Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The "West Coast Stetson" the longshoremen 30's white cap

longshoremen's silent protest on market st 1934 SF,Ca

Maynard Dixon's "the scab" inspired by the 34 longshoremen strike

Anton Refregier's SF mural celebrating the strike 

The other day,i was lucky enough to get my hands on an original 30's San Francisco longshoreman's white cap and "hook" .unfortunately another guy got all the papers, badges and pictures....At least these items were saved and are not going to end up on Ebay.....

In 1934, radical labor leader Harry Bridges defied the establishment when he led a three-month strike to fight for more jobs – including those for African-Americans on the San Francisco waterfront. The strike led to a four day shut down of the entire city.It was the first and so far the only successful general strike in this country’s history.
The San Francisco general strike of 1934 was the culmination of decades of exploitation on the west coast waterfronts. One of the major demands of the workers was for an independent union with their own hiring hall. Prior to 34, dock workers were hired in the "shape up," a corrupted system where potential workers had to pay a bribe to the "gang boss" for a day's work,as depicted in the E Kazan's 1954 classic movie : "On The Waterfront" with Marlon Brando. 
The strike began with the longshoremen and maritime workers and soon included the Teamsters Union after the shipping companies employed "scabs" to move the cargo. The violence and deaths of the two strikers at the hands of the police only inflamed the situation. The funeral procession of the fallen men up Market Street on July 9th brought thousands of sympathetic blue collar workers into the strike, peacefully shutting down San Francisco and Alameda counties. 
The strike was successful and a new era was born....

Sometimes called the "West Coast Stetson," this type of white cap was worn by West Coast mariners, particularly longshoremen and sailors. Along with "can't bust 'em" black "Frisco" jeans and a hickory stripe shirt, the soft white cap was once a signature part of the usual rig that men wore in part to express their occupational identity,but also out of safety  as they could be spotted even in the dark holds of ships by men on deck who were lifting and lowering heavy loads.This changed in the early 1970s when longshoremen were required to wear hardhats when working on the docks or aboard ships.However they still wear the "West Coast Stetson,", at special union meetings and events.


  1. Merci M. Segui de nous rappeler que les chiffons en denim ou autre, que nous collectionnons, étaient portés par des travailleurs et qu'en tant que tels ceux-ci n'avaient pas une vie de "hipsters" mais devaient se battre pour garder leur liberté, leur fierté et préserver leur travail.
    Les terribles grèves, les affrontements et leur lot de morts violentes, c'étaient aussi ça la vie des travailleurs aux Etats-Unis ; Joe Hill, les IWW, Woody Guthrie, etc., c'est aussi la culture américaine dans ce qu'elle a de plus authentique et populaire : le tout en denim !
    Félicitations pour le grand intérêt et la sobriété de votre site, ainsi que pour ses belles illustrations.

  2. merci a vous de prendre le temps de lire mes modestes posts...

  3. "At least these items were saved and are not going to end up on Ebay....."

    C'est certain que cela fait de la peine de voir des pans entiers d'histoire dispersés aux 4 coins du monde.
    D'un autre côté, beaucoup d'objets retrouvent une deuxième vie, réparés, restaurés, protégés...
    Essayer autant que possible (financièrement) de ne pas séparer les lots que les vendeurs ont eu l'intelligence de mettre en vente dans leur totalité...

    Pas facile en France de trouver autre chose que du militaria!

    Dans tous les cas, très bel article, pendant West Coast d'"Un pays à l'aube" de Lehane

  4. thx for the comments .....always appreciated

  5. Hey Patrick...I work at ILWU Credit Union and we really love the pictures that you took of the Longshoremen clothes. Would you mind if we use one of the images on our Facebook page? Feel free to reply to my work email sharvey@ilwucu.org. Thanks.


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