John Wiita, Papers,

Immigration History Research Center
University of Minnesota

| Provenance/Processing | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Preliminary Container List

IHRC #49
Papers, 1976-1978

X linear feet

17 folders




    The John Wiita papers were deposited in the archives of the Immigration History Research Center from April 1976 through November 1977.  They were acquired through the efforts of Michael G. Karni, Research Associate for the Immigration History Research Center.  The collection consists of two linear inches of correspondence, essays, and biographies, and all of the material is in English.  The John Wiita Collection was processed in 1977, and completed in 1979, by Timo Riippa, Research Assistant at the Immigration History Research Center. This inventory was prepared for the Internet by Paul Bowman, IHRC Student Assistant and Daniel Necas, IHRC Assistant Curator, in 2003.

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Biographical Sketch

    John Wiita was born in Ylistaro, Finland in 1888.  After attending folk school, he came to the United States at the age of 17.  His first residence was in Superior, Wisconsin where he worked as a longshoreman and later as a railroad car repairman.  In 1907 Wiita joined the Superior chapter of the Finnish Socialist Federation.  He was also associated with the Work People's College in Duluth, Minnesota until 1916 when it became a school of the Industrial Workers of the World.  In 1909 he was elected to the board of directors, serving as its secretary.  Later he served as an associate instructor and as the director of the correspondence school.

    In 1910 Wiita was elected to the executive committee of the Finnish Socialist Federation's mid-western district, acting as its secretary in 1911 and again in 1914.  When he moved to Detroit in 1916 to find work in an automotive factory, he participated in activities of Socialist Party and was a member of the Party's Detroit Central Committee.

    John Wiita's mobility throughout the major Finnish communities in the U.S. and Canada is reflected in his involvement with the Finnish American and Finnish Canadian labor press.  He was on the editorial staff of the Toveri in Astoria, Oregon in 1913, the Socialisti in Duluth in 1915, the Tyomies in Superior in 1917 and again in 1928, Vapaus in Sudbury, Ontario from 1918-1922, the Eteenpain in Worcester, Massachusetts from 1923 to 1925 and again from 1939 to 1943.

    After the 1920 split within the Finnish Socialist Federation, Wiita remianed with the left-win majority and rose to prominence both in the Finnish Federation as well as the Worker's (Communist) Party of America.  In 1925 he was elected to the Party's central committee and became the director of the move to reorganize the Finnish Federation during the 1924-1925 "bolshevization" period.  Wiita was the principal organizer of the Finnish Workers Federation, which was founded in 1927.  He became its national secretary and then national chairman, a post he held until 1932.

    In 1929, the Worker's Party assigned John Wiita to direct the Agrarian Department of the Party, a position he held until 1935 when he became the Party's district secretary for Upper Michigan.  After 1943 he discontinued his membership and activities for the Party.  In the Fall of 1945, he moved to Brooklyn, Connecticut and became involved in real estate.  He was a founding member of the Northeastern Board of Realtors and served numerous terms on its executive board as well as on various committees.  John Wiita continues to make his home in Brooklyn, Connecticut.

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Scope and Content

    The John Wiita Collection originated from correspondence between John Wiita and Michael Karni, when Wiita began responding to specific questions with lengthy, detailed answers.  In 1977 he wrote an essay on the co-op movement, which was followed the next year by a series of fifteen essays and biographies on varied subjects.  The final essay, "Cultural Life of the Finnish-American Labor Movement", was added to the collection by courtesy of the Iron Range Historical Society in Gilbert, Minnesota, where it had been deposited in 1978.

The collection has been organized into the following two categories:
            I.  Correspondence (folder 1)
           II.  Essays and Biographies (folders 2-17)

Section I

    The correspondence in this folder is between John Wiita and Michael Karni.

Section II

    John Wiita's essays and biographies have been arranged chronologically according to the date of their writing.  Three of the folders contain both the original draft as well as the final typed copy.

    N.B.  Many of the essays in this collection draw on material from John Wiita's Autobiography, which is contained in the IHRC's Finnish American collection.  The Autobiography is written in Finnish.

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Preliminary Container List

 Partial Subject Inventory

Ahlquist, J.V.
    Folders 2, 3

Alanne, Severi
    Folders 2, 13

Bedacht, Max
    Folder 2

Boman, Vilho
    Folders 1-2

Burman, Fahle
    Folders 1-2, 6

Canadian Finnish Organization
    Folders 1, 3, 10

    Folders 2, 6, 8, 10, 13

Cooperative Central Exchange
    Folders 1, 3, 10

Cooperative Pyramid Builder
    Folder 2

    Folders 1-2, 4-8, 10-11, 13

Farmer Labor Party
    Folder 2

Finnish Socialist Federation
    Folders 1-3, 5-6, 8, 10-17

Finnish Workers Federation
    Folders 1-3, 6, 8, 10-11, 16-17

Foster, William L.
    Folder 2

Gitlow, Benjamin
    Folder 2

Halonen, George
    Folders 1-2, 10, 13

Hayes, A.J.
    Folder 2

Heikkinen, K.E.
    Folders 2, 13

Heino, David
    Folders 1-2, 8, 13, 15

Hendrickson, Martin
    Folders 1-13

Humon, George
    Folders 12-13

    Folders 1-4, 11-13

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
    Folders 1-4, 11-15, 17

Jaakola, Fred
    Folders 1, 4, 13, 15

Jokela-McCone, Selma
    Folders 1, 13

Koski, Henry
    Folder 2

Kosonen, Victor
    Folder 13

Kuusinen, Aino, Pseud. Aino Morton
    Folder 1

Kuusinen, O.V.
    Folders 1-2, 6, 8

    Folders 1-2, 13

Laukki, Leo
    Folders 1, 4-5, 10, 13-14

Lovestone, Jay
    Folders 2, 6

Maki, Theodore
    Folders 1-2, 11

Marttila, William
    Folders 1, 8, 12-13

Mattson, Leo
    Folders 6, 13

Murros, Kaapo
    Folders 1, 12-13

Naisten Viiri
    Folders 1-2, 13

Non-Partisan League
    Folder 9

Nuorteva, Santeri
    Folders 1, 10, 13-15

Ohrn, Axel
    Folders 1-2, 10, 13

    Folders 2, 13

Pelto Ja Koti
    Folders 2, 8

Pesola, Richard
    Folders 1, 7-8, 13

    Folders 2, 13-14

    Folders 1-3, 5, 8, 13-14

Rissanen, Aku
    Folders 1, 5, 10, 13-15

Rissanen, Kalle
    Folder 2

Ronn, Eskel
    Folders 1-2

Ruthenberg, Leonard
    Folders 2, 6

Saari, Onni
    Folders 2-3, 5, 10, 13, 15

    Folder 13

Sirola, Yrjo
    Folders 1-2, 5-6, 10, 13-14

Socialist Party of America
    Folder 3, 11, 13, 16-17

Soviet Karelia
    Folders 2, 6, 8, 10

Sulkanen, Elis
    Folders 1-3, 5-6, 8, 10, 13-15, 17

Suvanto, K.A.
    Folders 2, 13

Syrjala, F.J.
    Folders 1, 5, 13-14

Tanner, A.F.
    Folder 13

Tenhunen, Matti
    Folders 1-2, 8, 10, 13

Tokoi, Oscar
    Folder 3

    Folders 1-3, 5-8, 10, 13-15

    Folders 1, 4, 13-14

    Folders 1, 13

    Folders 1-14, 16

Uusi Kotimaa
    Folder 13

    Folder 13

Vapaa Sana
    Folders 1, 3, 13

    Folders 1, 3-4, 8, 10, 13

    Folders 1, 13

Workers and Farmers Coop Unity Alliance
    Folder 2

Workers (Communist) Party of America
    Folders 1-3, 6, 8-11, 13, 17

Work People's College
    Folders 1-6, 8, 10, 12-15, 17

Folder Inventory

Folder # Folder Title and Description of Contents
1 Correspondence, April 1, 1976 - November 20, 1977
The correspondence in this folder contains Wiita's general observations on the Finnish American Workers' movement as well as answers to specific questions about his participation in it.
2 "Crisis in the Finnish American Left, 1925-1930" -- November 16, 1976
This essay describes events leading up to the split in the Finnish American cooperative movement in 1930
3 "A Finnish American in Canada, 1918-1923" -- December 8, 1976
In this essay, Wiita recalls his participation in the Canadian Finnish Organization and as a newspaper editor.
4 "Leo Laukki," -- January, 1977
This folder contains a short biography of the noted Finnish lecturer, editor and political theoretician, Leo Laukki.
5 "Aku Rissanen," -- January, 1977
This biography describes the life of Rissanen, a famous editor, teacher, and lecturer.
6 "In Memory of Yrjo Sirola," -- January, 1977
In this essay, Wiita recalls his experience with Yrjo Sirola, one of the leading figures in the Finnish Communist Party in exile in Russia and Finnish American labor movement.
7 "Memo on Richard Pesola," -- February, 1977
This memo is a short biography of the noted Finnish labor editor and poet, Richard Pesola.
8 "William Marttila," -- February, 1977
In this biography, Wiita describe his experiences with Marttila, a famous lecturer, organizer and editor.
9 "My Experiences in Work Among American Farmers During The 1930's Agrarian Crisis," -- March, 1977
This essay describes Wiita's experiences as head of the Communist Party's Agrarian Department from 1930-1935.
10 "Biographical Sketch," -- March, 1977
This folder contains Wiita's own autobiographical sketch.
11 "Some Experiences of My Work at Upper Michigan as Communist Party District Secretary," -- March 13, 1977
The essay describes Wiita's activities in the Party from 1935 to 1943, when he retired to private life.
12 "My Early Years in the United States," -- April 7, 1977
In this essay, John Wiita describes his experience as a laborer during his first years in America.  He also recalls how he became involved in the Socialist movement.
13 "The Finnish American Labor" -- May 30, 1977
This essay is Wiita's first-hand description of Finnish American radical newspapers and their editors.
14 "Tyovaen Opisto-Working People's College," -- July, 1977
John Wiita served on the Work People's College board of directors as well as being an assistant instructor under Yrjo Sirola.  This essay provides a detailed picture of the college and its instructors.
15 "Some Corrections to Sulkanen's Work:  Amerikan Suomalaisen Tyovaenliikkeen Historia," -- August 9, 1977
These corrections are to Elis Sulkanen's The History of the Finnish American Workers' Movement.  This folder contains both the original draft as well as the final typed copy.
16 "In Memorium of Theodore Maki," -- November 20, 1977
John Wiita wrote this short obituary of his personal friend Theodore Maki, one of the leading functionaries within the Finnish Workers' Federation.  This folder contains both the original draft as well as the final copy.
17 "Cultural Life of the Finnish-American Labor Movement," -- March 14, 1978
In this essay, Wiita describes the varied cultural and recreational activities that were prominent among Finnish American Socialists, industrial unionists, and communists.  Theatrical activity is given special emphasis.


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