Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Harry DeBoer, Pauline DeBoer and Jake Cooper

Transcript (PDF)


Titles Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Harry DeBoer, Pauline DeBoer and Jake Cooper
Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Harry DeBoer was born in 1905 and grew up a socialist, following his father's example. His father had come to the Midwest from Holland, and employed seasonal workers on his farm. Many of these workers belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World, and Harry absorbed their beliefs. He left home at age fifteen to try his hand at boxing. After some travelling (where again he met many Wobblies), he settled in Minneapolis in the early 1930s. Working as a coal hauler, he became involved in the strikes of 1934 (first the coal strike and then the general drivers' strike). He was shot in the knee during the struggle, which ended his aspirations to be a boxer. Instead, he became a paid organizer for the Teamsters, and participated in an organizing drive throughout an eleven-state area under the auspices of the North Central District Drivers Council. In 1941 DeBoer was tried and convicted for conspiring to overthrow the government violently, under the Smith Act. He served a year in prison on this conviction. Jake Cooper was born in St. Paul in 1916, and grew up in Chaska, Minnesota. He participated in the 1934 truckers' strike, and evidently belonged to the Trotskyite parties. In 1949 he and his wife, Lillian, took over a general store in Chaska and ran it successfully for many years. Cooper remained active in community affairs, and a strong supporter of militant unionism. In 1985 he organized delivery of 200,000 pounds of food to striking Hormel workers in Austin, Minnesota. The Chaska Educational Association established the Jake Cooper Scholarship to recognize his support for the teachers' union. He also took a leading role in the Chaska chapter of the Minnesota River Watershed Association during the 1960s; was president of the Chaska Jobs and Industry development corporation; and belonged to the Greater Chaska Business Association. He died in 1990, following a stroke. (Obituary, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sept. 10, 1990) SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: In these interviews, DeBoer discusses his organizing work with the truck drivers, and his association with the Trotskyite parties. He talks about his sympathies with the IWW and antagonisms with the Communist Party. He gives his impressions of some of the leaders of the teamsters: Ray Dunne and Carl Skoglund in particular. There is no information about the Smith Act trials or his later life. Jake Cooper comments extensively and helpfully in the first interview. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: At the time of the interview, DeBoer explained that he had had brain surgery, and his memory is definitely impaired. With the help of Pauline DeBoer, Jake Cooper, and Randy First, he was able to bring back some incidents. However, the interviews are confusing and repetitive. (The second interview largely recapitulates the first; however, some new information does emerge from it.) The transcripts have been heavily edited to make them read as smoothly as possible. However, they are much easier to understand if the reader listens to the tape simultaneously. Cassette #3 missing as of 9/13/1990 (2nd interview).
Quantity 1.5 hours sound cassette
33 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 01:05:25 running time
Creation Interviewee: Cooper, Jake
Interviewee: DeBoer, Harry
Interviewee: DeBoer, Pauline
Interviewer: First, Randy
Interviewer: Rachleff, Peter J.
Interviewer: Salerno, Salvatore
Made in: Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 03/14/1988 - 06/22/1988 (Interviews conducted 03/14/1988 and 06/22/1988.)
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 30.15 (Library Call Number)
AV1990.228.10 (Accession Number)
More Info MNHS Library Catalog
Collection Finding Aid
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'


This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF.


This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF.

User Comments

  • James W DeBoer on September 3, 2020 09:11:15 PM
    He was not just good at boxing, he was great! Those long arms of his.,he was something to see!

How Can We Help?

Know Something We Don't?

Please comment below if you are able to:

  • provide any additional information that will help us better understand or interpret these items
  • provide information that clarifies historical context of the item
  • report an error in the description


Name and Comment will be displayed publicly.

Name: (required)

E-mail: (required)

I agree to the Terms of Use (required)

If you are a person leave these fields blank.