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William E. Trautmann Papers

Identifier: LP001660

Scope and Content

The William E. Trautmann Collection consists of the unpublished manuscript of the second volume of a projected three-volume autobiography, “Fifty Years of Warfare.” Entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Workers of the World,” Book 2 describes the author’s experiences with the IWW, including his involvement in various factional disputes, during the period 1905 to 1920.

Important subjects in the collection: American Federation of Labor Brewery Workers National Union (BWU) Daniel DeLeon Industrial Workers of the World Vincent St. John Charles Sherman Socialist Party (U.S.) Steel Workers’ Strike, McKees Rocks, Pa., 1909 Textile Workers’ Strike, Lawrence, Mass., 1912 Western Federation of Miners


  • 1905 - 1920


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


William E. Trautmann was born in New Zealand of German-American parents in 1869 and emigrated to the United States from Germany in the late 1890s, eventually settling in Ohio, where he worked for the Brewery Workers Union (BWU) and served as a national committeeman to the Socialist Party of America. His association with the BWU ended, however, once he got involved with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), helping to found the radical union in 1905 and becoming its secretary-treasurer and a member of its first general executive board.

Replaced as secretary-treasurer by Vincent St. John in 1908, Trautmann was elected a general organizer and in 1909, led the Pressed Steel Car Company strike at McKees Rocks, Pa., the IWW’s first successful effort among Eastern United States immigrant workers. Three years later he helped direct the famous Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike, but becoming disillusioned with the IWW’s preoccupation with direct action, joined Daniel DeLeon’s Detroit IWW in 1913.


.25 Linear Feet (1 MB)


A founding member and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), William Trautmann served as secretary-treasurer and on the first IWW executive board. As an IWW organizer, Mr. Trautmann led the 1909 McKees Rocks, Pa. Pressed Steel Car Company Strike and the Lawrence, Mass. textile workers strike of 1912. Mr. Trautmann’s papers include a portion of an unpublished autobiography manuscript describing his experiences with the IWW and his involvement in various factional disputes.


Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the William E. Trautmann Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA