18 November 1915 – Joe Hill
So, what could he say as he faced a row of armed executioners but ‘fire’? And a volley of shots soon met the Swede’s instruction when he was executed by firing squad for murder in Utah. But he was had up for a crime he may not even have committed. A butcher shot an armed robber in Salt Lake City before being shot himself.
Strangely Hill turned up at a doctor’s surgery with a similar wound, saying he’d been shot in an argument over a female. It’s alleged that he wouldn’t name and shame the married woman behind his injury, and it was his gentlemanly discretion that inevitably led to his death.
During his life he’d been a political activist – a songwriter, a left-wing Labourite and staunch member of the Industrial Workers of the World. His song-writing became a theme after his death too when his life was immortalised in folk songs.
There’s even a film about his life, which was made in 1971 and he’s also credited with coming up with the phrase ‘pie in the sky’.