In honor of Labor Day: select material pertaining to Samuel Gompers in the partner collections
Compiled by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Senior Reference Librarian – Collections, Center for Jewish History
“The fact that organized labor as it exists in the late twentieth century is largely the product of the A[merican]F[ederation] of L[abor] and its leaders obscures the federation’s recent and inauspicious beginnings. What became the keystone of the modern American labor movement emerged from a tiny conclave of skilled tradesmen who met in Columbus, Ohio, in 1886 and founded the American Federation of Labor.” [Samuel Gompers and organized labor in America, 1978]
Samuel Gompers was the first president of the American Federation of Labor. He was instrumental in the founding of the organization and its early history. In addition to being editor of the Federation publication until his death and making great strides in the union movement he played a “prominent role in winning strong support from American trade unions for President Woodrow Wilson’s War policies in 1917 and 1918.” (Encyclopaedia Judaica 1st Ed.)
In addition to holding a reprinted copy of Gompers papers from various archives, the AJHS holds the Samuel Gompers collection, 1904-1932, P-416. The collection contains three letters to from Gompers to his wife on personal matters written while traveling on union business in 1922 and 1923. There is also a letter regarding support of the German trade union movement from 1923 among other documents.
In the Bernard Baruch papers, P-200, there is a 1932 a letter to Mrs. Samuel Gompers regarding her husband. Adolph J. Sabath who served as an Illinois Representative in Congress from 1907 until his death in 1952 also has a collection at AJHS, P-769, which contains a tribute to Samuel Gompers.
A YIVO archival collection for editor of The Day, Socialist leader, co-founder and president of the Workmen’s Circle, William Edlin, RG 251, has correspondence with Gompers.
Interestingly there are also letters of Rosa Gomperz from Budapest, writing to her nephew about the visit of the prominent American labor leader, her cousin Samuel Gompers, in a LBI collection, Rosa Gomperz Correspondence, AR 11890.
There are also numerous books from as early as 1894 in the collections. The date range of publications highlights intellectual interest in the luminary.
Striking for life: labor’s side of the labor question: the right of the workingman to a fair living, 1894
Schemes to “distribute” immigrants : article from American Federationist, July, 1911, relating to the methods of state and philanthropic bureaus in the schemes to “distribute” immigrants in the United States, 1913
Gompers, Samuel, 1850-1924. Seventy years of life and labor: an autobiography, 1925
A Spanish translation: Gompers, Samuel, 1850-1924. Setenta a~nos de vida y trabajo : autobiografía, 1956
The Gompers-Allen debate on the Kansas Industrial Court, 1934
The giant wakes: a novel about Samuel Gompers, 1950
Samuel Gompers, American statesman, 1957
Samuel Gompers: a biography. / With an introduction.: Samuel Gompers, labor statesman or labor faker? 1963
Sam Gompers: labor’s pioneer, 1964
The social ideas of Samuel Gompers, 1966
Samuel Gompers, 1967
Samuel Gompers, communism, and the Pan American Federation of Labor, 1967
The Jefferson Borden pirates and Samuel Gompers: aftermath of a mutiny, 1967
Samuel Gompers and the Mexican Labor Movement, 1968
The struggle for labor loyalty : Gompers, the A.F. of L., and the pacifists, 1917-1920, 1968
Samuel Gompers to Frederick Engels : an excerpt from the 1890 S.L.P.-A.F.L. debate, 1970
Samuel Gompers: leader of American labor, 1971
Labor and socialism in America: the Gompers era, 1972
Samuel Gompers and the origins of the American Federation of Labor, 1848-1896, 1973
Gompers in Canada: a study in American continentalism before the First World War, 1974
Samuel Gompers, labor, and the Mexican-American crisis of 1916: the Carrizal incident / New York, 1976
Five who led. New York : Jewish Labor Committee, 1977
I also found an article from The Maryland historian interesting: Kaufman, Stuart Bruce, “The Samuel Gompers papers as literature: toward a stream-of-consciousness history, 1977”
Samuel Gompers and organized labor in America, 1978
American Federation of Labor records: the Samuel Gompers era : guide to a joint microfilm publication, 1981
Conflict of ideals: Samuel Gompers v. “Uncle Joe” Cannon, 1981
Seventy years of life and labor: an autobiography, 1984
Samuel Gompers: a selected list of references about the man and his times : compiled to mark the centenary of his selection as first president of the American Federation of Labor, 1986
The builders: Jews and the growth of, 2008
To conduct your own exploration of the collections, click here.
Above photographs courtesy of American Jewish Historical Society:
– Men working in clothing factory, circa 1900
– Avital Sharansky speaking outside the International Union of Electronic Electrical, Technical, Salaried and Machine Workers, AFC-CIO building