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Federated Press Records:

American Labor Journalism in the

Mid-Twentieth Century


From the holdings of the

Rare Book and Manuscript Library of

Columbia University

in the City of New York


Primary Source Microfilm

an imprint of Thomson Gale


Federated Press Records:

American Labor Journalism in the

Mid-Twentieth Century


Series 2: Biographical Files


From the holdings of the

Rare Book and Manuscript Library of

Columbia University

in the City of New York


Primary Source Microfilm

an imprint of Thomson Gale


Primary Source Microfilm

an imprint of Thomson Gale


12 Lunar Drive, Woodbridge, CT 06525

Tel: (800) 444 0799 and (203) 397 2600

Fax: (203) 397 3893


P.O. Box 45, Reading, England

Tel (+ 44) 1734 583247

Fax: (+ 44) 1734 394334


All rights reserved, including those to

reproduce this book or any parts

thereof in any form


Printed and bound in the

United States of America


© 2004


TABLE OF CONTENTS


Collection Overview …………………………………………………………….………… v

Introduction to the Collection ……………………………………………………………...vi

Editorial Note …………………….…….....………………………………………………xi

Acknowledgments ………………………………………………………………………...xi

Federated Press Records, Series 2: Biographical Files…………………………………...…1

Collection Overview


The Federated Press, an independent news service, served the labor press from the post-World War I years until the height of the Cold War. The objective of its founders was to start a news service that would counter the anti-labor bias of commercial presses. Committed to objective reporting, its editors represented every hue in the political spectrum, from conservative to independent to Socialist to Communist. At its peak shortly after World War II, the Federated Press had over 250 subscribers among the labor press and commercial newspapers.

The Federated Press news stories in the Biographical Files collection cover the period 1940-1956, the height of labor movement activity. The Biographical Files feature news stories on more than 3,000 individuals involved in labor issues on the national, regional, state, or local level and cover a wide range of industries, labor activities, unions, federal agencies, legislation, and the relationship between labor on the one hand and government and industry on the other. The stories objectively report the positions of many diverse individuals in the political spectrum regarding labor issues, activities, and disputes of the time and provide information about the positions, initiatives, and activities of those who created policy, advocated for or against labor, and played key roles in the labor issues of the time. These perspectives are not available from commercial newspapers of the time.

The Federated Press Records were a gift to Columbia University through Carl Haessler, the managing editor of the Federated Press, and Miss Alice Citron, on November 7, 1956.

The Biographical Files are organized alphabetically by individual last name. The news stories on each person are organized chronologically. The collection guide will enable researchers to search by person and identify the reel and frame numbers of the news articles about that person.

Introduction to the Collection


When Federated Press was launched in 1919, the U.S. labor movement boasted a substantial press, including daily newspapers and hundreds of weekly publications. This labor press was as diverse as the movement it served, ranging from union newsletters largely devoted to internal business to daily newspapers such as the Milwaukee Leader. Unions published journals for their own members, but also sponsored weekly and daily publications that articulated a more expansive (and often highly political) working-class vision, reaching far beyond the ranks of organized labor. This official labor press co-existed with a vibrant radical press deeply rooted in working-class communities. Convinced that labor could not get fair play in mainstream newspapers dominated by big business, unions and other workers’ organizations maintained their own press as part of their efforts to develop an alternative public sphere.


Federated Press was a key part of that effort. Organized at a November 25, 1919 meeting of thirty-two farm-labor, socialist, and union editors attending the Farm-Labor Party convention in Chicago, it launched a twice-weekly mail service in January 1920 and expanded to daily service later that year to better serve member dailies. For the next thirty-six years, Federated Press offered member papers a daily service including labor and political reportage, feature stories, columns, humorous shorts, and, for much of its run, a mat service providing labor cartoons and photographs. But the labor press it served was transformed during this period. In 1919, many labor papers were edited by rank-and-file union members, often directly elected by their fellow workers; by the 1950s, these worker-editors had been largely replaced by professional journalists and public relations operatives hired by, and accountable to, top union officials. Just a few labor dailies survived, and these were generally confined to foreign-language enclaves. The still strong weekly labor press had reached an accommodation with the mainstream press incompatible with the oppositional world view that had motivated Federated Press’s founders.


By January 1921, Federated Press served one hundred member newspapers, including twenty-two dailies (many foreign-language newspapers). Federated Press represented a broad spectrum of the labor movement, from the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World to several unions and central labor councils affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. The service sought to provide what managing editor Carl Haessler termed “an independent objective labor news service.”1 But this was a particular sort of objectivity, deeply committed to the labor movement but not aligned to any particular current within it. Federated’s commitment to representing the entire spectrum of the labor movement led to recurring charges of communist domination. In 1923, the American Federation of Labor’s annual convention adopted a highly critical report warning the labor press “to be on guard against the insidious encroachment of subversive propaganda either through the Federated Press or any other channel. The Federated Press upon its own record cannot hope to have and should not have the support of trade union publications or of trade union organizations.”2


Despite this warning, several AFL-affiliated publications continued to hold Federated Press membership throughout its existence. In the 1930s Federated Press was warmly embraced by many of the emerging Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) unions, providing on-the-spot coverage of the sit-down strikes and organizing campaigns that revived the labor movement. Indeed, relations were so close that Haessler and veteran Federated Press correspondent Harvey O’Connor served for a time as the editors of the CIO’s auto and oil publications. Federated's board of directors, however, was carefully balanced between the competing labor federations. But while Federated Press dispatches always backed unions in their disputes with employers, the service also covered wildcat strikes and opposition caucuses. An increasingly institutionalized labor movement did not welcome such independence. In 1949, as McCarthyism was heating up, several AFL and CIO officials formed Labor Press Associates (LPA) to counter Federated’s dominance of the labor news market. With substantial financial backing from its sponsoring unions, LPA was quickly able to sign on more than 200 union newspapers, some of whom dropped Federated for the new, officially sanctioned, and cheaper service. The merger of the AFL and the CIO in 1956 (and the purging of leftist unions that preceded it) left Federated only a handful of member papers, and it ceased operations in November 1956.


Series 2, Biographical Files, and Series 3, Chronological Files, 1920-1940 complete the microfilm edition of the Federated Press Collection housed at Columbia University. With the publication of Series 2 and 3, the entire Federated Press Collection is readily available to researchers. Series 1 consists of the Federated Press Subject Files, maintained from January 1940 through the service’s demise in 1956. Series 2, Biographical Files, covers more than 3,000 persons who were the subjects of, or quoted in, Federated Press dispatches. Series 3, Chronological Files, 1920-1940 features Federated dispatches from April 1920 (shortly after Federated's daily service began) through June 1940. In addition, the first reel of the Chronological Files includes a complete list (with captions) of cartoons and photographs distributed by Federated Press from 1932 to 1939.


Particularly valuable in this collection are the daily and weekly reports issued by Federated’s Eastern Bureau in New York City (which despite its name offered national and international coverage) and its Washington, DC, and Central (Chicago, and later Detroit) bureaus. None of these bureaus employed more than a couple of reporter/editors, which meant that Federated’s small staff relied on member newspapers, a handful of stringers scattered across the country, and the telephone to offer a reasonably comprehensive service.


The Chronological Files are organized in ascending chronological order by month and year, but the dispatches for each month are filed in reverse chronological order, sometimes divided by bureau.3 Few articles run longer than a mimeographed legal-size page; many are just an untitled paragraph in length. While the dispatches are dominated by news reports, columns, and features (in that order), the service also includes cartoons (sampling the mats available through the service for reproduction), humor, poetry, and songs. The dispatches cover efforts by radicals first to transform some of the leading AFL unions and then to build alternative unions, as well as the early stirrings of the industrial union movement that led to the founding of the CIO. This coverage, like Federated’s coverage of internal union debates more generally, sought to provide a forum for all the contending parties, even if on balance it tended to be more sympathetic to those seeking a more militant, progressive labor movement. Federated also embraced efforts by labor activists to transcend these differences, as in an April 18, 1938, report on cooperation between AFL and CIO unions in Flint, Michigan. The 1924 Paterson silk strike received extensive and sympathetic coverage from Federated correspondent Art Shields, but so did more mainstream efforts by the United Garment Workers and the Amalgamated Metal Workers campaign against clothing made by convict labor.


The collection includes often detailed coverage of conventions of the AFL and CIO and their affiliates, but also covers dissident currents within those unions as well as independent unions such as the Amalgamated Metal Workers, Industrial Workers of the World, and the Progressive Mineworkers. In 1920, Federated offered daily coverage of the wildcat strike wave by railroad workers that swept the country, but also of AFL efforts to develop a new approach to organizing the steel industry in the aftermath of a failed 1919 strike. In the 1930s, Federated correspondents closely followed (and often participated in) efforts to organize mass production industries, giving Federated Press dispatches an invaluable (if often quite partisan) insider’s view of a critical moment in U.S. labor history.


In addition to covering official and rank-and-file labor news, Federated Press gave extensive coverage to agrarian reform movements, international labor (including consistently enthusiastic coverage of Soviet Russia in the 1920s), and independent and socialist political action. Thus, during the 1924 presidential campaign Federated offered enthusiastic coverage of Robert LaFollette's candidacy on the Progressive Party ticket (and the doomed efforts to form a new political party that followed), and offered a critical look back at Calvin Coolidge's role in breaking the Boston police strike in 1919, but also offered shorter, neutral coverage of competing tickets fielded by the Socialist Labor and Workers (Communist) parties. In 1933, the Washington bureau covered heated debates over legislative proposals to confront the economic crisis.4 In later years, Federated offered routine coverage of the major parties' labor platforms, but continued to cover radical campaigns and efforts to build independent labor parties.


In addition to covering regional labor news, in the 1920s the Chicago Bureau offered economic news and analysis, as well as a labor slant on business news, much of it based on official reports. Federated Press correspondent Leland Olds offered trenchant analysis of corporate consolidation and profits in the 1920s, often linking workers' poverty to the elite's extravagant philanthropy.5 Scott Nearing also offered frequent economic commentary to Federated Press subscribers. Federated Press also carried extensive international news, much of it drawn from its early alliance with the independent Labour Daily Herald in London, but it also reflected the strongly internationalist vision which motivated the insurgent labor movement that formed Federated's base. Federated's international coverage focused on labor political action, short reports of labor struggles, and, especially in the 1930s, anti-fascist activities.


The Biographical Files are primarily comprised of marked tear sheets beginning in 1940, although they contain a limited number of source documents, some of which were collected in the 1930s, such as a pamphlet issued by the American Civil Liberties Union, "Mayor Hague vs. Civil Rights," which is included in the Hague file. Organized alphabetically by person, the Biographical Files include clippings on thousands of labor leaders, politicians, business leaders and others who were the subjects of Federated Press coverage in the 1940s and 1950s. These clippings often shed light on aspects of their subjects’ careers that might be overlooked in more traditional sources. As one would expect, there are extensive files on most of the prominent (and many not-so-prominent) labor figures of the era. But Federated Press always maintained a Washington, DC, bureau to ensure labor-oriented political coverage, and as a result there are substantial files on figures such as U.S. Senator Scott Lucas, who served as Democratic Party majority leader before losing his seat and becoming a lobbyist.6 Files on labor leaders such as Harry Lundeberg, a labor leader of Sailors Union of the Pacific, are as much a record of struggles within the maritime unions as of Lundeberg's career. Federated’s interest in international affairs also results in a number of shorter files on politicians and labor leaders from other countries, such as a file on Otto Hapsburg that offers a glimpse into relations between Austrian and U.S. labor leaders. And there are files on anti-labor figures such as San Francisco police chief Charles Dullea, Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon Sam Green, and publisher Henry Luce.


A major strength of the Federated Press collection is its day-by-day coverage of industrial disputes, sometimes by Federated Press correspondents, but usually based on union accounts and interviews. Any major dispute is likely to be covered, and many smaller ones as well (particularly in regions where Federated Press had a correspondent). There are detailed dispatches covering union conventions and organizing campaigns. While this coverage cannot replace primary sources, in many cases it provides richer documentation of major speeches and debates, and of rank-and-file reaction, than can be found in union archives or publications. The collection will prove particularly useful to labor and journalism historians, but because there is also substantial material on 1920s economic conditions, anti-radical campaigns, race relations, independent political action, and related topics, the collection will be valuable to researchers in economics, politics and government, and African American studies.


Among the subjects covered by the Federated Press during the period documented by this collection are the amnesty campaign for radicals imprisoned during World War I, anti-colonial movements (which enjoyed widespread support within the progressive labor movement of the 1920s), early efforts to integrate unions and other civil rights struggles, organizing in the automobile industry (managing editor Carl Haessler had extensive experience with the United Auto Workers), post-World War II civil liberties struggles, deportations of radical immigrant workers in the early 1920s, agrarian movements, labor conditions in the garment industry, housing policy, injunctions against labor activities, international labor bodies, labor statistics, mine workers, packinghouse workers, railroad unions, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, organizing mass production workers in the steel industry, and efforts to address unemployment.


The collection features coverage of virtually every major union that operated in the United States at the time. Federated's Washington bureau offered close coverage of government activities affecting the labor movement alongside reports of the official operations of government and unions. Other files demonstrate Federated Press’s commitment to a broad vision of the labor movement, one which addressed racial discrimination within it. The limited and often hostile coverage afforded the labor movement by mainstream newspapers, which led to the formation of the Federated Press, also reduces their usefulness to many researchers. Because it reflected many differing perspectives, the Federated Press collection provides a much wider scope of coverage and fills in many holes in mainstream press coverage. Its contemporary reports by observers with intimate knowledge of the labor movement supplements union archives and memoirs and documents labor movement responses to World War II, racism, the changing industrial relations regime, and the emerging post-war consensus. Together with Series 1, Subject Files, Series 2, Biographical Files, and Series 3, Chronological Files are an invaluable resource on the labor movement of the 1920s through the 1950s.7

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