Correspondence for the Federation's formative years is sparse. The earliest concentration of material deals with the European labor movement. Between 1888 and 1892 there is a substantial exchange of letters between Gompers and August E. Keufer of the Federation Francais du Travailleurs du Libre, repeated invitations for Gompers to attend the International Labor Congress in London in 1888, and letters regarding a proposed international labor congress to be held in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair.
In December 1894 Gompers was defeated for the AFL presidency by John McBride of the United Mine Workers. The election itself goes unnoted in the correspondence except for a copy of a single newspaper clipping. A small amount of McBride's 1895 correspondence is the only other evidence of his year in office.
Gompers regained the presidency in December 1895. The 1896 and 1897 files include information on the silver issue, labor problems in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and black workers in the Iron Molders Union (see letters of Martin Fox and W. S. Griscom). Most prominent in the 1898 correspondence are letters concerning an eight-hour law before Congress, and in 1901 the main concerns are alien contract labor, Chinese exclusion, and labor problems in Buffalo, New York. Also in 1901 is the first correspondence with the National Civic Federation and its secretary, Ralph Easley. Initial evidence of Gompers' long interest in Latin American labor affairs comes in the 1901-1904 period in correspondence with AFL organizer Santiago Iglesias, and Governor William Hunt of Puerto Rico.
The volume of correspondence increases markedly in 1905. Important correspondents include John Mitchell of the United Mine Workers, George W. Perkins of the Cigar Makers, James C. Shanessy of the Journeymen Barbers International Union, and representatives of the Philadelphia Typographical Union. Significant topics include Puerto Rico, women's suffrage, labor legislation before Congress, and the 1905 Russian revolution
In March 1906, the AFL issued labor's "Bill of Grievances" and the 1906 correspondence strongly reflects a preoccupation with politics, congressional elections, and pending legislation. On February 13 and June 18 Gompers reported to the Executive Council on the progress of eight-hour legislation, compulsory pilotage, ship subsidy, immigration, child labor, and other legislative interests. The June letters also contain a state by state listing of union men who were members of the state legislatures. Letters between Gompers and prolabor congressmen such as George A. Pearre, Charles H. Grosvenor, John T. Hunt, and Thomas Spight are also prominent. Other letters of interest include exchanges regarding Chinese immigration with Robert Wood of the Immigration Restriction League and Ralph Easley.
Between July and the November election the political nature of the correspondence is more pronounced. The Federation office became a virtual clearinghouse for information on congressmen and congressional candidates. The AFL did not officially endorse candidates, but upon request it provided a list of labor-related bills considered during an incumbent's tenure, and an analysis of his votes on these measures. The preelection period contains hundreds of these requests and replies concerning candi dates from all over the nation. Labor's strongest efforts were directed toward unseating Congressmen Charles E. Littlefield of Maine and Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois. Correspondence with D. J. McGillicuddy, Andrew Furuseth, J. D. Pierce, George W. Perkins, John B. Lennon, and others document these campaigns. Additional records of interest include the AFL's annual financial report and Gompers' quarterly report to the Executive Council, both dated September 17, and extensive notes, in Gompers'handwriting, from a September 27 Chicago meeting of the Progressive Alliance and the Independent League. Other important correspondents of the last half of 1906 include Max Morris of the Retail Clerks, William D. Mahon of the Amalgamated Association of Streetcar Men, Daniel J. Keefe of the Longshoremen, Marine, and Transport Workers, and AFL Organizer Herman Robinson.
Politics also runs heavily through the 1907 files. Letters requesting and giving information on congressmen form a large percentage of the year's correspondence. By the end of the year Gompers and the AFL were also involved in a movement to deny William H. Taft the Republican presidential nomination. Other important topics in 1907 include immigration, arbitration, and the Danbury Hatters and Bucks Stove injunctions.
From late December 1906 until January 15, 1907, Gompers was in Cuba for health reasons and for an examination of the island's labor situation. A letter to Daniel J. Keefe dated January 22 conveys Gompers' impressions of Cuban labor. In mid-April 1907, Gompers spoke at an international conference in New York to consider the use of arbitration in international disputes. Prior to the conference he polled many union leaders on the arbitration question, and their responses make up much of the March and April correspondence. In September Gompers was approached by Boughton Brandenberg, apparently an agent of the National Association of Manufacturers, with a blackmail scheme designed to induce Gompers to resign the AFL presidency. The files for September through December contain considerable information on the incident.
The extent to which the AFL had embraced its political role is clearly reflected in the 1908 correspondence. Again prominent is information on congressional voting records and requests for support from nonincumbent office seekers. Moreover, Gompers worked vigorously on Democrat William Jennings Bryan's behalf and the AFL had a full-time representative, M. Grant Hamilton, at the Democratic national headquarters. Gompers' reasons for supporting Bryan are explained in a July 31, 1908, letter to John H. Brinkman. Exchanges with Hamilton, Democratic National Committee Chairman Norman Mack, and Edward N. Nockles of the Chicago Federation of Labor are especially important in showing Gompers' role in the election. Virtual endorsement of the Democratic candidate also elicited considerable reaction both inside and outside the ranks of labor. Most labor leaders whose comments appear in the general correspondence seemed to agree with Gompers. One exception was Thomas J. Dolan of the International Brotherhood of Steam Shovel and Dredgemen who favored Taft, an honorary member of the Brotherhood. A greater degree of protest is represented in the letters from rank and file union members. Some, such as Ira Giltner representing a carpenters' local in Columbus, Indiana, protested any active involvement in politics, while protests showing socialist leanings are exemplified in letters from Jerome Mark and John Napier. Other notable correspondence from the period includes a long June 3 letter from Thomas Tracy of the AFL Legislative Committee detailing the progress of several labor-supported legislative matters; letters between Bryan and Gompers concerning the Democratic platform and other issues; a September 8 Gompers memo on the campaign in Joseph G. Cannon's district; and a November 4 letter from John B. Lennon concerning the lack of rankand-file labor support for Bryan.
The volume of correspondence drops noticeably beginning in 1909. Three topics, the Bucks Stove and Range court case, Gompers ' trip to Europe, and problems with United States Steel dominate the period.
On December 23, 1908, Gompers, Frank Morrison, and John Mitchell were sentenced to prison terms for contempt in connection with the Bucks Stove case. Reaction to the decision makes up a large portion of the correspondence of late December 1908, and January 1909. Especially interestingis a December 24 letter from Ralph Easley discussing the possibility that the verdict and sentence were influenced by Gompers' role in the 1908 presidential campaign.
Much correspondence in the first half of 1909 (including exchanges with Ben Tillett of the British Dock Workers Union, Carl Legien, secretary of the International Federation of the Secretariates of the Trade Union denters, and German labor leader A. von Elm) deals with Gompers' European trip. Gompers was abroad from July through mid -October and attended the General Federation of Trade Unions meeting in Blackpool, England, the Conference of International Trade Union Centers in Paris, and the British Trade Union Congress in Ipswich. A June 18 letter from Gompers to the Executive Council gives a complete itinerary. Information on Gompers' European activities is found in his letters to his secretary, R. Lee Guard, and a long memo dated July 13.
Correspondence of late 1909, and much of 1910, concerns U. S. Steel's efforts to oust trade unions from its operations. Little information exists on the steel strike itself, but the Federation's subsequent investigation of the corporation and attempts to secure government antitrust action are fairly well documented. Attorneys Frank S. Monnett of Columbus, Ohio, and E. G. Ballard of Gary, Indiana, gathered most of the evidence for possible antitrust suits, and their correspondence forms the best record of the Federation's response to the steel trust.
Election and political correspondence is more limited than in 1906 or 1908, but still forms an important part of the 1910 files. For the first time extensive information on the voting records of senators as well as congressmen is included. Notable Gompers letters in 1910 include one on February 14 concerning a compulsory arbitration bill in Massachusetts; a June 3 letter to AFL Treasurer John B. Lennon regarding Lennon's activities in support of prohibition; and a September 27 letter to John M. Stahl, agent for the Farmer's National Congress, showing Gompers' views on legislation important to agriculturists.
The 1910 and 1911 correspondence also contains scattered information on the National Association of Trades and Workers, a "nonstrike" labor organization backed by breakfast cereal manufacturer C. W. Post. A twopage examination of the organization is dated 1910, and further information is found in letters of John H. Bourne, George Thompson, and George McKinley. The 1911 correspondence also contains numerous letters concerning the appointment of a successor to John Mitchell in his National Civic Federation position.
The key issue in the 1911 files is the Los Angeles Times bombing. First significant mention of the case is an October 16, 1910, letter from Schuyler Kelly. However, the real concentration of information comes after the April 22, 191 1, extradition from Indianapolis of John J. McNamara. Throughout the remainder of 1911 the defense of J. J. and J. B. McNamara and Ortie McManigal, AFL fund raising, and the labor and public reaction to the case dominate the files. Most significant is correspondence of Frank Duffy, the secretary of a conference of national and international unions set up to raise funds and direct legal action in the case, Frank Ryan, chairman of the conference and president of the Bridge and Structural Iron Workers Union, AFL General Legal Council Leo M. Rappaport, and defense attorney Clarence Darrow. Additional information on the AFL's fund-raising activities is found in letters of George W. Perkins and R. Lee Guard, and a financial statement of the Bridge and Structural Iron Workers'McNamara Defense Fund dated June 18. A December 1 telegram from Darrow announced the confession of the MeNamaras. The confession triggered a flood of sympathetic communications from labor leaders and prominent individuals from other walks of life.
The 1912 correspondence is light, and the aftermath of the McNamara case continues as the prime topic. Information includes a summary report of the McNamara Ways and Means Committee, January 6; Frank Morrison's final financial statement for the defense fund, February 7; the fund's final audit, November 8; and an unsigned letter dated April 28 criticizing Darrow's handling of the case and commenting on bribery charges subsequently filed against Darrow and on the backgrounds of several members of his staff.
The election is the other main topic of 1912. Important correspondents in this regard include Arthur Holder, head of the AFL Legislative Committee, Daniel Harris, president of the New York State Federation of Labor, Senator Thomas P. Gore, and John Keegan. Special interest was shown in the Senate campaign of North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Walter Clark. Also of interest is Gompers'February 15 memo, handwritten during a Bucks Stove court session, concerning Judge Daniel T. Wright's bias, and a March 1 letter to the Legislative Committee concerning amendments for the Wilson anti-injunction bill.
Due in part to Gompers' ill health, the volume of 1913 correspondence is light. From March through August he was under treatment for an ear ailment and was unable to carry on all his usual activities. In his absence much of the correspondence was routine in nature and handled by Miss Guard.
A theme which runs through the correspondence of 1913 and 1914 is legislative action and the building of a working relationship with the Wilson administration. A report on an early meeting between Gompers and President-elect Wilson is dated December 21, 1912. Several communications in February 1913, deal with the bill, to create a cabinet-level Department of Labor and letters from Gompers to Wilson on March 14 and April 30, and to Frank Morrison on April 13, May 20, and December 20 deal with antiinjunction measures. Significant correspondence, especially in the August through October 1914 period, also concerns the seamen's bill sponsored by Senator Robert M. La Follette.
Correspondence for 1913 and 1914 also includes information on jurisdictional disputes and organizing activities. A dispute within the United Garment Workers and relations between the United Garment Workers and the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union are covered in correspondence of Ralph Easley, AFL Organizer Hugh Frayne, and B. A. Larger. February and March 1914 correspondence, especially of James Duncan, concerns disputes involving the AFL Building Trades Department and the Bricklayers; a March 3, 1914, Frank Morrison letter reports on several Chicago area problems; and a June 2, 1914, letter from Gompers to Morrison describes a dispute between the International Association of Machinists and the Cleveland Federation of Labor.
In June 1914, the National Civic Federation prepared a survey showing the benefits of unionization in various trades. Included were questions on membership, wages, hours, fringe benefits, and other topics. Responses to the questionnaires from numerous national and international unions appear throughout the June and July files.
The first political correspondence of 1914 appears in April, but the election does not become a major concern until August. Correspondence of that month shows a special effort to insure renomination of Congressman Frank Buchanan of Chicago and several letters in September concern the Senate candidacy of Raymond Robins. Most of the political correspondence, however, is in the familiar format of requests for information about an incumbent and replies based on his voting record on measures of interest to labor.
In the last few months of 1914, the European war emerges as a major topic of concern. Starting in August there are expressions of opinion on the war from numerous trade unionists. An example of Gompers' early aversion to the war is found in his August 6 letter to P. T. Daly of the Irish Trade Union Congress and Labor Party. Other interesting war-related correspondence includes letters of Carl Legien, British labor leader W. A. Appleton, and Ralph Easley, who was already concerned about the antimilitary activities of various Socialist groups.
Numerous other issues are represented in single or small groups of letters in 1913 and 1914. Following is a listing of some of these topics with the names of correspondents involved with them: immigration, J. Harada and Ellision D. Smith; detective agencies and strike breaking, John P. Frey; anti-AFL attitudes of the Catholic Church in Canada, Frank Duffy; convict labor, Norman Hapgood and Patrick Gilday; Mexico, R. Zuberan; New York State factory inspection, Louis B. Schram; prohibition, Richard P. Hobson; scientific management, Robert F. Hoxie and Paul N. Mazur; and Pipefitters' jurisdictional dispute, E. P. Downey.
An unusually high percentage, perhaps half or more, of 1915's files are made up of copies of outgoing letters. Notable in the early months of 1915 is correspondence with various cabinet members including Secretary of War Newton D. Baker and Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory. Gompers frequently sought redress for specific grievances by forwarding information received at his office to the appropriate cabinet member or government official. In this period, for example, many communications with Baker deal with employee grievances at the arsenal at Rock Island, Illinois, and some exchanges with the attorney general concern the use of marble on the Lincoln Memorial from a firm which violated the government's eight-hour directive. Also prominent in January 1915 is information on New York State workmen's compensation legislation. In the spring and summer of 1915 Gompers was often called on to defend the Clayton Act against critics on both sides, as exemplified by correspondence with former Attorney General George Wickersham, and Margaret Robins of the national Women's Trade Union League. Other important correspondents in the first half of 1915 are the American Federation of Catholic Societies, and Australian Albert Hinchliffe, who received a detailed explanation of the make-up and role of the "labor group" in Congress.
Correspondence of the summer and fall of 1915 is dominated by the war and related issues. Substantial effort was devoted to countering the work of antiwar labor groups such as Labor's National Peace Council and the Labor Committee of the Friends of Peace Association. Several June through August communications touch on the perplexing question of can, or should, labor use the war production situation for further organization and material gains. Information on alleged German efforts to foment strikes is found in July 14 and 19 Gompers' memos and other communications.
1916's crisis situation on the Mexican border represents another of the AFL's major concerns. The June files contain an especially heavy volume of correspondence and memos on Mexico. Those involved with the issue include Florence Thorne, John Murray, Chester M. Wright of'the New York Call, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza's representative, Edmundo Martinez, and Judge Charles A. Douglas. The AFL's advocacy of Carranza stirred renewed friction with the Catholic Church. In 1916, as in other years, correspondence of Frank Duffy is the key to information on the problem. Also related to the Mexican situation is the call for a Pan-American Federation of Labor, an idea discussed in a memo dated June 23, a July 6 letter addressed to the "Workers of All American Countries," and a July 21 letter to David Lubin.
In June 1916, Gompers attended the two major political conventions and visited Columbus, Ohio, the scene of labor problems involving the Machinists' union. Copies of the AFL's demands submitted to both major party conventions are dated June 1916. Correspondence regarding the 1916 congressional elections is fairly heavy in September and October and follows the familiar pattern of the AFL supplying information on the voting records of incumbent congressmen. Very little information exists on the presidential campaign.
Many letters of August and September 1916 concern J. W. Sullivan's European mission to arrange a postwar international labor conference. Other interesting correspondence for the year includes a letter to Ellen Gates Starr concerning a Chicago garment trades strike; a February 21 letter to Samuel T. Hughes about profit sharing plans; a copy of a September 15 letter from John F. Hart to Homer D. Call regarding organizing in the meat packing industry and importation of black workers; and a letter to Leon Jouhaux concerning the long-term effect of women entering the labor force.
Although only a two-year period, the 1917-1918 letters comprise over one-third the volume of the general correspondence. Nearly all the correspondence concerns the war and related domestic issues. Gompers used his influence and his position on the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense to secure labor appointments to war-related boards and committees, and to settle specific industrial disputes. The subseries contains hundreds of letters from local and national union officials complaining of offenses by government contractors and subcontractors. At the same time, the general correspondence reveals the steps Gompers took to safeguard gains made by labor in the prewar years. His Committee on Labor drafted model federal and state labor legislation and studied the effect on wages of women and blacks entering industrial employment. The work of several subcommittees of the Committee on Labor, including Welfare Work, Industrial Training for the War Emergency, and Women in Industry, is well documented.
Other important topics in the wartime correspondence include the activities of the American Alliance for Labor and Democracy (AALD), several foreign labor missions to the United States, and subsequent United States labor delegations to Europe. Important correspondents who appear throughout the period include Newton D. Baker, William B. Wilson, and other members of the Wilson cabinet; Bernard Baruch, Grosvenor B. Clarkson, W. S. Gifford, Hollis Godfrey, and Daniel Willard of the Advisory Commission; James W. Sullivan, Gompers' special assistant for Advisory Commission affairs; Robert Maisel and Chester Wright of the AALD; and Ralph Easley and Gertrude Beeks of the National Civic Federation and the Committee on Labor.
Many of the letters of January 1917 concern Gompers' fiftieth wedding anniversary. February correspondence touches on United States and Mexican relations, and especially on efforts by William Randolph Hearst and various oil interests to secure United States intervention. With these exceptions, preparedness and the war dominate the series in the months immediately preceding the United States' declaration of war. March correspondence contains extensive information on the March 9 meeting of national and international union officers which resulted in the publication of "American Labor's Position in Peace or in War." Especially significant is a March 17 letter from James Duncan which discusses several labor leaders' criticisms of the document, and a highly critical March 30 letter from Teamster Daniel Tobin.
Shortly after the declaration of war, the Council of National Defense, on the recommendation of Gompers' Committee on Labor, issued a statement to employers and employees urging that neither take advantage of the war emergency to change existing standards. Reaction to this statement, which was widely interpreted as a "no strike" pledge, makes up a large part of the April and May correspondence.
In the April-July period major activities of the Committee on Labor were subcommittee appointments and drafting legislation for a separation allowance for the dependents of soldiers and sailors. These and other Committee activities are outlined in weekly reports from Gompers to W. S. Gifford. In late April and early May there is information concerning the appointment of a labor representative on a government-sponsored mission to Russia. Record of the trip itself and the findings of the mission are found in the correspondence of James Duncan. June and July letters of Gompers' assistant Arthur Holder largely concern his study of women entering machine shop employment. Letters of May 9 and 16 concern charges by trade union women that they were underrepresented on war-related labor boards and committees. A few letters, including one to F. R. Sudduth and one from Herbert Gleitz, touch on problems caused by blacks moving into northern industrial employment. Additional significant topics in the April-July period include the Gompers-Baker agreement on cantonment construction, conscription, the Lever Food Regulation Act, and a jurisdictional dispute between the Carpenters and the Bridge and Structural Iron Workers. Letters of William Hutcheson are important on the cantonment agreement. Hutcheson, president of the Carpenters' union, was critical of the Baker agreement, and throughout the war was a frequent critic of Gompers' cooperation with the administration. A May 4 letter from J. A. Franklin encloses a copy of a company-imposed loyalty oath.
August correspondence with John Spargo, Chester Wright, Robert Maisel, and Herman Robinson includes significant information on the formation of the American Alliance for Labor and Democracy (AALD). The Alliance correspondence also contains data on the activities of the People's Council, an antiwar group which the AALD sought to offset. Also in the August file are several letters concerning the "deportation" of radicals from Bisbee, Arizona. Many other letters from late August through December deal with a major dispute between labor and shipbuilders on the west coast.
Likewise, the fall and winter months of 1917 are heavily taken up with Committee on Labor and AALD affairs. A September 10 letter from Gertrude Beeks Easley to Mrs. J. Borden Harriman deals at length with allegations that Gompers and Mrs. Easley were obstructing the work of the Committee on Women in Industry. Reports by Frederick Lee of the Committee on Industrial Fatigue, Mary McDonald of the Committee on Foreign Born Women in Industry, and L. A. Coolidge of the Committee on Welfare Work were submitted in September. October correspondence contains H. E. Miles' report for the Section of Industrial Training of the Committee on Welfare Work, and October and November letters of Otto M. Eidlitz and Gertrude Beeks Easley concern an extensive housing study prepared by the Committee on Labor.
Correspondence with Maisel, Spargo, Robinson, Joseph Chykin, Chester Wright, and Frank Wolfe details major activities of the AALD. Many of these letters deal with the formation of the National Party, a political party intended to unite Prowar liberal and radical groups. Another AALD activity was surveillance of antiwar organizations. On several occasions the AALD sent observers to meetings of these organizations to report on any "proGerman" activities. Examples include a September 29 report on a conference held under the auspices of the National Non-Partisan League and a November 30 account of a joint meeting of the Conference of Consumers Cooperative Societies and the Cooperative League of America. An October 10 letter proposes a plan to infiltrate the Jewish Daily Forward.
Several more traditional labor campaigns are also documented in the files of September-December 1917. Letters of Organizer Emmet Flood, John Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Federation of Labor, and John F. Hart and Dennis Lane of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters concern an organizing drive among meat-packing workers. Some of the Flood and Fitzpatrick letters also touch on conflicts between black and white workers in the packinghouses and the controversial activities of a black organizer named Sims. Many November and December letters deal with a streetcar strike in Minneapolis and with the dispute between the United Garment Workers and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers; reports dated November 14 and 21 treat the use of convict labor on war work.
Government intervention in logging operations in the Pacific Northwest under the direction of Col. Brice Disque commenced late in 1917 and continued for the war's duration. Gompers and local labor leaders initially cooperated with Disque and his Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, but conflicts soon surfaced. Information on these problems appears in the letters of C. O. Young, John H. Walker, and Clair Covert.
AALD correspondence in January and February 1918 centers around planning activities for Labor's Loyalty Week, a national demonstration to take place the week of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Other interesting correspondence includes a January 17 letter in which William English Walling charges that the Creel Committee had a pro-Bolshevik attitude, and letters of Giles B. Jackson seeking Gompers' support for the formation of a Bureau of Negro Economics within the U.S. Labor Department.
European and Latin American labor issues are also prominent in early 1918. Correspondence with Britisher W. A. Appleton concerns plans for an international labor conference and the activities of a British labor delegation visiting the United States; a letter from Enrique Santibanez of the Alianza Liberal Mexicana outlines the role of oil interests in causing friction between the United States and Mexico; and numerous letters from Santiago Iglesias and Labor Department investigator F. C. Roberts describe labor problems in Puerto Rico. Also prominent are exchanges with James Wilson and several other individuals concerning an American labor mission to Europe.
Early 1918 letters of George W. Perkins and W. R. Gaylord are important for information on AALD activities outside New York City, and Robert Maisel's letters of March 12 and 15 outline the financial support provided by the Creel Committee. Other prominent correspondents are William English Walling on the National Party, August Busch on prohibition, Emmet Flood and Dennis Lane on stockyard organizing, William D. Mahon on a general strike in Kansas City, Hugh Frayne on his role on the War Industries Board, V. Everit Macy on the Shipbuilding Labor Adjustment Board, and James Lord on the recognition of the Soviet government.
Files from late June and early July 1918 contain responses of numerous congressmen to a Gompers circular letter on prohibition. Many of the letters from the latter part of July are from people seeking appointment to a mission to Russia made up of Labor, Agriculture, and Commerce Department representatives. Letters of George Creel concern a Committee on Public Information decision to cease financial contributions to the AALD. Mexican-American relations are the subject of several memos in mid-July and of later correspondence of John R. Phillips and Ernest H. Greenwood. July and early August tiles contain a good deal of correspondence with Felix Frankfurter of the War Labor Board, some of which concerns IWW activity around Butte, Montana.
Gompers headed a labor mission to Europe which sailed August 16, 1918. The delegation visited England, Scotland, France, and Italy and returned in late October. Much of the correspondence while Gompers was in Europe is ceremonial in character (greetings, invitations, etc.). Gompers' letters to R. Lee Guard, and John R. Alpine (acting AFL president) outline his activities and impressions. Letters of William Stephen Saunders and W. H. Buchler,officials who escorted Gompers at different stages of his tour, relate his activities and gauge his mission's impact.
Domestic correspondence of interest while Gompers was away includes letters of Matthew Woll, writing as Gompers'special assistant for the Committee on Labor. A September 23 letter from Woll to Grosvenor B. Clarkson protests actions of the War Labor Policies Board affecting women workers. An October 3 letter from William B. Wilson to Clarkson gives further information on the topic. Much October correspondence pertains to a proposed national celebration to welcome Gompers on his return from Europe.
Most of the letters from the time Gompers returned until he left again for Europe in January 1919 concern changes brought on by the war's end, the upcoming peace negotiations, and the international labor conference which was to meet coincidentally with the peace conference. Correspondence between Gompers and Maisel deals with the AALD's postwar tasks and in a November 27 letter to Franklin Martin and President Wilson, Gompers outlines his thoughts on a postwar role for the Council of National Defense. A December 23 memo signed by Matthew Woll presents the Committee on Labor's view of the role of women workers in the postwar period, and in a January 7 letter to the members of the Committee on Labor, Gompers outlines what he considers to be the Committee's most significant achievements. Additional significant letters include exchanges with William M. Short regarding IWW influence in Seattle; a letter from Mary Anderson enclosing the Labor Department's draft standards for the employment of women in industry; and correspondence, mainly with William D. Mahon, concerning a streetcar strike in Kansas City.
Correspondence continues at a heavy volume for 1919, while that for 1920-1921 is substantially lighter. Some of the prime topics covered during the period are the peace conference, the AFL's relations with European labor, the 1920 election, and Catholic trade unions in Canada.
Gompers returned to Europe for the peace conference in mid-January 1919, and remained until the end of March. Controversy over the site and scope of the international labor conference is an important part of the correspondence for the period (see letters of W. A. Appleton). Lengthy Gompers memos on his activities and impressions at the peace conference are dated January 30, February 8, and February 19.
Much of the office correspondence for January, February, and March 1919, concerns the AALD and the AFL's increasing disenchantment with Director Robert Maisel. A January 24 letter from R. Lee Guard to Gompers predicted "the chances are ten to one that the Alliance may eventually if it has not already done so, result in more harm than good," and in a June 24 letter Chester Wright threatened to resign from his Alliance post unless Maisel was replaced.
Correspondence from April through August 1919 is light. Puerto Rican labor problems are reflected in the reports of organizer R. S. Sexton. In July and continuing through September are frequent exchanges with George N. Barnes of Great Britain concerning the international labor conference scheduled for October in Washington. That conference, called under the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, convened on October 26. A meeting of the International Federation of Trade Unions was scheduled to meet coincidentally. Also scheduled for October was an industrial conference called by President Wilson. Correspondence dealing with invitations to and arrangements for these three meetings forms a large percentage of the September and October files.
Also in September, an Executive Council committee sought opinions from a number of prominent individuals on the Plumb plan for government ownership of the railroads. Late September and early October letters contain detailed responses from several of these individuals including Nathan L. Amster of the Citizens' National Railroad League, and Charles Edward Russell.
Correspondence on yet another conference (this one to identify common interests among the AFL, railroad brotherhoods, and farmers' organizations) highlights the final months of 1919. Also in December are replies by several national and international union officers to Gompers' request for advice on how to rid the Seattle Central Labor Union of IWW influence.
In 1920 Jan Oudegeest of the International Federation of Trade Unions and Albert Thomas and Ernest Greenwood of the International Labor Office (a League of Nations creation) are frequent correspondents. In May 1920, Gompers debated Kansas Governor Henry J. Allen over the industrial court law. Letters of early May deal largely with the debate, and include opinions on the court from attorneys Clarence Darrow and J. H. Ralston.
Political correspondence starts early in the year but is not as heavy as in the prewar period. A lengthy March 29 letter from the AFL's National NonPartisan Campaign Committee to Ogdon L. Mills of the Republican National Committee outlines AFL platform demands. Also interesting is an October 30 report on Warren Harding's connections with the Warren, Ohio Employers'Association, and a November 4 letter from John P. Frey concerning the opposition of many labor leaders to the AFL's nonpartisan approach. Other correspondence of 1920 includes a January 5 report on a joint meeting on the Versailles Treaty of the AFL Executive Council and the League to Enforce the Peace Executive Committee; and correspondence with William English Walling and Asher Howard regarding the danger of Bolshevism.
Correspondence of Frank Duffy, Daniel J. Tobin, and Matthew Woll from August 1920, through the fall of 1921 touches on a special AFL committee on Catholic unions in Canada. On July 11, 1921, Gompers sent a letter to all national and international unions having affiliates in Canada asking for a comparison of wages and working conditions of their Canadian locals and of Catholic locals of the same trade. Many unions replied and their answers form a significant body of data on the Catholic union issue. An analysis of the replies is dated August 1921, and is filed with the reference materials on reel 133.
Much of the correspondence from January through April 1921, deals with the establishment of the AFL Information and Publicity Service. Additional topics covered in 1921 include interunion cooperation and the establishment of a regular conference of labor union legislative representatives, and the AFL's role in the Washington Disarmament Conference. Minutes of many of the meetings of the legislative agent group appear in the conference subseries.
Files for the last years of Gompers' life contain a comparatively large number of personal communications from Gompers' cousins in France and England, a few old shopmates from Gompers'cigar-making days, and other acquaintances. Information gathering and publication arrangements for Gompers' autobiography are also frequently mentioned in the period.
A new wave of injunctions and the open shop drive carried on under the title of the American Plan are frequent topics throughout 1922. Correspondence with Albert Thomas shows a continued deterioration in relations between the AFL and the International Labor Office. Other important topics include a New York State compulsory arbitration law (March); railroad shopmen's strike (August-October); unemployment in the navy yards (letters of Edwin Denby); and the Workers' Party of Canada (letters of John A. Flett).
In February and early March 1923, Gompers was ill and his inactivity is reflected by the small volume of correspondence. Information on the railroad strike continues, including an interesting letter to C. W. Bowerman about the importation of strike breakers from England. Documentation on foreign issues includes a William English Walling letter concerning European union movements and the pro-Soviet attitude of British labor (June); discussions of financial aid for the German trade-union movement (November); and a letter from Charles Evans Hughes concerning the recognition of Russia (July 19). Additional items of interest in the 1923 file are a July 6 letter containing background information on the People's Legislative Service and a November resume of the achievements of the union legislative representatives' conference.
From late May until September 1924, Gompers' health again prevented him from attending to his normal duties. During this period the correspondence is very light, but does include significant information on the AFL's role in the presidential election. A June 9 Gompers letter outlines platform demands made to the Democrats. July and August letters from Matthew Woll, Frank Morrison, and R. Lee Guard keep Gompers informed on meetings with Robert M. La Follette. Also significant are exchanges between Gompers and Democratic nominee John W. Davis, and a long telegram from William Z. Foster attacking the AFL's political stance in the name of the Workers' Party of America, a surrogate of the Communist Party.
With the exception of a letter or two, the political letters abruptly end in September. Correspondence from then until Gompers' death is light and primarily concerns the publication of Gompers' autobiography, and his activities at the AFL convention and during his trip to Mexico City. In the days immediately following his death information on funeral arrangements appears, as do hundreds of messages of condolence. A report from the doctor who presided over Gompers' last illness is dated December 13. No information on the succession of William Green is included.
The few undated items in this subseries all date from Gompers' lifetime and are filed at the end of the 1924 correspondence.
Scattered correspondence, primarily of R. Lee Guard, stretches on for almost twelve years after Gompers' death. It mainly concerns the donation of certain Gompers material to the New York Public Library and memorials to Gompers.