Jane Little Botkin
American poet Carl Sandburg, himself a hobo years earlier, would describe Clark Street bridge and its evening cessation of busy street rhythms, “dust of the feet and dust of the wheels” resulting from “voices of dollars and drops of blood.” His verses lamented Chicago’s industrialist practices that spawned violent strikes, partisan press, and corrupt city officials. His poetry describes events during Frank’s life accurately.
Ceci and I took an architectural tour of Chicago via river boat. Though viewing myriad high rises was the main objective, I wanted to go under the Clark Street bridge. We were not disappointed.
Today the Chicago River is much cleaner; its waters' sheen competes with the silvery skins of high-rise buildings built on its banks. On the site of the Schweitzer-Turner Hall now stands the seven-story, brick-red Reid-Murdoch building, built just three years after Frank’s first Chicago visit, an enormous clock identifying its façade. We skimmed under a newer Clark Street bridge that still transports the city’s busy people. Though traces of the old city remain, evidently Chicago was transforming even when my uncle was there.
A week after Frank’s arrival, he visited a monument to the Hay Market martyrs. I knew about the Chicago's Haymarket Affair, but I determined to chase this “rabbit” further since history reports that Frank and others left the cemetery in somber moods.
My uncle Frank Little made his first trip to Chicago just before September 18, 1911. He had been invited to attend the sixth annual IWW convention. Future trips to the Windy City, (not necessarily named because of weather but more because of its blustering politicians), were in his future as Frank Little moved from delegate to Chairman of the IWW’s General Executive Board (GEB) and attended committee meetings, board meetings, and conventions. The IWW’s general headquarters began in Chicago and are still located there today.
I had never been to Chicago. When my friend Ceci, who travels to Chicago on business routinely, asked if I would like to see the famous city, I quickly confirmed. I don’t think I even told her I planned to research the area for my book, but she was not surprised. Ceci had accompanied me on two other research trips.
This was more of a “I want to see the location of…” trip. I had a slew of addresses associated with meetings, conventions, residences, etc. Unfortunately, Chicago is not a city where one can wander around freely—some of these addresses now in neighborhoods that experience high violence. So, we stuck to downtown Chicago.
We began with museums. Shoulder to shoulder with tourists from all over the world, we investigated timelines of the city’s history, studying historic ethnic neighborhoods, industrial districts, the river, etc. How had Frank Little mixed within the wonderful diversity that is Chicago? Did he feel as smothered as I did walking downtown? We both were from open expanses. Just as in the early twentieth century, Chicago is, in a word, busy. I imagine Frank was thrilled.
The 1911 IWW convention, Frank’s first visit to Chicago, was held in the Schweitzer-Turner Hall, formerly Uhlich Hall. The hall had been the birthplace of the American Labor Union, and Chicago, an aged, industrial city of skyscrapers, made an appropriate setting for the industrial union’s annual meeting. Immediately south of the hall was the Chicago River, congested with all species of water crafts and traversed by the Clark Street bridge. In 1911, the old steel swing bridge transported green-and-yellow street cars, horse-drawn wagons, and new-fangled automobiles to “the Loop,” the city’s commercial core. West of Clark Street, bridge after bridge stacked like crooked ladder rungs across the fouled waters, while to the east more bridges obscured the murky river as it poured into Lake Michigan.
My uncle Frank Little covered thousands of miles with other bindle stiffs, much of the time as a “hobo-agitator.” (See "Bindle Stiff" under Chasing Rabbits.) His prolific agitation into areas of labor unrest meant more travel for me as I continued to unravel his life’s journey. Like Frank, I too traveled thousands of miles following his trail, but some of my travel I had to complete “virtually.” For other research, I enlisted help from archivists in residence in strategic areas, including Michigan, Minnesota, and Kansas.
Spokane, Washington, was one such place where Frank Little agitated and where I did not physically travel. I discussed the Spokane free speech fight in my California Research page, primarily since Frank went to California directly from Spokane, experienced but weak. Most of the physical locations described in this chapter in my book no longer exist or are vastly different. For example, the notorious Franklin School burned down.
Communications with Dr. Brian Shute, who has researched and published various articles about the school (see http://www.drshute.com/archives/2013/12/the_franklin_sc_1.html) and free speech fight (see http://www.drshute.com/archives/2009/11/the_spokane_fre.html), enhanced my research. Criminal records were also easily obtained. And with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s autobiography, I was introduced to my uncle through her eyes. Of course, I plowed through newspapers, IWW documents, other Wobbly accounts, and books on this free speech fight to complete my research. This goes without saying!
Looking north across the Clark Street bridge in Chicago.
I love old political cartoons, don't you? More to come relating to Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood That Stained an American Family!
New Frank Little Letters!
I am so excited to announce the discovery of ten letters and documents, originating from Frank Little or Fred Little, Frank's brother. If you have read Frank Little and the IWW, then you know the relevance of Fred Little's story. These papers were discovered in the crawl space of a building once housing Mojave WFM Local #51 in Mojave, California, twenty years ago!. The building no longer exists due to an open pit mine, but the discoverer had the foresight to know their significance and save the papers. And he contacted me!!! Since the letters are not mine, I can not publish them, but I will share what is significant with each document should you be one of those folks who can't get enough of Frank Little or just labor history. Yes, these letters are the "real thing"!
1-13-1904 - Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Fred Little in Bisbee, AZ, concerning initiation and membership dues. Emory is the secretary-treasurer of WFM #51. Significance: This is when Frank Little (and Fred Little) first joined the WFM though he is not working in California. Fred Little is in Bisbee where evidently he worked with Frank. He mentions lots of Mojave boys in Bisbee. Since he and Frank are joining the Mojave local while working in Bisbee, it must be assumed that a transient miner population used Mojave as their WFM base even if not working in that area. No unions were permitted in Bisbee. Further importance is that we now know where Frank first worked when he arrived in California in 1900.
7-16-1905 – Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Fred Little in Stauffer, CA, where he is working on a “grubstake.” He sends money for his dues to the Mojave Miners Union and asks that his card be sent to Tulare. He states that he is "about sick of mining," no money in it, and the mine is hot. He is about to quit. Significance: While I have documented Fred as working as a laborer in Tulare, he also appears to have mining fever still.
7-20-1905 –Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Frank Little in Tulare, CA, where he is recuperating from illness or an accident. He hopes to be back at work by August 1. Frank is behind on his Mojave dues, and asks not to be put on the delinquent list. Significance: Frank Little and IWW catalogs all Frank's injuries and illnesses. Just added another one!
10-23-1905 – Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Frank Little at 405 8th street in Oakland, CA, [Socialist Headquarters] with his upcoming dues [$3] and his WFM card. He asks that Emory stamp and send his card back quickly since he will be leaving soon. He has just had his leg stitched up and plans to return to the mines. The letter is written on Socialist Voice stationary. Significance: Frank Little arrived in Bisbee in October 1903, and now we know he had been in nearby Oakland. While researching the book, I had tried to determine why he was in San Francisco, and investigating this letter clearly proves he was staying at the socialist hall. Is this why he was in SF? Also, another injury. Mining was not for the faint-hearted!
3-26-1906 – Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Frank Little in Globe, AZ. Frank inquires about certain individuals while in his new job. Frank is now a “walking delegate” for Globe WFM #60. Significance: We now know the hierarchy of duties that Frank assumed as he rose in the ranks in Globe.
3-28-1906 – Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Fred Little in Tulare, CA, sending his 1906 dues to Mojave Miners Union. He is apparently struggling with finding work. Significance: Fred still trying to work as a miner, and his and Emma's move to Fresno, CA, may be a result of his not finding work in mining (besides his later, failed political race).
5-27-1906 – Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Fred Little in Tulare, CA. Fred Little He states he has had a bad time due to taking care of Emma for month while she was sick. He could not work during this time. He discusses his intention to run for office on the Socialist ticket. He talks about the money necessary to run a campaign, out of poor men’s pockets. He asks for Emory to help raise money to support his campaign. Significance: The letter provides rich details about this failed political race.
7-28-1906 – Frank Little signed a Physician’s Certificate for G. M. Dodd. Frank is now business agent for Globe Miner’s Union, WFM. Significance: The hierarchy of Frank's WFM duties continues.
8-7-1906 – Letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Frank Little in Globe, AZ., on Globe stationary regarding membership information. Frank signs as business agent for Globe #60. The envelope has an IWW stamp. Significance: Love that IWW stamp!
8-16-1906 – Another letter to W. O. Emory in Mojave, CA, from Frank Little in Globe, AZ. Significance: Frank states that the "Socialist Party [of America] is a pure and simple Reform Party” and that he is a “revolutionist… a member of the S. L. P. the fighting organization.” He plans to go to Colorado in the fall.
The Clark Street bridge today. Note the Reid-Murdoch building on far right.
Erica Maniez, museum director at Issaquah History Museums outside of Seattle, contacted me concerning research she was doing on an IWW who had claimed to have American Indian ancestry although his parents were born in England. We discussed the possibility that other Wobblies had tried to emulate Frank, claiming to have Native blood, sparking yet another aspect to my research concerning Frank’s reasons for claiming American Indian blood. Her IWW, Benjamin S. Legg, was arrested after a horrific event in Everett, Washington. While some books mention that Frank was also there, along with many unfortunate IWWs, I discovered differently. (Another trail posted in “Chasing Rabbits.”) So, I deliberately steer away from the 1916 Everett Massacre in Frank Little and the IWW.