Hellraisers Journal: From Behind the Bars of Cook County Jail, Big Bill Haywood Interviewed by Carl Sandburg

If one man has a dollar he didn’t work for,
some other man worked for a dollar he didn’t get.
-Big Bill Haywood


Hellraisers Journal, Saturday November 3, 1917
Cook County Jail, Illinois – Big Bill Haywood Speaks

From the International Socialist Review of November 1917:

Wants All I. W. W. Prisoners Brought Here—
“It Will Be so Homelike”
By Carl Sandburg

Big Bill Haywood, ISR, Nov 1917

Thru a steel cage door of the Cook county jail, Big Bill Haywood today spoke the defiance of the Industrial Workers of the World to its enemies and captors.

Bill didn’t pound on the door, shake the iron clamps nor ask for pity nor make any kind of a play as a hero. He peered thru the square holes of the steel slats and talked in the even voice of a poker player who may or may not hold a winning hand. It was the voice of a man who sleeps well, digests what he eats, and requires neither sedatives to soothe him nor stimulants to stir him up.


The man accused of participation in 10,000 separate and distinct crimes lifted a face checkered by the steel lattice work and said with a slow smile:

Hello, I’m glad to see you. Do you know when they’re going to bring the rest of the boys here? We’d like to have them from all over the country together here. It would be homelike for us all to be together.

Smile at Charge of 10,000 Crimes

He was asked about the 10,000 criminal offenses of which the I. W. W. is accused.

I don’t see where they can scrape up 10,000 offenses unless they claim that we circulated 10,000 copies of Pouget’s book on sabotage.

This with a half smile, and then more intensely:

Ten thousand crimes! If they can make the American public or any fair minded jury believe that, I don’t see how they’ll do it. Why, they can’t put their fingers on one single place where we have hampered the government in carrying on the war.

The I. W. W. has done nothing on the war one way or another. It is true we have called strikes, but they were not aimed at stopping the war. Look! In one industry where a strike was called they could have paid workmen $10 a day and then made fat profits. The I. W. W. has been fighting and will keep on fighting for higher wages to pay for a higher cost of living.

Eggs awhile ago were two for a nickel. Now they’re a nickel apiece. A pork- chop costs double what it used to. It takes a week’s pay of a lumberjack to buy a wool shirt.

Conditions, Not Philosophy

Thousands of married men with families belong to the I. W. W. Milk has gone up for them. At 13 cents a quart they can’t buy milk for their babies unless they get more money as wages. Read the testimony federal investigators took up in the Mesaba range. It’s conditions and not philosophy that makes the I. W. W.

The checkered face in the steel slats and electric light kept a perfect calm. Where LaFollette is explosive and Mayor Thompson overplausible and grievous, Haywood takes it easy. He discusses the alleged 10,000 crimes with the massive leisure of Hippo Vaughn pitching a shut-out.

“You are charged with burning wheat fields,” he was reminded.

I deny it absolutely. Why should workmen burn up their own employment? They would be fools.

“You are accused of driving spikes into spruce trees needed for war airplanes.”

Deny it absolutely. And get this, boy: Not a dirty German dollar has ever come into our hands that we knew of. Go back thru our speeches and literature and you will find that a year ago, two years ago and before the war ever started we were in favor of slashing the kaiser’s throat. Every dollar we’ve got now and every dollar the organization will get comes from workingmen.

Chicago Daily News.


[Photograph added.]

An Evening’s Entertainment at Cook County Jail

WWIR, IWW, Cook Co Jail Entertainment, ISR Nov 1917

Message from the General Defense Committee


IWW Logger & Lumber Baron, Swenson, IW Aug 25, 1917

NEARLY 160 of the best known members of the I. W. W. have been indicted on a charge of seditious conspiracy and many have already been arrested. Among these are Secretary-Treasurer William D. Haywood and Ralph Chaplin, editor of Solidarity. Organizers, editors, officials, the active ones among these are nearly all at present incarcerated. Few are out on bonds. When Haywood was asked about securing bail he said that he did not want the hard-earned dollar of the working class to be spent for anything except for Organization, Education and Defense.

With all the evidence secured in the Government raids, the Prosecuting Attorneys must know that not one cent has been contributed to the I. W. W. by the Kaiser. They must know that the purposes of that organization are perfectly open for all to see. The I. W. W. boys on strike in the copper and lumber districts have not been whipped because a few organizers and officials have been thrown into jail. The only persons who can call off these strikes are the workers on the jobs, themselves.

The great crime of the I. W. W. seems to be that its members dared to go on strike to secure safety in the mines, better sanitary conditions in the lumber camps and the eight-hour day.

At this writing over 100,000 coal miners are on strike and the newspapers are crying that unless these miners go back to work, the people will be without water, gas, fuel. Does anybody arrest the coal miners on a charge of seditious conspiracy? Has any body arrested the men in the ship-yards for striking? The newspapers are full of strike stories every day in the week and nobody thinks of saying “German money;” nobody thinks of arresting the officials of the unions or their organizers.

It may be that some people thought all strikes against inhuman conditions, all strikes for sufficient wages to keep up with the aeroplaning cost of living would cease with the members of the I. W. W. in jail. But it is the desperate condition of the workers and the colossal greed of the profiteers that drive men out of the mines and mills, not any leaders or group of men.

Evidently the I. W. W. has been signaled out for punishment because it seeks to organize, all the workers as a class; because it will not “sell out” and could not if it would; and because its ultimate goal is the aim of all socialists—the abolition of working class exploitation.

At a Defense Meeting held in Chicago, October 13th, the speaker quoted an old saying from Haywood:

The Treasury of the I. W. W. is in the pockets of the working class. Dig up all you can to defend our fellow workers who are in jail.

Some of the boys are donating one day’s wages every week. What will you do? Our comrades shall not spend the rest of their lives in prison because they have fought for the interests of their class—the working class.

Make money orders payable to General Defense Committee, 1001 W. Madison St., Chicago, Ill., I. W. W., and they will be readily cashed by headquarters.

[Drawing added.]


International Socialist Review Volume 18
(Chicago, Illinois)
Charles H. Kerr and Company
July 1917-June 1918
ISR Nov-Dec 1917
“Haywood Longs for Other Boys in Jail” by Carl Sandburg
“The I. W. W. Boys” & Entertainment Program
(Most likely drawn by Ralph Chaplin)

Big Bill Haywood, ISR, Nov 1917
IWW Logger & Lumber Baron, Swenson, IW Aug 25, 1917

See also:

Rough-and-Tumble Story of an American Radical

-by Ralph Chaplin
University of Chicago Press, 1948
Note: Copyright not renewed per this source.

On pages 230-231, Chaplin describes Carl Sandburg’s interview with Big Bill:

Bill Haywood’s first interview with the press was a notable occasion. Carl Sandburg of the Chicago Daily News handled the story. Carl did a fair job of presenting our side of the case to the public. It was published on October 2, 1917, beside a two-column picture of Edith [Chaplin’s wife] and Genevieve Semiashko, Andreytchine’s sweetheart. The picture was taken in front of the jail entrance.

Chaplin goes on to quote from the Sandburg interview, all of which can be found in repub by ISR above, except for this:

It was like movie acting in the bull pen this morning when the I. W. W. wives and sweethearts saw their men for the first time since their arrests…

Sadly, I am unable to find the Chicago Daily News of this date online. This photo of Edith Chaplin and Andreytchine’s sweetheart would be a real treasure to share if someone could find it and post it online.

Note: George Andreytchine was Ralph Chaplin’s cellmate.
See Tag: George Andreytchine


Solidarity Forever by Jesse Thomas Brown

Lyrics by Ralph Chaplin

Ralph Chaplin, When Leaves Come Out, Solidarity, 1917