The Seattle General Strike of 1919: Interviews with Those Who Were There

Short Summaries of Interviews
(Note: Aside from Dave Beck who declined remaining anonymous, all names are pseudonyms.)

Dave Beck; part 1; part 2
24, laundry driver. Just discharged from Navy, arrived in Seattle right around time of Strike. Opposed to Strike before and after, advocated laundry drivers oppose it. Most people thought it was a miserable failure. Many comments on history of labor movement, absurdity of general strikes, importance of business unionism. Knew many of the important figures in the Strike (Strong, Ault, Duncan).

John Becketson; part 1
17 year old shipyard worker. Strike a good idea, shows you’ve got power, but it gets out of hand, too complicated. Many memories of Strike, including eating in the strikers dining hall, and rank & file opinions of the Strike.

David Branwer; part 1
Worked in the shipyards, about 16 at time of Strike, but shipped out the first day. Strike “broke unionism… for year and years.” Almost became a Silver Shirt (neo-fascist) to combat “activism” of Leftists. Memory of Jimmy Duncan winning mayoral election.

Ulla Caterson; part 1; part 2
37 year old housewife at time of Strike; husband was pharmacist, owned his own drug store. General Strike didn’t affect them. Memories of the Strike, Anna Louise Strong, Ole Hanson.

Anthony Costi; part 1
15, apprentice printer at the Seattle Times. Favored Strike and thought it was definitely worth it for labor: “It taught me to be a good union man” and led to a good union town for years.

D.F. Cutler; part 1
16, high school student, worked half day at Seattle Times complaint desk in circulation department. General Strike made Seattle famous. Friends were split on Strike, but it showed solidarity. Memories of lots of people in the streets. Ties General Strike historically to Russian Revolution. Remembers Anna Louise Strong as very popular with working people.

Harry Dahl; part 1
27, shipyard worker (Skinner & Eddy). Most people agreed with the Strike. Brought people together and showed labor was serious, but in the end, “no strike is worth it.” Remembers Wobbly work in the lumber camps.

Paul Eastman; part 1; part 2; part 3
17, shipyard worker. Read Union Record “religiously.” Shipyard workers thought Strike was great. Remembers details well. Joined Communist Party in 1938, still a member at time of interview.

Fred Farling; part 1; part 2
20, ship joiner, carpenter. Nobody seemed to want Strike. No strike is ever worth it for labor. But very exciting.

Ruth Goodlife; part 1
19, Out of town at time of Strike. Memories of Everett Massacre. Remembers Strong, admired her. Memories of aftermath.

Glenn Gorman; part 1
?. Son of a lumber mill owner, helped run the camp, remembers fire the year before the General Strike that burned down the mill, believes it was set by Wobblies—“sympathizers with the Kaiser--” along with many other such fires. Wobblies stopped production just to stop it, not to force wage gains or anything else. Price controls during the war were already making the business unprofitable. Remembers large lumber strike happening in fall of 1919. Doesn’t remember General Strike.

Sheldon Guy; part 1
23, university student and editor of student paper. Showed how dangerous a general strike could be, but also important for getting labor power. Doesn’t remember details.

Joe Harrison; part 1; part 2
27, pipefitter in Portland, arrived in Seattle just after the General Strike. Remembers how controversial Strike was when he got back to Seattle. Strike wasn’t revolutionary, but an attempt to get workers more money they were entitled to.
Later became union official. Became friend of Jimmy Duncan; remembers Anna Louise Strong.

George Hastings; part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4
29, occupation uncertain, probably lumber camps. Not even clear if he was in Seattle during the Strike. But a Wobbly with a tremendous amount to say about all sorts of things tied to labor struggles of the day.

Charles Herbert; part 1; part 2 ; part 3
19, truck driver. Most people opposed the General Strike then, though later people thought it helped some. But it knocked him out of work. (Mistakenly) believes Dave Beck called the Strike.

Kathryn Hobbs; part 1; part 2
19, architecture student at UW. Remembers excitement very well, though it didn’t touch the campus. Remembers general ferment of the time, including Everett Massacre, Centralia Massacre, etc.

Martha Hosenfeffer; part 1
32, housewife at time of Strike. Anti-union. Worried about milk for the baby, but didn’t worry about the Strike otherwise since they lived far from downtown. Felt they were being pushed around by the unions generally in those days.

Joseph Howard; part 1; part 2
30 year old, unloaded ships. didn’t think much about the Strike: “It was more of a vacation than anything else.” Memories of the IWW. Memories of the Strike, including soldiers marching down Second Avenue.

Mary James; part 1
About 27, housewife at time of Strike; later became labor official and organizer. General Strike didn’t affect people like her in the outlying districts.

B.D. Johnson; part 1
33, sold produce on streets. Strike was partially successful, worthwhile and needed because workers were underpaid.

Harry Jones; part 1; part 2; part 3
24, longshoreman. General Strike “was the beginning of my class understanding” and in general “heightened the development of the class-consciousness of the working class.” Became involved in radical and Black consciousness groups. Remembers many details of the Strike, and especially that “nothing moved but the tide.”

Elizabeth Kaplan; part 1
23, business college student. Reading Union Record was “a must.” But not very interested in Strike. Wobblies were “troublemakers.” Family was pro-union, anti-radical.

Claire Lenahan; part 1; part 2; part 3
18, high school student. Remembers parents and friends were elated by success of General Strike. Confuses somewhat with other strikes and events around that time.

Ron Lorenzo; part 1; part 2
4, child at time of strike. But very active later, joined IWW at 14, organized Guild at the P-I, member of the Communist Party.

Mildred Losley; part 1
20. dental technician elsewhere, but on vacation in Seattle visiting relatives during General Strike. Uncle and his friends thought Strike was great success. Remembers how strange it felt to have nothing running.

Steven McIntyre; part 1
14, errand boy at Washington Electric. Didn’t support it, wasn’t interested. Bad for labor, “split everything in half.” Good union man, anti-IWW.

Craig Michelson; part 1
18, university student (later lawyer, active in national politics). “It was very apparent it was a revolutionary movement,” and people like him didn’t like that.

Fred Murphy; part 1
18, street car conductor. Bad for labor, solidified anti-labor feeling. Shouldn’t have happened. Agitators spurred it on. Remembers several of the key figures well.

Virginia Redding; part 1
20, candy factory worker. Strike wasn’t discussed at the time. Just remembers not being able to get to work because the street cars weren’t running.

Mary Ann Scott; part 1
25, secretary for downtown company. Strike “didn’t concern” her or others of the “young crowd.” Little concern with unions.

Betty Smith; part 1
25, cashier at hardware store. Didn’t know what a strike meant. Strikes never make sense. Remembers Hanson as mayor.

James Spaulding; part 1; part 2
17, Shipyard and lumber camp worker; later policeman. Strong union supporter (Union Record reader), but wary of Leftists (but had Red card when working in the lumber camps). Opposed to General Strike, but it did show that Labor could stick together. But didn’t matter as the shipyards were closing and there was no work.

Artie Traumling; part 1; part 2; part 3
28, painter. General Strike was crucial in his own development and in national Leftist politics. Solidarity was awesome in Strike. Later became a central figure in the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party. Knew Strong and other major figures (and Trotsky). Served on central committee of national Communist Party. Remembers many, many important details about the Strike.