Saturday, June 7, 2008
New (Old) Ross Winn Writings on Wikimedia Commons
Unearthing the almost completely buried history of Ross Winn, the turn-of-the-last-century anarchist publisher from Mount Juliet, Tennessee, was the project that catapulted me into what will probably be a life-long obsession with stories of obscure radicals (and the struggle for social justice in the US in general). Back in 2002, when Ally Reeves and I were still trying to find this guy's gravestone, there was almost no information on him in print or on the internet. Now a simple Google search will tell the whole story - at least, the story we've been able to piece together over the last six years!
Friend and fellow researcher Ryan Kaldari has just obtained digital copies of all of the Ross Winn publications available through the Labadie Collection in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's in the process of formatting and uploading every page into Wikimedia Commons - where they will be digitally archived for, I guess, a really long time. You can check them out as they accumulate here.
According to the Commons "Welcome" page, the site "is a media repository that is created and maintained not by paid-for artists, but by volunteers. Its name "Wikimedia Commons" is derived from that of the umbrella project "Wikimedia"... it provides a central repository for freely licensed photographs, diagrams, animations, music, spoken text, video clips, and media of all sorts that are useful for any Wikimedia project." Sounds like as good a place as any to file these images away - and Ryan is a Wikipedia fiend, having most recently bottom-lined Wikipedia Takes Nashville, the first spin-off of Wikipedia Takes Manhattan. It's great to know he's making this project happen.
The bulk of the writings Ryan is working on are from "The Advance", Winn's last publication before his death in 1912 and, so far as we know, the only remaining copies are these that were scanned at the Labadie. Winn was setting type on the sixth issue when he died of tuberculosis in his wife Gussie's family home in rural Tennessee. He also worked on a slightly more mysterious small-format paper called "Red Phalanx" in his final year, although the only mention of it is in the obituary Emma Goldman penned for several anarchist papers when he died. Ryan and I found a couple printing proofs of "Phalanx" in a box held by one of his last surviving relatives, but most of the text was gibberish - either meant to be filler or the typesetting of a dying writer going crazy. Ryan and I are also still in the process of trying to obtain, or at least take photos/scan some of those other rare printing proofs, scrapbooks, etc that Winn's relative has in her garage, but she's not answering our letters these days...