Between January 1912 and the tough times that set in again toward the end of 1913, the IWW, with a series of good fights and substantial victories, won widespread recognition as the most forward thrust of the American labor movement. These were the years of victories in Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Little Falls and other textile centers, ending in the hopeless fight at Paterson; of lumber battles in Louisiana and Gray's Harbor, Washington; of railroad construction strikes with thousand mile picket lines; of expansion into auto and other metal working industries; of fighting for the Pittsburgh stogie makers and the rubber workers of Akron; of the accession of longshoremen and seamen to start its Marine Transport Workers; and of sensational trials arising from its fight in Lawrence, Louisiana and the hopfields of California--trials that added to its fame as much as did the strikes that generated them.
A persistent myth about the IWW is that it plunged into strikes without previous organization, bringing out contented workers with spell-binding oratory, won great victories, then deserted the workers to repeat the process elsewhere. The myth is groundless.
Prior to its fame at Lawrence the IWW had been organizing textile workers for seven years, and these constituted roughly half of its membership. It had followed up its initial victory in Skowhegan, Maine, with organization and a victorious three month strike at Mapleville, R. I., in 1907. By next year it had eight textile locals and these were formed into its first national industrial union with James P. Thompson as organizer. These withstood the depression, and in 1910 were all in good standing, and during the years in which strikes had been opportune, had added three more locals.1