Joe Hill Chronology

October 7, 1879: Birth of Joe Hill (as Joel Hägglund) in Gävle, Sweden.

December 7, 1887: Joe Hill’s father, Olof, dies during operation to treat injury from job accident.

October 3, 1900: Joe Hill released from hospital after surgery and long convalescence from tuberculosis contracted as a rope maker (a trade he began work at at the age of 12). Returns to Gävle – working in shipyard, plays piano in local cafés, and joins the Gävle Workers’ Federation.

January 17, 1902: Joe Hill’s mother, Catharina, dies.

October 28, 1902: Joe Hill (and his brother) arrives in New York City from Sweden.

April 18, 1906: Joe Hill in San Francisco Earthquake; writes about it for Swedish newspaper Gefle Dägblad.

August 27, 1910: Joe Hill publishes his first article in the Industrial Worker.

March 2, 1911: IWW wins Fresno, California, Free Speech Fight.

April 30, 1911: Joe Hill leaves San Pedro, California, to join Mexican Revolution.

June 22, 1911: Joe Hill flees to California after Mexican troops crush Magonista rebellion.

July 6, 1911: Joe Hill’s song “The Preacher and the Slave” (Long-Haired Preachers) published in IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

September 30, 1911: Nationwide strike of more than 40,000 railway shopmen inspires Joe Hill’s song “Casey Jones – the Union Scab.”

March 20, 1912: Joe Hill joins San Diego Free Speech Fight.

March 27, 1912: Start of 8-month Fraser River Strike by IWW railroad construction workers, British Columbia. Joe Hill joins 1,000-mile picket line, writing several songs to bolster spirits on the picket line.

March 31, 1912: Joe Hill is IWW speaker at Free Speech League rally in San Francisco Building Trades hall, speaking on San Diego Free Speech Fight, in which he participated.

April 8, 1912: Joe Hill arrives in Fraser River Valley, Canada, to support striking IWW railroad construction workers.

May 9, 1912: Joe Hill’s song “Where the Fraser River Flows” published in Industrial Worker.

July 18, 1912: Joe Hill elected secretary of San Pedro IWW longshore strike committee.

August 1, 1912: San Pedro longshore strike defeated, Wobblies blacklisted.

January 1913: Joe Hill’s song “Mr. Block” published in Industrial Worker.

February 16, 1913: Joe Hill song “Scissor Bill” published in Industrial Worker.

March 6, 1913: Joe Hill’s “There Is Power in a Union” first appears in IWW Little Red Songbook.

April 3, 1913: Joe Hill’s anti-war song “Should I Ever Be A Soldier” first published in Industrial Worker.

April 10, 1913: Joe Hill’s song “The White Slave” first published  in Industrial Worker.

May 29, 1913: Joe Hill’s song “Stung Right” published in Industrial Worker.

July 9, 1913: Joe Hill leaves San Pedro, California, jail after 30 days on vagrancy rap stemming from his role in longshore strike. Blacklisted, he soon heads to Salt Lake City.

July 10, 1913: Industrial Worker reports IWW win in strike against Utah construction contractors.

August 12, 1913: Gun thugs break up IWW street meeting, Salt Lake City.

January 10, 1914: Murder of Salt Lake City grocer provides pretext for frame-up of Joe Hill.

January 12, 1914: Salt Lake City police arrest man who likely committed the murder Joe Hill was executed for.

January 14, 1914: Salt Lake City police shoot, nearly kill, Joe Hill in his bed.

January 22, 1914: Joe Hill pleads not guilty; police condemn him as writer of IWW songs.

January 28, 1914: Joe Hill’s preliminary hearing; police soon “lose” transcript.

June 10, 1914: Jury selection begins in Joe Hill trial; judge packs jury pool to defeat defense challenges.

June 19, 1914: Judge in Joe Hill trial “corrects” witness testimony to preserve prosecution case.

June 24, 1914: Defense testimony shows Joe Hill could not have been shot during Morrisey robbery.

July 8, 1914: Joe Hill sentenced to death.

September 19, 1914: IWW newspaper Solidarity publishes Joe Hill’s song, “Workers of the World, Awaken.”

May 28, 1915: Utah Supreme Court hears Joe Hill appeal; rules state has no obligation to prove charges.

October 16, 1915: Utah Pardons Board “considers” Joe Hill’s fate as Salt Lake newspaper falsely ties him to 1911 robbery. (Hill was in Mexican Revolution at the time.)

October 31, 1915: Salt Lake City IWW Secretary R.J. Horton shot in back, killed; the killer is feted the next day at the Elks Club.

November 9, 1915: Huge New York City rally demands Joe Hill be freed. Speakers include Joe Ettor, John Reed and Jim Larkin.

November 16, 1915:  American Federation of Labor convention delegates demand new trial for Joe Hill.

November 19, 1915: IWW organizer and songwriter Joe Hill murdered by Utah authorities.

November 25, 1915: Tens of thousands pack Joe Hill funeral, Chicago.

February 14, 1929: Real killer freed by Salt Lake cops in Joe Hill case involved in St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Chicago.

November 18, 1988: Last of Joe Hill’s ashes released from federal government custody. They had been seized from the mails by the government in 1917 under the Espionage Act and secretly held for decades.

Joe Hill songs

Oh, Please Let Me Dance This Waltz With You (1914)

When I hear that melody, with its rhythmic harmony,
Then I feel just like I’d be in a dream entrancing,
And I’d like to float through space, softly glide from place to place,
With the fascinating grace of a fairy dancing.

Oh, please let me dance this waltz with you,
And look in your dreamy eyes of blue.
Sweet imagination, smooth, gliding sensation,
Oh, love, I would die just for dancing this waltz with you.

Listen to that mellow strain, come and let us waltz again.
Please don’t let me ask in vain; I just feel like flying,
Put your head close to my heart, And we’ll never, never part.
Come my darling, let us start, from joy I’m nearly dying.

Joe Hill songs

Come and Take a Joy-Ride in My Aeroplane (1914)

If you will be my sweetheart, I’ll take you for a ride
Among the silv’ry clouds up in the sky.
Then, far away from sorrows like eagles we will glide,
And no one will be there but you and I.
Say, darling, if you’ll be my little honey dove,
We’ll fly above and coo and love.
I’ll take you from this dusty earth to where the air
Is pure and crystal clear — and there
I’ll give my promise to be true,
While gliding ‘mong the silv’ry clouds with you.

Come and take a joy-ride in my aeroplane tonight,
Way beyond the clouds, where all the stars are shining bright.
There l’d like to look into your loving eyes of blue,
And if I should fall, then I know I’d fall in love with you.

If you will be my sweetheart, I’ll take you to the stars,
The man in the moon will meet you face to face.
We’ll take a trip to Venus, to Jupiter and to Mars,
And with the comets we will run a race.
We’ll go to the milky way, where all the milk is sold
In cups of gold, so I was told.
Our little honeymooning trip shall be a scream,
A sweet and lovely dream.
Come, put your little head close to my heart,
And promise that we’ll never, never part.

Joe Hill songs

My Dreamland Girl (1914)

Would you like to get acquainted with my Dreamland Girl divine?
Never was a picture painted fairer than this girl of mine.
Sweet and graceful like a pansy, bright and charming like a pearl,
She’s the idol of my fancy, she’s my own — my Dreamland Girl.

Charming Fairy Queen of my dreams,
Ever before me your face brightly beams:
Night and day l’m dreaming of you,
Some day my sweet dreams perhaps will come true.

She is coy and captivating, Venus-like in grace and pose,
With an air more fascinating than the fragrance of the Rose.
Like the stars her eyes are shining ‘neath a wealth of golden hair,
And my heart is ever pining for my Dreamland Girl so fair.

Watch it sung by Bucky Halker.

Joe Hill songs

What We Want (1913)

Tune: “Rainbow” (Percy Wenrich)
First published in the March 1913 edition of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

We want all the workers in the world to organize
Into a great big union grand
And when we all united stand
The world for workers we demand
If the working class could only see and realize
What mighty power labor has
Then the exploiting master class
It would soon fade away.

Come all ye toilers that work for wages,
Come from every land,
Join the fighting band,
In one union grand,
Then for the workers we’ll make upon this earth a paradise
When the slaves get wise and organize.

We want the sailor and the tailor and the lumberjacks,
And all the cooks and laundry girls,
We want the guy that dives for pearls,
The pretty maid that’s making curls,
And the baker and staker and the chimneysweep,
We want the man that’s slinging hash,
The child that works for little cash
In one union grand.

We want the tinner and the skinner and the chamber-maid,
We want the man that spikes on soles,
We want the man that’s digging holes,
We want the man that’s climbing poles,
And the trucker and the mucker and the hired man,
And all the factory girls and clerks,
Yes, we want every one that works,
In one union grand.

For sheet music and karaoke file click here. To purchase John McCutcheon’s recording of this song click here.

Joe Hill songs

The Old Toiler’s Message (1912)

Tune: “Silver Threads Among the Gold” (Hart Pease Danks)

First published in the August 1913 edition of the IWW Little Red Songbook.

“Darling I am growing old” —
So the toiler told his wife —
“Father Time the days have tolled
Of my usefulness in life.
Just tonight my master told me
He can’t use me any more.
Oh, my darling, do not scold me,
When the wolf comes to our door.”

To the scrap heap we are going
When we’re overworked and old —
When our weary heads are showing
Silver threads among the gold.

“Darling, I am growing old –”
He once more his wife did tell —
“All my labor pow’r I’ve sold
I have nothing more to sell.
Though I’m dying from starvation
I shall shout with all my might
To the coming generation.
I shall shout with all my might –”

For sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

Stung Right (1912)

Tune: “Sunlight, Sunlight” (W. S. Weeden)
First published in the March 1913 edition (fifth edition) of the IWW Little Red Songbook.

When I was hiking ’round the town to find a job one day,
I saw a sign that a thousand men were wanted right away,
To take a trip around the world in Uncle Sammy’s fleet,
I signed my name a dozen times upon a great big sheet.

I was stung right, stung right, S-T-U-N-G,
Stung right, stung right, E. Z. Mark, that’s me
When my term is over, and again I’m free,
There’ll be no more trips around the world for me.

The man he said, “The U. S. Fleet, that is no place for slaves,
The only thing you have to do is stand and watch the waves.”
But in the morning, five o’clock, they woke me from my snooze,
To scrub the deck and polish brass, and shine the captain’s shoes.

One day a dude in uniform to me commenced to shout,
I simply plugged him in the jaw, and knocked him down and out;
They slammed me right in irons then and said, “You are a case.”
On bread and water then I lived for twenty-seven days.

One day the captain said, “Today I’ll show you something nice,
All hands line up, we’ll go ashore and have some exercise.”
He made us run for seven miles as fast as we could run,
And with a packing on our back that weighed a half a ton.

Some time ago when Uncle Sam he had a war with Spain,
And many of the boys in blue were in the battle slain,
Not all were killed by bullets, though; no, not by any means,
The biggest part that were killed by Armour’s Pork and Beans.

Sung by: Barbara Dane. For sheet music and karaoke file click hereTo purchase John McCutcheon’s recording of this song click here.

Joe Hill songs

The White Slave (1912)

Tune: “Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland” (Leo Friedman)
First published in the March 1913 edition (fifth edition) of the IWW Little Red Songbook.

One little girl, fair as a pearl,
Worked every day in a laundry;
All that she made for food she paid,
So she slept on a park bench so soundly;
An old procuress spied her there,
And whispered softly in her ear:

Come with me now, my girly,
Don’t sleep out in the cold;
Your face and tresses curly
Will bring you fame and gold,
Automobiles to ride in, diamonds and silks to wear,
You’ll be a star bright, down in the red light,
You’ll make your fortune there.

Same little girl, no more a pearl,
Walks all alone ‘long the river,
Five years have flown, her health is gone,
She would look at the water and shiver,
Whene’er she’d stop to rest and sleep,
She’d hear a voice call from the deep:

Girls in this way, fall every day,
And have been falling for ages,
Who is to blame? you know his name,
It’s the boss that pays starvation wages.
A homeless girl can always hear
Temptations calling everywhere.

Swedish version sung (with a Hawaiian flavor) by Lucas Stark.  For sheet music and karaoke file click here.

Joe Hill songs

Let Bill Do It (1912)

Hey, all you girls and fellows
That do depend on Bill
To do your work and duties,
I’ll put you next, I will.
I’ll put you next to Billy,
I’ve known him since the ‘Quake;
Of all the Weary Willies,
That guy, he takes the cake.
He is so gol durn lazy
He wouldn’t do a tap’
I rather would depend on
Some fool Missouri yap.
Now take my tip, you workers
That slave in mine and mill,
And never do depend upon
That good for nothing Bill.

First published in Industrial Worker, October 1912. Underneath the title appeared, in parentheses: “Written by J. Hill, and dedicated to those who have nothing to lose but their chairs.” (That last word is not a typo.)