Database T-Bone Slim

T-Bone Slim Database – Final Steps

Author: Lotta Leiwo

T-Bone Slim Database – Final Steps

Our T-Bone Slim project is soon at its official end. This two-year project has brought together international research group that are interested in transnational poetics of the migrant left from the perspective and in context of T-Bone Slim.

Our group has met monthly for two years and finally we met in person for the first time in August 2023 in Kälviä for T-Bone Slim Symposium. Our trip to Ostrobothnia was full of joyful meetings, interesting presentations, and exciting cultural program.

Group of people standing on grass field, under sign that says "KÄLVIÄ".
Fig. 1. T-Bone Slim research group and invited guests posing in “T-Bone Slim stance” under Kälviä sign.

Before the T-Bone Slim Symposium, some of us met at FinnFest 2023 in Duluth, Minnesota in July. FinnFest’s Jim Leary invited us to talk about T-Bone Slim and the project for the United States Finnish audience. The days were filled with interesting discussions with present day US Finns as well as a field trip to Work People’s College building near Duluth and Työmies publishing premises in Superior, Wisconsin. T-Bone Slim mentions Work People’s College and Duluth often, and it was a delight to see these places.

A white house by a small road. A man is walking by the house.
Fig 2. Work People’s College building in July 2023. Work People’s College building is now a residential building.
Red brick building, bright decorative candy and sweet images painted on the walls of the bottom floor.
Fig 3. These days Työmies building has a candy store.
Database News

After warm summer days and interesting discussions, a database construction work-filled fall followed. As the project’s research assistant, I have been very intensely working with T-Bone Slim materials and data – his texts, manuscripts, and photos – for the past 3,5 months. These months have included organizing and re-organizing the data, naming and re-naming hundreds and hundreds of documents, listing and checking metadata, and most of all, transcribing some 690 000 T-Bone Slim’s written words. The corpus is in total 1440 pages and includes 820 051 words. I was happy to receive help from our collaborator Owen Clayton’s research assistant Kayleigh Mansell, who transcribed additional 130 000 words. That is a lot of T-Bone Slim’s words! 1295 articles and manuscripts to be exact.

I am happy that I got to investigate his writings from this perspective. Reading, even cursory reading as I used the aid of optical character recognition (OCR), his texts has given me a unique perspective to his political ideas and rhetoric. The transcribed texts will come promptly in use, as the project’s researchers will write articles about and related to T-Bone Slim for the project’s final publication. More about that later!

Processing the materials and constructing the Database and Corpus has been a constant learning process. Even if I consider myself organized and consecutive, I would do some things a bit differently if I started the project now. Here is a short check list for future reference for anyone constructing smaller or larger databases/ datasets. These could even be helpful for someone “just” collecting research materials.

  • Take notes on ALL metadata from the beginning. The more information you gather the merrier you will be at the final lap of you project. I like to collect information in Excel sheets (as you will find out when you upload the T-Bone Slim Database). You can add endless number of columns in an Excel sheet to cover all the details regarding your data: who provided it, where it was originally from, date, own notes, document ID’s, links etc.
  • Abstracted data means transforming the qualitative data, for example T-Bone Slim’s texts, into a quantitative, computer readable form. If you dream of abstracting the data, I found Ahnert et al. book The Network Turn : Changing Perspectives in the Humanities (2020) very helpful. Warning: Data abstraction process will probably throw you into a constant spiral of “abstract it all” and “my data is totally biased”. Deciding and clearly describing what you are focusing on and how is highly recommended. The abstraction process should be guided by your research questions, not the other way round.
  • Organize and name your files systematically and coherently. Write a documentation or notes while you are processing the materials. This will become helpful in the later phases and if and when you need to write a documentation about your database.

The database creation and construction is now in its final stage. I am happy to announce that the material package for future T-Bone Researchers has been transferred to the Language Bank of Finland. The T-Bone Slim Database and Corpus will be published in Language Bank in 2024. We will host a hybrid launch-party after the Database and Corpus is published. Stay tuned for more T-Bone Slim research news!

Please, follow the project’s blog and Facebook page to hear the latest news.


Database T-Bone Slim

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).

Other Resources
T-Bone Slim Uncategorized

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" T-Bone Slim

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.

T-Bone Slim

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.

Database News T-Bone Slim

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!