Joe Hill’s Ashes 1917

Swedish born International Workers of the World (IWW) member Joe Hill was convicted of murder based on circumstantial evidence in Utah in 1915. An international campaign and appeals by President Woodrow Wilson failed to halt his execution. The IWW packaged his remains in over 600 envelopes to be scattered by his supporters across the United States and abroad.

Not all the packets reached their intended destination. Convinced the IWW was funded by German enemies, the U.S. Attorney General orchestrated nationwide raids of IWW offices in 1917. One of the envelopes containing Joe Hill’s remains survived the raid but was intercepted in the mail, reportedly damaged by a cancellation machine. It came to the National Archives in the 1940s with other Post Office records.