Joe Hill's ashes

National Archives
7th & D Sts
Washington, DC, United States

Category: Labor Leaders - historic

Used in the following map:

DC Labor Map

Joe Hill provided the American labor movement with one of its most compelling slogans: "Don't Mourn. Organize!" Although he never visited Washington, labor songwriter and agitator Joe Hill turned up posthumously. After his execution by the state of Utah on a trumped-up murder conviction, Hill's body was sent to Chicago to be cremated (Hill had famously declared that he did not want to "be caught dead in Utah"). Packets of his ashes were then mailed to members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies) to be scattered in every state. One such packet, intercepted by postal officials under the Espionage Act, ended up at the National Archives. Thanks to the Potomac Labor History Association, the ashes were turned over to the IWW in 1988. However, the envelope remains in the National Archives. It bears a photo of labor's martyr and the caption "Joe Hill, murdered by the capitalist class, November 19, 1915. Industrial Workers of the World. We must never forget." (Jon Garlock, based on reports in the New York Times 11/17/88 and The New Yorker 12/.19/88)