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By the Ore Docks: A Working People’s History of Duluth

Richard Hudelson
Carl Ross
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    By the Ore Docks
    Book Description:

    For the first time, By the Ore Docks presents a compelling history of the people who built Duluth and their struggle for the rights of their fellow workers. By the Ore Docks tells the dramatic story—from the Knights of Labor in the 1880s to the AFL and CIO, and the Democratic Farmer-Labor party—of how a populist worker's coalition challenged the “legitimate American” business interests of Duluth._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9760-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    R. H.
  4. acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    R. H.
  5. abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. introduction
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    The Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior lie at the western tip of the Great Lakes. Duluth, located on the north shore, is the larger of the two cities. Until 1854 the north shore was Indian country, closed to non-Indians by treaties between the Ojibwe Nation and the United States. While the Treaty of LaPointe, signed in 1854, opened the north shore for non-Indian settlement, the Civil War and the depression of 1873 delayed real development of the region. It was not until the mid- to late 1880s that Duluth really took off as a city. The location of the...

  7. CHAPTER ONE labor roots
    (pp. 1-26)

    Formed by glacial action, Lake Superior today is a somewhat shrunken version of the ancient lake that once occupied the site. The city of Duluth is long and narrow, built along the steep hillside formed by that ancient lake and overlooking the north shore of the lake that exists today. It is blessed with a fine natural harbor protected by Minnesota Point, a long spit of land protecting the inner bay from Lake Superior. Even before the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe between the United States and the Ojibwe Nation, which opened the north shore for “white” settlement, there was...

  8. CHAPTER TWO from labor town to steel trust
    (pp. 27-50)

    The bloody events of 1889 galvanized opposition to the business leaders who had until then provided political leadership for Duluth. In response to those events, a coalition was formed that challenged the business leaders throughout the 1890s. While this coalition included some business and professional men from the different ethnic communities, its largest constituency was working class, and its basic agenda was to elect men to public office who would serve the interests of Duluth’s workers and their families. This coalition, however, was laced with internal contradictions. The arrival of the steel trust in Duluth at the turn of the...

  9. CHAPTER THREE class struggle and ethnic conflict
    (pp. 51-72)

    The labor movement that exercised significant political power in Duluth in the 1890s was based on unions, largely in the building trades, and on unorganized immigrant laborers. With the development of the iron-mining industry in the region, there was considerable growth in the number of unorganized immigrant laborers. The unions that survived the open-shop campaign of the early 1900s were craft unions largely made up of “American” workers, or workers of German, Irish, Scandinavian, or Polish descent who had been in Duluth for some time. These workers and their unions were affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and belonged...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR war and revolution
    (pp. 73-94)

    The First World War began in Europe in August 1914. The war pitted Britain, France, and Russia on the one side against Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey on the other. On the western front, the war settled into a deadly stalemate of trench warfare and poison gas. On the eastern front, German armies pushed onto the soil of the Russian empire, inflicting enormous casualties. Americans were divided in their sympathies. Some, like former President Theodore Roosevelt, clearly sided with the British. Many German Americans supported Germany’s side in the war. Irish Americans, opposed to British rule over Ireland, were often anti-British,...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE americanization
    (pp. 95-128)

    In the decades before World War I there was concern in some circles about the effects of continued immigration on the nation. In particular, concern focused on the “new immigrants” coming from southern and eastern Europe. People like Jews, Italians, and South Slavs were thought to be significantly different from the northern Europeans who had made up the bulk of earlier immigration to the United States. For one thing, the eastern and southern Europeans were different from the largely Protestant northern Europeans in their Jewish and Catholic faith traditions. In addition, they were different according to the “scientific” theories of...

  12. CHAPTER SIX the farmer-labor party
    (pp. 129-160)

    The wartime economy of 1917–19 raised wages for most American workers. With thousands of men in the armed forces, the supply of labor was reduced and with American industries working overtime to meet the needs of the military, the demand for labor was increased. In addition to these normal market forces, government policies contributed to a rise in wages. In an effort to stabilize production and avoid strikes, the Wilson administration intervened in labor-management relations. The National War Labor Board, under the leadership of former President William Howard Taft and labor lawyer Frank P. Walsh, adjudicated over twelve hundred...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN west duluth on the move
    (pp. 161-198)

    While the Farmer-Labor Party challenged business leadership throughout the 1920s, it was the business leadership that prevailed, convincing itself and the voting public that American families would prosper best under the benign hand of paternalistic capitalism. In an essay written on the eve of the Depression, nationally prominent Duluth businessman Julius Barnes highlighted the implications of this point of view for unemployment: “Unemployment which follows labor-saving installations, as well as unemployment which follows industry displacement, is a private charge on the responsibility of business leadership.”¹ The Depression of the 1930s cruelly undercut this commitment. The unfulfilled promise of corporate America...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT the popular front
    (pp. 199-224)

    When Joe Van Nordstrand took office as the newly elected vice chair of the Minnesota CIO, he was a paid organizer for the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), a representative of Local 1028 of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers, and a leader of the CIO Industrial Union Council in Duluth. He was also a member of the Communist Party, who, under the name of Joe Moreland, had been serving as organizer for District Nine of the party before going on staff as a SWOC organizer for the CIO.

    Van Nordstrand was not the only Communist playing...

  15. CHAPTER NINE the embattled popular front
    (pp. 225-248)

    The Popular Front advocated industrial unions, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, minimum-wage laws, reduction of the working day, and health and safety rules. It also championed peace, civil liberties, racial equality, and an inclusive vision of America. Support for some or all of these proposals came from Socialists, IWWs, and AFL progressives, but it also came from members of the consumer cooperatives, the International Order of Good Templars, the Croatian Fraternal Union, and the Slovene National Benefit Society (SNPJ). These organizations and their ideas had deep roots in Duluth’s multiethnic industrial working class. Many people from immigrant, working-class, western Duluth entered...

  16. CHAPTER TEN the fall of the popular front
    (pp. 249-270)

    While the Popular Front had weathered the storm in both the FLP and the CIO between 1938 and 1946, it now faced organized opposition on both fronts. Difficulties for Popular Front supporters were eased somewhat by the German invasion of the Soviet Union in late June 1941. Before the invasion, Popular Front activists in Duluth were openly hostile to the foreign policy of FDR, which tilted in favor of England and France against Germany. After Germany invaded the USSR, American Communists, clearly revealing their subservience to Moscow, quickly reverted to their earlier position of ardent support for FDR and the...

  17. EPILOGUE: after the fall
    (pp. 271-276)

    The election of 1948 marked a turning point in the history of Duluth. From the violent confrontation with police in 1889 to the victories of the Farmer-Labor Party and the CIO in the 1930s, the struggle waged for respect and economic security by Duluth’s ethnically mixed industrial working class was a constant theme in the history of the city. While always representing minority perspectives, radicals from the Knights of Labor, the Socialist Party, the IWW, and the Communist Party played a leavening role in this sixty-year struggle. In 1948 anti-Communists captured control of the DFL in Duluth and by 1950...

  18. notes
    (pp. 277-322)
  19. index
    (pp. 323-336)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-337)