Item #010177 1907 – Labor union scrip issued by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) during the Goldfield, Nevada labor disputes that lasted from 1906 to 1908

1907 – Labor union scrip issued by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) during the Goldfield, Nevada labor disputes that lasted from 1906 to 1908

Goldfield, Nevada: 1907. Unbound.

An exceptionally rare $5 labor strike note was issued by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) during the Goldfield, Nevada miners’ strike. It measures 7¼” x 3¼”. Almost no wear; a dot of black ink at the tip of the upper left corner.

Labor conflict came to Goldfield in the early 1900s when the Western Miners Union, an IWW affiliate, began to fight the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), for control of mining labor. The Carpenters had a history of cordial relationships with Goldfield’s mines and legitimate businesses in the region. The IWW, a revolutionary union dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism, allied itself with the region’s saloon keepers and gambling houses, openly supporting the systematic theft of high-grade ore by miners as they exited work each day, and most of the stolen gold was spent on whiskey and card-playing. Additionally, the IWW tried to force all Goldfield workers, including AFL members) into joining its union. After an IWW thug murdered a pro-AFL restauranteur (some leftist revisionist historians deny this), armed workers from both camps began patrolling the 20,000-person city.

When the Panic of 1907 created a cash crisis, the Consolidated Mines Company (owned by industrialist George Wingfield and Senator George Nixon) began paying its workers in company scrip. This especially angered the Wobblies, who began a strike that shut down the mines. Wingfield and Nixon used the restauranteur’s murder, the inter-union conflict, the strike, and streets filled with armed men to convince Governor, “Honest John” Sparks to telegraph President Theodore Roosevelt, informing him that "domestic violence and unlawful corporations [the unions]" threatened Goldfield even though the city was never truly endangered. Alarmed, Roosevelt ordered three companies of the Army’s 22nd Infantry to occupy the town which caught the entire city by surprise. With the military in place to suppress IWW violence, the mine owners exploited the situation by reducing wages, requiring IWW miners to renounce their memberships, and hiring ‘scabs’ to fill vacancies. The strike collapsed within weeks, and the IWW was crushed. A later investigation showed the troop deployment was unnecessary, and Roosevelt publicly announced that he had been duped by Governor Sparks.

During the strike, the IWW issued its own “Exploitation Mercantile Company” scrip to strikers to trade for Wobbly-supplied goods. Its obverse contains a central motif of a Teddy Bear symbolizing Roosevelt’s involvement in the strike-breaking effort and stacked rifles in the lower corners representing the military’s occupation of the town. The reverse is emblazoned “This is the only kind of money Nevada will see if the Goldfield Miners Union lose the strike against the infamous scrip system.”

. Very good. Item #010177

(For the most impartial account of the events, see Elliott’s “Labor Troubles in the Mining Camp at Goldfield, Nevada, 1906-1908” in the November 1950 edition of the Pacific Historical Review.)

Exceptionally rare. Only two other examples of this IWW scrip are known to have survived. One sold at a Heritage auction in 2015; the other sold at a Holabird auction in 2022. This example is in better condition than either of those.

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Price: $900.00