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Work People’s College (Duluth, Minnesota) records

Identifier: IHRC2857

Scope and Contents

Perhaps the most important part of the papers of Work People's College consists of the minutes of meetings of the School’s Board of Directors. The collection contains such minutes (including the microfilm) for the years 1904 to 1911, parts of 1917 and 1918, and 1935 to 1962. Although the minutes are hot available for the entire existence of the college, these minutes do give a very good picture of life in the school. The curriculum, the selection of teachers, the financial problems and ideological quarrels are all described within them. The correspondence, too, which is far from complete, illustrates life in the school, but it is much more heavily concentrated on financial problems.

The bulk of the collection is made up of the financial papers. They are almost complete for the entire existence of Work People's College. Included in them are financial accounts, checks, bills, annual statements, auditors' reports, tax records, insurance papers, building rent records, inventories of books and supplies, and papers dealing with the sale of the building. These financial papers could well serve as a source for the study of the various persons and societies which supported the school.

Work People's College gathered and maintained a large lending library of scripts of "proletarian" plays. The borrowers were usually Finnish American workers' clubs, which performed the plays in their halls. The collection contains lists of the borrowers of various plays between 1933 and 1940. In addition, there is a photocopy of a complete list of plays available and also photocopies of the scripts of six such plays. These six samples give a good indication of the nature of this historic collection of plays.

There was an active Students' Association at Work People's College. The papers of the Students' Association are valuable for the vivid picture they give us of the students' life in the school. In fact, for the period 1913-1914, when the Finnish Socialist Federation was split over tactical questions, the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors are missing, but the minutes of the Students' Association are here and give a good account of that critical time. The minutes of the Students' Association shed light on many ideological questions which were discussed in the school, and give clear examples of the manner in which the students were trained to handle problems in democratic ways through meetings.

The collection contains copies of the Work People's College Bulletin for the years 1923 and 1924. This was published by the Students' Association in English and is quite rare and valuable. Among the other miscellaneous materials are the following: a history of the school, written by a former student, Gust Aakula, various newspaper clippings, chiefly from the newspaper, Industrialisti, reports from the annual meetings of the college, several posters, and a printed school bulletin for the year 1917-1918.

In addition to the main body of the collection, there are four ledgers containing financial accounts and an inventory of supplies, and also one reel of microfilm (removed and added to the IHRC microfilm collection, number N 680) which contains the minutes of the Board of Directors of the Workers' Socialist Publishing Company from 1916 to 1920. This publishing company was located in Duluth and published the newspaper Industrialisti and many Finnish American socialist books.


  • 1904-1962


Language of Materials

Finnish and English


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


This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

For further information regarding the copyright, please contact the IHRCA.


In 1903, leaders of the Finnish National Lutheran Church of America opened the Finnish People's College and Theological Seminary (Suomalainen Kansan Opisto ja Teologinen Seminaari) in Minneapolis, Minnesota to provide training for clergy and a liberal education for Finnish Americans in general. The college in Minneapolis soon failed and was moved to the Duluth suburb of Smithville, Minnesota where more Finnish Americans had settled. Finnish American Socialists were strong supporters of the school and by 1908 had gained control of it. It was renamed the Work People's College (Tyovaen Opisto) and religion was dropped from the curriculum. During the next few years, the school was the pride of the Finnish Socialist Federation but when the Federation split in 1914 over the issue of industrial unionism, the Work People's College became a school for the Industrial Worker's of the World; it continued so until it ceased holding classes in 1940.


4 Linear Feet


Records (1904-1962) of the Work People's College (Tyovaen Opisto), Duluth, Minnesota, contain correspondence, financial records, stock certificates, student club minutes, student rosters, and lists of and photocopies of proletarian plays. The College was founded to serve the educational needs of Finnish American Socialists and later, members of the Industrial Workers of the World. It was dissolved in 1952.


The papers of the Work People's College have been organized into the following eight main sections:

I. Bylaws and Constitution, 1913-1929 (folder 1) II. Board of Directors, Minutes and reports, 1904-1911, 1917-1919, 1935-1962 (folders 2-6) (Minutes of 1904-1911 and 1942-1962 are on IHRC microfilm N 680) III. Correspondence, 1912-1959 (folders 7-8) IV. Financial papers, 1906-1957 (folders 9-34) V. Play Rental Library, 1933-1940 (folders 35-45) VI. Students' Association, 1911-1914 (folders 46-56) VII. Work People's College Bulletin, 1923-1924 (folder 57) VIII. Miscellaneous publications, newspaper clippings, posters, etc. (folders 58-61)

IX. Oversize materials

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of the Work People's College (Tyovaen Opisto) were deposited in the Immigration History Research Center (formerly the Immigrant Archives) in 1964. Sometime after the final dismemberment of the institution in 1962, the school's records were given for safekeeping to the Workers' Socialist Publishing Company, Duluth, Minnesota, publisher of the Finnish American newspaper, Industrialisti. In 1964 the papers were secured for the Immigrant Archives from Mr. Jack Ujanen, editor of Industrialisti, through the efforts of Professor Timothy L. Smith, former Director of the Center for Immigration Studies at the University of Minnesota.


A related IHRCA collection: Worker's Socialist Publishing Company (Duluth, Minn.).

Processing Information

The collection, consisting of nearly five linear feet of papers when received, was processed during 1974 by Auvo Kostiainen and Joseph D. Dwyer of the Immigration History Research Center. This preliminary inventory was This inventory was reformatted and encoded by Paul Bowman and Anna Peter, IHRC Archives Student Assistants, and Daniel Necas, Assistant Curator, in 2003 and 2017.

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Finding Aid in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Immigration History Research Center Archives Collecting Area