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Vincent Saint John

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Vincent Saint John
Born1876 (1876)
Died1929 (aged 52–53)
Resting placeOakland, California
Occupation(s)Miner, Labor leader
Parent(s)Silas St. John and "Mary" Cecilia Magee

Vincent Saint John (1876–1929) was an American labor leader and prominent Wobbly, among the most influential radical labor leaders of the 20th century.


Vincent St. John was born in Newport, Kentucky and was the only son of New York City native Silas St. John and Irish immigrant Marian "Mary" Cecilia Magee. He had a sister two years younger named Helen.

The family moved frequently, Silas going wherever he could to find employment as a clerk or bookkeeper. St. John worked as a miner from the age of seventeen, moving to Telluride, Colorado in 1897. In 1900 St. John became president of the Western Federation of Miners' Union Local 63 at Telluride. He led the 1901 strike in that mining camp to a successful conclusion, gaining a standard minimum wage for the miners.

He was shadowed by Pinkertons hired by the Mine Operators' Association, stalked by gunmen, had a price on his head, was arrested and charged with crimes he never committed, and was condemned by the anti-labor press as a "murderer."[citation needed]

Bulkeley Wells, a Telluride mining company president and manager who was "born to privilege... [and was] convinced laborers were beneath him," was intent upon hanging St. John. Wells conspired with others, including Pinkerton manager James McParland, to accuse the head of the WFM local of conducting a "reign of terror" — and in particular, of murdering William J. Barney, a mine guard who had left his post. There was one significant complicating factor: Barney was not dead, but had merely failed to notify anyone that he had left.[1]

On 5 November 1907 St. John was shot in Goldfield, Nevada by a conservative member of the Western Federation of Miners. The two bullets in his right wrist shattered the bone, crippling his hand.[2][3] St. John was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World and in 1908–1914 he led that union as the General Secretary. In January 1915 he retired to a small copper claim in New Mexico, but was later arrested for a May 1918 mass trial as the federal government brought sweeping indictments against 101 IWW members.[4] St. John was not a member at that time, but the blanket indictments of hundreds of Wobblies brought blanket convictions, and St. John was sentenced to federal prison at Leavenworth. He was freed by President Warren G. Harding in 1923.[5]

Vincent St. John died in San Francisco in June 1929 following a protracted illness.[6] He is buried in Oakland, California.


  1. ^ Martin, MaryJoy (2004). The Corpse On Boomerang Road, Telluride's War On Labor 1899-1908. Western Reflections Publishing Company. pp. 11–24, 231. ISBN 1-932738-02-9.
  2. ^ Hermida, Arianne. "IWW Yearbook 1907". IWW History Project. University of Washington. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Vincent St. John Victim of Gunman". Industrial Union Bulletin. Vol. 1, no. 38. 16 November 1907. p. 1.
  4. ^ Goldstein, Robert Justin (2001). Political Repression in Modern America from 1870 to 1976. University of Illinois Press. p. 118. ISBN 0-252-06964-1.
  5. ^ "Two War Offenders Freed From Prison" (PDF). New York Times (June 28). 1922. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  6. ^ "Vincent St. John, IWW Aide, Dies," San Francisco Examiner, vol. 130, no. 174 (June 23, 1929), p. 16.

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