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Research Guides

Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection: Home

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.

Labor Archives of Washington

What's in this Guide

This online exhibit showcases the rich historical content found within the Labor Archives of Washington State's Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection. The collection spans various topics, events, notable members, and diverse formats. Here is an organized breakdown:

Topics and Events:

  1. Colorado Mine Strike, 1927-1928
  2. Columbine Massacre, 1927
  3. Everett Massacre, 1916
  4. Raid on IWW Hall in San Pedro, California, 1924
  5. Raids on IWW Headquarters and Halls
  6. Industrial Workers of the World Song Book
  7. Books for Research and Further Readings


  1. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
  2. Enrique Flores Magón
  3. Frank Little
  4. Joe Hill
  5. Katie Phar


  1. Postcards
  2. Documentary Photographs
  3. Portraits

This exhibit provides an immersive experience, delving into the history, personalities, and events connected to the Industrial Workers of the World. It serves as a valuable resource for researchers, students, and anyone interested in the labor history of the United States.

Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection

Labor Archives: IWW Manuscript & Photograph Collection

Labor Archives of Washington: A Treasure Trove of IWW History

Within the archives of the Labor Archives of Washington (LAW), numerous manuscript and photograph collections provide a rich repository of materials related to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The cornerstone of this collection originated from a generous donation by the IWW Seattle-Joint Branches during their relocation from their hall in 1965.

Recognizing the historical significance of this trove, the University of Washington Special Collections was enlisted to assess and secure these materials. What they brought back is a remarkable assortment of photographs, pamphlets, and manuscript materials, all of which are readily accessible to researchers, historians, and enthusiasts eager to delve into the vibrant history of the IWW.

Wood and Metal Sign from the IWW Seattle Joint Branches Hall in Seattle.

About this Exhibit and LibGuide


Archival Finding Aid: Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection

This invaluable archival finding aid offers comprehensive insight into the Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection. The compilation and research for this exhibit were conducted by Senteara M. Orwig, at the time a  student from the University of Washington's Department of History, who contributed to this project during two successive internships with the Labor Archives of Washington. Orwig's contributions encompassed the scanning of all photographs in the exhibit and extensive preliminary research to establish the historical context of these images, thus shaping them into a preliminarily processed collection.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of the LibGuide text, Labor Archivist Conor Casey provided editing for content, style, and factual accuracy.

Our commitment to delivering the most precise and informative descriptions of individuals and events featured in this exhibit is unwavering. We invite comments or corrections from our audience, as your input is invaluable to us. Please direct any feedback to Conor Casey via email at Your contributions will assist in refining and enhancing this resource for all who seek to explore the history of the Industrial Workers of the World.


Behind the Nickname

Unveiling the Mystery of "Wobblies"

So, what exactly are "Wobblies"? The term "Wobblies" affectionately referred to members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a vibrant and influential labor union. However, the origins of this intriguing nickname are shrouded in some controversy.

Perhaps the most famous tale surrounding the moniker traces back to a Chinese railroad construction cook. He proudly declared his affiliation with the IWW, but owing to his distinct accent, the acronym was playfully rendered as "I wobble, wobble." This whimsical interpretation swiftly caught on and, in a true testament to the IWW spirit, was embraced as their nickname.

But, as with many captivating legends, there are alternative accounts of its origin. Labor folklorist Archie Green offers a different perspective, presenting various alternative explanations in his book Wobblies, Pile Butts, and Other Heroes: Laborlore Explorations (University of Illinois Press, 1993). These tales and interpretations add a layer of intrigue to the history of the IWW and its distinctive nickname.

IWW Goals

One Great Union Diagram

The IWW aimed to create "One Big Union" of all workers. Click the image above to see a diagram illustrating this vision.