Labor History Sources in the Manuscript Division of the Library
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The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress seeks to preserve
personal papers and organizational records that document the course
of America's national experience. Its more than ten thousand collections
with more than forty million manuscript items touch upon every
aspect of American history and culture. The Manuscript Division's
holdings are strongest, however, in the areas of American national
government, the federal judiciary, diplomacy, military history,
women's history, and black history. Collections containing labor-related
material are considerable and constitute a major archive for labor
The Manuscript Reading Room is located in room LM 101 of the Library's
Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. and is open from 8:30
A.M to 5:00 P.M., Monday through Saturday. All collections discussed
have finding aids unless otherwise noted. Security regulations
prohibit bringing some types of personal property into the reading
room and lockers are provided for researcher use. Coin-operated
copy machines are available. Microfilm editions of manuscript collections
often may be borrowed on interlibrary loan. Reference services
are available in person or by correspondence. Requests for informational
brochures or other questions may be addressed to the Manuscript
Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 20540 (telephone
202/707-5383, fax 202/707-6336).
American Federation of Labor (AFL) Letterbooks. These
letterbooks of outgoing correspondence span the years 1883-1925
and are an indispensable source for studying the development of
the American labor movement. Principally written by Samuel Gompers
and to a lesser degree William Green, John McBride, and James Duncan,
the letters deal with every aspect of the trade union movement.
Microfilm edition available.
American Friends Service Committee Work Camp Diary. Detailed
typescript diary kept in the summer of 1933 by a Quaker community-organizing
team in a coal mining town in Kentucky. The diary conveys a significant
amount of information on the psychological attitudes of mining
families and the impact of early New Deal legislation.
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The Brotherhood's
records (41,000 items) span the years 1939-68, with most material
dating after 1950. The largest part of the records consists of
files on agreements with major railroads, conventions, relations
between the headquarters and local branches, and the Brotherhood's
relationship with other rail unions and with the AFL. The records
also include several short series consisting of the personal papers
of Benjamin F. McLaurin, Ashley L. Totten, and A. Philip Randolph.
Randolph's series contains files on his interest in organizing
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The
NAACP records contain files on the relationship of black workers
and various trade unions. A related collection is the NAACP Legal
Defense and Education Fund. These extensive records, however, were
recently acquired and have not yet been processed. The NAACP Washington
Bureau papers discuss NAACP dealings with Washington area labor
unions. Access to all NAACP collections is restricted.
National Association of Railway Postal Clerks. Typescript
extracts of convention proceedings, 1890-1901, of the union and
National Child Labor Committee. The records (2,800
items) chronicle the campaign in the early decades of this century
to eliminate child labor. NCLC records include official proceedings,
minute books, correspondence, press clippings, and campaign literature
as well as detailed reports on child labor conditions, arranged
by industry and state.
National Consumers League. The records (75,000
items) of the NCL span the years 1882-1973 with most for the period
1920-50. The NCL was concerned with the conditions under which
products were made and not with the products themselves. It sought
comprehensive legislation regulating wages and hours, requiring
sanitary working conditions, and prohibiting child labor. Microfilm
National Urban League. The League's records include
exhaustively documented studies of the economic and industrial
conditions of black Americans. These records, which begin in 1910,
are without peer in understanding the changing role of black workers
in the American economy. Related collections are the National Urban
League Southern Regional Office and the National Urban League Washington
Bureau. Access to all NUL records is restricted.
National Women's Trade Union League of America. The
records (7,400 items) span the years 1903-50. Originally concerned
with promoting the unionization of women, NWTUL soon turned its
attention to protective labor legislation. Microfilm edition available.
People's Legislative Service. Contains speeches,
printed matter, and correspondence from the labor-backed 1924 presidential
campaign of Senator Robert M. La Follette.
Pinkerton's National Detective Agency. Contains
reports from the early 1870s on the agency's infiltration of the
Molly Maguires. Microfilm edition available.
United States Work Projects Administration Federal Writers'
Project and Historical Records Survey. These WPA records
(400,000 items) contain a variety of folk, ethnic, and social
data of interest to labor historians. Microfilm edition of printed
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Allen, Henry J.
Allen was governor of Kansas, 1919-23. His papers document Kansas's unique Court
of Industrial Relations, Allen's debate with Samuel Gompers over government regulation
of labor relations, and activities in Kansas of the Industrial Workers of the
Beyer, Otto S.
Beyer was a consulting engineer and labor-management relations specialist.
The 30,000 items of his papers span the years 1915-48 with most dating after
1929. During World War I, Beyer developed a successful program of union-management
cooperation at army arsenals. Following the war, he worked as a consulting
engineer for various unions, industrial firms, and railroads. During the
New Deal, he served as labor relations consultant to Tennessee Valley Authority,
chairman of the National Mediation Board, and member of the War Manpower
Commission. His papers reflect his involvement in a wide variety of strikes,
lockouts, and personnel disputes.
Billings, Warren K.
Billings, a labor militant, was convicted with Tom Mooney for exploding a bomb
during the San Francisco Preparedness Day parade in 1916. The papers (2,600
items) span the years 1914-73, but most concern his 1920-39 campaign to win
release from prison.
Borah, William E.
Borah was a U.S. senator from Idaho during the years 1907-1940. His papers
contain a limited amount of material on Idaho labor matters, federal labor
legislation, and the post-World War I Red Scare. The Library's Borah papers
span the years 1905-40, with most material dating after 1912. The collection
contains little regarding Borah's prosecution of William Haywood of the Western
Federation of Miners for conspiracy to murder an Idaho governor. The Idaho
State Historical Society houses a collection of papers relating to Borah's
activities from 1890 to 1907.
The collection chronicles Carnegie's extensive involvement in late nineteenth-century
industrial development and early twentieth-century philanthropy. His business
correspondence often touches upon labor conditions at Carnegie Corporation
Clark, Samuel H.
Clark headed the Association of Colored Railway Trainmen and Locomotive Firemen.
His papers's 250 items contain scattered documents on union affairs from
the 1930s to the 1950s as well as a detailed file for 1945-49 from the union's
Norfolk & Western Railroad grievance committee.
Cortelyou, George B.
His papers contain correspondence and subject files for his 1903 tenure as
the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor.
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Darrow's papers include material on his role in the Woodworkers' Conspiracy
Trial, Haywood's Idaho conspiracy case, the Darrow Bribery Trial growing
out of the McNamara case, and the 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike Arbitration
Davis, James J.
His papers contain very little correspondence for his tenure as U.S. secretary
of labor (1921-30); a number of speeches and articles on labor questions
are present, however. Also present is a 1941 draft of an unpublished book
entitled "The History of Strikes."
Draper, Ernest G.
Draper served on the National Labor Board and as assistant secretary of commerce
during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency and on the board of governors of the
Federal Reserve System from 1938 to 1950. His papers contain numerous speeches
and articles about unemployment.
Frankfurter was a key figure in progressive and liberal politics from World
War I until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1939. His extensive correspondence
with political figures and government officials figures often touches on
issues of labor and industrial legislation, particularly during the New Deal.
Microfilm edition available.
Frey, John P.
Frey headed the Metal Trades Department of the AFL from 1934 to 1950. His papers
total 28,000 items and include extensive correspondence and subject files
dealing with all aspects of the trade union movements. Frey developed extensive
files on topics of special interest, including concentration in the banking
industry, craft unionism versus industrial unionism, Communism, and the Communist
role in the CIO. The papers include Frey's "Trade Union Experiences," a manuscript
narrating the development of the AFL.
Garfield, James R.
Garfield was commissioner of corporations (1903-07) in the Department of Commerce
and Labor. His diaries, letters, and subject files contain detailed information
on labor conditions in the meat-packing, petroleum, and railroad industries.
Gleason, Arthur H.
The papers of this reformer and journalist include files on his work with John
Brophy of the United Mine Workers and the Bureau of Industrial Research in
1921-23. Microfilm edition available.
Goodman pioneered the labor movement's concern with radiation safety and was
secretary of the AFL-CIO's Atomic Energy Technical Committee from its establishment
until 1967. His papers are not yet processed, and no finding aid has been
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Harriman, Florence J.
These papers contain a limited amount of material concerning Harriman's membership
on the Federal Industrial Relations Commission (1913-16) and the AFL Committee
on Women In Industry (1917-19).
Harriman, W. Averell.
Harriman's papers include material on labor relations at his Merchant Shipbuilding
Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad and his perspective on relations between
the Roosevelt administration and business during his chairmanship of the
Business Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce in the late
1930s. Harriman's political files also contain material on labor politics
in New York and elsewhere in the 1950s. Access restricted.
Harrison, Nancy Blaine.
These papers, part of the Gilbert Harrison Papers, document Nancy Harrison's
career as a union organizer in North Carolina in the 1940s.
Hines, Lewis G.
Hines held a variety of union and public posts. His papers (13,800 items) are
especially useful for studying Pennsylvania labor politics in the 1930s.
Hines supported Republicans through the 1930s and Wendell Willkie in 1940.
He vigorously opposed the CIO and Communism, and his files document his close
attention to the CIO and his effort as head of Pennsylvania's Department
of Labor and Industry to discharge those aligned with the Communist-led CIO
union of state employees. His files for his tenure as national AFL legislative
representative (1943-49) deal with the AFL's interest in conscription, veterans'
benefits, wage and price controls, labor standards, health insurance, and
the Taft-Hartley Act. Files for his later career as AFL special representative
(1949-58) include material on the importation of farm labor.
Ickes, Harold L.
The voluminous diary Ickes kept during his tenure as secretary of the interior
(1933-45) includes conversations with hundreds of New Deal officials, politicians,
and union leaders about political topics. Ickes's diary and memoir are available
Kingsbury, John A.
Kingsbury held key positions in the State Charities Aid Association (1907-11),
the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (1911-14) and the
Public Charities of New York City (1914-18). His papers reveal much about
the condition of the most hard-pressed levels of American society.
Kroll directed the CIO's Political Action Committee from 1946 until the 1956
merger with the AFL. His papers (3,600 items) contain many speeches dealing
with the CIO's political views and its electoral strategy.
La Follette Family.
This collection includes the papers of Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator
Robert M. La Follette, Sr., U.S. senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr., Wisconsin
governor Philip F. La Follette, other La Follette family members, and the
records, 1911-12, of the National Progressive Republican League. The papers
contain extensive correspondence on political and legislative matters with
numerous trade union officials and progressive politicians as well as extensive
files on labor legislation. Access restricted.
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Land, Emory S.
Adm. Land headed the War Shipping Administration during World War II, and his
papers document his frequent clashes with unions over personnel policies.
Landis, James M. One container of Landis's papers is devoted
to his role as a special trial examiner for the U.S. Department of Labor in
its attempt to deport Harry Bridges of the west coast longshoremen's union.
McAdoo, William G.
McAdoo, President Woodrow Wilson's secretary of the treasury, ran the nation's
railroads during their seizure for military purposes in World War I. His
correspondence and subject files document his experiences with rail labor
McGranery, James P.
McGranery was assistant to the U.S. attorney general, 1943-46, U.S. district
judge, 1946-52, and attorney general, 1952-53. His papers include legal files
on labor racketeering and the legal status of certain types of union political
activity. Access restricted.
McKelway, Alexander J.
McKelway served as southern secretary of the National Child Labor Committee
in the early decades of the twentieth century. His papers (2,500 items) contain
numerous speeches on labor conditions in the South and extensive correspondence
regarding child labor legislation.
Neufeld, Maurice F.
Neufeld's diaries contain accounts of conversations with leading figures in
labor relations and labor politics, including Francis Perkins and Herbert
Lehman. Access restricted.
Newman, a prominent labor lawyer, was the lead attorney for a series of suits
in the 1970s and 1980s that attempted to expand the requirements of "equal
pay for equal work" in racial and sexual discrimination cases to cover jobs
that were unlike but of "equal worth." The Newman papers contain the case
files for these "pay equity" cases brought in New York, Michigan, California,
the state of Washington, and elsewhere. Several of the suits involved public
employers, and the case files contain detailed historical records of civil
service job classification and pay setting procedures obtained by discovery
Olney's papers contain correspondence and other material dealing with his role,
as President Grover Cleveland's attorney general, in the use of U.S. troops
in the 1894 railroad strikes. Microfilm edition available.
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Pinchot, Amos R.E.
The papers of this earnest progressive touch on all aspects of reform in the
period from 1910 to his death in 1944. Included in his papers is correspondence
with union officials and labor politicians as well as files on labor legislation.
Contains considerable material on the National Women's Trade Union League.
The files for his two terms as Pennsylvania governor (1923-27 and 1932-35)
frequently discuss labor and economic conditions. His diaries and scrapbooks
are on microfilm.
Randolph, A. Philip.
Randolph's long career as a labor and civil rights leader is documented in
the 13,000 items of his papers. In addition to correspondence, speeches,
and writings, Randolph's papers contain subject files on the Brotherhood
of Sleeping Car Porters and the U.S. Fair Employment Practice Committee,
as well as material regarding his interest in the treatment of black members
by various unions. The papers include files on the March on Washington Movement,
the Negro American Labor Council, the Socialist Party, and the National Negro
Congress. Microfilm edition anticipated.
Rauh, Joseph L.
Rauh, a labor lawyer, leading liberal, and civil rights activist, was attorney
for the United Auto Workers in the 1950s. His papers contain extensive files
concerning UAW legal affairs and his work for many other union clients. Rauh's
files also document his legal work on behalf of the Edward Sadlowski insurgency
in the United Steel Workers and on behalf of the anti- Tony Boyle caucus
of the United Mine Workers in the 1970s.
Ryan, Joseph P.
This collection contains a dozen letters exchanged between Ryan, leader of
the International Longshoremen's Association, and various U.S. officials
concerning ILA cooperation with the war effort in World War II.
Sampson's letters contain references to his role as attorney in the 1810 landmark
case of the journeymen cordwainers regarding the legal status of the closed
Schofield, John M.
Gen. Schofield was the commanding general of the U.S. Army, 1888-95. His papers
contain extensive correspondence on the use of troops during the railroad
strikes and labor unrest of 1894.
Schwellenbach, Lewis B.
Schwellenbach's papers include speeches and statements on postwar labor problems
he delivered when he was secretary of labor, 1945-48.
Sifton, Paul F., and Sifton, Claire G.
The Sifton papers (15,550 items) contain files on Paul Sifton's work as national
legislative representative for the United Auto Workers (1948-62). Also documents
his work in the 1930s in New York's unemployment compensation system and
the U.S. Wages and Hours Division. Other files cover his post-1941 activities
with the National Farmers' Union, the Union for Democratic Action, and the
War Manpower Commission. The Siftons's papers also contain a number of playscripts
for social dramas authored by one or both of them. Present as well is an
unfinished exposé of John L. Lewis written by Paul Sifton.
Straus, Oscar S.
Straus was secretary of commerce and labor, 1906-09, and chaired the arbitration
commission to settle the dispute between eastern railroads and their engineers
in 1912. His diary and his correspondence discuss labor controversies of
Taft, Robert A.
Senator Taft's legislative files document his lengthy battle to modify the
National Labor Relations Act as well as his work on numerous other pieces
of labor legislation. Taft's political files also contain background information
on union political activity.
Thompson's papers contain some material concerning his membership on presidential
boards investigating railroad labor disputes during the Roosevelt and Truman
Wallace, Henry A.
The Library's Wallace papers (about 24,600 items) are chiefly from his vice-presidency.
His correspondence and political files contain many letters with union officials
and labor politicians. The University of Iowa and the Franklin D. Roosevelt
Library also maintain large Wallace collections. Microfilm edition available.
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The Library's Manuscript Division holds the main body of the papers of twenty-three
presidents spanning from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. Labor historians
may find items of interest in one or another of these collections. The papers
of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, for example, include files relevant
to a variety of labor controversies during their administrations. All of the
Library's presidential collections are available on microfilm.
The Manuscript Division holds the papers of thirty-one justices of the Supreme
Court, thirty-two U.S. attorneys general, several solicitors general, and a
number of appeals court judges. Files regarding key court cases bearing upon
the legal position of workers and unions often can be found in the relevant
In addition to its manuscript collection, the Library of Congress maintains other
large collections of value to labor historians. Researchers may wish to consult "How
Materials on Labor at the Library of Congress," a 1985 publication of the Library's
General Reading Rooms Division. This publication describes the Library's bibliographic
how to use them to find labor-related material.
The Library's main book collection contains
hundreds of volumes of bound union convention proceedings as well as thousands
of other books and bound serials on labor topics.
The Microform Reading Room's collection
of microfilmed documents, publications, and dissertations is vast.
The Prints and Photographs Division maintains
(to name just three collections of interest to labor historians) Lewis Hine's
dramatic child labor photographs from the early 1900s, Dorothea Lange's photo-documentation
of rural and migrant workers in the 1930s, and the photographic collection
of the National Women's Trade Union League.
The Library's holdings of labor-related broadsides and pamphlets are described
in James Gilreath, "Labor History Sources in the Library of Congress Rare
Book and Special Collections Division," Labor History 25 (Spring
The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and
Recorded Sound Division maintains a large collection of feature films,
newsreel footage, and contemporary news broadcasts for those wishing to use
this type of source.
The Archive of Folk Culture of
the American Folklife Center has
compiled bibliographies of labor and industrial songs, and recordings of many
of them can be found in the Motion
Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
Prepared by John E. Haynes, 20th Century Political History Specialist,
27 June 1994