Joe Hill

Photo: Scott Braley

Joe Hill

A songwriter, itinerant laborer, and union organizer, Joe Hill became famous around the world after a Utah court convicted him of murder. Even before the international campaign to have his conviction reversed, however, Joe Hill was well known in hobo jungles, on picket lines and at workers' rallies as the author of popular labor songs and as an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) agitator. Thanks in large part to his songs and to his stirring, well-publicized call to his fellow workers on the eve of his execution — "Don't waste time mourning, organize!" — Hill became, and he has remained, the best known IWW martyr and labor folk hero.

In 1902, after the death of his parents, Joe and his brother Paul immigrated to America where they expected to "scrape gold off the ground." After working various jobs in New York City, Joe moved to Chicago and found work in a machine shop. Shortly thereafter, he was fired from his job and blacklisted for attempting to organize the workers. As a result, Joel Haaglund changed his name to Joe Hill. He traveled extensively around the country before joining the IWW in San Pedro, California in 1910.

In 1914, on his way from California to Chicago, Hill stopped to earn some money in the Utah mines. There he encountered three friends who he had met while working in San Pedro: Otto Applequist and the Eselius Brothers. Edward and John Eselius allowed Joe to live at their house as a guest. Otto Applequist was one of Joe's closest friends and may have been involved in the alleged murder of the Morrison's. Joe Hill was eventually convicted of murdering John and Arling Morrison, and took his last breath in Utah before the firing squad. With three bullets to the heart, the State of Utah executed Joe Hill on November 19, 1915.

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More: AFL CIO page and Joe Hill Bio