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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 Everett Massacre, a tragic and violent event, unfolded when a group of approximately 300 Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) members attempted to dock at Everett, Washington. On the afternoon of November 5, 1916, these IWW members arrived in Everett, where they were met by a large crowd composed of local police and over 200 armed deputized citizen vigilantes. The IWW members had returned to Everett after IWW organizers were driven out of town and subjected to violence by business owner-aligned vigilantes after attempting to organize during a related strike by shingle weavers.

The IWW members had returned to stage a "Free Speech Fight," a strategy involving the deliberate influx of IWW members into an area to exercise their constitutional right to public speaking. This tactic was aimed at getting arrested and overwhelming local jails and courts, which had proven successful in several campaigns across various US locations, at times establishing a precedent of non-harassment for public speaking by local authorities.

Following tense verbal exchanges between the Snohomish County sheriff and the IWW members regarding their right to land on the dock, a shot was fired. It remains unclear which side fired the first shot, as both were armed, but it became evident that the Everett crowd was better armed during the ensuing ten-minute gunfight. One of the two IWW boats came close to capsizing, leading to the displacement of IWW passengers into the water. Some were shot, and some presumably drowned.

In the aftermath of the battle, five IWW members were confirmed dead, although the number may have been as high as a dozen, and 27 were wounded. Two citizen deputies lost their lives, with 16-20 wounded, including the Snohomish County sheriff. Ironically, the two deputies killed were struck by "friendly fire" from their fellow deputies, who shot them in the back during the chaotic melee.

Upon their return to Seattle, 74 IWW members were arrested and placed in the Snohomish County jail. Eventually, all the prisoners were released, except for one IWW leader: Thomas Tracy. Tracy faced trial for the deputies' murder, a charge from which he was ultimately acquitted.

The photograph collection holds postcards and funeral photos of the deceased IWW members, providing a somber glimpse into this tragic event.

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


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.