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Labor History Sources in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress

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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 history research.


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).

Organizational Records:

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 farm workers.

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 its predecessors.

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 edition available.

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 matter available.

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Personal Papers:

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 World.

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.

Carnegie, Andrew.
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 facilities.

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, Clarence.
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 Commission.

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, Felix.
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, Leo.
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 prepared.

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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 on microfilm.

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, Jack.
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 relations.

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, Win.
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 motions.

Olney, Richard.
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.

Pinchot, Cornelia.
Contains considerable material on the National Women's Trade Union League.

Pinchot, Gifford.
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, William.
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 shop.

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 the era.

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, Huston.
Thompson's papers contain some material concerning his membership on presidential boards investigating railroad labor disputes during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

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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Presidential Papers:

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.

Judicial Papers:

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 judicial papers.

Other Library of Congress Collections:

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 to Find 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 resources and 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 1984).

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

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  October 14, 2010
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