T-Bone Slim Database – Next Steps

Author: Lotta Leiwo

T-Bone Slim Database – Next Steps

Since the last time we posted about the T-Bone Slim corpus and database, a lot has happened. The team has presented in conferences, planned a joint publication, and most importantly organized the “T-Bone Slim – New Interpretations” seminar to be held in August at Kälviä. The seminar is a hybrid event. The presentations can be followed both via Zoom and on-site at the premises of the Central Ostrobothnian Folk High School (Keski-Pohjanmaan kansanopisto) in Kälviä. See full program and register here.

One of the many things we have been doing recently is a blog text about T-Bone Slim in the Finnish Literary Society’s “Vähäisiä lisiä” blog. The text is written in Finnish by our PI Kirsti Salmi-Niklander. This text lead to an inquiry about the data and sources of information on T-Bone Slim in our research. This blog post is an extensive answer to that inquiry.

T-Bone Slim has written hundreds of columns (at least 1042 to be exact) for various IWW newspapers, mainly in English. In addition, we have managed to discover some texts written and/or published in Finnish. And then there is also manuscripts. All of these materials are collected into T-Bone Slim database and corpus that will be published in the Language Bank of Finland. Most of the database building work has been collecting, organizing, writing meta-data, summarizing, abstracting, and transcribing the materials. This all is happening in the background and there is not much to show publicly yet.

The database and corpus will be as open as possible to all researchers, family historians and anyone interested in T-Bone Slim’s writings. The openness of the materials depends on the copyright and permissions among other things. Currently the materials are from 14 different archives in four countries and two continents. Thus, the puzzle has a lot of pieces. Slowly and surely it is all coming together. The corpus and database already have an URN. The corpus and database will be available after it is published (approx. late 2023) here:

While we all wait for the database to be completed and published, we have compiled a list of T-Bone Slim resources and information sources already available online for those who are interested. We will update the list if and when new materials come to our attention. The list is not exhaustive and for example all the numerous contemporary articles about T-Bone Slim have been excluded.

T-Bone Slim’s Texts Available Online and in Books

Currently, some texts written by T-Bone Slim are available online. Franklin Rosemont’s anthology Juice is Stranger than Friction is available online as a pdf. Some of T-Bone Slim’s manuscripts are available digitised at the Newberry Library collections.

In addition, at least two of Slim’s Finnish texts are available in the National Library of Finland’s digital collections: Tie Vapauteen journal on 1 May 1923 p. 23 and 1 September 1923 p. 13. He is also quoted in Punainen soihtu on 1 January1923 p. 17 and Eteenpäin on 8 March 1938 p. 19. Younger than 100 years old publications might have access restrictions.

Some of T-Bone Slim’s texts is translated in Finnish by Ville-Juhani Sutinen in a book titled Mielipuolipiteitä ja muita kirjoituksia (T-Bone Slim & Sutinen, Savukeidas kustannus, 2013).

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Database News

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!