Shingle weavers in Seattle and Ballard organize in May 1905.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 5/05/1999
  • Essay 1077

In May 1905, 50 shingle weavers of Seattle and Ballard form Local 12 of the International Shingle Weavers Union of America.

In the words of historian Andrew Mason Prouty, shingle weavers depended for their livelihood on the dexterity of their hands. They juggled shingles that fell from the flashing blades of the saws, caught the cedar boards in the air, flipped them from one hand to the other and "wove" them into finished bundles ready for shipment. A journeyman shingle weaver could handle 30,000 singles in a ten hour shift. Each time -- 30,000 times a day -- when he reached for one of those flying pieces of cedar, he gambled the reflexes of eye and muscle against the instant amputation of his fingers or his hand.

By 1908 the union had grown to 200 members.

Sources: [Washington] Bureau of Labor, Sixth Biennial Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Factory Inspection 1907-1908 (Olympia: C.W. Gorham, Public Printer, 1908), 133; Andrew Mason Prouty, More Deadly Than War: Pacific Coast Logging, 1827-1981 (New York: London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985).
Note: This essay was expanded on October 22, 2008.

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