George N. Falconer: A Highlander and his Mother

George Nichol Falconer was born 1863 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His mother “was a daughter of the Clan Fraser, a group of Highland cattle lifters in the extreme north of Scotland. Mother was proud of her people they stole cattle from the rich and gave generously to the poor.”

His father drank too much. Once on while on a drunk, young Falconer’s father struck his mother. Falconer “rushed him like a mad tiger—never again did he strike her.”

Falconer remembered his mother’s words in a letter to the editor to the Pasadena Independent from the ripe-old-age of 91, “Laddie when you grow up, I want you to stand up for the poor man or woman.” Falconer lived his life by those words, leaving his mark on turn of the century Ft. Collins, Grand Junction and Denver. Nationally, he shaped the socialist movement, the early Communist Party USA, was a founding member of the short-lived “Anti-Blue Law” party, was an orator of note within the International Workers of the World (IWW), and he championed the Russian Revolution, being responsible for the distribution of “Ten Days the Shook the World,” in Colorado. During the Palmer raids and the suppression of the first ‘Red Scare’ Falconer was carrying messages between revolutionaries forced underground.

While in Ft. Collins, Falconer founded the public library and the Unity Church (now Unitarian Universalist). Here in Grand Junction, he ran a progressive bookstore, founded the IWW local #35, and served on the early Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce. Falconer was active with the local socialist, running for office numerous times. Falconer and his bookstore were essential in bringing renown socialist and labor organizer Eugene Debs to Grand Junction in 1908, aboard his “Red Special” train-tour. Falconer was also part of the 1909 Town Charter Convention that instituted ranked-choice voting, and allowing for municipal socialization of essential industries. Reforms that would earn Grand Junction the moniker of “freest city in the world,” and paved the way for the election of a socialist mayor.

Falconer was in Denver in 1912 in a free-speech fight with the IWW. In 1914, he was in Ludlow during the Colorado Coal Strike. In 1915, he was in Salt Lake City trying to save Joe Hill from execution, and later spoke at his funeral. In 1920, he was writing for “The Toiler,” declaring that all true socialists should leave the socialist party and join the communists. An act that would draw the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee, a full decade before Junction’s most famous communist, Dalton Trumbo, ran afoul of the same committee. In 1930, he toured Soviet Russia, and gave speeches upon his return about the success of the Soviets’ 5 year plan.

Decades after Falconer had left the Grand Valley, Joe Moorhead’s column in the Daily Sentinel reminisced: “How well I remember George Falconer’s little book shop on Main St. a score of years ago. It did not require his recent letter to the editor to recall to mind his gentle philosophy of protest, his thoughtful somewhat bookish mannerisms and his altogether lovable earnestness. I hope for many years of peace and content for a man who could differ as widely and as sweetly as any I have known.”

Falconer was a talented writer and was published widely. He wrote about the Colorado Coal Strike of 1913-1914, about the situation of organized labor in Mexico, about the Grand Junction 1909 Town Charter, and about his favorite poet, and fellow Scotsman Robert Burns.

In a January 27, 1939, letter to the Daily Sentinel, Falconer spoke to Burn’s working-class appeal: “A Scotch peasant life was rude and hard, but Burns became the poet of it and idealized the real, spiritualized the material. He saw the nobility that dwells under straw roofs, and was able to see that, despite poverty, hard hands and human frailty, ‘a man’s a man for a’ that’.”

Falconer was never married; in many ways he was a man married to the revolution. Falconer in his 80s, was organizing donation drives for refugees during WWII. He lived his life as his mom had requested all those years ago in Edinburgh: standing “up for the poor man or woman.”


20th Century Magazine

The International Socialist Review, vol XIV:6, December 1913,

The International Socialist Review, February 1914

The Labor Monthly, January 1922, Vol2:1

Fortun, Benjamin Makani, 2018. Unholy Gospel: The Radical Songs of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Reed, John. Ten Days That Shook the World

Adler, William M. 2011. “The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon.”

Hicks, Granville 1936, “John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary”

Berman, David R, 2007 “Radicalism in the Mountain West, 1890-1920: Socialist, Populists, Miners, Wobblies.”archived

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