopes,” is one postmarked 1940 with instruction to be filed “with other documents of Blast & E. Goldman” that, surprisingly, contained a letter. The letter was signed by Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, dated August 15, 1916. (Fig. 3a-b).

Fig 3a: Color photo of brown envelope. Sender’s and reciever’s address’ are crossed out with red pen. Text “To be filed …” is written in red. Blue 14 cents US stamp in upper right corner with a post-office stamp stating “New York N.Y. Grand Central Annex, Jun 14, 1940, 12.36 pm.” Additional stamp with letters “G. C.”

Fig 3b. Color photo of the same brown envelope. A hand drawing the letter out. Letter has text image stating “The Blast” and typewriter written text.
Fig. 3a-b: Circular letter signed by Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, July 22, 1917. Industrial Workers of the World collection, 1916-1922, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York. Click the image to view it in full size.

Hiding in this envelope was the appeal to save Berkman’s paper The Blast and informing the supporters of intimidation and raids suffered by the editorial staff and offices. This was written less than a month following the anarchist-suspected explosion in San Francisco on July 22, 1917, at a rally favoring the United States entering the war (IISH) and before the couple’s deportation on the “Red Ark” that left Ellis Island on December 21, 1919 (Minor 1919).

As archival materiality, envelopes are surfaces and containers. Like drawers or folders, they are anatomic structures epitomizing archival intimacy in which the researchers’ sensations attract micro-readings.



This is the second in the series of blogs From my Archival “Digs” that focus on archival stories. I relate to documents in the mode of “drifting” (Dalbello 2019) in order to present their histories but also the aesthetic emotions and sensations that characterize archival disclosures.



Dalbello, Marija. (2019). “Archaeological Sensations in the Archives of Migration and the Ellis Island Sensorium,” Archaeology and Information Research, a special issue of Information Research 24 (2), Accessed January 30, 2023.

Industrial Workers of the World collection, 1916-1922, Accessed January 30, 2023.

International Institute of Social History. (1917-1919). FBI File on Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman Archives, Accessed January 30, 2023.

Minor, Robert. (1919). Introduction to Deportation: Its Meaning and Menace.

Preston, Louisa. (2022). Sketch of Marija Dalbello presenting, “A Hauntological Manifesto for Book History,” at the panel Manifestos! co-organized with Beth Driscoll and Claire Squires, presented at annual meeting of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing, Amsterdam, July 2022.

Strategic Factory. (2018). “8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Envelopes,” Accessed January 30, 2023.

Archival "digs"

Finding Slim!

A sketch drawing of a woman (Marija Dalbello) with glasses standing behind a desk, holding a piece of paper in her hand. She is wearing a name sign band. On the table is an Apple laptop, two glasses and a bottle. Above the drawing is the text "MANIFESTO! Marija Dalbello 17.7.22". There is also text below the drawing. Some of the text is unreadable.
Sketchbook drawing by Louisa Preston.
AUTHOR: Marija Dalbello

From my Archival “Digs”
PART I: Finding Slim!

Entering the collection of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University documents the immigrant working class struggle from a century ago. Among the various pamphlets, prison manuscript newspapers, and correspondence, I found a small letter, written in careful semi-cursive, each letter separate, words distinct, and lines slightly apart and ventilated. The letter is signed by “T-bone Slim” (Fig. 1a and Fig. 1b).

This blog post gives the story of the letter and interprets its significance for this project.

Photo of a sheet of paper on a table with a handwritten letter signed by T-bone Slim
Fig. 1a: T-bone Slim letter to L. S. Chumley, February 13, 1922. Industrial Workers of the World collection, 1916-1922, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York. Click the image to see it in full size.
Two pictures side by side. On the left is a transcript of the letter and photo on the right is a close-up of T-bone Slim’s handwritten letter.
Fig. 1b: Transcription and excerpt from T-bone Slim letter to L.S. Chumley, February 13, 1922. Industrial Workers of the World collection, 1916-1922, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York. Click the image to see it in full size or view transcribed text in pdf format.

The letter is dated February 1922 and is addressed to “Felloworker” [sic] L.S. Chumley I.W.W. in New York City. He signs off, “T-bone Slim” and offers an afterthought: “P.S. Am pulling out.” Is Matti Valentin Huhta referencing that he is leaving Minneapolis or rejecting the proposal by Leland Stanford Chumley to write? The opening refers to the accidental receipt of “your comm.” [communication]. “I happened to be here — may the Lord forgive me!” [“here” is underlined in the original]. We can imagine the letter writer on what could be a freezing day of February 1922 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We can only fill in the gaps as to what would be the “accidental communication” reaching Huhta — a written note, a message, or a rumor — which prompted him to respond. The abrupt “Am pulling out” leaves an opening, it cries for interpretation. This epistolary moment connects two fellow-workers, one of them in New York City and the other in Minnesota. They are in different moments of their activist engagement. At that time, Chumley had a long history of organizing restaurant and food workers and about to open his own establishment in New York City. On the other hand, Huhta had started writing for the I.W.W. newspapers. The figures of Slim and Chumley converge in the historical situation of which this letter is a trace.

The letter from Slim to Chumley is an important document for our project because it dates from the period when Huhta was emerging as the columnist for the English-language labor movement press. In 1921, he had started gaining visibility as a professional writer. According to the project database listing of his known documents and published writing (Kone foundation ProjectT-Bone Slim and the transnational poetics of the migrant left in North America”), he wrote 46 columns for the English-language I.W.W. newspapers that year. This is also the first known professional letter from the beginning of his career as a writer, labor-movement poet, and newspaper columnist. (Apart from this we do have Huhta’s personal correspondence.) He was then 40 years old. So far this is the first hand-written document he signed by a pseudonym that he was to use for some of his writing. The February 1922 letter is preserved among the materials of the early I.W.W. archives at Columbia University because of its connection to Chumley correspondence.

Significantly, the letter self-references writing. Slim refers to his “literary-blossoms” in the form of “booklet material” (not yet columns in Solidarity, Industrial Worker, and Truth). In a half-joking tone that later epitomized his style, its writer projects a unique and singular voice. He is concerned with expressivity and affects projecting his moods. The evocative pseudonym “T-bone Slim” brings out half pictorialist, half etymological moment conveyed by the juicy “T -bone steak” that humorously conveys outrage and a program of social justice.

The steak could be contrasted with the “slim” existence of a migrant worker, possibly a figure of a starving artist, the life that Huhta himself may have experienced. At the same time, the lightness and joviality of the name resonates with the existential moment in the lives of the “starving labor” and food precarity — the trope of “hunger” that often organized the discourse of labor. The name became emblematic, recorded in the caricature accompanying his editorials (Fig. 2).

T-bone Slim's "logo": a cartoon image of a man with a horned head holding a t-bone steak. The man is wearing a tie and a suit jacket and vest
Fig. 2: “Matti Valentine Huhta” blog entry by John Westmoreland at:

Another actor in this epistolary moment and the recipient of the letter is Leland Stanford Chumley. His notes and correspondence relative to labor organizing is preserved in the same collection where I found the Slim letter from the time that marked a professional transition for both of them. Chumley was known as activist in the labor movement who raised awareness about the conditions of workers in the restaurant and other food industry in the 1910s and early 1920s (Rachleff 2005). Formerly organizer and “one-time stagecoach driver,” he opened a restaurant later known as Chumley’s in Greenwich Village in 1922, which remained a meeting place “for Wobs, other radicals and well-known writers and artists” (Rachleff 2005: 123; Saraniero 2020). Like many such museum-like sites in the palimpsest of New York City, Chumley’s remained a place of memory — erased by gentrification of neighborhoods, which locals fondly remember through their disappearance, when yet another New York “institution” of the “old school” gets turned into a boutique or residence. Chumley’s has not re-emerged from the New York covid lockdown in 2020. Ironically, the closing may call attention to an enduring precarity of the food industry and restaurant business.

A color photograph of a typical New York street with buildings built right next to each other. In the background is a terrace extending out onto the street. Traffic signs and small trees with no leaves alongside the sidewalk.
Fig. 3: Former Chumley’s location in Greenwich Village, 86 Bedford St., New York City. Photographed by Marija Dalbello.

The site of the historic venue remains – at the unmarked address at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village (Fig. 3), with signs on two entrances: “not Chumley’s” and “Froggy’s” (with a number for deliveries). This researcher lives and passes this site on her neighborhood walks, now enhanced by the discovery of its connection to Slim.


This is the first in the series of blogs From my Archival “Digs” that focus on archival stories. I relate to documents in the mode of “drifting” (Dalbello 2019) in order to present their histories but also the aesthetic emotions and sensations that characterize archival disclosures.



Dalbello, Marija. (2019). “Archaeological Sensations in the Archives of Migration and the Ellis Island Sensorium,” Archaeology and Information Research, a special issue of Information Research 24 (2), Accessed November 20, 2022.

Preston, Louisa. (2022). Sketchbook drawing of Marija Dalbello presenting, “A Hauntological Manifesto for Book History,” at the panel Manifestos! co-organized with Beth Driscoll and Claire Squires, presented at annual meeting of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing, Amsterdam, July 2022.

Rachleff, Peter, editor. (2005). Starving Amidst Too Much and Other IWW Writings on the Food Industry. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr.

Saraniero, Nicole. (2020). “Greenwich Village Speakeasy Chumley’s Closes For Good,” Untapped New York, July 27, 2020, Accessed November 14, 2022.

John Westmoreland News

T-Bone Slim podcast

T-Bone Slim ja hankkeemme tutkijoita Tervetuloa, tervemenoa-podcastissa

(In English below)

Siirtolaisuusinstituutti tuottaa Tervetuloa, tervemenoa -nimistä podcastia, joka “kertoo Suomeen tulleiden ja Suomesta lähteneiden kiehtovia tarinoita ja selittää ilmiöt niiden takana”. Podcastin uusin jakso käsittelee T-Bone Slimiä, hänen aikansa poliittista ja historiallista kontekstia sekä IWW (International Workers of the World) -musiikkia ja runoja. Jaksossa esiintyvät hankkeemme tutkijat Saku Pinta ja Saijaleena Rantanen sekä taiteilija-tutkija John Westmoreland.

Vaikka jakso käsitteleekin aihetta myös laajemmassa historiallisessa kontekstissa ja peilailee aihetta myös nykypäivän aktivismiin, summaa tämä jakso hyvin ja selkeästi sitä kaikkea mitä olemme tässä Koneen säätiön rahoittamassa ‘T-Bone Slim and the transnational poetics of the migrant left in North America’ -hankkeessa tutkineet. Samalla tulee esille, kuinka tärkeää laajempikin historiallisen ajanjakson ja aikaisemman tutkimuksen hahmottaminen on niin T-Bone Slimiä kuin nykypäivänkin aktivismin ilmiöitä tutkittaessa. Vaikka olemme varmasti hieman puolueellisia, suosittelemme lämpimästi kuuntelemaan! Podcastin lopussa summataan hyvin sitä, miksi T-Bone Slimin ja hänenkaltaisten historialliseen marginaaliin jääneiden yksittäisten ihmisten tutkiminen on merkityksellistä.

Kuuntele podcast alla olevasta soittimesta tai erillisestä linkistä täältä (avautuu uuteen välilehteen). Tervetuloa, tervemenoa -podcast löytyy myös useimmista ilmaisista podcast-sovelluksista sekä Spotifysta.

***In English***

T-Bone Slim and Our Researchers in  Tervetuloa, tervemenoa podcast

The Migration Institute of Finland produces a podcast called Tervetuloa, tervemenoa [Welcome, Farewell], which “tells the fascinating stories of those who have come to and left Finland and explains the phenomena behind them”. The latest episode of the podcast looks at T-Bone Slim, the political and historical context of his time, and IWW (International Workers of the World) music and poetry. The episode features our project researchers Saku Pinta and Saijaleena Rantanen and artist-researcher John Westmoreland.

Although the episode also deals with the topic in a broader historical context and mirrors the topic in contemporary activism, it sums up well and clearly everything we have been researching in this Kone Foundation funded project ‘T-Bone Slim and the transnational poetics of the migrant left in North America’. At the same time, it shows how important it is to have a broader historical perspective and an outline of previous research when studying both T-Bone Slim and contemporary activist phenomena. While we are certainly a little biased, we highly recommend a listen! The end of the podcast sums up well why it is relevant to study T-Bone Slim and individuals like him who have been historically marginalized.

Listen to the podcast from the player above or from a separate link here (opens in a new tab). The Tervetuloa, tervemenoa podcast is also available on most free podcast apps and Spotify. The podcast is mainly in Finnish.

T-Bone Slim’s Forgotten Finnish-Language Writings in the IWW Press

Author: Saku Pinta

T-Bone Slim’s Forgotten Finnish-Language Writings in the IWW Press

Many new discoveries have been uncovered as the T-Bone Slim and the transnational poetics of the migrant left in North America research project has progressed over the last ten months. These discoveries have helped to shed considerable light not only on Slim’s life but also on his relationship to the Finnish-language and to Finnish immigrant communities in North America.

Last month, for instance, project research assistant Lotta Leiwo announced the discovery of a Finnish-language text written by Slim in 1903, using the pseudonym Mathew Houghton, during his time as a participant in the Finnish immigrant temperance movement.

This discovery shows that Slim had a much higher level of Finnish-language fluency than previously assumed. Until very recently, Fred Thompson – formerly the editor of the Industrial Worker newspaper as well as an instructor and director of the Work People’s College, among his many other roles in the IWW – had been the main source of information on the topic of T-Bone Slim’s ability to communicate in the Finnish-language.

T-Bone Slim’s Finnish Writing: The Evidence

This comes from one little snippet from an interview conducted by Franklin Rosemont with Thompson – who personally knew Slim – which appeared in the introduction to Rosemont’s edited volume Juice is Stranger than Friction: Selected Writings of T-Bone Slim. In the interview, Thompson says “I doubt whether T-Bone was familiar enough in Finnish to be funny…though he could speak it.” As a non-Finnish speaker, Thompson could only modestly doubt, rather than completely rule out, Slim’s ability to communicate effectively enough in Finnish to be funny.

However, we now have compelling evidence that suggests that Slim wrote for the Finnish- language IWW press in the early 1920s. As many as three Finnish-language writings by T- Bone Slim have been uncovered, but there may be more. This blog post will focus on one of these texts – the earliest confirmed Finnish-language writing by T-Bone Slim, or at least the earliest one uncovered so far.

It is a short piece entitled “Joitakin Terveysopillisia Neuvoja” (Some Hygienics Advice) which appeared in the August 27, 1922 issue of the Duluth, Minnesota-based Finnish IWW newspaper Industrialisti.

The English-language translation is as follows:

Some Hygienics Advice
By T-Bone Slim

Exercise for fifteen minutes in the morning, and the same amount in the evening. Do it when the boss is watching.

Use as much oxygen as possible. Sit down and breathe deeply occasionally. Nobody will care about that – they will think you are sighing. [Note: in the original Slim says “happoa” or acid, instead of “happea” or oxygen. This may be a typo or it might be that Slim accidentally used the wrong Finnish word – albeit one that was similar to the intended word – which was then reproduced in the newspaper.]

Never unbutton after eating – buy looser fitting clothes. Sleep sixteen hours a day in an airy room.

Don’t try to lift too much. There are over 6,000,000 unemployed, who are very willing to “give a hand” and also – you can tear something.

Don’t eat hastily (A horse is given an hour and fifteen minutes to eat).

Don’t go to work early. “Organization in everything.” Your employer might soon say that you are showing too much affection for the workplace – which is “theirs.”

Read I.W.W. literature, in order to be able to say something.

T-Bone Slim’s Finnish Writing: Some Conclusions

How do we know that this is a text originally written in Finnish?

Again, no English-language version of this short piece has been found (although there is one text with similarities, which will be discussed below). Also, unlike most of the Finnish-language translations of Slim’s writings that appeared in Industrialisti in the 1920s, of which there are several examples, this one did not include the short introduction from the translator. These short intros by a translator would became standard feature, apologetically noting that much of Slim’s wordplay is nearly impossible to render into Finnish from English, and has thus been lost in translation. Finally, the possible accidental use of the word “happoa” instead of “happea” as well as the use of a fairly well-known, old Finnish idiom in quotation marks also suggest that this was originally written in Finnish. The idiom in question is “Järjestelmällisyyttä kaikessa”, translated above as “Organization in everything,” which could also be rendered in English as “systemitization in everything” or “be methodical in everything”.

Those familiar with T-Bone Slim’s writings will notice similarities between “Some Hygienics Advice” and “Recipes for Health,” published about a year later in 1923 in the pamphlet Starving Amidst Too Much. Aside from being similarly structured as a series of eight, short pieces of advice for workers, these two pieces also discuss things like the importance of an airy room for sleeping as well as cautioning against being in a rush.

While Slim’s hygienics advice may have served as a kind of template or first draft of his “Recipes for Health,” there is a notable difference. “Some Hygienics Advice” uses humour and hyperbole to emphasize the fact that workers and bosses have different interests. The main lesson is that workers should not eagerly participate in their own exploitation. Rather, slowing down at work can, for example, serve to reclaim some dignity (even a horse is given more time to eat than a worker) or convince the boss to hire more people and thereby reduce unemployment (working faster, or working overtime, as the old union saying goes, is scabbing on the unemployed). “Recipes for Health”, by contrast, uses a much more serious and forthright tone throughout.

There is much more work to be done around Slim’s Finnish-language writings and the many questions that they raise. But one thing is certain: the satisfaction of uncovering these lost writings by T-Bone Slim is only matched by the satisfaction of making them available to a wider readership. We very much look forward to finding and sharing the next discovery.


T-Bone Slim Database – First Steps

Author: Lotta Leiwo

T-Bone Slim Database – First Steps

A lot has been going on in the past few months and our project has already done a lot this year. To celebrate the international foundation day last week, we wrote a summary of this year’s achievements so far on social media (read on Facebook or view on Twitter). Our blog has become a place where we share what we’ve been up to lately – sometimes even in almost real time. Our thoughts shared here are incomplete and unfinished as the aim is to share our project and process as we go. Our more evolved thoughts will be published in research articles later.

One of our main goals in this project is to create a T-Bone Slim database and staying true to our blog’s style, next I will give a short introduction to the T-Bone Slim database and how it is progressing at the moment. But first we need to explain why the database is needed.

The Challenge: Scattered Materials

Matti Valentinpoika Huhta wrote (or his texts were published) at least in ten publications, of which nine he wrote as T-Bone Slim. These nine are: Industrialisti, Industrial Pioneer, Industrial Solidarity, Industrial Worker, Little Red Song Book, One Big Union Monthly, Solidarity, Tie Vapauteen and Truth. The tenth publication that we have been able to find and verify, is Amerikan Sanomat that has been noted in this blog previously. In Amerikan Sanomat he wrote with a name Mathew Houghton, but he worked as the correspondent for “Tyyni” [Calm] Temperance society few years earlier by his own name. We haven’t yet been able to find his (possible) texts for “Tyyni” correspondence.

The challenge with finding the texts and information about T-Bone Slim is multifaceted. Because of the amount of publications he wrote for, the original materials are scattered around in several archives in North America and Finland. This is a common challenge with immigrant literature and publications and works as an example of another challenge embedded in these materials. It is sometimes hard to draw the line if they are Finnish or American or Canadian. Thus, immigrant, North American Finnish in other words, often fall in between “categories”.

Third challenge is his name. It was common for Finnish immigrants and their descendants change their name to fit in the North American society better. But in T-Bone Slim’s case we have more than one, two or three names. He used at least these names/ versions of his name:

  • Matti V. Huhta
  • Matti Leppihuhta
  • Mathias Valentinpoika Huhta
  • Matt Houghton
  • Mathew Houhghton
  • Matt Ahrlund (or Ahlund)
  • Joe Hilger (or Hilgor)
  • Valentin(e) Huhta
  • Matt Valentin(e)

This makes raking the numerous possible publications, often available only in physical or microfilm copy, slow. Which brings us back to the first challenge: the number of possible publications where his text might have been published.

Our researcher Marija Dalbello and her assistant Monica Genuardi prepared a census of IWW materials in the American and Canadian archives and libraries for the project. The result is 249 located IWW newspapers and other publications. Even though the language of the publications varies between 10 different languages (English=186, others=63), this gives us an impression of the viable publishing possibilities for an IWW writer writing in English and possibly in Finnish. Not to forget that many of T-Bone’s texts were translated in Finnish (mainly in Industrialisti) even though it is possible he wrote also in Finnish in IWW papers. This is a topic Saku Pinta is currently working on.

But this is not all the challenges we and all T-Bone Slim researchers face. There is also the contextual information and related research materials concerning T-Bone Slim and the historical time he lived in. For example the documents scattered in different archives about his death, newspaper articles about events regarding his family and information about his family history, to mention just a few.

To put it short: Finding T-Bone Slim’s texts and related sources is hard.

The Solution: T-Bone Slim Database

Recently, we have been collecting and combining our main research materials – T-Bone Slim’s texts – into one place to create a T-Bone Slim database from the archival materials and articles. This is one of the main goals in our project: To provide an open database for everyone to find information about T-Bone Slim and his texts to study them. We are currently researching and analyzing the texts to create this coherent corpus – The Database-to-be.

To give a tangible example what we are working on: We are currently creating an Excel document where we add all the texts (that we have found) with a date, publication, title and so on. After that, we categorize and add searchable tags to every individual published text based on topics central to our research but also to provide quantitative and qualitative data about the T-Bone Slim corpus we are creating. This means that after our work, we are able to tell how many of his texts were poems or songs or where he travelled (or said he travelled), what (own) illnesses he mentions and to who he refers to in his texts, to give just a few examples.

Currently, we are creating a small-scale crowdsourcing system among ourselves where the research assistant Lotta Leiwo manages the overall process, and our researchers contribute by analyzing the materials bit by bit based on tasks or “homework” they are given based on the phase of the process. First, we are experimenting this system by creating a manual or instructions for the topics and tags to be included in the database (the examples given above are almost certainly included). As we have approximately 1500 to 2000 texts to analyze, we need to be careful and consistent. The richness in this process is that we all come from different expertise, and some have studied these texts previously and others have more “fresher” eyes for the materials. Everyone’s contribution provides depth to the analyzing process. We feel very enthusiastic about this and even with all the challenges we feel that we are truly creating something important here.

In addition to collecting and analyzing the materials, there is also a lot of practical challenges to tackle such as where and how to maintain the materials so that it is easy to find for researchers but supported safely for years to come. A challenge all researchers and institutions pursuing towards open data need to consider: How open data actually can be and is maintained after our time? The work has just begun, but at the moment we are truly excited about this all and can’t wait to share more!


Creosote Boxcars

Author: John Westmoreland

Creosote Boxcars

Since December 2017, when I first discovered that T-Bone Slim is my great granduncle, I’ve endeavored to learn as much as possible about his life and work. In my experience perhaps the best resources to accomplish this are the columns he authored for IWW periodicals, as well as the existing handwritten manuscripts housed at the Newberry Library and in my family’s archive. However, since the topics of T-Bone Slim’s writings are focused on contemporary events and issues of his day, and because he writes in a rather surrealistic and free flowing manner, understanding and contextualizing his work is not always an easy task—there are many references which could slip past a researcher. I’ve found that one useful way to gain insight into what T-Bone Slim is expressing is to take note of particular words or phrases found in his writings and to use internet keyword searches to find other content containing the same references. This tactic helps to elucidate T-Bone Slim’s perspective and often provides fascinating parallels to issues of importance in our society today. This blog post will be an investigation into one such word—“creosote.”

In the Franklin Rosemont – T-Bone Slim Research Collection at the Newberry Library in Chicago, there is an undated handwritten manuscript which can also be viewed via their online archive of T-Bone Slim papers, approximately 1934–1942 (pages 79, and 81). True to T-Bone’s characteristic elusive style, it is really up to the reader to decide exactly how much one believes he is making definitive claims here, or if the message should be taken to some degree in a tongue in cheek manner.

“Drouth seems to smell heavily of carbon monoxide, medicated gasoline, pickled railroads, perfumed-boxcars (hydro-chloric-creosote), treated-water and liquid chlorine. (Isn’t there a way to make them “let up” before they destroy the world and themselves with it?)—

In language fluent raw and terse
I’ll say the world is getting worse”

Image of a manuscript, text written with pencil. Text quoted in full on the blog text
T-Bone Slim writings, approximately 1934–42,Box: 1, Folder: 1-2. The Newberry Library – Modern Manuscripts, page 79/168.
Creosote in the 21st century

In an article from the Gothamist—a New York City online news, arts and entertainment outlet—published August 10th, 2011 residents of Queens, New York express concern over a nauseating smell emanating from the railroad tracks in Middle Village. According to one resident, “The odor is so bad it can choke a horse… You smell it for a while and you start to get woozy.”

T-Bone Slim in his manuscript describes a dark and “ill smelling fluid… which exudes fumes for six months, possibly years without recharging”. He states that this substance was used to line the interiors of boxcars, and that for the hobos traveling and sleeping in such cars, it amounted to a “death penalty” or at the very least an “accelerated dispatch to a haven of rest”.

“Death penalty seems rather a heavy punishment to lay on a man for sleeping in a box car. Such is the punishment however, the end slightly deferred. Here it might be argued the punishment is not a death penalty in so far as it lops off only the closing years of the slumberers life and might be classed as accelerated dispatch to a haven of rest. Be that as it may, here is how it is accomplished:

The cars are doped with an ill smelling fluid; with but few exceptions. We won’t go into the nature of the stuff, sufficient to say it makes the homeless one ill. We won’t go into the motives, which are many and all pointing in one direction; sufficient to say the evidence is in those cars, a dark shade, stain, which exudes fumes for six months, possibly years without recharging. Freight moved in those cars becomes as contaminated and the noble businessman and householder hasten to make their wills—noble martyrs to the cause of brainlessness!”

Image of a manuscript, text written with pencil. Two thirds of the text is quoted on the blog text.
T-Bone Slim writings, approximately 1934–42,Box: 1, Folder: 1-2. The Newberry Library – Modern Manuscripts, page 81/168.

What to do with “pickled” railroad ties?

Over the past couple decades aging creosote treated railroad ties have at times been burned in large scale incinerators and biomass energy plants in the United States to create electricity. Through this process railroad companies are able to grind down and dispose of tons of hazardous old ties which would otherwise have to be stored in industrial waste sites. This solution, however, elicits concern among some residents and environmental groups in the areas surrounding the energy plants which burn these creosote “pickled” railroad ties. For instance Flagpole, a local magazine in Athens GA published an online article from January 27th, 2020 featuring a video of members of the Madison Clean Power Coalition holding a protest against the burning of creosote treated railroad ties by the Colbert, GA Biomass Energy Plant over concerns that the smoke produced is toxic and poisoning the air.

Whatever one makes of the controversies related to creosote and its continued usage, it is certainly fascinating to see how issues which concerned T-Bone Slim 80 to 100 years ago are often still quite relevant and topical in our society today…

John Westmoreland

Juuret Suomessa

Kirjoittaja: John Westmoreland

Juuret Suomessa – Kuinka löysin kadonneen kappaleen sukuhistoriaani

(Tämä teksti on käännös aiemmin julkaistusta englanninkielisestä tekstistä.)

Iso-iso-isovanhempani Matti ja Brita Johanna Huhta lähtivät Kälviältä Suomesta vuonna 1879 etsimään uutta elämää Yhdysvalloista. He asettuivat asumaan Ashtabulaan, Ohioon Erie-järven rannalle. Uudessa kotimaassaan he kasvattivat viisilapsisen perheen, johon kuuluivat vanhin poika Matti V. Huhta (T-Bone Slim) ja nuorin tytär Sofie Huhta, isomummoni. T-Bone, Sofie tai kukaan muukaan Huhdan lapsista ei koskaan astunut jalallaan esivanhempiensa kotimaahan, Suomeen.

Itse asiassa vaikuttaa siltä, ettei yksikään Huhdan myöhemmistä sukupolvista päässyt Suomeen ennen kesää 2018, jolloin minulla oli tilaisuus tehdä ensimmäinen vierailuni “vanhaan maahan”. Tuo matka toteutui varsin mielenkiintoisella tavalla. Tuohon aikaan työskentelin ensimmäisen albumini, Cast Fire, julkaisun parissa lähettämällä sähköposteja, soittamalla puheluita ja yleisesti ottaen edistämällä levyn myyntiä. Samoihin aikoihin yritin kaivaa esiin mahdollisimman paljon tietoa hiljattain uudelleen löytämästäni amerikansuomalaisesta sukulaisestani, kulkuri-lauluntekijästä, runoilijasta ja IWW-kolumnistista, joka tunnetaan nimellä T-Bone Slim. Toisinaan tuntui siltä, että laiminlöin velvollisuuteni albumiprojektissa ja sen sijaan käytin suurimman osan energiastani seuratakseni hajanaisia johtolankoja, jotka auttoivat hahmottamaan isoisosetäni elämää. Näin tekemällä toivoin, että saisin koottua kokonaisemman kuvan ja ymmärryksen siitä, kuka hän oli ja mistä hän oli kotoisin, ja siten kunnioittaisin hänen unohdettua perintöään ja kaivaisin esiin kadonneen kappaleen omasta sukuhistoriastani.

Black and white photo of an elderly lady in dark dress standing on grass by trees
T-Bone Slimin äiti Brita Johanna Huhta. Kuva: Westmorelandien perhearkisto.
Sepia coloured old photo, portrait of two men. One man is sitting and another is standing. Curtain mural background
T-Bone Slimin isä (istumassa). Toisen miehen henkilöllisyys ei ole tiedossa. Kuva: Westmorelandien perhearkisto.

Eräänä päivänä kirjoittaessani sähköposteja ja yrittäessäni varata keikkoja Cast Fire-levyn julkaisun tueksi, päähäni pälkähti hieman outo ajatus. Entäpä jos ottaisin yhteyttä suomalaisen musiikkiskenen ihmisiin ja kysyisin, olisiko minun mahdollista esittää omaa musiikkiani ja uusia tulkintoja T-Bone Slimin kappaleista Suomessa? Se tuntui kaukaa haetulta, mutta samaan aikaan tunsin, että T-Bone Slimin henki oli tuohon aikaan jollakin mystisellä ja synkronistisella tavalla heräämässä eloon – aistin ilmassa jotain lupaavaa… Näin ollen toimin heränneen mielijohteen mukaan ja internetin kautta löysin suomalaisten keikkavälittäjien nimiä ja yhteystietoja. Kirjoitin muutamia sähköpostiviestejä, joissa kerroin keikkavälittäjille, kuka olen, kuka T-Bone Slim oli ja kysyin, haluaisivatko he varata minulle kesäkiertueen Suomeen. Pian näiden viestien lähettämisen jälkeen aloin kuitenkin epäillä pikkuruisen sähköpostikampanjani järkevyyttä. Pohdin, vaikutanko etuoikeutetulta amerikkalaiselta, joka odottaa ovien avautuvan Suomessa vain siksi, että hänen isoäitinsä isoveli oli suomalaista syntyperää oleva ikoninen kulkuri. Niinpä menin sinä iltana nukkumaan tuntien itseni hieman hölmöksi, koska olin varma, että sähköpostini jäisivät huomiotta. Mutta suureksi yllätyksekseni, kun tarkistin sähköpostilaatikkoni seuraavana aamuna, siellä olikin vastaus helsinkiläiseltä keikkavälittäjältä, joka kertoi, että projektini kuulosti erittäin mielenkiintoiselta ja että hän auttaisi mielellään! Samalla hän mainitsi, että Ville Juhani Sutinen oli hiljattain julkaissut T-Bone Slimistä kirjan ja että tunnettu suomalainen Hip-Hop artisti Paleface oli juuri muodostanut Laulava Unioni-yhtyeen, joka esittää suomalaisia IWW-lauluja, mukaan lukien iso-isosetäni tekstejä. Keikkavälittäjä yhdisti minut sekä Villen että Palefacen kanssa ja auttoi minua saamaan keikkoja kesäksi.

Ensimmäinen esiintymiseni Suomessa oli Palefacen kanssa Porvoossa elokuun lopulla 2018. Jossain vaiheessa keikkaa Karri kertoi yleisölle, että “Meillä on täällä T-Bone Slimin lihaa ja verta!”. Ja sai yleisön huutamaan “Tervetuloa kotiin John!”. Se oli minulle todella sydäntä lämmittävä ja merkityksellinen kokemus; tulla täysin uuteen maahan ja kulttuuriin ja kokea näin avosydäminen vastaanotto. Jatkoin keikkailua eri kaupungeissa ympäri Suomen, ja matkan päätteeksi kuvasin musiikkivideon yhdelle omalle kappaleelleni nimeltään The Sparrow suomalaisen ohjaajan ja kuvaajan Cristal Alakosken kanssa. Palasin syksyllä Yhdysvaltoihin innostuneena ja aloin suunnitella uutta levytysprojektia, kokoelmaa T-Bone Slimin kirjoittamista kappaleista.

Selfie of two men in a garage. Both men have beard, the other is bald, other has long hair. Graffiti of old Frankenstein looking man in the background
Paleface ja John Tampereella vuonna 2022. Kuva: Karri Miettinen 2022.
Graffiti mural on the end of a house. Text “T-Bone Slim Tear Gas” and image of a tear gas bottle with a text: “The most effective agent used by employers to persuade their employees that the interests of capital and labor are identical.” Man playing guitar in front of the graffiti mural.
John soittamassa kitaraa Antti Männynvälin tekemän T-Bone Slim/ Tear Gas-seinämaalayksen edessä. Kuva: Antti Männynväli 2021.
Graffiti “T-Bone Slim”. Two men: one standing, doing graffiti and other sitting and playing guitar. Water in front, road railing in the back. Text in the bottom: "Worries make the child sing."
Antti Männynväli tekemässä T-Bone Slim graffitia Johnin soittaessa Weary Years-kappaletta. Kuva: Tommi Virtanen 2021.

Tämän jälkeen olen palannut Suomeen joka kesä lukuun ottamatta vuotta 2020. Näiden matkojen aikana minulla on ollut hieno mahdollisuus esittää omia tulkintojani T-Bone Slimin kappaleista erilaisissa tapahtumissa, festivaaleilla ja jopa Helsingin kaduilla. Olen myös tavannut monia upeita muusikoita, taiteilijoita ja tutkijoita, joista on tullut ystäviä ja yhteistyökumppaneita. Lisäksi olen oppinut suomalaisten esivanhempieni kulttuurista ja elämän olosuhteista enemmän kuin koskaan toivoinkaan.

Man performing on a stage with a guitar. Plants and flowers, three persons playing and singing in the background.]
John esiintymässä Valkeakosken Työväenmusiikkitapahtumassa 2022. Kuva: Esa Kuloniemi 2022.

Yksi Suomenmatkojeni tähänastisista kohokohdista on ollut mahdollisuus vierailla Kälviällä torppapaikoilla, joissa Huhdan iso-iso-isovanhempani asuivat ennen kuin he muuttivat Yhdysvaltoihin. Kälviän paikallishistorian tuntija Jukka Hilli opasti minut ja muut T-Bone Slim -tutkijatoverini Kirsti Salmi-Niklanderin ja Lotta Leiwon näille paikoille (blogitekstit kevään 2022 kenttätyömatkasta luettavissa englanniksi täällä ja suomeksi täällä). Yksi näistä torpista, Hietakangas, jossa T-Bonen äiti Brita Johanna asui lapsena, oli erityisen mieleenpainuva. Siellä kasvaa aivan kellarin jäänteiden edessä jättiläiskuusi. Puu on epäilemättä niin vanha, että sen on täytynyt olla siellä jo 1860-luvulla, kun T-Bone Slimin äiti oli kasvuiässä.

Man standing before a giant spruce in a forest.
John Hietakankaan kuusen luona. Kuva: Lotta Leiwo 2022.
Selfie of two men standing outside. The other has beard and long hair and other wears a cap.
John (vas.) ja Jukka Hilli. Kuva: John Westmoreland 2022.

Elokuussa 2021, Koneen Säätiön Lauttasaaren kartanossa vietetyn neljän kuukauden taiteilijaresidenssijakson huipentumana, yliopistonlehtori ja dosentti Kirsti Salmi-Niklander ja minä järjestimme maailman ensimmäien T-Bone Slim -seminaarin, joka pidettiin Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran tiloissa. Seminaari kokosi yhteen tutkijoita, muusikoita, taiteilijoita ja kirjailijoita esittelemään ensimmäistä kertaa Matti V. Huhdan elämää ja kirjoituksia kansainväliselle yleisölle. Lisäksi seminaari loi pohjaa tälle Koneen säätiön rahoittamalle “T-Bone Slim and the Transnational Poetics of the Migrant Left in North America”-hankkeelle. Ryhmämme on tuottanut runsaasti uutta tietoa T-Bone Slimistä. Olen innoissani yhteistyön jatkamisesta ja odotan innolla, että voimme jakaa ponnistelujemme tuloksia, uutta tutkimusta, musiikkia ja taidetta, laajemmalle yleisölle.

John Westmoreland esiintyi Taitedein yönä 18.8.2022 Helsingin yliopiston Topelian sisäpihalla yhdessä Luode-yhtyeen ja kansanmuusikko Emmi Kuittisen kanssa. Lue lisää esiintymisestä blogistamme täältä.

Ashtabula materials Events News

Newspaper Symposium 2022

Author: Lotta Leiwo

Newspaper Symposium 2022: New Exciting Finds from the Archive

Our PI Kirsti Salmi-Niklander and I, research assistant Lotta Leiwo attended the Newspaper Symposium organized by National Library of Finland on 30 August 2022. The day was full of interesting presentations by researchers from various fields from history, literature, ethnology to folklore studies.

In our presentation ‘Finnish American newspapers – benefits and challenges of digital and physical materials’ we discussed about Finnish American publishing, it’s relations to our project and presented our T-Bone Slim project to the audience both on site and online. As we have already discussed on our blog, American Finnish publishing in Ashtabula was lively already from 1880’s.

Our presentation in Newspaper Symposium was based on the corpus of material from the research project which focuses on the Finnish immigrant community and includes the Finnish-language newspapers Pohjantähti (1886-1887) and Amerikan Sanomat (1897-1913) published in Ashtabula, Ohio. The early newspaper publications provide opportunities to examine the daily lives, communities, and networks of Finnish immigrants at the turn of the century. In our presentation, we discussed our methodology with the newspaper material and the solutions we have adopted. Some Finnish American newspaper materials are available digitized in the Chronicling America database of the Library of Congress (LOC), but the newspapers in our corpus are only available as microfilm copies or as physical copies in the National Library of Finland. This means that the material has to be studied using more “traditional” methods, and that, for example, quick word searches are not possible as is on digitized materials. At the same time, the existing digital Finnish newspaper database provides valuable reference material, allowing us to examine, for example, the folklore texts in our materials and the networks of texts published in several journals.

Newspaper article in Finnish
Mathew Houghton’s text in Amerikan Sanomat 1.1.1903 (National Library of Finland).

The hybrid nature of our data corpus and the manual nature of our work offer both benefits and challenges for research. Going through the material manually is a prerequisite for conducting qualitative analysis – at the same time, the time spent collecting, processing and transcribing the non-digital materials takes time away from other research work. However, browsing physical copies of newspapers gives tangible understanding compared to the more distant digital material. Physical copies of magazines also provide an opportunity to get a feel for the reader’s experience. In our case we were able to find a gem: possibly one of the texts T-Bone Slim might have published in Finnish. Previously there has not been record of T-Bone Slim writing in Finnish or knowledge whether he could write in Finnish at all. This text was written by another pseudonym we knew he used later: “Mathew Houghton” in Amerikan Sanomat 1.1.1903.

Mathew Houghton’s text is correcting a previous correspondence letter from Erie, Pennsylvania published in Amerikan Sanomat. Mathew Houghtons letter was sent to the editorial staff of Amerikan Sanomat, and printed in the last page of the paper where they had a column for “local news”. Additionally, the text is describing a Christmas party of the temperance society “Tyyni”. We were restrainedly enthusiastic with the find but were not 100 % certain this was “our T-Bone”. Literally, as I was finalizing this text yesterday, I ended up turning few more stones to find out more about Tyyni Temperance Society. We have just found out that some of the American Finnish periodicals are actually digitized on National Library of Finland’s database, so I did some searches with different search terms. After a while I was able to find a true gem from Raittiuslehti : Raittiuden Ystäväin Äänenkannattaja [Temperance Paper: Organ of the Friends of Temperance], 25.5.1899:

Periodical article translated. Full text translated below in the blog text.
Raittiuslehti : Raittiuden Ystäväin Äänenkannattaja, 25.5.1899 (National Library of Finland’s digital collections).

Translated text:

“Tyyni Temperance Society’s officers are as follows; agent* Matti W. Huhta, chairperson Petti Lakari, keeper of the minutes Otto Ranta, treasurer J. Erkkilä, servant mrs Hietikko, [hall] caretaker E. Suutala, aid for keeper of the minutes miss Ida Huhta, servants aid miss Katri Lakari. W. Erie”

*Agent probably means a correspondence officer for the publication Raittiuslehti : Raittiuden Ystäväin Äänenkannattaja as the address of “Math. W. Huhta” is available on another page of the publication where all the local correspondents of Suomalainen kansallis-raittius-veljeysseura [Finnish National Temperance Fraternal Society] are listed. The address has a typo, but is the same where T-Bone’s parents Matti and Johanna Huhta had a boarding house at the time (mentioned also on another blog entry here). Apparently, also T-Bone’s sister Ida Huhta was an active member of the Tyyni Temperance Society.

In this case we can be quite certain that this person is “our T-Bone” and it confirms the text written by “Mathew Houghton” is his writing, too. Both texts give us important information of people he worked with and the networks he had. This is truly a significant find as we now have evidence of T-Bone Slim also writing in Finnish. Tyyni Temperance Society is known publishing a monthly hand-written newspaper (see ‘Overview of the Activities of the Tyyni Temperance Society’ in Valoa : amerikan suomalaisen raittiuskansan kesäjulkaisu [Light: American Finnish Temperance Folk’s Summer Issue], 01.01.1938, p. 20, text is in Finnish), could T-Bone have written in that paper? Hopefully we are able to find Tyyni’s “Nyrkkilehti” [Fist Press], as the hand-written newspapers were often called, somewhere to study this topic further!

This topical find is even better example of how we have conducted research on our different research materials, than we were able to provide on our presentation at Newspaper Symposium. This also gives an example how our work is in a really interesting phase right now. We find something exciting almost every day and have several leads from physical, actual newspapers, periodicals and journals that are kept in several archives. With these leads we can do comparative research on digitized materials. Currently, we are working on with several interesting leads and topics concerning T-Bone Slim’s text’s, intertextuality, and his networks.

It seems that the Newspaper Symposium keeps on giving. Besides networking with other researchers and discussing future research prospects, we were able to find new materials that illuminate early years of T-Bone Slim with the inspiration we got from others!


Events John Westmoreland News

Uusia tulkintoja: Taiteiden yö 2022

KIRJOITTAJA: Kirsti Salmi-Niklander & LOTTA LEIWO

Uusia tulkintoja – Taiteiden yö 2022

(English version available here.)

Kuumana kesäiltana 18. elokuuta hankkeemme järjesti tapahtuman, joka oli osa Helsingin Taiteiden yö -konseptia. Taiteiden yö, jolloin kuka tahansa voi järjestää kaupungissa taidetapahtuman, on osa kolmiviikkoisia Helsingin juhlaviikkoja. Tapahtumamme teemana oli “Uusia tulkintoja”.

Hankkeemme taiteilija John Westmoreland ja hänen “löydetyt ystävänsä”; Luode-yhtye sekä kansanmuusikko Emmi Kuittinen esiintyivät noin 100 hengen yleisölle Topelian sisäpihalla, kauniissa puutarhassa Helsingin yliopiston keskustakampuksella. Suurin osa yleisöstä seurasi esitystä Thirsty Scholarin terassilta. Ennen esitystä hankkeen johtaja Kirsti Salmi-Niklander esitteli T-Bone Slim -projektia yleisölle. Voit katsoa esityksen Unitubesta tai lukea transkriptin alta. Esittelyn jälkeen löydät kaksi videota musiikkiesityksestä.

People sitting on ground, band playing: keyboardist and guitarist.
Yleisö kuuntelemassa John Westmorelandin esiintymistä Topelian nurmikolla. © Lotta Leiwo 2022.
Female speaking to a microphone. Band set: keyboards, drum set. A van and Topelia building in the background.
Kirsti Salmi-Niklander esittelee hanketta. Kuvaa klikkaamalla voit katsoa esittelyn (englanniksi). © Lotta Leiwo 2022.

“Tervetuloa Taiteiden yön musiikkitapahtumaan, jonka tarjoaa Koneen Säätiön rahoittama tutkimus- ja taideprojekti ’T-Bone Slim and the transnational poetics of the migrant left in North America’. Hanke tutkii siirtolaisvasemmiston ylirajaista poetiikkaa ja verkostoja Pohjois-Amerikassa T-Bone Slimin ainutlaatuisen hahmon kautta. T-Bone Slim oli Matti Valentininpoika Huhdan (1882–1942) salanimi, ja hän oli yksi Yhdysvaltain työväenliikkeen merkkihenkilöistä. Hän syntyi Ashtabulassa Ohiossa vuonna 1882. Hänen vanhempansa ja heidän useimmat sisaruksensa olivat muuttaneet Keski-Pohjanmaan Kälviältä muutamaa vuotta aiemmin. Matti Huhta kuoli vuonna 1942 New Yorkissa hukkumalla East Riveriin. T-Bone Slim oli legendaarinen kulkuri, lauluntekijä, runoilija ja IWW-liikkeen (Industrial Workers of the World) lehtien kolumnisti. Hän kirjoitti tekstejään englanniksi, tosin olemme onnistuneet löytämään ainakin yhden tekstin, jonka hän on saattanut kirjoittaa suomeksi Ashtabulan paikallislehteen noin 20-vuotiaana.

T-Bone Slimin kirjoitukset jäivät pitkään unohduksiin. Niitä julkaistiin alun perin IWW-liikkeen sanoma- ja aikakauslehdissä. 1960-luvulla T-Bone Slimin kirjoitukset innoittivat Chicagon surrealistista liikettä ja kansalaisoikeusliikettä. Hän pysytteli kuitenkin poissa parrasvaloista, ja hänen henkilöllisyytensä pysyi mysteerinä useimmille lukijoille. Muutama vuosi sitten John Westmoreland, hankkeemme muusikko ja taiteilija, sai selville, että T-Bone Slim oli itse asiassa hänen isoisosetänsä Matt, joka oli eräänlainen suvun musta lammas. Hankkeemme sai alkunsa Johnin viime vuonna Koneen Säätiön rahoittamasta residenssijaksosta.

Taiteellisessa ja tutkimuksellisessa hankkeessamme jäljitämme T-Bone Slimin elämää ja verkostoja sekä sosiaalisia, kulttuurisia ja poliittisia liikkeitä, joissa hän toimi. Projektiryhmämme on hyvin kansainvälinen: Minä ja tutkimusassistenttimme Lotta Leiwo työskentelemme täällä Topeliassa, ja olemme keskittyneet T-Bone Slimin sukuhistoriaan ja varhaisvuosiin Kansalliskirjaston ja Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran aineistojen pohjalta. Teimme myös jännittävän kenttämatkan Kälviälle toukokuussa. Saku Pinta on suomalais-kanadalainen tutkija, joka asuu Thunder Bayssä ja Winnipegissä. Marija Dalbello on kotoisin Kroatiasta, mutta toimii nykyään informaatiotutkimuksen professorina Rutgersin yliopistossa New Jerseyssä. Saijaleena Rantanen Taideyliopistosta, joka on työskennellyt IWW-laulujen parissa, ja Samira Saramo Siirtolaisuusinstituutista ovat myös mukana hankkeessa. Owen Clayton Lincolnin yliopistosta Iso-Britanniasta on kirjoittanut tähän mennessä ainoat akateemiset artikkelit T-Bone Slimin kirjallisista teoksista, ja teemme hänen kanssaan yhteistyötä hankkeessa. Hankkeemme toimii enimmäkseen virtuaalisesti, ja olemme tutkineet arkisto- ja kirjastoaineistoja sekä Yhdysvalloissa että Suomessa. Ensi vuonna tapaamme vihdoin kasvokkain Suomessa loppuseminaarissamme. Tilaisuuksia on luvassa sekä Helsingissä että Kokkolassa ja Kälviällä elokuun puolivälissä, joten pysykää kuulolla! Hankkeellamme on verkkosivut ja blogi, Facebook-sivu ja Twitter-tili, joilla julkaisemme tutkimustuloksia.

John Westmoreland on työstänyt uusia tulkintoja T-Bone Slimin kappaleista, ja hänen “Resurrection” -albuminsa on tulossa pian. Kaksi kappaletta on jo julkaistu YouTubessa: musiikkivideo “Harvest Land” ja “Weary Years“. John on myös tehnyt tutkimusta näiden kappaleiden taustoista. Hän esittelee laulujen tekstejä tarkemmin pian. Tänä iltana kuulemme siis joitakin näistä uusista tulkinnoista T-Bone Slimin kappaleista. Johnia säestävät “Luode”-yhtye, Antero Kulju ja Jussi Villgren sekä kansanmuusikko Emmi Kuittinen.”

Kirstin esityksen jälkeen John Westmoreland & co. esittivät uusia tulkintoja T-Bone Slimin teksteistä.

“Popular Wobbly”

Jos video ei näy, löydät sen YouTubesta täältä.

Kansanmuusikko Emmi Kuittinen esittää “Street Beggars” -kappaleessa T-Bone Slimin inspiroiman itkulaulun. Emmi esittelee itkulaulua näin:

“Seuraavassa kappaleessa on pieni itkuvirrenpätkä, joka on tehty karjalaista itkuvirsiperinnetyyliä noudattaen omalla kielelläni, suomeksi. T-Bone Slimin teksti “Street Beggars” inspiroi tähän itkuvirteen.”

Itkuvirren sanat:

“Kuunnelkaa kuinka kurjat kulkurit
Joutuvat kuraisilla kujilla kulkemaan
Katsokaan kallehia kanssakulkijaisia,
Jotka kauhistuneita katseita keräävät,
Kuka voisi auttaa noita apeutuneita asukkaita,
Armahimmat asuntasijaset saamaan.

Oi mistä löytyy kaunehimmat kasvattopaikkaset,
Kaikille kallehille kanssakulkijoisille.

Oo, oommeko yhessä yrittäneet tarpeeksi,
Että eheinä saisi kaikki elellä,
Ettei vain onnekkaimmat,
Kaikkea onnea itselleen ottaisi,
Kaikkea valtaa, omaisuutta itselleen haalisi,
Ja kaikkea yksin hallitsisi.

Oi, armahat syntyset,
Antakaa armoa,
Apeutuneille asukkaille,
Ja kurjille kulkijaisille.”

Jos video ei näy, löydät sen YouTubesta täältä.