1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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    R.I.H.S. Library page

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 Joseph M. Coldwell Papers

 Organizer, of Massachusetts and Rhode Island

 Papers, 1913-1944. Bulk, 1938-1940.

 Size: 0.25 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 358

 Processed by: Eric Barden, December 1993

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Joseph Maurice Coldwell was a prominent Massachusetts and Rhode Island Socialist and labor organizer. He was a leader of the Draper Textile Machine Company workers during the 1913 strike in Hopedale, Massachusetts. He was arrested in Providence in January of 1918 for violations of the Espionage Act, for a speech condemning the war and conscription. He was sentenced to three years at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, where he became friends with Eugene V. Debs, of whom he often spoke and wrote. Both were released from prison by order of President Harding on Christmas Day, 1922. Coldwell was the Socialist candidate for governor of Rhode Island in 1934, and for U.S. Senator in 1936.


Sullivan, Joseph. "A Giant of Embodied Conscience: Joseph M. Coldwell and the Socialist Party in Rhode Island," Rhode Island History (November 1992), 117-129.

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Scope and content:

            The Joseph Coldwell Papers consist primarily of copies of columns called "Working Class Philosophy" and manuscripts written by Coldwell relating to socialism and labor. There are letters (including one to author Irving Howe), and manuscript reminiscences about Eugene V. Debs.

            Some correspondence concerns eviction by the Draper Company and an affidavit clearing him of an attempted framing for his activities during the Draper Strike; also a letter granting him conditional pardon during the same case; and some letters from police and others concerning socialist activities.

            Rounding out the collection are an anti-war pamphlet; the 1918 brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals concerning his arrest under the Espionage Act; miscellaneous articles including "How I Became A Socialist" by Jack London and his campaign to free the Du Quoin boys in Illinois; and political cartoons.

            Additional papers concerning Coldwell can be found in the Lawrence N. Spitz Papers (MSS 31).

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            These papers were donated in 1951 by Winfield Scott, the literary editor of the Providence Journal who befriended Coldwell. Scott's papers, which include some Coldwell material, are in Brown University's John Hay Library.

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Processing note:

            Contents of folder 7 (scrapbook and photostat copies) were copied onto archival paper.

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f. 1 Arrests and Socialist Activities- Copy of letters, documents and affidavits - 1913, 1917-18.

f. 2 Appeal - Brief filed in the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals- 1918.

f. 3 Debs, Eugene Victor - Copy of articles about Debs; letters; manuscript- 1919, 1944.


f. 4 Writings - Copies of column by Coldwell and article; manuscripts- 1935, 1938, 1940 and undated.

f. 5 Cartoons - Copy of political cartoons from union newspaper - 1937 and undated.

f. 6 Miscellaneous - Copy of articles on Coldwell, Du Quoin boys, Jack London, labor; anti-war pamphlet- 1917, 1938-39.

f. 7 Original Papers - Original articles from scrap book (see folders 1, 2, 3, 5, 7); copies of documents and letters (see Folder 4) - 1913-1940.

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Debs, Eugene V. (1855-1926)

Howe, Irving

Labor movement - Rhode Island

London, Jack (1876-1916)

Socialist Party - Rhode Island

World War, 1914-1918

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