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MHS Resources: Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin, 1919-1921

Introduced and compiled by Dr. C. Stuart Houston
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Link to:
Editorials | See Also

John D. “Jack” Houston was my grandfather’s brother. His wife, née Annie McLean, was the mother of his five children: Marion Houston, Christine Houston (unmarried and a friend of Nora Hallen’s in Winnipeg in the 1940s), William Houston (who left Cornwall at age 16 to move to Winnipeg with Bell Telephones, later becoming a purchasing agent for Manitoba Telephones, then a telephone line contractor, then a successful, honest, charitable and gentlemanly partner in the financial firm, Houston and Willoughby, later Pemberton, Houston and Willoughby, which eventually merged into RBC Dominion Securities), John Houston, and Alexander Houston (a Lieutenant-Colonel in charge of Canadian War Records, who died overseas in the First World War).

Jack Houston found increasingly distasteful the cruel but legal foreclosures by his prosperous employer of homes and farms belonging to the desperate poor. He therefore gave up his promising position with a Winnipeg financial firm, for the uncertain prospects of a socialist and labor organizer. He had at best a minimal and irregular income from the Socialist Party of Canada. It is known that he bunked with supporters in any city he visited, having no money to stay in a hotel. It is rumoured that on occasion he “rode the rails” on the roof of a boxcar, to get to the next city.

Houston’s wife, Annie, had no sympathy for his politics, his sudden career change, or his drastically reduced income. She left him and eventually obtained a divorce to make it official. Annie raised and educated her five children on her own, against all odds, in Cornwall, Ontario – reportedly and understandably without appreciable financial or other assistance from Jack. It is notable that an official four-page biography of his son, William Houston; the 46-page history of the Houston Willoughby company; and William’s memorial pamphlet to his dear Elsie (née Elsie G. Howe), said not one word about his father Jack Houston nor the maritally troubled and economically radical family background.


Volume 1, Number 1 of the OBU Bulletin is dated 12 August 1919, about seven weeks after the tumultuous strike ended with brutal force. Houston’s name appeared on the masthead as editor with Volume 6, Number 6, 20 September 1919, and appeared thereafter [sometimes with Wm. Ivens of Winnipeg and W. W. LeFeaux of Vancouver listed as associate editors] until the posthumous issue of 12 March 1921. Some of Jack’s editorials, especially during his hospitalization for his fatal illness in early 1921, appear to have been “lifted” from his voluminous notes he had compiled and given over many years, as mentioned in his obituary above. The source of other editorials, signed only by “S.” has not been determined, but if they are from his series of articles, Stage Setting of the O.B.U., they may also have been written by Jack Houston.

It appears that Houston was able to continue writing a weekly editorial from his sick bed during the last 11 weeks of his life, as always using upper case letters for emphasis. He died at the St. Boniface Hospital, of pneumonia and pleurisy, on Friday, 11 March 1921.

Upon Houston’s death, Frank Woodward took over as editor of the OBU Bulletin. Price was five cents per issue. Circulation was 10,000. The OBU Bulletin contained a surprising number of advertisements from small businesses sympathetic to, or looking for business from, labour supporters.

Microfilms in the University of Saskatchewan library, which were the source for the editorials that follow, were difficult to read, but were in the final group transcribed by Kate Hounjet. Her electronic version was not saved but a hard copy was printed then scanned by Dr Richard Ehman in Rochester, Minnesota. A few obvious typos have been corrected. Through the genius of Ian Song at Simon Fraser University the illegible portions of the University of Saskatchewan microfilms (and University of Manitoba microfilms) were restored into a readable electronic format. Final transcriptions were keyboarded by Stephane Gerard.

Editorials (in chronological order)

12 August 1919 - Our Debut

23 August 1919 - Exit and Debut No. 2

30 August 1919 - About Protesting

20 September 1919 - Who’s Who on the OBU Bulletin / The Bulletin

27 September 1919 - Not Gall, Just Stupid

4 October 1919 - Two Strikes / Situation of Railway Shopmen / Holy Horror / Dope The Kiddies / Drumhiller [Drumheller] Gas / The Crimp in the Deck

11 October 1919 - The Trinity / Anarchists and Anarchists

18 October 1919 - The Work to Hand / Overalls: Their Fate

25 October 1919 - The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice / ‘Tis True, ‘Tis Pity and Pity, ‘Tis ‘Tis True. The Conservative East

1 November 1919 - New Kinds of Unions

8 November 1919 - Those Bolsheviki

15 November 1919 - The Civic Issue

22 November 1919 - The Canadian Clubs

29 November 1919 - The Civic Elections

6 December 1919 - The Free Press, the O.B.U. and the Internationals / The Political Questions of Tomorrow

13 December 1919 - Revolution

20 December 1919 - not available on microfilm

27 December 1919 - Taking Stock

3 January 1920 - The Community Protects Itself

10 January 1920 - The Year 1920

17 January 1920 - The Faults of its Qualities

24 January 1920 - Price of Peace, A Red Peace / The Voice of History / What is the Matter with Europe

31 January 1920 - Between the Devil and the Deep Sea

7 February 1920 - The Farmer and Labor

14 February 1920 - The O.B.U. Bulletin

21 February 1920 - The Dixon Trial

28 February 1920 - Supposing

6 March 1920 - Working-Class Tactics / “Pep” / Sabotage / Dixon’s Acquittal / Ourselves

13 March 1920 - Unwise Methods of Labor / Ferocious Bourgeoisie

20 March 1920 - English Labor and Direct Action

27 March 1920 - Out in the Open / Prof. Leacock and the Working Class / The Obligation to Ratify / German Counter-Revolution

3 April 1920 - German Revolutions

10 April 1920 - When the Curtain Lifts

17 April 1920 - The Defense Conference / Wages and Prices / Why You Should Join the One Big Union

24 April 1920 - Negotiations / Getting Recognition / The Skunk in Moose Jaw

1 May 1920 - Organize

8 May 1920 - Loyalty

15 May 1920 - A Militant Organization

22 May 1920 - One Law for the Rich

29 May 1920 - Oh! Canada Oh! Canada

5 June 1920 - The Duty of the Provinces / The Painters and the Joint Council of Industry / Speaking About Dogs / The Trouble With Ireland / Who Should Be Hung / War to the Knife

12 June 1920 - Individualism

19 June 1920 - Canada, A Nation

26 June 1920 - Pussyfooting

3 July 1920 - The Workers Against the Bosses / Profits / Bosses’ Circus Disbands / Scabbing!

10 July 1920 - And Fear Was in the Way

17 July 1920 - Politics and the O.B.U.

24 July 1920 - The Slime of Hypocrisy

31 July 1920 - The I.W.W.

7 August 1920 - Smoked Out

14 August 1920 - Our Birthday

21 August 1920 - Premier Meighen at Sterling

28 August 1920 - Canada A Nation

4 September 1920 - MacKenzie King and Management

11 September 1920 - Sir Auckland Geddes

18 September 1920 - Yank Our Your Money

25 September 1920 - Industrial Unionism

2 October 1920 - The Labor Party and Municipal Elections

9 October 1920 - The Make-Believe of the Law

16 October 1920 - The Big Smash

23 October 1920 - The Need for the O.B.U.

30 October 1920 - Industrial or Geographical Organization

6 November 1920 - Unemployment

13 November 1920 - The Morals of Trade Unionism

20 November 1920 - Wages and Profits

27 November 1920 - Funny

4 December 1920 - Declaring Itself on the Mandates

11 December 1920 - An Economic System

18 December 1920 - Unpreparedness

25 December 1920 - A Shattered Theory and a Cause of Political Unrest

1 January 1921 - Good-bye Charlie

8 January 1921 - A New Year’s Message

15 January 1921 - Literary Hirelings

22 January 1921 - Gompers Again

29 January 1921 - Prosperity

5 February 1921 - Thriving on Ignorance

12 February 1921 - Another Catch Phrase

19 February 1921 - Survival of the Fittest and Needed: A Home

26 February 1921 - Gas House Cleanings

5 March 1921 - Labor’s Short Innings

19 March 1921 - The Passing of Comrade Houston

See also:

Memorable Manitobans: John D. “Jack” Houston (1856-1921)

Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin, 1919-1921 by Peter Campbell with editorials compiled by C. Stuart Houston
Manitoba History, Number 72, Spring-Summer 2013

Page revised: 22 February 2017

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