America's Labor Heritage: Mill Town Weaving Department

America's Labor Heritage: Mill Town Weaving Department

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Poster Artwork Details

Features the artwork, Mill Town Weaving Department by Ralph Fasanella, 1976

Produced by The Fasanella Public Domain Project, 2015. An Initiative to Place the Paintings of Ralph Fasanella in Museums and Public Institutions.

Poster Dimensions: 30" w x 24" h

Text on poster:

Ralph Fasanella was a garment worker, truck driver, machine operator, union organizer, and political activist. But in October 1972, New York Magazine's cover story declared Fasanella among the greatest of all self-taught artists. He became an instant sensation, though he had painted for 30 years in obscurity, with few exhibits and few sales. 

As part of the UE staff from 1942 to 1946, Fasanella had helped to organize tens of thousands of workers at Brooklyn's Sperry Gyroscope and at the giant Western Electric plant in New York City. Even after he left the union's staff, Fasanella remained involved with UE officers, staff, and members for decades, as his focus on empowering workers shifted from plant gates and union halls to an artist's palette and oil paints.

Stressed and overwhelmed from the interviews, cocktail parties, and receptions following the New York Magazine feature, Fasanella drove up to New Haven, Connecticut, seeking advice from William Cahn, who had worked for the UE News and often joined Ralph and other staff on the front lines of organizing campaigns.

Cahn was the author of Mill Town, a book chronicling the historic 1912 textile strike in Lawrence Massachusetts. Encouraging Ralph to flee the New York scene for awhile, Bill suggested he visit Lawrence to meet the surviving strikers and their children and learn more about the strike that energized industrial workers throughout the nation to fight for shorter work hours with no loss in pay.

Fasanella did that, restored his equilibrium, and eventually produced fifteen paintings. Three depicted the strike; the others portrayed people at work. One of these, Mill Town Weaving Department, displays a small sign on the bridge over the water that powered the mill's machinery: "In Memory of Bill Cahn UE Mill Town".