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By the Ore Docks

A Working People’s History of Duluth

2006
Authors:

Richard Hudelson and Carl Ross

By the Ore Docks

A history of the people who built Duluth and their fight for fair labor

For the first time, By the Ore Docks presents a compelling history of the people who built Duluth and their struggle for the rights of their fellow workers. By the Ore Docks tells the dramatic story—from the Knights of Labor in the 1880s to the AFL and CIO, and the Democratic Farmer-Labor party—of how a populist worker's coalition challenged the “legitimate American” business interests of Duluth.

By the Ore Docks offers a rich and detailed examination of the history of people, ethnicity, and class relations in Duluth. It is a wonderful case study of the interaction of different immigrant groups within a single community.

Peter Rachleff, Macalester College

Located on the shore of Lake Superior near the Iron Range of Minnesota and, for much of its history, the site of vast steel, lumber, and shipping industries, Duluth has been home to people who worked tirelessly in the rail yards, grain elevators, and harbor. Here, for the first time, By the Ore Docks presents a compelling, full-length history of the people who built this port city and struggled for both the growth of the city and the rights of their fellow workers.

In By the Ore Docks, Richard Hudelson and Carl Ross trace seventy years in the lives of Duluth’s multi-ethnic working class—Scandinavians, Finns, Italians, Poles, Irish, Jews, and African Americans—and chronicle, along with the events of the times, the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, religious traditions, and communities. But they also tell the dramatic story of how a populist worker’s coalition challenged the “legitimate American” business interests of the city, including the major corporation U.S. Steel.

From the Knights of Labor in the 1880s to the Industrial Workers of the World, the AFL and CIO, and the Democratic Farmer-Labor party, radical organizations and their immigrant visionaries put Duluth on the national map as a center in the fight for worker’s rights—a struggle inflamed by major strikes in the copper and iron mines.

By the Ore Docks is at once an important history of Duluth and a story of its working people, common laborers as well as union activists like Ernie Pearson, journalist Irene Paull, and Communist party gubernatorial candidate Sam Davis. Hudelson and Ross reveal tension between Duluth’s ethnic groups, while also highlighting the ability of the people to overcome those differences and shape the legacy of the city’s unsettled and remarkable past.

By the Ore Docks

Richard Hudelson is professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Superior. He is the author of, among other works, Marxism and Philosophy in the Twentieth Century and The Rise and Fall of Communism.

Carl Ross (1913–2004) was a labor activist and the author of The Finn Factor in American Labor, Culture, and Society. He was director of the Twentieth-Century Radicalism in Minnesota Project of the Minnesota Historical Society.

By the Ore Docks

By the Ore Docks offers a rich and detailed examination of the history of people, ethnicity, and class relations in Duluth. It is a wonderful case study of the interaction of different immigrant groups within a single community.

Peter Rachleff, Macalester College

Intriguing through and through. This is a wonderful resource for those who really want to ‘dig in’ and get their hands dirty with Duluth’s particularly dirty labor history.

Duluth Budgeteer News

Well-written.

Anoka County Union

By the Ore Docks is a fantastic book! A fascinating look at the continuing legacy of labor organizing in Duluth. What the authors have done in this book is put into writing for the first time the stories of how workers joined together to challenge corporate power and in the process changed Duluth in ways that we can still see today.

Labor World

Hudelson and Ross recognize the central importance of immigrant workers to Duluth’s history, giving particular attention to the Finns and Swedes but also to smaller ethnic groups including an embattled African American community.

Industrial Worker

Richard Hudelson, with research and advisory assistance from the late Carl Ross, has written a popular labor history that should be welcomed in Duluth and beyond. Those interested in the origins and struggles of the labor movement in Duluth, Minnesota, such as labor leaders, ship stewards, students of history, and urbanization and work and political influences will find interesting and valuable narration and discussion. Many photographs and copies of flyers and news articles give local flavor to the book. People of Swedish and Finnish ancestry will especially appreciate the emphasis Hudelson and Ross give to their fellow ethnics.

New World Finn

Professor Richard Hudelson and his collaborator Carl Ross have turned out an informative, well-written case study of the Communist Party at work in the labor movement of a U.S. city—Duluth, Minnesota. The authors’s approach has a delightful freshness. Hudelson assumes nothing about the reader’s prior knowledge of U.S. labor history and so presents clean, simple explanations of complex topics. The best summary, of course, is ‘Read it!’

Minnesota History

Hudelson and Ross’s book is clearly a labor if love, and they have written a very satisfying and helpful case study.

American Historical Review

Hudelson and Ross offer a unique perspective to the history of the labor movement as they attempt to uncover and understand the thoughts, feelings, experiences and values of laborers and union activists alike. No review can do justice to this historical treasure. It is well written and informative—and a fascinating read.

The Finnish American Reporter

By the Ore Docks is an extraordinary and exhaustively researched examination of the contribution and enduring legacy of Communist and radical organizers to the contemporary labor movement and progressive politics. Their book is easily accessible and readable for a broader audience interested in labor history and radical politics.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

It adds to our understanding of both communism, and anti-radicalism efforts, and how the latter was implemented on the local level, and the role it played in labor and politics. Historians of labour, immigration and ethnicity and radicalism, as well as those interested in Midwest and Great Lakes history, will find this an interesting book.

American Communist History

By the Ore Docks

contents

preface
acknowledgments
abbreviations

introduction

1.  labor roots
2.  from labor town to steel trust
3.  class struggle and ethnic conflict
4.  war and revolution
5.  americanization
6.  the farmer-labor party
7.  west duluth on the move
8.  the popular front
9.  the embattled popular front
10.  the fall of the popular front

epilogue: after the fall

notes

index