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Tyomies Society (Superior, Wisconsin) records

Identifier: IHRC2635


Records (1903-1970) of the Tyomies Society Kustannus Yhtio (Superior, Wisconsin) include on microfilm minutes of the Board of Directors (1904-1928); and minutes of the Executive Committee (1920-1930). Also included are unpublished proletarian plays and sheet music from the Tyomies lending library and personal papers of Andrew Roine of Angora, Minnesota. Additionally, the collection contains a large set of photographs. The Tyomies Society was a radical Finnish-American publishing company which published the daily newspaper Tyomies. The Company began as a Finnish American Socialist organization, later Communist.


  • Creation: 1903-1970


Language of Materials



Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


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The Työmies Society came into existence as the organization that published Työmies (The Worker), which was founded in 1903 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The newspaper moved from Worcester to Hancock, Michigan in 1904, and to Superior, Wisconsin, in 1914 where it remained until its final printing in 1998. The chief function of the Työmies Society was the publication of newspapers, periodicals, and books for Finnish speaking Americans in order to promote the ideas of the international working class and to educate Finnish immigrants. Toward that end, the Työmies Society published Työmies (1903-1998); the women’s newspapers Tyolaisnainen (Working Woman) and Naisten Viiri (Women’s Banner). It also published seasonal, humorous, and children’s periodicals, as well as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books and pamphlets. Because of its various publishing endeavors, the Työmies Society can lay claim to being the most prolific publisher of the Finnish American community. At the time of its last printing, Työmies was the longest-running, continuously published Finnish immigrant newspaper in the United States, and at its peak it had the largest circulation. Throughout the course of its ninety-five year history, the Työmies remained an outspoken critic of American capitalism and a community voice for left-wing Finnish Americans, advocating socialism, cooperativism, and labor unions. The Society went beyond publishing, becoming a political, social, and cultural center in Finnish American working class culture. The close relationship between the various Finnish socialist locals and Työmies allowed the newspaper to disseminate cultural information from Finland and review and photograph many aspects of Finnish American hall life including plays, musical performances, and athletic events. In turn, the locals would often advertise cultural events in Työmies. Further, the newspaper itself maintained among its employees a chorus and drama club. After finding its home in the Lake Superior area of the Midwest, Työmies was followed by two other socialist newspapers, Toveri (The Comrade, 1907, in Astoria, Oregon) on the West Coast and Eteenpäin (Forward, founded in 1921) on the East Coast. Both papers would later be absorbed by Työmies, the latter joining in 1950 and adding its name, hence Työmies-Eteenpäin. Työmies proved itself to be a quite durable publication, enduring erosion from the ranks of the Finnish American left and constant attacks from outside. Originally an advocate of the Finnish Socialist Federation (founded in 1906 as the first foreign language federation within the American Socialist Party), the newspaper twice found itself at the center of factionalism within the Finnish American left. In 1914, a group of Finns who were committed to industrial unionism under the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) failed in a takeover attempt to acquire publishing operations and subsequently founded a separate newspaper in Duluth, Soscialisti (later Industrialisti). In 1920, an ideological shift occurred among Midwestern Finns under the leadership of Työmies, and socialist locals chose to affiliate with Lenin and the Third International, while East Coast socialist chapters tended to remain loyal to the American Socialist Party and the publication Raaivaaja (The Pioneer). Avowedly radical, the publication was attacked several times by reactionary forces. Printing was moved from Hancock to Superior after the tragic Copper Country strike of 1913 and the post-strike repression of activist miners and newspaper operations, which included the arrests of the editors and a boycott of advertising. The Työmies Society endured two red scares: the first during World War I and the early 1920s anti-Communist, anti-foreigner hysteria and government censorship, and the second during the 1950s with McCarthyism, which resulted in the attempted deportation of two Työmies editors, Knut Heikkinen and William Lahtinen. Other notable editors include: Vihtori Kosonen, Leo Laukki, George Halonen, Richard Pesola, and Leo Mattson. Inevitably, Työmies fell victim to the gradual assimilation of the Finnish American community and the loss of Finnish readership, as immigrants and second generation Finnish Americans (veterans of the vibrant working class movement of the pre-World War Two era) passed away. As of 1999, the Työmies Society published only one all-English publication, the monthly Finnish American Reporter.


18 Linear Feet

1 microfilm rolls


The Työmies Society collection was deposited in the archives in February 1973. This photograph collection was deposited in the IHRC archives in November 1993, as a supplement to the IHRC’s Työmies Society collection that was deposited in the archives in February 1973. The photographs were a gift from the Työmies Society of Superior, Wisconsin, publisher of the Työmies-Eteenpäin newspaper. In January 1995, with funding from the Wirtanen Family Fund and the United Fund for Finnish American Archives, Heather A. Muir, an independent scholar and former IHRC intern, was hired to process these archival materials. Timo Riippa, Curatorial Assistant for the IHRC, served as the project supervisor and Joel Wurl, IHRC Curator and Assistant Director, served as project director. In 1999, Muir, then Assistant Curator, completed processing of the photographic portion of the collection, and Thomas Mackaman, student assistant, contributed the historical sketch. In 2004-2005, the photographs were digitized and included in the U Media Archive database of digital content.

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