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Emanuel Garrett

Men and Women of Labor

Out of the Past

Frank Little
(Lynched, August 1, 1917)

(15 August 1917)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 59, 15 August 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

When they cut Frank Little’s bullet-riddled body from the railroad trestle where a gang of masked vigilantes had hanged him some five hours earlier, they found a note pinned to his undershirt.

Others Take Notice

First and Last Warning

3-7-777        LDCSSWT

The vigilantes were out to do the bidding of the Copper Trust. But the murder of Little no more scared the other strike militants away from their posts than had the warnings which they had sent Little before the lynching. Men like Little don’t scare. The newspaper even reported that “So far as is known, he made no outcry.” He was made of that kind of mettle found often in worker-militants who live their lives wholly in the cause of the working class.

A One Hundred Percent Worker

Little was “Half Indian, half white, all I.W.W.” Not that the first half was particularly important, except as it answered the patriots who howled about “Germans.” Born of a Cherokee Indian mother and a Quaker father, Little was far less devoted to his simon-pure American birth than to his life’s work. There he was a one-hundred-percenter – a Wobbly, a labor organizer whose life reads like a record of major strike battles. And in that work Little bridged the “difference” between “Hunky”, “wop”, Swede and American by the one vital aim in life, labor solidarity for human emancipation.

What he did when he was ten years old, what ambitions he had as fifteen aren’t recorded. Little probably never thought it important enough to mention these details to anyone. But in 1906 he did join the fighting group of unionists organized in the Industrial Workers of the World. And that fact is recorded. From then on it was this strike, that campaign, first as a rank and filer and then, for the last four years of bis life, as a member of the Executive Board of the I.W.W.

For seven years he worked in Fresno, Calif. There, in 1910, he led a free speech fight. Jailed, he refused to work on the rock pile and his jailers threw him into a dark cell, fed him only on bread and water. In 1916, he was on the Mesaba Iron Range, Minnesota, during the great strike battle led by the I.W.W. That same year he was down in Arizona for the mine strikes which were rapidly spreading from state to state.

As the war hysteria assumed vaster proportions, a reign of terror was loosed against strikers, labor militants in general, and anyone who could be identified with them. The copper and other mine barons saw to that. Raids were frequent and widespread. The Bisbee Deportation instanced the full viciousness of the boss offensive against labor. [1]

We Carry His Flag

Shortly after the Bisbee Deportation, Little left Arizona for Butte, Montana, to lend a hand in the mine strike. Local vigilantes acting under orders from the company lords sent several warnings to Little, William Dunne, and other strike leaders, telling them to clear out. The warnings were ignored. Men like Little aren’t easily intimidated..

At three in the morning of August 1, a band of masked men forced their way into the Finnish Lodging house where Little was staying. They broke into his room, dragged him out without his crutches (he had shortly before broken his leg), and carried him by car to a railroad trestle outside of town where they hanged him.

The state flunkies who found his body five hours later, “regretted” the incident, the attorney general called it “unfortunate” and the Butte City Council, promising an investigation, offered a reward for the capture of the criminals. Needless to say these were never apprehended. The I.W.W. offered evidence establishing the identity of five of the masked men. These proofs were ignored while the flunkies pursued their “investigation” and then quietly dropped the whole matter.

Little went to his death without a whimper. He had worked for the working-class. He died on the line of duty. “The red flag he dropped, a million will carry on.”


1. The Bisbee Deportation, July 1916, ranks as one of the most brutal outrages perpetrated in the history of American anti-labor violence. On June 26, a strike was called in Warren, Arizona. The sheriff of the county, a henchman of the Copper Trust, asked for federal troops. These were denied by the Federal Army officer who investigated and found the situation altogether peaceful. Not to be swayed from carrying out his obligations to his mine owning overlords. The sheriff organized a band of 2,000 men. This band descended on the miners’ camp in Bisbee, rounded up 1,186 men, herded them into cattle cars, and dumped them at Hermanas in the desert where for two days the deportees had no food, no water, no shelter. A nation-wide scandal resulted and the men were transported to Columbus, New Mexico, where they were taken care of by the National Government until September. The President’s commission, headed by Felix Frankfurter, was duly horrified, deplored the incident, and said that something ought to be done. Nothing was.

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