Casey Jones (IV) (Casey Jones the Union Scab)
DESCRIPTION: Casey Jones keeps working when the rest of the workers strike. (Someone puts railroad ties across the track, and) Casey is killed. St. Peter hires him, but "Angels' Union # 23" sends him to Hell, where the Devil puts him to shoveling sulfur
AUTHOR: Words: Joe Hill
EARLIEST DATE: 1911 (according to Stavis/Harmon)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Casey Jones, an engineer on the Southern Pacific, keeps working when the rest of the workers go on strike. (Someone puts railroad ties across the track, and) Casey's engine derails, killing him. In heaven, St. Peter hires him to scab on the musicians, but "Angels' Union # 23" sends him to Hell, where the Devil puts him to shoveling sulfur -- "That's what you get for scabbing on the S. P. line"
KEYWORDS: strike violence train homicide death railroading labor-movement Hell scab worker Devil derivative
1911 - Southern Pacific workers strike; the craft unions representing engineers refuse to join the walkout
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Greenway-AFP, p. 186, "Casey Jones, The Union Scab" (1 text)
Darling-NAS, pp. 376-377, "Casey Jones, the Union Scab" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 102, "Casey Jones (Union)" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: (Barrie Stavis and Frank Harmon, editors), _The Songs of Joe Hill_, 1960, now reprinted in the Oak Archives series, pp. 8-10, "Casey Jones the Union Scab" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gibbs M. Smith, _Joe Hill_, 1969 (I use the 1984 Peregrine Smith Books edition), p. 23, "[Casey Jones -- the Union Scab]" (1 text); p. 241 (1 text)
Harry "Mac" McClintock, "Casey Jones (The Union Scab)" (on McClintock01 - two versions) (on McClintock02)
Pete Seeger , "Casey Jones" (on PeteSeeger1, PeteSeeger48)
cf. "Casey Jones (I)" [Laws G1] and references there (tune, characters) and references there
NOTES: For the life of Joe Hill, see "Joe Hill."
According to Stavis and Harmon, this was written in 1911 in response to a strike in California. The song was specially printed on playing card sized broadsides, which made it easier to spread around the country.
Foner, p. 11, says that this was Hill's first known song, written (naturally) to help the workers of the Southern Pacific line during a strike.
Adler, p. 183, gives a slightly different account. He says that this was Hill's second IWW song, following "The Preacher and the Slave" -- but the first IWW songbook to contain "The Preacher" did not credit it to Hill. So "Casey Jones" was the first IWW song popularly associated with Hill.
According to Adler, it was written in San Pedro, California, shortly after the beginning of the strike against the Southern Pacific Railroad, which began on September 30, 1911. About 1300 workers were involved in the strike.
Adler, p. 184, reminds us that Hill's father had been a railroad worker in Sweden, so Hill probably knew more than most about railroad operations. He points out also that Hill carefully inverted the ending of the original "Casey Jones," in which Casey ends up in heaven for his heroism. Hill has Casey arrive in heaven -- and get tossed out.
According to Smith, p. 23, "Among labor unions 'Hill's version of "Casey Jones" has become more popular than the original railroad ballad. It is one of the few songs that no labor-song anthologist would dare leave out.'" - RBW
Last updated in version 4.0
- Adler: William M. Adler, The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon, Bloomsbury Press, 2011
- Foner: Philip S. Foner, The Case of Joe Hill, 1965 (I use the 2000 International Publishers paperback)
- Smith: Gibbs M. Smith, Joe Hill, 1969 (I use the 1984 Peregrine Smith Books edition)
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