Progressive Mine Workers of America, District No. 1. Letter, 1939 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
This collection consists of a typescript letter from Progressive Mine Workers of America leaders to Thomas Mooney and the Mooney Molders Defense Committee inviting Mooney to speak at a Labor Day celebration.
Progressive Mine Workers of America was a coal miners' union organized in 1932 in Illinois, with headquarters in Springfield, Illinois. It was formed when Illinois miners voted to split from the United Mine Workers of America following unfavorable contract negotiations. At its formation, Progressive Mine Workers of America had approximately 18,000 members, with their membership doubling by the end of World War II. In subsequent decades membership declined as the PMWA clashed with the UMWA, and the union was eventually dissolved in 1999.
Thomas J. Mooney (1882-1942) was a socialist activist and labor leader from California. A member of the International Molders' Union, he was convicted of a bombing at the 1916 Preparedness Day Parade in San Francisco, which was organized by conservative groups and businesses to inspire support for U.S. entry into World War I. Many people believed Mooney was wrongfully convicted, and he became a martyr figure for the labor movement. The Mooney Molders Defense Committee was founded to raise money and work for his release and pardon. Mooney was pardoned in 1939 after witness testimony used in his trial was disproved. Following his release, he toured the country for speaking engagements.
The collection is comprised of a typescript letter on Progressive Mine Workers of America letterhead dated July 7, 1939. It reiterates an earlier request for Thomas Mooney to speak before 30,000 to 40,000 union men at a Labor Day meeting in Benld, Illinois, co-organized by PMWA, United Mine Workers of America, the American Federation of Labor, Communist and Socialist parties, and other religious, cultural, and civic groups. The letter describes the sponsors' dedication to Mooney's cause and closes with an offer to pay Mooney $500 for the speaking engagement. It is signed by Dave Reed, president of PMWA District 1; John Battuello, board member of PMWA District 6; William Campion, president of L.U. (local union) District 1; and William Wyskocil, mayor of Benld, Illinois.
The Library purchased this collection in 2020 with support from the Bruce C. Creamer Fund.