Ralph Chaplin papers (1909-1948)
Summary Information
Title: Ralph Chaplin papers
Creator: Chaplin, Ralph, 1887-1961
Inclusive dates: 1909-1948
Extent: .5 linear ft. (121 items)
Abstract:
Consist chiefly of correspondence, some addressed to his wife, Edith, and his son, Ivan; poems, notes, and other writings, including his autograph album from Cook County jail, 1917, drafts of poems written while imprisoned at Leavenworth Penitentiary, 1918-23, and a negative photostat of Digest of California criminal syndicalism cases, written by the California branch of the I.W.W.'s General Defense Committee, 1926. Also included are printed poems, flyers, and newspaper clippings, prison documents, and ana. The papers largely concern the period of I.W.W. activism (1917-26), particularly his prison experiences and a report by A. W. Curtis on the Centralia (Wash.) trial of I.W.W. lumbermen; the publication of his pamphlets and books; and the organization, activities, and publications of Technocracy, Inc., a group promoting the technocracy movement (1933-34).
Call number: Labadie Chaplin
Language: The material is in English
Repository: University of Michigan Library (Special Collections Research Center), Joseph A. Labadie Collection

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright has not been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s).

Preferred Citation:

Ralph Chaplin papers, University of Michigan Library (Special Collections Research Center)

Collection History
Acquisition Information:

Gift of Ralph Chaplin, 1933 and 1936; additional donations by various donors.

Processing Information:

Collection processed and finding aid created by Kathleen Dow.


Arrangement

The papers are arranged in five series: Correspondence, Notes and Manuscripts, Personal, Printed and Historical.


Biography

Ralph Chaplin was a radical poet, artist, activist and journalist. He is best known as the author of the labor hymn "Solidarity Forever" and as one of the International Workers of the World (IWW) members imprisoned under the Federal government's Espionage Act of 1917.

Chaplin was born in Chicago in 1877, the son of a rail worker. He witnessed labor strife at a young age when his father took part in the Pullman Strike of 1894. As a young man, Chaplin worked as a commercial artist, and was active in Socialist circles. In 1907, Chaplin met Bill Haywood, the leader of the IWW, and was thereafter increasingly drawn to the organization's syndicalist philosophy. He joined the IWW in 1913, and in 1916 became the editor of its official organ, Solidarity.

In 1917, the IWW became a major target in the "Red Scare" that followed the United State's entrance into World War I. Chaplin and many other IWW leaders were arrested under the Espionage Act, and tried before Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Chaplin was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. He served five years of the sentence at Leavenworth Prison, and was then granted amnesty by President Warren Harding.

After his release, he again edited an IWW paper, The Industrial Worker. In 1937, Chaplin left the IWW paper to edit the paper of a longshoreman's union, the Maritime Federation of the Pacific Coast. By this time, Chaplin had become strongly anti-Communist, viewing Communism as a bureaucratic betrayal of the grassroots syndicalist vision. Under his editorship, the Voice of the Federation opposed the Communist longshoremen led by Harry Bridges. Chaplin lost his job when the anti-Communists lost the factional struggle. In 1941, Chaplin became the editor of the Tacoma Labor Advocate , the newspaper of the AFL-CIO council of Tacoma, Washington. In the 1950's, Chaplin worked as the curator of manuscripts at the Washington State Historical Society. He died in 1961.

Researchers interested in Chaplin's life should consult his autobiography, Wobbly, published in 1948, by the University of Chicago Press.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Ralph Chaplin Papers consist chiefly of correspondence, some addressed to his wife, Edith, and his son, Ivan; poems, notes, and other writings. It also includes his autograph album from Cook County (Ill.) Jail (1917), drafts of poems written while imprisoned at Leavenworth Penitentiary (1918-23), and a negative photostat of "Digest of California criminal syndicalism cases", written by the California branch of the IWW's General Defense Committee, 1926. Poems, flyers, newspaper clippings, and prison documents comprise the printed material found in the collection.

The papers largely concern the period of Chaplin's IWW activism (1917-26), particularly his prison experiences. Also of note are a report by A. W. Curtis on the Centralia (Wash.) trial of IWW lumbermen; papers concerning the publication of Chaplin's pamphlets and books; and the organization, activities, and publications of Technocracy, Inc., a group promoting the technocracy movement (1933-34).

Subject Terms
    Subjects:
    • Centralia (Wash.). I.W.W.trial.
    • Industrial Workers of the World.
    • Technocracy, inc.
    • Criminal syndicalism--California.
    • Political prisoners--United States.
    • Technocracy.
    Contributors:
    • Industrial Workers of the World. General Defense Committee.
    • Ault, E.B.
    • Baldwin, Roger Nash, 1884-.
    • Ball, D.T.J.
    • Beffel, John Nicholas.
    • Chaplin, Edith (Medlin).
    • Chaplin, Ivan R. d. 1950.
    • Clyne, Charles F., 1877-1965.
    • Curtis, A.W., [Report on I.W.W. trial in Centralia, Wash.]
    • Debs, Eugene V. (Eugene Victor), 1855-1926.
    • Debs, Theodore, 1864-1945.
    • Dos Passos, John, 1896-1970.
    • Eastman, Crystal, 1881-1928.
    • Everett, Will.
    • Flores Mag?on, Enrique, 1887-1954.
    • Fontana, P.
    • Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923.
    • Haywood, Big Bill, 1869-1928.
    • Hennacy, Ammon, 1893-1970.
    • Hubbert, Marion King, 1903-.
    • Jameson, Storm, 1891-.
    • Kerr, Charles H. 1860-.
    • Knight, William.
    • Leach, Henry Goddard, 1880-1970.
    • McKay, Claude, 1890-1948.
    • Marks, Jeannette Augustus, 1875-1964.
    • Metzen, John L.
    • Moody, Harriet Converse (Tilden), 1857-1932.
    • Moore, Fred H.
    • Older, Fremont, 1856-1935.
    • Purdy, Lawson, 1863-.
    • Robbins, Matilda.
    • Scott, Howard, 1893-.
    • Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968.
    • Steele, Eleanor.
    • Sterling, George, 1869-1926.
    • Strong, Anna Louise, 1885-1970.
    • Thoegersen, Hans.
    • Usher, Leila, 1858-.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
     
    Correspondence [series]:

    The Correspondence series consists primarily of letters written to Chaplin, although it includes one outgoing telegram. The series includes a number of letters from Eugene Debs and Bill Haywood. Much of the other correspondence concerns Chaplin's imprisonment and his writing and publications.

    Box   1  
    Outgoing,  1922
     
    Incoming [subseries]:
    Box   1  
    Miscellaneous,  1918-1925
    Box   1  
    Baldwin, Roger Nash,  1922-27
    Box   1  
    Debs, Eugene V.,  1922-26
    Box   1  
    Debs, Theodore,  1926
    Box   1  
    Dos Passos, John,  1924
    Box   1  
    Everett, Will,  1934
    Box   1  
    Flores Magon, Enrique,  1923
    Box   1  
    Haywood, William,  1920-24
    Box   1  
    Hennacy, Ammon,  1948
    Box   1  
    Hubbert, Marion King,  1933
    Box   1  
    Jameson, Storm,  1922
    Box   1  
    Kerr, Charles,  1909
    Box   1  
    Knight, William,  1933-34
    Box   1  
    Knight, William to Helen -----,  1933-34
    Box   1  
    McKay, Claude,  1922
    Box   1  
    Scott, Howard,  1933
    Box   1  
    Sinclair, Upton,  1919
    Box   1  
    Steele, Eleanor,  1933
    Box   1  
    Sterling, George,  1919
    Box   1  
    Usher, Leila,  undated
    Box   1  
    Helen -------,  1933
     
    Original Writings [series]:

    The Original Writings series consists of notes Chaplin wrote during the 1918 IWW trial, and poems written by Chaplin in Leavenworth Penitentiary.

    Box   1  
    "The Great Chicago IWW Trial",  1918
    Box   1  
    Poems Written in Leavenworth Penitentiary,  ca. 1919-1923
     
    Personal [series]:

    The Personal series consists of Chaplin's personal documents, mementos, and some secondary biographical material.

    Box   1  
    Prison Documents,  1917-1919
    Box   1  
    Prison Autograph Album, (Cook County Jail,  1917)
    Box   1  
    Ana; contains biographical and bibliographical material, and a list of items donated by Chaplin to the Labadie Collection,  1933-198-?
    Box   1  
    Miscellaneous Material; includes writing by Ivan Chaplin, a Christmas card, one cartoon by Chaplin.
     
    Printed Material [series]:

    The Printed series consists of one folder of Chaplin's printed poems and a second folders of circulars, leaflets and newspaper clippings relating to Chaplin and his imprisonment.

    Box   1  
    Poems,  1913-1935
    Box   1  
    Printed Material; includes circulars, leaflets, and newspaper clippings.
     
    Historical [series]:

    The Historical series consists of primary and secondary historical documents about the IWW collected by Chaplin.

    Box   1  
    Ball, D.T.J. "The IWW in Washington,"  1917.
    Box   1  
    Curtis, A. "Report on the IWW Trial in Centralia, Washington,"  1920.
    Box   1  
    IWW General Defense Committee; Open Letter to President Harding,  undated.
    Box   1  
    Letter (copy) from President Harding to Lawson Purdy of the Central Trades and Labor Council, re pardoning IWW prisoners,  1923.
    Box   1  
    IWW General Defense Committee; Photostat of Digest of California criminal syndicalism cases,  [1926]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Eugene Debs Correspondence Item List

    1. 1922 - Sept. 13, Elmhurst, Ill., ALS [3] p.on 2 1vs., To Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    2. 1922 - Sept. 20, Elmhurst, Ill., ALS [2] p.on 1 1f., To Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    3. 1922 - Sept. 27, Elmhurst, Ill., ALS [2] p.on 1 1f., To Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    4. 1922 - Sept. 30, Elmhurst, Ill., ANS 1 p. (postcard), To Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    5. 1922 - Oct. 12, Elmhurst, Ill., ALS [4] p.on 1 1f., To Edith and Ivan Chaplin. Folder 4.
    6. 1922 - Nov. 25, Elmhurst, Ill., ANS 1 p. (Postcard), To Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    7. 1922 - Dec. 22, Terre Haute, Ind., ANS 1 p. (postcard), To Edith and Ivan Chaplin. Folder 4.
    8. 1923 - Apr. 11, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), To Edith Chaplin, Enclosure: "Notice,"; A review of Chaplin's Bars and shadows (1 p. typescript). Folder 4.
    9. 1923 - Apr. 28, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), To Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    10. 1923 - Aug. 6, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), To Ralph Chaplin, Chaplin's release from prison. Folder 4.
    11. 1924 - June 30, Elmhurst [Ill.], ANS 1 p. (postcard), To Ralph and Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    12. 1924 - Ju[n?] 16, Elmhurst, Ill., ANS 1 p. (postcard), To Ralph Chaplin. Folder 4.
    13. 1925 - Jan. 5, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS [2] p. on 1 1f. (half sheet), To Ralph and Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    14. 1925 - Jan. 27, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 2 p., To Ralph Chaplin, Offers advice to Chaplin on meeting Carl Sandburg. Folder 4.
    15. 1925 - Mar. 30, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), To Ralph and Edith Chaplin. Folder 4.
    16. 1925 - June 9, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS [2] p. on 1 1f. (half sheet), To Ralph Chaplin, Holograph note, Soiled on verso. Folder 4.
    17. 1925 - Sept. 5, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), To Ralph Chaplin. Folder 4.
    18. 1925 - Oct. 22, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 3 p. (half sheets), To Ralph Chaplin. Folder 4.
    19. 1925 -[Dec.?], [n.p.], ANS 1 p. (postcard), To Ralph, Edith, and Ivan Chaplin. Folder 4.
    20. 1925 - Dec. 29, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), To Ralph Chaplin. Folder 4.
    21. 1926 - Feb. 25, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), To Ralph Chaplin. Folder 4.
    22. No year - Oct. 4, Camden, N. J., ALS 1 p., To Ralph Chaplin. Folder 4.

    Theodore Debs, 1864?

    1. 1926 - Feb. 9, Terre Haute, Ind., TLS 1 p. (half sheet), On behalf of his brother, regrets that the illness of both Eugene and Mrs. Debs precludes the possibility of any speaking engagements. Folder 5.