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Dozenberg Part I - Party Functionary

One of the worst cases of labor violence in the United States occurred in June, 1922 in far downstate Illinois’ Williamson County. During two days of violence 23 people were killed including 3 striking miners with the rest being replacement workers and guards. The latter group was killed with particular brutality.

The horrendous events in Herrin, IL were part of a larger national labor clash. In April, 1922, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) called a national strike. After eight weeks the Southern Illinois Coal Company reneged on an arrangement with local Union representatives and utilized strikebreakers under heavy guard. Three union workers were killed by armed guards and this resulted in a violently cataclysmic response. 

John L. Lewis President of the UMWA successfully deflected any union responsibility for the events. He skillfully directed blame to Communist agitators. This argument was aided by Nicholas Dozenberg from Chicago. Dozenberg was a Communist Party functionary, who bragged that the party had sixty-seven Lithuanian members in Herrin agitating against the mine owners. Contrary, to Dozenberg’s and Lewis’s claim, it appears that the tragic events in Herrin were driven by local factors: union and mine ownership. The claim of outsiders descending on Illinois’ coal region and having an impact seems almost comical.

Nicholas Dozenberg arrived from what is now Latvia in 1904. He joined other family in the Boston suburb of Roxbury, Massachusetts. He married Katherine A. Paegle, in the local Trinity Latvian Lutheran Church. In 1911, he became a Naturalized US citizen. Dozenberg became a member of the Latvian Workmen's Association, which later affiliated with the Socialist Party of America. Dozenberg later joined the Communist Party, then called the Workers Party of America (WPA), and became the business manager of the Voice of Labor, in Chicago. After managing the business affairs of the Voice of Labor, and later the Daily Worker, he became the Director of the Literature Department of the WPA. 

To my knowledge, Dozenberg is the only Latvian-American to run for local political office. In 1925 he ran for Alderman of the 28th Ward on the WPA (Communist) ticket. His campaign manager was August Ozol and he was actively supported by the the local Lettish (Latvian) and west side Scandinavian branches of the WPA . He received 167 (approx. 2%) of the votes cast. The 28th Ward was roughly bounded by Belmont Av, North Av., Sacramento Av. and the Chicago River. The Chicago Lettish branch had a regular Friday meeting at a tavern at 4359 W Thomas St.  The Secretary of the Lettish Branch, F. Zelms reported that 56 members attended the Dec. 12, 1924  meeting. 

Dozenberg continued on until 1927 when he managed and joined the party’s move from Chicago to New York. The move to New York set the stage for the next chapter in Dozenberg’s life, that I will discuss in another article.

I encourage the reader to check out this web site:

This site is maintained by descendants of Nicholas Dozenberg:

Commonsense Anticommunism: Labor and Civil Liberties Between the World Wars:

- Artis Inka

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