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Research Guides

Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection: Everett Massacre, 1916

Interpretive exhibit examining the historical and cultural context of the the Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection at the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

The Story of "Bloody Sunday"

The incident known as the Everett Massacre was a bloody confrontation that occurred when a boatload of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) members attempted to land on an Everett dock.  As the 300 IWW members arrived at Everett on the afternoon of November 5, 1916, they were met by a crowd of local police and over 200 armed and "deputized" citizen vigilantes. The IWW members had returned after IWW organizers had been run out of town and beaten by business owner vigilantes due to their support of a shingle weavers' strike.  The IWWs had returned to mount a "Free Speech Fight," a tactic in which the IWW would flood into a town to exercise their Constitutional public speaking right, get arrested, and overwhelm the local jails and courts.  This tactic had proved successful in several other campaigns in different US locales, sometimes establishing a precedent of non-harassment for public speaking by local authorities. After tense words between the Snohomish county sheriff and the IWW members on the boat regarding whether they could land on the dock, a shot was fired.  It is not clear which side fired first, since both sides were armed.  However, it became clear that the Everett crowd was better armed in the ensuing ten-minute gun fight.  The IWW boat almost capsized, dislodging IWW passengers into the water, some of whom were shot and some of whom probably drowned. 

In the battle's aftermath, 5  IWW members were confirmed dead--though the number may have been as many as a dozen--and 27 were wounded.  Two citizen deputies were killed with 16-20 wounded, including the Snohomish County sheriff.  Ironically, the two killed deputies were actually struck by "friendly fire" from their fellow deputies, who shot them in the back during the melee.
Seventy-four IWW members were arrested upon their return to Seattle and put in the Snohomish County jail.  Eventually all of the prisoners were released except for one IWW leader: Thomas Tracy.   Tracy stood trail for the murder of the deputies--a crime for which he was ultimately acquitted.

The photograph collection holds postcards and funeral photos of the deceased IWW members.

Everett Massacre, 1916

Bodies of Four of the Five IWW Victims of the Everett Massacre, 1916.

John Looney

Hugo Gerlot

Felix Baron Postcard

Abraham Rabinowitz

Gus Johnson

Primary Sources

Events Leading up to the Bloody Sunday  

The Everett Prisoners' Defense Committee's account of the events leading up to the Everett Massacre, includes eyewitness accounts.
Everett's Bloody Sunday  
A digitized version of an article in an IWW pamphlet detailing the event of the Everett Massacre. Told strongly from the perspective of IWW supporters.
John Leonard Miller's Eyewitness Account  
John Leonard Miller's handwritten eyewitness account of the Everett Massacre following the arrests. He was an active member of the IWW
Members of Everett Citizens' Committee Killed and Injured in Battle with I.W.W.  
In opposition to the IWW, the Seattle PI features men from Everett's Citizen Committee who were killed in the Everett Massacre. This newspaper clipping illustrates the opposing perspective of the IWWs efforts.

Using the Postcards

DIED FOR FREE SPEECH!

The Everett Massacre

Bloody Sunday, Nov 5, 1916

Send Help to: Box 1878, Seattle, Wash.

On the back of each postcard is this message, used to help raise funds for lawyers and court fees.