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PART 2: DESCRIPTION OF THE RECORDS

Speeches/ Conferences /Hearings/ Reference Material/ Appointment Records Union Correspondence /Mining Dept. 

A. Files of the Office of the President

Index (Reel 58)

General Correspondence, 1888-1937 (Reels  59-109)  

Although there are substantial numbers of copies of outgoing letters, the general correspondence contains primarily incoming correspondence and generally deals with public issues confronting the Federation (politics, legislation, legal proceedings, relations with foreign labor groups, World War I, etc.). In addition to correspondence, the files contain resolutions, occasional reports, clippings, and other types of material. An index to all signers and recipients of letters and documents has been prepared and is included on Reel 58 of the microfilm.  (More details and subject matter)

Speeches and Writings, 1894-1925 (Reels 110-119)

This subseries consists of Gompers' speeches, magazine and newspaper articles, interviews and miscellaneous statements, as well as press releases originating with Gompers and other AFL officials. Only a few items exist for the 1890's and the first few years of the twentieth century, but the volume steadily increases from about 1904 until Gompers' death. Individual items range from eulogies and holiday messages to speeches to international union conventions and statements on some of the most important labor and public issues of the day. During the last few years of Gompers' life, press releases dominate the files. Arrangement of the records is chronological. A calendar on Reel 58 of the film, lists the date, nature of the item (i.e., address, press release, etc.), title and/or indication of subject matter, audience addressed or journal in which the item appeared, and the reel and frame number where the item is located. In addition, each reel has a table of contents which reproduces the calendar entries for that reel.

Conferences, 1901-1926, 1930 (Reels 119-123)

The conference subseries contains minutes, transcripts, proceedings, and memoranda from formal conferences and conventions which Gompers attended, and from his informal meetings with individuals or small groups of people. Topics range from specific labor controversies to legislation, government appointments, and other issues related only indirectly to labor matters. Arrangement of the conferences is chronological.

In 1916 and 1917 there is considerable information on the AFL's role in Mexican-American disputes, but the European war and related topics are the most frequent theme. Especially noteworthy are several conferences concerning the issuance of "Labor's Position in Peace or in War," conferences of or about the Committee on Labor of the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense, a meeting about women entering industrial employment, and several discussions on the sending of a delegation to the international labor conference to be held concurrently with the Paris peace conference.

For the postwar years the conference records constitute a very significant source of information on the key issues confronting the AFL including the open shop drive, railroad regulation and strikes, efforts at joint legislative action by labor and agricultural organizations, jurisdictional disputes, and many other issues.

Highlighting the 1919 and 1920 files are accounts of numerous meetings of the AFL delegation to the peace conference; conferences concerning the Plumb plan for government ownership of railroads, and other railroad matters; and discussions of overall strategy and specific contests in the 1920 election.

Minutes of numerous meetings of the Labor Union Legislative Representatives appear from 1921 on, and 1923 and 1924 files are dominated by three main topics: child labor, aid for the German trade union movement, and electric power. Gompers was interested in making electric power affordable to the working class, and in a world conference on electric power held in London in July 1924. Other topics include prohibition, women in industrial employment, black migration from the South, railroad legislation and strikes, and the 1924 presidential campaign.

A calendar listing the date, participants, topic, and reel and frame number location of each conference or meeting appears on Reel 58 of the microfilm. The table of contents for each reel of the subseries reproduces the calendar entries for that reel.

Hearings, 1899-1924 (Reels 124-126)

Transcripts of Gompers' testimony before congressional committees make up the bulk of this subseries. Also included are transcripts of a few hearings before the New York State Legislature, the United States Industrial Commission, and the Industrial Relations Committee of the New York State Constitutional Convention (1915). Topics include the eight-hour day, injunctions, antitrust legislation, workmen's compensation, the Taylor system, compulsory arbitration, conscription, prohibition, communism, and others.

The calendar for the hearings located on Reel 58, shows the date, body hearing the testimony, topic, and reel and frame number where the testimony is located. The table of contents for each reel of the hearings subseries reprints the calendar notations for that reel.

Reference Material, 1878, 1886-1936 (Reels 126-135)

The reference material is chronologically organized and includes reports and studies, typescripts of clippings, biographical sketches of Gompers, resolutions, speeches, and other documents. Although the series covers a time span of nearly sixty years, the records are concentrated in the war years and, to a lesser extent, in the early 1920's.

Some of the more interesting reports and studies include a sketch on the history of the union label (March 1898); a report on the formation and objectives of the National Civic Federation (March 28, 1901); and a report on the proceedings of the formative IWW meeting in Chicago (June 29, 1905). 1906, 1908, and, to a lesser extent, other election years contain political materials such as party platforms, AFL platform demands, and candidates' policy statements. 1909-1914 files contain information on the AFL's conflict with United States Steel, and the McNamara case and  a study entitled "How Working Girls Live in New York City" (1914).

Among the wartime records are the studies, reports, and other documents from the various committees and subcommittees of Gompers' Committee on Labor. Other items of interest include studies of working conditions in arsenals and other war industries prepared by the Committee on Women in Industry and Section on Sanitation of the Committee on Welfare Work and a report on the agricultural workers' strike in Puerto Rico (April 30, 1918). 1919 material centers on the peace conference and European labor meetings, the president's Industrial Conference and the postwar role of women workers. Minutes of meetings of the League to Enforce the Peace Executive Council appear throughout the year.

Major topics covered in the 1920-1924 period are the open shop campaign, the Kansas Industrial Court, the Washington Disarmament Conference (October 1921-February 1922), and Gompers' trip to the Panama Canal Zone (December 1923-January 1924). Significant documents include: a report on the formation of a labor publicity organization (March 25, 1921); an analysis of the impact of Canadian Catholic unions on various trades (August 1921); proceedings of the Second International Congress of Working Women (October 26, 1921); and a report on the convention of the Workers' Party of Canada (February 17, 1922).

Appointment Records, 1902-1910, 1912-1924 (Reels 136-137)

Records for 1902 include only a brief list of addresses delivered. Volumes for 1903-1924 (1911 is missing) provide a very detailed record of Gompers' activities and engagements. Generally included are lists of Executive Council meetings, invitations accepted and rejected, conferences held, hearings before congressional committees, and requests for newspaper and magazine articles. Each volume has a table of contents.

B. National and International Union Correspondence, 1885, 1890-1911(Reels 138-143)

This series dates almost exclusively from 1890 through 1905 and consists of correspondence with or about affiliated and nonaffiliated national and international unions. Most letters are incoming and addressed to Gompers and Frank Morrison, or to Morrison's predecessors as AFL secretary, August McCraith and Chris Evans. Some correspondence of John McBride is also included. Organization of the series is alphabetical by key word in the union's name, and chronological thereunder.

Whereas the general correspondence deals primarily with public issues, politics, and the war, this series concerns the basic trade union activities: organizing, granting of charters, jurisdictional disputes, dues payment, strikes, lockouts, boycotts, and similar matters. Due in part to the early period covered in the series, much of the correspondence deals with applications for affiliation with the Federation. Jurisdictional disputes between affiliated nationals and Internationals are also an important part of the series. Controversies between the Brewery Workmen and Coopers, and between the Typographical Union and Machinists are particularly well covered.

C. Mining Department Records, 1911-1915 (Reel 144)

These records included correspondence and a few other papers of James Lord who became the Department's first paid president at his election in January 1914. About half predate Lord's election and concern his activities as an official of District 12 (Illinois) of the United Mine Workers of America. The letters are divided between general correspondence and small files of correspondence with three Mining Department affiliates: the Western Federation of Miners, the International Association of Machinists, and the International Brotherhood of Steam Shovel and Dredgemen. In addition to general business of the Mining Department, the letters deal with United Mine Workers internal affairs, the establishment of cooperatives (Lord was chairman of a United Mine Workers committee on cooperatives), and coal mining disputes in Colorado and Montana. Among important correspondents are Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones), Mining Department Secretary-Treasurer Ernest Mills, Chicago attorney Seymour Stedman, and John H. Walker of the Mine Workers and the Illinois Federation of Labor. In addition, the records contain a file of correspondence, agreements, and decisions of a board made up of representatives of District 12 and the Illinois Coal Operators Association, intended to settle grievances covered by the contract between the two groups.

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