T-Bone Slim

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T-Bone Slim [1]
Diedc. May 15, 1942
OccupationWriter, hobo, labor activist, dock worker
Spouse(s)Rosa Kotila
ChildrenPaul, Anna, Florence, Edna

Matti Valentinpoika Huhta (1880–1942), better known by his pen name T-Bone Slim, was a humorist, poet, songwriter, hobo, and labor activist, who played a prominent role in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).[2]


Huhta was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, to Matti and Johanna Huhta, Finnish immigrants from Ilmajoki, Finland.[citation needed] As a young man he married Rosa Kotila of Ashtabula, with whom he had four children. The marriage ended when the children were young, and he left Ohio, having no further contact with Rosa or the children.[1]

He worked briefly as a reporter for the daily News-Tribune in Duluth, Minnesota but resigned after an editor "misquoted him and balled up his article" about an IWW mass meeting. According to one account, this was when he joined the Industrial Workers of the World or "Wobblies", as they are sometimes called.[1] Over a period of twenty years Huhta contributed numerous articles and songs to IWW publications and was widely regarded as one of the union's finest writers. He was a regular columnist for Industrial Solidarity and later wrote for the Industrial Worker and Industrialisti.[2]

In addition to his writing, he supported himself in various ways. His experience working on docks and barges around the country had by the mid-1930s garnered him a position as barge captain in New York City.[2] On May 15, 1942 Huhta's body was found floating in the Hudson River, where it appeared to have been for several days. The death was ruled an accidental drowning although the exact circumstances were unclear. There was no funeral, and in the end Huhta was buried in a potter's field on Hart Island.[1]


Following his death, T-Bone Slim became a source of inspiration for the emerging American surrealist movement,[3] and during the 1960s there was renewed interest in his songs when they were sung by activists during the Civil Rights Movement.[4] In an interview Noam Chomsky cited T-Bone Slim as one of his favorite Wobbly singers.[5]

A number of T-Bone Slim's songs can be found in the Little Red Songbook. Among the best known are The Popular Wobbly, Mysteries Of A Hobo's Life, and The Lumberjack's Prayer. First published by the IWW in 1909, the songbook has never gone out of print. The IWW brought out the 38th edition in 2010 [6] and the Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company has other works by T-Bone Slim in its catalog.[1][7] For a long time, there were no known photographs of T-Bone Slim, but the cartoon sketch at the head of his column was said to have been a good likeness.[2] However, in 2019 photos of him resurfaced[8][9]

The first Finnish translation of T-Bone Slim's writings was published in 2013.[10]

Selected works[edit]

  • IWW Songbook 1920
  • Power of These Two Hands 1922
  • Starving Amidst Too Much 1923


  • "Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack." [1]
  • "Always keep yourself fit to serve mankind. Watch yourself, do not watch the boss. Never exhaust yourself — there is nothing more disgusting than a man staggering home from work 'dog-tired', helplessly falling into a chair to have his child remove his shoes; then grabbing a hasty feverish supper; saying good-night to his family and rolling into bed half-washed, to repeat the same thing three hundred and twelve times per year, or until sickness puts a stop to his mad career." [7]
  • "Tear Gas: the most effective agent used by employers to persuade their employees that the interests of capital and labor are identical." [11]
  • Only the poor break laws—the rich evade them. [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Juice Is Stranger Than Friction: Selected Writings Of T-Bone Slim edited by Franklin Rosemont, (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1993.)
  2. ^ a b c d T-Bone Slim: A Brief Biography iww.org. Retrieved: March 14, 2013.
  3. ^ Remembering A Wobbly Surrealist readingthemaps.blogspot.com. Retrieved: March 14, 2013.
  4. ^ They Go Wild Over Me folkarchive.de. Retrieved: March 14, 2013.
  5. ^ Noam Chomsky Interview chomsky.info. Retrieved: March 14, 2013.
  6. ^ IWW Songbook 38th edition, (Chicago: Industrial Workers of the World, 2010.)
  7. ^ a b Starving Amidst Too Much . . . by T-Bone Slim et al., (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2005.)
  8. ^ Stammeier, Jenni. Suomalaiset junapummit : kulkureita ja kerjäläisiä Amerikan raiteilla. Jyväskylä. ISBN 9789522916211. OCLC 1112090887.
  9. ^ Two photographs of T-Bone Slim workingclasshistory.com. Retrieved: September 30, 2019.
  10. ^ Mielipuolipiteitä yes muita kirjoituksia: selected writings of T-Bone Slim translated by Ville-Juhani Sutinen, (Turku, Finland: Savukeidas, 2013.) adlibris.com. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  11. ^ Dancin' In The Streets by Franklin Rosemont and Charles Radcliffe, (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2005.)
  12. ^ Juice Is Stranger Than Friction: Selected Writings of T-Bone Slim Franklin Rosemont, editor. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1992 [1]
This article incorporates research by Jennifer Trask Ripley, using source material from the family and birth and death state archival records.

External links[edit]

Pyramid of Capitalist System 1911




Streaming audio

The Internet Archive