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jb daniel artist art conceptual chicago

G u m b a l l   P r o j e c t   -   T h e   P u l l m a n   S t r i k e

Title: "Debs - The american dream (for everyone)"

Dimensions: 54" x 14" (carpet 27" x 17")

Assembled objects: Gumball machine, union made pinback buttons, american flags, red carpet


I’ve asked friends, authors, historians, scholars, activists, laborers and labor leaders to write something related to each piece in the project. I am so appreciative of each and every one of them for their contribution.

DEBS and PULLMAN, ILLINOIS by Noel Beasley*

It is wonderful how much good work has been done by leaders of the Historic Pullman Foundation and the Eugene V. Debs Foundation over the past few years. One of the most important struggles of the latter part of the Nineteenth Century was the Pullman railroad strike and the leader of the strike was Gene Debs. He was praised by strikers and vilified by millionaires. He spent six months in the McHenry County Jail in Woodstock, Illinois, reading about socialism. He went in as a union leader and came out a socialist. When he was released, a special train took him and his supporters to Chicago where major demonstrations were held and then he went on to Terre Haute, Indiana, and thousands more demonstrated.

Debs dropped out of high school in his sophomore year and worked on the trains that went through his hometown of Terre Haute. He served in the Indiana state legislature and then became the leader of the National Railway Union and then became an internationally recognized leader of socialism.

Debs faced prison again when he spoke in Canton, Ohio on June 15, 1918. He was speaking out against World War I and against political leaders who were forcing men into military service. He was arrested, tried in court and sent to prison in Georgia. Eventually he was pardoned and as he left the prison his fellow prisoners applauded and cheered him.

I want to thank J.B. Daniel for creating the wonderful gumball machine of Gene … he embodies the American Dream on a RED carpet … HOW APPROPRIATE.

Noel Beasley, President
Eugene V. Debs Foundation

*Noel Beasley is a union activist, past president of Workers United from 2011 through 2016, and is now president of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation. Prior to leading Workers United, he was director of Workers United and its predecessor unions’ Chicago and Midwest regional operations for 25 years. Beasley joined the Textile Workers Union of America Local 1818 in 1974. After serving as a local union officer, he became a staff representative in 1977

For more information on Eugene V. Debs visit: www.debsfoundation.org

"Equality, fraternity and justice. These great principles were a consuming passion for Eugene Debs. The case can be made, that more than being a Socialist or a union leader, Debs was first and foremost a Humanist and idealist, very much a product of the Enlightenment. Named after two French Enlightenment figures, Eugene Sey and Victor Hugo, Debs was inspired by their ideals.

Hugo’s Les Miserables was his favorite literature and from his father, he learned also to appreciate the writings of Payne and Belamy. These are strange literary tastes for a person who quit school at age fourteen to work to help support the family. When Debs had a home built in 1890 for himself and wife Kate, the library was a prominent room on the main floor. Inspired by such ideals in the name of social justice, Debs became an advocate, not only for the rights of workers, but also for women and children. He became concerned with the plight of African Americans as well. This Humanistic bent led him to become an outspoken peace advocate, and his anti-war speeches led to a second lengthy prison stay..."

Link to the award winning PBS Documentary: The Revolutionist: Eugene V. Debs

"Alternately loved and reviled, Eugene Victor Debs was a passionate labor leader, a progressive political figure, and a formidable speaker in a time of great change in the United States. WFYI’s new documentary, The Revolutionist: Eugene V. Debs, tells the story of this Hoosier’s life. Born in Terre Haute in 1855, Eugene Debs emerged as a divisive figure when he led the nationwide Pullman Strike in 1894. Seeking an alternative way for workers to gain power, he helped establish the Socialist Party in the United States and ran as its candidate for president five times. His campaign across the country drew massive crowds, and his oratory tested the limits of the First Amendment. When he spoke out against America’s involvement in World War I, the Supreme Court upheld a guilty verdict that sentenced him to ten years in prison for violating the Espionage Act. From his cell, he ran for president for the final time, garnering nearly a million votes…and sparking a national conversation about the right to free speech." Narrated by actor Danny Glover

Special Note: The Eugene V. Debs Foundation and Historic Pullman Foundation have teamed up with Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company for the publication of a 130th anniversary edition of The Pullman Strike by Rev. William H. Carwardine. (available early 2024)

The Gumball Project

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