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The Labor Archives of Washington (LAW) was founded to preserve the records of working people and their unions and to serve as a center for historical research, ensuring that new generations have access to the rich labor history of the region. For more information about LAW visit the website.
The Labor Archives contains more than 300 separate collections of labor related materials from individuals and organizations documenting the local, national and international dimensions of the labor movement in the Pacific Northwest.
Many unions have made the Labor Archives the official repository for their historical records -- minutes, office correspondence, membership files, publications and contracts.
Labor leaders, attorneys, arbitrators, and rank-and-file workers, and labor rights supporters have donated their personal papers.
Records from organizations that supported organized labor, worker's rights, and civil rights and also records from labor critics and opponents. Also included are records of employers, some of which were the collective bargaining partners--and sometimes opponents--of unions.
Selected resources and research tips for labor history researchers and those interested in ethnic, social, local, political, and women's history.
Our current collecting focus is labor organizations, labor union members and officers, and workers in the Pacific Northwest. Organizational donors may have a statewide, regional, or even a national mission, but usually have a strong tie with the local area as well.
Consult Conor Casey (206.685.3976 or firstname.lastname@example.org) for donating labor-related organizational records or personal papers.
Papers of individuals who were labor union officers, members, and activists.
Papers of academics, authors, and other researchers who investigated labor history and the lives of workers. Some of these collections contain the research files and manuscripts of published works.
Papers of individuals that advocated equality in the workplace, fought discrimination on the job, or advocated new pro-labor sociopolitical relations but may not have been members of labor unions.
Occupational histories of individual workers. Many of these collections contain narratives or documentation of their worklives.
Records of the organizations that are the collective bargaining agents of workers. Also includes regional labor councils, which are composed of local union affiliates.
Records of organizations that advocated equality in the workplace, fought discrimination on the job, or advocated new pro-labor sociopolitical relations but were not labor unions.
Records of organizations formed by workers in a particular trade or profession but which were not collective bargaining agents.
Records of government bodies that are related to labor.
Records and papers from employers.
Organization protesting the deportation of MacKay and Mackie, beginning from 1958
Regional chapter of a national organization founded to oppose the activities of the House Un-American Acitivities Committee, changed name to the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation; defends the right of political dissent.
The Portland Central America Solidarity Committee was founded in 1979 to educate and mobilize community members, workers, and student around struggles for human rights and social justic throughout the Americas. In addition to working to improve conditions in Central America, PCASC also advidcated for rights locally in the Pacific Northwest. PCASC is also affiliated with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) and the Committee in Solidiarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
Cashbooks, subscription records and other business records.
Records of a Seattle political labor organization. The Seattle Section of the Socialist Labor Party (SLP) was founded in the early 1890's as a branch of the Socialist Labor Party of America. The SLP was founded as a Marxist political party in 1876, the first nationwide socialist party in the United States. The party promoted the doctrines of Daniel DeLeon, theorist of the SLP, which advocated a classless, stateless, industrial democracy in which private property would be abolished and all natural resources and means of production would be operated by the workers through Socialist Industrial Unions. The SLP planned to achieve its goals through national and local elections and by capturing the trade union movement. However, the party's narrow sectarian ideology, its insistence on doctrinal unity and party discipline, together with its rejection of social reform alienated it from the trade union movement. After modest success in the 1890s, the party declined and never numbered more than a few thousand. It survived however, and continued to run candidates for national and state office. The Socialist Labor Party was the first socialist organization of any importance in the Pacific Northwest but it never established ties with the labor movement and never developed beyond a small cadre.
The Washington Committee for Academic Freedom was a state-wide group of citizens drawn from both ends of the political spectrum who formed the Committee in June 1948. Frances W. Herring was executive secretary for the organization. Records document the efforts of the Committee to protect academic freedom in response to the Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities (Canwell Committee) hearings investigating possible Communist activities at the University of Washington and the firings of three professors by the University of Washington. Records were those of Ethelyn M. Hartwich, a member of the executive board.
Records of the University Baptist Church, Seattle, concerning its 1980s sanctuary program for Central American refugees. UBC becamse the first publicly declared sanctuary in the Northwest, the first American Baptist sanctuary in the U.S., and the seventh publicly declared church sanctuary in the nation. UBC successfully petitioned the city of Seattle to declare itself a Sanctuary City, sent relief workers and supplies to El Salvador, and toured the Northwest advocating the sanctuary program's implementation in those areas. In addition, UBC was an active local voice in opposition to U.S. foreign policy.
The Washington-Northern Idaho Council of Churches was first incoporated in 1935, with Dr. Gertrude Apel serving as an executive staff member. She also served on the executive staff in the Seattle Federation of Churches until 1958, at which point the state council and King County Council of Churches split after a consultation with the long-time ecumenical leader, Ross Sanderson. In 1967, the state council's title was changed to the Washington Council of Churches and later, in 1975, it was renamed the Washington Association of Churches. The Washington Association of Churches (WAC) continues to serve as an association of 10 Christian denominations and 11 ecumenical organizations who live and work together on the task of ecumenism in Washington State. Since 1975, WAC has served as a focal point for dialogue, advocacy, action and reflection, facilitating meetings between member churches and forming partnerships with a diverse range of organizations and communities.
Washington state chapter of the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, founded to defend the rights of the foreign born, especially radicals and Communist Party members, thereby filling a void left by other civil rights defense groups.
The Workmen's Circle (Der Arbeiter Ring) was founded in the 1890s to serve as a mutual benefit society and a cultural-social organization for members of the Jewish working class. In 1900, it was reorganized as a fraternal insurance company and eventually grew to include 700 branches with a total membership of 70,000. This collection is from the estate of Ben Stein who was respectively secretary, financial secretary, and president, 1930s-1950s, of Branch #304 of the Workmen's Circle.
Seattle’s Civic Unity Committee (CUC), a primarily white civil rights organization, lobbied for civil rights laws and sought to persuade the white community not to discriminate. A large-scale migration of blacks to Seattle during the Second World War increased racial tensions, prompting Seattle Mayor William Devin to create the CUC in 1944. Devin appointed prominent business, civic, religious, and labor leaders to the CUC--seven white men, two white women, two black men, and one Chinese-American man in all--but pointedly refused to select anyone seen as “left-wing.” The CUC negotiated with a number of firms that refused to hire blacks, but generally failed to end the discrimination. The CUC did, however, play a major role in ensuring that the return of interned Japanese Americans to Seattle went peacefully. The CUC ran employment and rental referral services for returning Japanese Americans and convinced local newspapers to condemn anti-Japanese discrimination.
Lawyer, public official, judge. Chair of the Governors' Lumber Fact Finding Board during the Pacific Northwest Lumber Strike of 1954, an industrial strike. The subgroup Washington Governor's Lumber Fact Finding Panel includes Hamley's correspondence as chair of this seven-member board in 1954 as well as documents and transcripts from the formal hearings. The panel completed its work in late December, recommending a wage increase but a smaller one than requested by the woodworkers' union.
University of Washington business professor. In addition to his teaching, Robinson was a member of the Washington Governor's Lumber Fact Finding Panel that was created a result of the Pacific Northwest Lumber Strike of 1954.
Minutes, correspondence, subject files, reports and related items, including a large quantity of Civic Unity Committee files; ca. 1958-1965.
Photographs are housed together with two volumes of the WERA Work Division report for 1934-1935.Photographs included with report of the Washington Emergency Relief Administration (WERA) documenting the efforts of the agency between 1934 and 1935. Includes images of woodyards, mattress production, and various maintenance and construction projects in Washington State
Carbonado is located near the Carbon River in northern Pierce County, Washington, approximately 50 miles southeast of Seattle and 12 miles northwest of Mt. Rainier National Park. Carbonado served as an important coal mining community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the town operated the largest coal mine in Pierce County. Carbonado was a company town.
Frederick T. Haley was a Tacoma businessman and civic leader. His chief interests in civic life were education, civil rights, and civil liberties. Haley's father, J. Clifford Haley, co-founded Brown & Haley, a candy manufacturing company known for its signature product, Almond Roca, in 1912. Fred Haley earned a B.A. from Dartmouth in 1935 and returned to Tacoma to work as a salesman for Brown & Haley. He also studied business at the University of Washington. During WWII Haley served in the Pacific as a Navy harbor pilot. There he developed both a lifelong love of the Pacific Islands and, in the face of the stark realities of war, a drive to dedicate himself to meaningful and difficult civic causes. After the war, Haley married Dorothy Geyer and had four children. He became chairman and chief executive officer of Brown & Haley after his father’s death in 1954. In the succeeding years, Haley involved himself in a myriad of civic causes. In the 1950s and 1960s his efforts were focused mainly on education and civil rights and liberties. During his tenure on the Tacoma School Board, on which he served two terms as chair, Haley was an outspoken critic of de-facto school segregation and advocated bussing programs as a remedy. He charged that segregated schools hindered the development of all children in a racially diverse society. As a school board member, Haley took another stand on a controversial issue when he spoke out in defense of Jean Schuddakopf, an elementary school counselor who refused to submit to questioning by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He served as president of the Pierce County School Directors’ Association in 1957. Haley continued his work for civil rights as a founding member of the Washington Citizens’ Committee for Civil Rights Legislation. During this time he also served on the Washington State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and on the boards of the Washington State Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington State Board Against Discrimination.
Coal mining company operating in the southeastern King County area
Logging industry executive
Trade association executive of Seattle, Washington
Thomas Merrill, son of a Maine lumbering family, began a series of logging companies in Michigan in the 1860s. In 1886 he joined Clark Ring to form the Merrill & Ring Lumber Company, headquartered in Saginaw. In 1902 the company moved its headquarters from Saginaw to Hoquiam, Washington. The center of Merrill & Ring logging operations was in the rugged territory near the Pysht River, west of Port Angeles, Washington.
Correspondence, legal documents, business records, plats, and other records, including those of affiliated firms, relating to the company's business, legal, and fiscal activities; together with materials concerning its labor and political relations, and dealings with trade associations, state and federal agencies, such as United States Forest Service, and Spruce Production Division of the War Dept., and others.New England Fish Company records, 1902-1983
Fish cannery. NEFCO's West Coast activities spanned Washington, Alaska, and Canada; once the largest producer of salmon products in North America. Collective bargaining partner and employer with the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Local 37 (Seattle, Wash.); defendent in the landmark anti-discrimination case Domingo v. New England Fish Company, 742 F.2d 520 (1984). The case went on to the Supreme Court as Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642 (1989).
Business to own and operate coal mines, railroads, and steamship company in Washington and California. Financier Henry Villard launched the Oregon Improvement Company in 1880 as a central component in his attempt to dominate the economic development of the Pacific Northwest. Villard wanted to link rail, river and ocean transport, and he was interested in developing coal both as fuel and as payload.
The Pacific Coast Company puchased the property of the Oregon Improvement Company (OIC) on December 1, 1897. The newly-formed Pacific Coast Company absorbed the insolvent OIC, taking control of all its operations. The PCC inherited the Pacific Coast Railway in California, three Washington railroads, the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, and an extensive mining operation in western Washington, the company’s backbone. From the very beginning, the OIC found its mining operations vexing, and the PCC would fall heir to the same difficulties. The PCC also acquired with the mines a relationship with its mine workers that was tense at best, tumultuous at worst. After 1908, did avoid much of the acrimony and the conflicts which had characterized labor relations under the OIC. The new management, no doubt unwilling to jeopardize its new-found good times with labor dischord, even agreed in 1908 to a contract providing an eight-hour day and a 10¢ per day raise. The relative calm lasted until 1919. The miners, and their union, became increasingly dissatisfied that prices continued to rise, but wages remained frozen under existing contracts. The company, now faced with less economically propitious times, proven intransigent to all demands. With the two sides deadlocked, a bitter series of strikes and lockouts began. In 1921, two state commissions investigated the impasse, and the last one suggested that miners’ accept a 25% to 28% wage reduction, exasperating the situation. The coal company proved the stronger of the two combatants, however, and had broken the union by 1923. The papers also contain extensive interoffice communication. Topics relating to coal operations includes labor reports, information on the briquette plant, financial reports, coal prices, foreign markets and tariffs, mine blueprints and maps, and other general material relating to the mining industry. Accession 2241-003 contains interoffice correspondence from 1919 and 1922 concerning the acquisition of the Carbonado mine in Pierce County.
Established to govern longshore labor relations on the Pacific Coast during WWII
The Pacific Northwest Lumber Association was established in 1933. Its activites included promoting the logging industry, engaging in contract arbitation, and gathering and publishing statistics. The predecessor organization was the Loggers Information Association.
A whaling ship
Records of the lumber company.
Port Blakely Mill Company Records, 1876-1998
Established in 1876 by Renton, Homes & Company of San Francisco to buy timber lands and to conduct lumber operation in Washington. The operation was sold to David Skinner and John W. Eddy in 1903. Milling operations ceased in 1917 when Skinner and Eddy transferred to shipbuilding in Seattle. It became the Eddy Family business in 1924 and was primarily engaged in the sale of stumpage.
Publicly owned governing body for the Seattle waterfront. The Seattle Port Commission was established by King County voters in September 1911 as a publicly owned and controlled governing body for the City's waterfront area. The Commission had the power to authorize and control improvements to Harbor and transportation facilities on the waterfront, to purchase land, to levy property taxes and issue bonds. The first Port Commissioners were Robert Bridges, Hiram Chittenden and Charles Remsberg.
Alaska cannery superintendent
St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company was established in 1888 by Chauncey W. Griggs, Henry Hewitt and associates. Its predecessor companies were Griggs & Johnson, and Griggs & Foster, both of St. Paul, Minnesota. The company's subsidiaries include Cascade Timber Company, Chehalis & Pacific Land Company, Consolidated Lumber Company, Los Angeles; Griggs and Company, grocers, St. Paul Minnesota; Griggs and Foster investment firm, St. Paul; Griggs and Johnson, real estate and loans, St. Paul; Interlaken Water Company, Natches Pass Railway Company, Tacoma; Pacific Meat Company, Tacoma; Puget Sound Dry dock and machinery Company, Riverside Land company, Tacoma; Tacoma Bitouminous Paving Company, Tacoma Land and Improvement Company, Union Stockyards Company, Tacoma; and Wilkerson Coal and Coke company, Pierce County, Washington.
Business records of a major regional lumber milling company.
Attorney specializing in maritime law. He was associated with the Maritime Law Association of the U.S. and the Republican Party. Attorney for Matson Navigation Company.
Collection of a Swedish-language newspaper (Svenska Posten means: Swedish Post). Collection includes a list of Industrial Workers of the World members reported as undesirable as employees. Correspondence, clippings, ephemera, photographs, scrapbook of Gerda Risberg.
Albert Tuohy managed the Hanford Street Grain Elevator in Seattle during the 1930s and 1940s and had a close working relationship with many longshore workers.
Company official with Hudson's Bay Company
Established 1857 at Seabeck, Washington Territory. Mill destroyed by fire, 1886.
What is a Finding Aid?
Collections of unpublished personal papers, organizational records, and historical photographs are described and inventoried in detailed guides known as finding aids. A finding aid helps the researcher to identify boxes or folders of interest that may be retrieved from the stacks for study.
Prepared by the staff, the typical finding aid provides background information on the organization, person, or family who created the papers or photographs, an overview of the collection and its arrangement, and a detailed container list.
Not all of our finding aids are currently available online. If you don't see what you are looking for, please be sure to check with Reference Services for assistance.
Detailed listing of Special Collections Search Tools including online databases, digitized collections and bibliographies.
For information on finding specific items by format (books, periodicals, photographs, architectural records, maps etc.) consult the Special Collections How do I find...? guide.
Some of the collections are not listed in the online finding aids. Searching the Libraries online catalog provides another point of access into our collections.
Research using Special Collections material is different from more typical library research. The unique nature of the material dictates that there are stricter security procedures -- users need to register, manuscript materials need to be requested, personal belongings are placed in lockers, photocopying is limited, etc. The following tips can help you when using the material in Special Collections:
Highlighted secondary sources and topical bibliographies that are particularly useful overviews of the workers and industry in Washington State. Included are sources which have made heavy use of UW Special Collections. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Instead, it serves as a point of departure to aid researchers in locating primary resource collections in UW Special Collections.
Richard C. Berner was the head of the University of Washington Manuscripts Division (now part of Special Collections) from 1958-1983. His three-volume historical survey of Seattle’s history in the 20th century contains comprehensive lists of citations and makes heavy use of the manuscript collections at the University of Washington. Berner’s interest in labor and social history make his books good sources for historical narratives but--perhaps more importantly for historical researchers--serve as detailed maps of where to look in within the collections to find primary sources materials by topic.
Berner, Richard C. 1991. Seattle in the 20th century. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [A series of three volumes. volume names are listed below with call number]
F899.S457 B47 1991 v.1 Berner, Richard C. 1991. Seattle 1900-1920: from boomtown, urban turbulence, to restoration. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [Seattle in the 20th century, v. 1 ]
F899.S457 B47 1991 v.2 Full text available online Berner, Richard C. 1992. Seattle 1921-1940: from boom to bust. Seattle in the 20th century, v. 2. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [Seattle in the 20th century, v. 2 ]
F899.S457 B47 1991 v.3 Berner, Richard C. 1999. Seattle transformed: world war II to cold war. Seattle in the 20th century, v. 3. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [Seattle in the 20th century, v. 3 ]
UW Seattle Locations:
Odegaard Stacks--Vol. 1- 2
SpecColl Reference (Library Use Only)-Vol 1-3
SpecColl Pacific NW (Library Use Only)- Vol. 2-3
Suzzallo/Allen Stacks-Vol. 1-3
Jonathan Dembo received his PhD from the University of Washington. Along with researching a broad dissertation on the history of Washington state’s working people and their unions, he compiled several useful topical bibliographies. Note that Dembo’s bibliographies only go up to 1978 and 1984.
Dembo, Jonathan. 1978. An Historical bibliography of Washington state labor and laboring classes. Seattle: [s.n.].
Library Location Notes Call number
SpecColl Reference LIB USE ONLY Z7164.L1 D45 1978
Suzzallo/Allen Stacks Z7164.L1 D45 1978
Suzzallo/Allen Stacks Z7164.L1 D45 1978
Dembo, Jonathan. 1983. Unions and politics in Washington State, 1885-1935. New York: Garland Pub.
Library Location Notes Call number
SpecColl Pacific NW LIB USE ONLY HD8079.W3 D45 1983
Schwantes, Carlos A. 1994. Hard traveling: a portrait of work life in the New Northwest. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Library Location Notes Call number
Bothell/CCC 3rd Floor Stacks HD5856.U5 S34 1994
Odegaard Stacks HD5856.U5 S34 1994
SpecColl Pacific NW LIB USE ONLY HD5856.U5 S34 1994
Suzzallo/Allen Stacks HD5856.U5 S34 1994
Tacoma Auxiliary Stacks HD5856.U5 S34 1994
Our Collection Guides search tool has migrated to Archives West.
You can search an online database of Special Collections finding aids. The collection guide or finding aid is a detailed guide or inventory of the contents of a manuscript or archival collection. The guide helps researchers identify the boxes or folders of interest within a collection. A typical guide also provides biographical or historical information on the person or organization that created the material, an overview of the collection, and how it is arranged plus a detailed container list and any use restrictions.
Special Collections collects scrapbooks that document Pacific Northwest history. The term scrapbook refers to an album or book made up of derivative materials. Often scrapbook compilers arranged their collected material around a common theme. Scrapbooks offer unique glimpses into a subject, or into the interests of a compiler. The personal compilations illuminate community issues, and as unique items, they make a valuable contribution to our regional collection. Our collection at present includes approximately 120 scrapbooks, or scrapbook sets, covering a variety of subjects from the 20th century.
Special Collections also maintains a simple A-Z list of databases and online tools to help you identify relevant archival material.
Staff can also direct you to print sources describing our collections or conduct searches in staff databases. If you are not finding what you need, please ask for assistance.
Manuscripts and archives are unique documents (handwritten or typed letters, diaries, meeting minutes, photographs, financial records, etc.) produced by people and organizations. Manuscripts generally refer to personal papers while archives usually refer to organizational, institutional or business records. Oftentimes the terms are used interchangeably. Some collections may be a single folder containing a few letters while others can span hundreds of boxes containing thousands of documents.
The UW Libraries Special Collections contains manuscripts and archival records that document the history and culture of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Included in the collection are personal papers of early pioneers and settlers, labor and civic leaders, citizen activists and important writers, artists and activists and organizational records from labor unions, the University, important industries, conservation groups and local community and ethnic groups.
Special Collections holds papers from individuals that range from a single item, such as New York Times correspondent Roger Conant's account of the voyage of Asa Mercer's "belles" from New York City to Seattle in 1866, to the 1,790-linear-feet of Congressional papers of the late Senators Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson.
Other papers may be handwritten drafts by poets, correspondence among members of an extended family, or notes of historic preservationist Victor Steinbrueck at Seattle City Council meetings.
Organizational or Corporate Records
Files of organizations and businesses typically contain meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence and notes, reports, and miscellaneous other items.
The collections of PNW non-profits represent a wide variety of advocacy groups devoted to specific causes: public education, urban development, civil rights, environmental protection, women's rights, and good government. Others -- trade unions, professional organizations, and religious bodies -- protect and nourish the welfare of their members. Business firms, especially those with a long history in the Puget Sound area, are documented by extensive correspondence, reports, financial records, and other material distinctive to their businesses.