Records of the Work People's College (Tyovaen Opisto)


Immigration History Research Center
University of Minnesota

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

IHRC #17
Papers, ca.1904-1962

61 folders, 4 Ledgers, one reel of microfilm




The papers of the Work People's College (Tyovaen Opisto) were deposited in the Immigration History Research Center (formerly the Immigrant Archives) in 1964.  Sometime after the final dismemberment of the institution in 1962, the school's records were given for safekeeping to the Workers' Socialist Publishing Company, Duluth, Minnesota, publisher of the Finnish American newspaper, Industrialisti.  In 1964 the papers were secured for the Immigrant Archives from Mr. Jack Ujanen, editor of Industrialisti, through the efforts of Professor Timothy L. Smith, former Director of the Center for Immigration Studies at the University of Minnesota.  The collection, consisting of nearly five linear feet of papers when received, was processed during 1974 by Auvo Kostiainen and Joseph D. Dwyer of the Immigration History Research Center. This preliminary inventory was prepared for the Internet by Student Assistant, Paul Bowman, and Assistant Curator, Daniel Necas.

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Historical Sketch

    In the fall of 1903, leaders of the Finnish National Church of America opened the Finnish People's College and Theological Seminary (Suomalainen Kansan Opisto ja Teologinen Seminaari) in Minneapolis to provide training for Finnish American ministers and a liberal education for Finnish Americans in general.  The college was open to all who wished to attend and was financed by the sale of stock shares.  The founding ministers, in inviting Finns from all ideological and theological quarters to support the school, were apparently responding to the Social Gospel Movement of the period.

    The college soon failed in Minneapolis for lack of students and was moved to Smithville, Minnesota, a suburb of Duluth, where the number of Finnish Americans was much greater.  Finnish American Socialists were strong supporters of the school and within a few years found themselves in control of the majority of the school's stock -- a development which coincided with the Finnish Socialist Federation's expressed desire to open a workers' college in which to train the future leaders of the Socialist Commonwealth.

    By 1908, the Socialists had gained total control of the college, renamed it the Work People's College (Tyovaen Opisto) and had dropped religion from the curriculum in favor of Darwinism, Marxist history, economics, sociology, bookkeeping, typing and English.

    During the next five years, Work People's College became the pride of the Finnish Socialist Federation and the theoretical center for Finnish American leftism.  Between 1912 and 1914, however, several influential teachers began to promote syndicalism and urged their students to affiliate with the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.). In 1914 the entire Federation split over the issue of industrial unionism and Work People's College became an I.W.W. school, which it continued to be until it ceased holding classes in 1940.  The property was finally liquidated in 1962.

    At its peak in the school year of 1913-1914 Work People's College had a student body of approximately one hundred and fifty.

    The Work People's College Collection is important to students of immigrant labor radicalism, because the school's teachers and students were quite influential in persuading several thousand Finnish American Socialists to leave the Socialist Party and cast their fortunes with the Industrial Workers of the World, especially after the iron and copper workers' strikes of 1907 and 1913 in Minnesota and Michigan.

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Scope and Content

Perhaps the most important part of the papers of Work People's College consists of the minutes of meetings of the School's Board of Directors.  The collection contains such minutes (including the microfilm) for the years 1904 to 1911, parts of 1917 and 1918, and 1935 to 1962.  Although the minutes are hot available for the entire existence of the college, these minutes do give a very good picture of life in the school.  The curriculum, the selection of teachers, the financial problems and ideological quarrels are all described within them.  The correspondence, too, which is far from complete, illustrates life in the school, but it is much more heavily concentrated on financial problems.

The bulk of the collection is made up of the financial papers.  They are almost complete for the entire existence of Work People's College.  Included in them are financial accounts, checks, bills, annual statements, auditors' reports, tax records, insurance papers, building rent records, inventories of books and supplies, and papers dealing with the sale of the building.  These financial papers could well serve as a source for the study of the various persons and societies which supported the school.

Work People's College gathered and maintained a large lending library of scripts of "proletarian" plays.  The borrowers were usually Finnish American workers' clubs, which performed the plays in their halls.  The collection contains lists of the borrowers of various plays between 1933 and 1940.  In addition, there is a photocopy of a complete list of plays available and also photocopies of the scripts of six such plays.  These six samples give a good indication of the nature of this historic collection of plays.

There was an active Students' Association at Work People's College.  The papers of the Students' Association are valuable for the vivid picture they give us of the students' life in the school.  In fact, for the period 1913-1914, when the Finnish Socialist Federation was split over tactical questions, the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors are missing, but the minutes of the Students' Association are here and give a good account of that critical time.  The minutes of the Students' Association shed light on many ideological questions which were discussed in the school, and give clear examples of the manner in which the students were trained to handle problems in democratic ways through meetings.

The collection contains copies of the Work People's College Bulletin for the years 1923 and 1924.  This was published by the Students' Association in English and is quite rare and valuable.  Among the other miscellaneous materials are the following: a history of the school, written by a former student, Gust Aakula, various newspaper clippings, chiefly from the newspaper, Industrialisti, reports from the annual meetings of the college, several posters, and a printed school bulletin for the year 1917-1918.

In addition to the main body of the collection, there are four ledgers containing financial accounts and an inventory of supplies, and also one reel of microfilm (removed and added to the IHRC microfilm collection, number N 680) which contains the minutes of the Board of Directors of the Workers' Socialist Publishing Company from 1916 to 1920.  This publishing company was located in Duluth and published the newspaper Industrialisti and many Finnish American socialist books.

Organization of the Collection

The papers of the Work People's College have been organized into the following eight main sections:

I.                 Bylaws and Constitution, 1913-1929 (folder 1)
II.                Board of Directors, Minutes and reports, 1904-1911, 1917-1919, 1935-1962 (folders 2-6)
                            (Minutes of 1904-1911 and 1942-1962 are on IHRC microfilm N 680)
III.              Correspondence, 1912-1959 (folders 7-8)
IV.              Financial papers, 1906-1957 (folders 9-34)
V.               Play Rental Library, 1933-1940 (folders 35-45)
VI.             Students' Association, 1911-1914 (folders 46-56)
VII.           Work People's College Bulletin, 1923-1924 (folder 57)
VIII.           Miscellaneous publications, newspaper clippings, posters, etc. (folders 58-61)


The following is a guide, not a complete index, to certain persons, subjects, and associations prominent in the collection.

        Folders 2-4, 8, 58

        Folders 2-4

        Folders 35-45, 59

        Folder 18

        Folders 5, 7, 53

        Folder 8

INDUSTRIALISTI (newspaper), Duluth, Minnesota
        Folders 8, 59

        Folders 2-4

        Folder 45

        Folder 44

        Folders 18, 51-52

        Folders 7-8

        Folders 5, 7, 18

        Folder 42

        Folder 40

        Folder 57

        Folders 35-45, 59

        Folders 46-56

        Folders 4, 8, and microfilm N 680

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Preliminary Container List

Box # Folder # Folder Title and Description
1 Incorporation and Bylaws, 1913-1929
The folder includes the papers of incorporation of the college and various editions of the bylaws from 1913 to 1929.  Moreover, there are some resolutions on proposed changes in the bylaws.
(N 680)
Board of Directors, Minutes of Meetings, April 6, 1904 - May 28, 1911
The written minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors of the college for the period from April 6, 1904 to May 28, 1911.  This section of the minutes of the Board are found on a negative microfilm, and were removed from the manuscript collection because of format.  They may be found in the Immigration History Research Center's microfilm collection under film number N 680.
2 Board of Directors, Minutes of Meetings, June 1917 - February 17, 1918 and June 23, 1935 - December 18, 1936
Included are the written minutes of the Board of Directors in ledger format for the period from June 1917 to February 17, 1918, and following a gap of some seventeen years, also for the period from June 23, 1935 to December 18, 1936.
3 Board of Directors, Minutes of Meetings, March 14,1937 - May 14, 1939
The complete written minutes of Board meetings for the period from March 141 1937 to May, 1939.
4 Board of Directors, Minutes of Meetings, June 25, 1939-March 15, 1942
Written minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors, in ledger format, for the period from June 25, 1939 to March 15, 1942.
(N 680)
Board of Directors, Minutes of Meetings, June 28, 1942 - September 9, 1962
The final section of the written minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors continues once more on a negative microfilm.  The film is located in the Immigration History Research Center's microfilm collection, and can be found under the number N 680.
5 Board of Directors, Reports from the Director, 1918-1919
These are six periodic reports made by directors of Work People's College to the Board.  The reports give insights into many aspects of the work of the school, its student life, teaching, and publications.
6 Board of Directors, Rules and Regulations, ca.1918
This folder consists of guidelines drawn up by the Board of Directors pertaining to the assigning of rooms in the school's dormitory, and also rules and regulations for dormitory tenants.
7 Correspondence, General, December 22, 1912 - October 7, 1949
This correspondence is that which emanated from the office of the school's Director.  The subject matter is extremely varied, for example, there are letters dealing with the painting of the school building, greetings from former students, and requests from socialist clubs and societies to have students as speakers for their celebrations.
8 Correspondence, General, July 13, 1950 - May 2, 1959
Content of this folder is similar to the preceding, but covering the period from 1950 to 1959.  Several of the most recent letters concern the final sale of the school building.
9 Daily Account Book, 1912-1938
These are the daily financial records of the Work People's College for the period from July, 1912 to July, 1921.  In addition, some information is provided in full ledger format for the period from May 15, 1913, to May 31, 1938 in three oversized ledger books, which accompany the manuscript collection (see the list of ledgers at the end of this folder inventory).
10 Trial Balance Book, 1912-1924
This folder contains the financial trial balances for the college from early in 1912 through January, 1924.
11 Trial Balance Book, 1924-1938
Similar in contents to the preceding folder, but covering the period from February, 1924 to April 30, 1938.
12 Accounts Payable, 1943-1950
These accounts include both copies of bills and corresponding cancelled checks proving payment of the bills for the period from June 5, 1943 to June 20, 1950.
13 Accounts Payable, 1950-1958
Similar to the preceding folder in content, but covering the period from June 26, 1950 to December 4, 1958.
14 Checking Account Statements, 1945-1956
The folder consists of periodic statements on the status and balance of the school's checking accounts at the First National and the American National Banks in Duluth, Minnesota from 1945 to 1956.
15 Receipts for Checks Paid Out by Work People's College, 1924-1956
A collection of receipts from individuals and organizations for checks received from the Work People's College, 1924-1956.  Many receipts deal with the sale of the college building.  There are also copies of the school's promissory notes for debts to others.
16 Receipts from Cash Paid Out by Work People's College, 1941-1957
A collection of receipts from individuals and organizations for cash received from the Work People's College between 1941 and 1957.  In addition, there are a few copies of receipts for cash received by the school from others.
17 Mortgage Balance Sheets, 1923-1924
This folder contains balance sheets recording the school's mortgage payments on the college building from 1923 and 1924.
18 Business Manager's Reports, 1917-1919
Ten periodic reports from the Business Manager of Work People's College to the Board of Directors.  Generally, they concern the current financial status of the school.  Other subjects are occasionally found, such as a discussion of raising money for bail bonds for the imprisoned Finnish American radical, Leo Laukki.
19 Statements on Accounts and Property, 1936-1961
These are annual, and at times, monthly statements covering the period from 1936 to 1961.
20 Auditor's Reports, 1916-1919
The content is made up of some fifteen periodic reports from outside auditors concerning the accuracy of the books of Work People's College.
21 Record of Honoraria paid to members of the Board of Directors, 1956-1960
The members of the Board of Directors received one dollar honoraria for each Board meeting they attended.  These are lists of members who attended meetings and accordingly received such payment.
22 Tax Records, 1950-1955
A record of salaries and amount of taxes paid for each employee of the college for the period 1950 to 1955.
23 Insurance Records, 1953-1957
This folder contains papers dealing with insurance on the college building.
24 Rent Records, 1950-1953
The records include lists of persons living in the college building (dormitory) and rents paid by them.  The lists are monthly from November, 1950 to April, 1953.
25 Stock Register, 1906-1917
A list including all shares of stock sold between 1906 and 1917.  The name of the buyer, the number of shares purchased, and the amount paid can be found in the register.
(N 680)
Stock Register, 1917-1926
A list of shares of stock sold, similar to the preceding folder, but covering the period from 1917 through 1926.  The list is contained on a negative microfilm which is housed in the IHRC microfilm collection, film number N 680.
26 Stock Register, Alphabetical List
A list of stocks sold arranged alphabetically according to the surname of the buyer.  Included in the list are name of purchaser, number of shares bought, and the sum paid.
27 Stock Certificates
A scattered collection of the original stock certificates issued to purchasers.  Generally they came back to the college when donated by the owner.
28 Stock Receipts, October, 1915 - March, 1921
Work People's College's receipts for shares sold during the period from October 13, 1915 to March 30, 1921.
29 Stock Receipts, April, 1921 - April, 1927
Similar in content to the preceding folder, but covering the period from April 4, 1921 to April 11, 1927.
30 Stock Receipts, April, 1927-April, 1953
Again similar in content to the two preceding folders, but covering the period from April 30, 1927 to April 21, 1953.  The folder also contains some forty unsold stock certificates.
31 Requests for Replacement of Stock Certificates, 1927
The folder includes affidavits of ownership and statements of indemnity of persons who lost their stock certificates.  These requests for replacements were made during the year 1927.
32 Sale of the Work People's College Building, 1953-1956
The college building was sold to Mr. Thomas Nalli on April 16, 1953.  The folder contains the contract of sale and copies of several receipts showing partial payments made by Mr. Nalli.
33 Inventory of Work People's College Books and Supplies, 1917 and May 16, 1925-April 30, 1934
An inventory listing all books and supplies owned by the college during the period covered.  The inventory for 1917 can be found in a ledger in oversize portfolio number 4. Bound with the 1925-1934 inventory are also the school's general financial accounts for the period May 15, 1917 through April 29, 1922.
34 Inventory of Work People's College Books and Supplies, April 24, 1935-April 30, 1939
Similar to the preceding folder, but covering the period from April 24, 1935 to April 30, 1939.
35 Play Library, List of Rentals, 1933-1935
Work People's College kept a large library of scripts of "proletarian" plays, which could be rented out.  The borrowers were usually Finnish American workers' clubs which performed the plays in their halls.  The list of rentals in this folder is arranged according to play titles, and includes the names of borrowers.  Seven photocopies of such plays are located in folders 55-61 of this collection.
36-38 Play Library, List of Rentals, 1938-1940
Identical in content to the preceding folder, these three folders contain a list of plays rented out between 1938 and 1940.  The list is again arranged alphabetically by play titles.  Folder 36 contains titles from A to J; folder 37, titles from K to P; folder 38, titles from R to V.
39 Play Library, List of Plays Available, n.d.
A photocopy of a fourteen-page typewritten list of plays available for rental.  Prices are given, and English language plays are listed separately at the end.
40 Play Library, Kadun Lapsi, by Fanny Ojanpaa, no date
A photocopy of a 75-page typewritten play, formerly included in the Work People's College Play Library.  The five succeeding folders are more samples of plays of similar origin.  The entire original Play Library is now housed at the Institute for Migration, Turku University, Turku, Finland.
41 Play Library, Lakko, by John Pulkkinen, no date.
42 Play Library, Laulu Vaaleanpunaisesta Silkkipaidasta, by Lauri Lemberg, no date.
43 Play Library, Tyovaen Opistolla, by Marty, no date.
44 Play Library, Uusi Messias, by V.J. Kankainen, no date.
45 Play Library, Yleislakko, by Arne Kaleton, no date.
46 Students' Association, Rules and Regulations, 1912-1913
The Students' Association drew up and operated under its own set of rules and regulations.  Those created during 1912 and 1913 are included here.
47 Students' Association, Minutes of General Meetings, November 2, 1912-May 2, 1914
The minutes contained herein are those of periodic general meetings of the Students' Association. Faculty as well as students took part. Discussions deal with such varied topics as ideological problems, question of discipline, student parties, and the editing of the association's annual publication, Vallankumous (Revolution).
48  Students' Association, Executive Committee, Minutes of Meetings, November 17, 1912 - January 22, 1914
As the governing body of the Students' Association, the Executive Committee was especially involved in drafting rules and regulations for the group. This activity is reflected in the minutes of the committee.
49 Students' Association, Joint Meeting of Standing Committees, Minutes, November 17, 1912
These are minutes of a joint meeting of the Publications Committee, the Restaurant Committee and the Drama Committee.  The purpose of the joint meeting was to select members from each standing committee to serve on the Executive Committee.
50 Students' Association, Arbitration Committee, Minutes, December 18-19, 1913
This ad hoc committee was established to resolve an ideological dispute which arose among the students.  The question concerned extracurricular political activism and agitation by members of the student body.
51 Students' Association, Discussion Hours, Minutes, February 15, 1912 - May 3, 1914
Discussion Hours were held periodically by the Students' Association, and were important in the ideological training of the students.  Representative topics discussed were "State Socialism" and "The Strike at Copper Island."
52 Students' Association, Discussion Hours, Reports, 1911-1913
These special reports (alustukset) were speeches delivered before the Discussion Hours, and usually took a position on the topic to be discussed.  The actual discussions which followed can be found in the preceding folder.
53 Students' Association, English Club, Minutes. 1912-1913
The English Club was a subsection of the Students' Association, designed to improve the Students' use of the English language.  The usual meeting consisted of discussion of some contemporary issue in the English language only.  The folder contains minutes of three such meetings: December 1, 1912; December 15, 1912 and January 19, 1913.
54 Students' Association, Tactical Hour, Minutes, 1913
The Tactical Hour (Taktiikkatunti) was held weekly by the Students' Association.  The topics discussed during these meetings were quite similar to those of the Discussion Hours, but more strictly related to ideological tactics.  Minutes of three meetings are included: October 7, 1913; October 14, 1913 and November 23, 1913.
55 Students' Association, Membership List, 1912-1913
A list of members of the Students' Association for the school year 1912-1913.  Included are the dates and amounts of dues paid, and also the students' home towns.
56 Students' Association, List of Speaking Engagements, 1912-1914
The folder consists of lists of members of the student body who served as speakers for various occasions between 1912 and 1914.  The students were generally invited by Finnish American workers' clubs in Minnesota and Wisconsin to speak at their celebrations.  In addition to date and name of speaker, the lists give the topic and the number of people present.
57 Work People's College Bulletin, 1923-1924
The Work People's College Bulletin was the most important and official, but irregular publication of the student body of the school.  The following issues of this very rare publication are contained here: Volume 1, numbers 1-8 (1923-1924).
58 Mimeographed Translation of Gust Aakula's Short Sketches of the Features of Tyovaen Opisto,Work People's College, Duluth, Minnesota, n.d.
Gust Aakula, a former student of the school, wrote this unpublished history of the college.  This mimeographed copy was translated from the original Finnish to English by Eva Lahonen and edited by Linda Hoshal.  The date of the writing is unknown.
59 Newspaper Clippings, 1944-1955
Chronologically arranged miscellaneous newspaper clippings, mainly taken from the I.W.W.-supporting newspaper, Industrialisti, Duluth, Minnesota.  The clippings include news from the college, reports from meetings of the Board of Directors, advertisements for the play rental library and notices of competitions for amateur playwrights.
60 Posters and Broadsides, n.d.
This collection of posters and broadsides was gathered during the early years of the college.  One poster advertises a celebration for the opening of the 1913-1914 school term.  Others are undated campaign posters for socialist candidates running in local municipal elections.
61 Tyovaen-Opiston Lukukausiselostus, 1917-1918
A published pamphlet detailing the Work People's College program of study for the school year 1917-1918.  It contains information on courses of study, extracurricular activities and costs.

List of publications removed from the Work People's College Collection and placed in the imprint collection of the Immigration History Research Center.

Ahjo (The Forge).  Tyovaen-Opiston kevatjulkaisu.
        Smithville, Minnesota.
        1918, 1920, 1922 (3 volumes)

MacDonald, J. A. Tyottomyys ja kone.  Duluth, Minnesota,
        Workers' Socialist Publishing Company, 1925.

Tyovaen Taskukalenteri 1925.  Duluth, Minnesota,
        Workers' Socialist Publishing Company, 1924.

Appendix of Oversize Ledgers

No. 1  Daily Account Book, May 15, 1913 - December 1919
            (removed from file folder 9)

No. 2  Daily Account Book, May 1, 1934 - April 30, 1936
            (removed from file folder 9)

No. 3  Daily Account Book, May 1, 1936 - May 30, 1938
            (removed from file folder 9)

No. 4  Inventory of Work People's College Books and Supplies, 1917
            (removed from file folder 33)

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