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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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History Fri Nov 13 2015

100th Anniversary of Joe Hill's Execution to be Celebrated with Music & Eulogies

Joe HillThe 100th anniversary of the execution and funeral of Joe Hill, the Swedish immigrant songwriter and labor activist, will be celebrated Sunday evening, Nov. 22, at the Hideout. The evening will include a reenactment of his funeral at Chicago's old West Side Auditorium and reinterpreted versions of the songs played at his funeral by a crew of Chicago musicians.

Performers will include Bucky Halker, Jon Langford, Sally Timms, LeRoy Bach, Khari Lemuel, Martin Billheimer, Janet Bean, Fluffy and Psalm One. Hill's music inspired musicians like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and his songs, such as "Preacher and the Slave," "Rebel Girl" and "Casey Jones," were sung by workers all over the country.

In addition to the music, eulogies will describe why Hill's life and legacy are meaningful to us today. Speakers will include Larry Spivack (Illinois Labor History Society), Richard Lindberg (Swedish American Museum), Alison Olhava and Randall Jamrok (both of the Industrial Workers of the World).

Joe Hill's funeral procession
Joe Hill's funeral procession.

Hill was executed in Utah for a murder most historians believe he didn't commit. After his execution by firing squad on Nov. 19, 1915, his body was shipped back to Chicago for cremation and burial. His funeral service at the West Side Auditorium (on Racine between Harrison and Roosevelt) was attended by thousands of people, and thousands more lined the streets for his funeral procession, according to news accounts at the time.

Just before his execution, Hill wrote a telegram to Bill Haywood, an IWW leader, saying, "Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize... Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah."

Hill's body was cremated at Graceland Cemetery and at his request his ashes were placed in envelopes and mailed to mourners all across the country. Participants in next Sunday's reenactment will be asked to write why Joe Hill lives today. The slips of paper will be placed in a coffin designed by Tim Dashnaw and Jon Langford. The coffin will be burned at the end of the evening and ashes will be distributed to the audience.

Joe Hill's funeral will be reenacted at 7pm on Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. Suggested donation is $10; all proceeds will go to the artists. Other organizations involved in the event are Pocket Guide to Hell, the organization specializing in reenacting Chicago's history, especially social justice and labor history; and the Uri-Eichen Gallery.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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