Shingle weavers strike 12 Ballard shingle mills on April 7, 1913.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 5/09/1999
  • Essay 1098
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On April 7, 1913, 350 shingle weavers, sawmill workers who cut shingles, strike 12 Ballard mills for an increase in wages to attain wages equal to those paid in Everett, Bellingham, and other Western Washington towns. The strikers are members of the Shingle Weavers’ Union Local No. 12. Ballard, which had annexed to Seattle in 1907, was a major center of shingle manufacturing.

Shingle weavers, in the words of historian Andrew Mason Prouty, 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.

The mills replaced most of the strikers. The union called off the unsuccessful strike on July 30, 1913.


[Washington State] Bureau of Labor, Ninth Biennial Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Factory Inspection 1913-1914 (Olympia: Frank M. Lamborn, Public Printer, 1914), 124; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Seattle Neighborhoods: Ballard" (by Walt Crowley), (accessed April 6, 2005); Andrew Mason Prouty, More Deadly Than War: Pacific Coast Logging, 1827-1981 (New York: London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985).
Note: This essay was revised on April 6, 2005, and expanded on October 22, 2008.

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