There are many films that allow you to actually see and hear events from history at University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives. For the Labor History Archives exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America,” the labor history archives team wanted you to have the ability to experience these historical events. We are showcasing eight video clips that visitors can enjoy within the gallery space and are easily accessible on an iPad. The films that we chose touch on a variety of topics that correlate to the displays. Many of the films that we are showcasing probably have not been seen since they originally aired. Since we were able to digitize these original copies, they will be preserved and easily accessible to everyone online.
For the past year I have helped co-curate the Labor History Collections exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.” It has been an exciting and rewarding experience that has taught me so much about the vast history of the labor movement. One of the displays that I designed and installed was “Labor, Recreation, and Rest: The Movement for the Eight-Hour Day”. While looking through the vast Labor History Collections here at University of Maryland, Special Collections and University Archives, I came upon a very odd and fragile document. At first I did not know the significance, only that it was House Resolution 8357 and was approved by President Harrison on August 1, 1892.
Between 1943 and 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime shipped nearly 123 million books to American soldiers. Not just any books, but specially designed Armed Services Editions were lightweight paperbacks designed to easily fit in a soldier’s pocket. The 1,227 unique titles in the series were selected to appeal to a wide variety of interests, including literary classics, contemporary bestsellers, and various works of nonfiction. Continue reading
Join staff from Special Collections and University Archives for our annual Open House. Explore treasures from our collections, mix and mingle with your colleagues and get a behind the scenes peak at what we do. Light fare will be served including sushi, tea and cookies.
Thursday, November 16th
Hornbake Library North, Gordon W. Prange Reading Room, 4th floor
We hope to see you there.
Asking an archivist to pick their favorite item in their exhibit may be the most challenging question you could ever ask them. After spending the past year assisting in all aspects of the exhibit For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America, I noticed that one of the most popular items I selected for the exhibit was the United Farm Workers flag. The flag, signed by famous figures Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, commemorates the historic Delano grape strike. The five-year strike started on September 8, 1965 and changed the face of the American labor movement and its attitude towards immigrant workers.
Starting in Delano Valley, California, immigrant workers of Filipino and Mexican descent waged a massive strike that transformed working conditions for farm workers. Using nonviolent tactics, the five-year struggle spread from the grape fields of California to boycotts of non-union farm produce in major American urban centers such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York, and Washington, DC. Under the leadership of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, the strikers appealed to students, religious leaders, and urban union members and generated national support for farm workers. The Delano grape strike also opened the national labor movement’s eyes to the power of immigrant labor in the United States because of the magnitude and power of the nonviolent strikes the UFW was able to organize.
I chose this commemorative flag not only because of its bold red coloring and distinctive signatures, but also because I particularly enjoyed telling this story of this crucial moment for immigrant workers in the United States.
One of the most recognizable signatures on the upper-left corner of the flag is that of Cesar Chavez. As leader of the National Farm Workers Association and later the UFW, Chavez was a leading figure in the Delano grape strike. Filipino members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee started the strike by walking out of vineyards in Delano valley, and Cesar Chavez led the Mexican members of the National Farm Workers Association (a precursor of the UFW) in joining the strike. Chavez had spent years persuading Mexicans to join his union, and now he asked them to join a larger movement demanding fair wages and improved working conditions. Following in Chavez’s lead, farm laborers sacrificed their livelihoods for the greater union cause. During the five-year strike, Chavez rose from near anonymity to national prominence and led a nationwide crusade for recognizing the value of migrant labor.
Another signature on the left side of the flag is that of civil rights icon and influential labor activist Dolores Huerta. Often overshadowed by her National Farm Workers Association co-founder Cesar Chavez, she was a leading organizer of the Delano grape strike and served as the UFW’s first vice president. During the Delano grape strike, she confronted violence from grape growers and overcame sexism within her own organization. Huerta was the lead negotiator in the successful contract negotiations that followed the Delano grape strike, which won safer working conditions, unemployment benefits, and better healthcare benefits for agricultural workers.
The AFL-CIO collection holds a number of items documenting the historic Delano grape strike beyond the commemorative flag. For example, a 1969 editorial and cartoon in the AFL-CIO News demonstrates how the Delano grape strike transformed unions’ attitudes towards immigrant labor. “Viva La Causa!” (“Long Live the Cause!”), refers to the cause adopted by thousands of people across the United States to end exploitation of farm workers.
To learn more about the Delano grape strike, visit the exhibit For Liberty: Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America in person at Hornbake Library or online, and be sure to explore the section on Immigrants’ Rights! For general information about the Labor History Archives, check out our labor history subject guide! This post is one of a series of Curator’s Choices, so be on the lookout for posts by other members of the Labor History Archives team at Special Collections and University Archives.
 “Dolores Huerta.” National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/dolores-huerta (accessed 25 October 2017).
Jen Wachtel is a graduate student at the University of Maryland pursuing an M.A. in History (Modern Europe), a Master of Library and Information Science (Archives and Digital Curation), and a graduate certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture. She is a Coordinator for Labor History Collections and Mass Media and Culture Processing Archivist at Special Collections and University Archives. Jen expects to graduate in December 2018 to pursue a career in museum archives.
As stated in an earlier blog post, members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit at the University of Maryland libraries have been creating an inventory of memorabilia within the Spiro T. Agnew papers. In this blog post, we will be looking at some of the fascinating items in the collection related to space travel.
When Agnew entered office on January 20, 1969 the space race between the United States and the USSR was in full swing. Just a month prior, the Apollo 8 mission had successfully become the first spacecraft with a human crew to leave the Earth’s orbit. Six months into office, Agnew would be able to celebrate the first man to walk on the moon with the success of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969. The Nixon/Agnew administration would forever be associated with this success and the prevalence of space memorabilia in the collection shows that Vice President Agnew had quite an interest in the subject.
As Vice President of the United States, Agnew had access to a number of unique space memorabilia. He had signed photographs from crew of the Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 12 missions. The signed photograph from the Apollo 8 mission is a print copy of the famous photograph called “Earthrise” which astronaut Bill Anders took from lunar orbit. The Agnew papers includes the commemorative certificate which indicates that Agnew watched the takeoff of Apollo 11 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he sat next to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Agnew even received a model of a US space rocket ship.
Agnew’s enjoyment of these accomplishments of space flight must have been well known by his supporters because they sent Agnew a number of items related to space exploration. One of these items is a commemorative coin and stamp celebrating the Apollo 11 mission, which was sent by the company that manufactured them. Another gift was a poster that featured the front page of a newspaper from every state on the day that the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon. Agnew also received drawings and paintings depicting astronauts on the moon from various citizens.
Agnew’s interest in space was not just a hobby, but became part of his Vice Presidential duties. In February 1969, Nixon created a Space Task Group to create an outline of a post-Apollo spaceflight strategy, with Agnew chairing the group. This group drew up some rather ambitious plans, such as the establishment of a near-Earth space station, further explorations of the lunar surface, and a manned landing on Mars by 1986. Not all of these plans came to fruition, mainly due to monetary concerns. However, the group was partly responsible for the creation of the shuttle program which began on January 5, 1972 (1). Some files relate to Agnew’s time on this group, including a press release on the report of the Space Task Group from September 17, 1969, and a transcript of a speech he gave to invited contributors to the Space Task Group from July 17, 1969. Agnew was also head of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, for which the Agnew papers also provides an access point.
The reactions to Agnew’s rather wild Mars plans can be seen by two political cartoons that were sent to the Vice President. In one, Agnew can be seen wearing a space suit and holding a briefcase which reads “Mars or Bust.” The cartoon was drawn by Gib Crockett from the Washington Star, a newspaper in Washington D.C.. The other cartoon shows a Mars populated with aliens whose faces look like Agnew and at the bottom the cartoon reads “Our Earth Contact, Spiro, is pushing for a landing here by 1986.” This cartoon was drawn by Pat Oliphant while he was at the Denver Post.
The items discussed here represent just a small portion of the hundreds of linear feet of materials in the Spiro T. Agnew papers. Interested researchers may visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to view the memorabilia collection in person, and a preliminary inventory of the Agnew memorabilia is available upon request. Please be sure to contact the Maryland Room at least 3 days in advance of your visit so that we can accommodate memorabilia requests in a timely manner. If you want to learn more about the Spiro T. Agnew papers, please consult the finding aid for the collection.
Kluger, Jeffrey. “NASA’s Final Shuttle: The End of an Error?” Time, 5 July 2011.
Harrison Gage is a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. She works in the State of Maryland and Historical Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.
Over the past two months, members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit in Hornbake Library have been creating an inventory of memorabilia from the Spiro T. Agnew papers. This assortment of objects includes political mementos and various gifts that Agnew received during his political career. These items primarily date from Agnew’s time as Vice President of the United States. There are also earlier materials that were presented to Spiro Agnew while he was governor of Maryland. The Agnew papers contain large quantities of souvenir items, like American flag pins, tie clips with Agnew’s signature, and ballpoint pens, but this collection also encompasses some truly one-of-a-kind pieces.
The stately gifts that Agnew received from foreign dignitaries coexist with the unusual trinkets sent to him by ordinary Americans. When you open one of these boxes, you might find a greeting card from the King of Morocco or a plastic yellow Easter egg from a class of New Jersey eighth graders. Often, these items from constituents were accompanied by well wishes and letters of support for the Vice President. In other cases, the senders tried to highlight their own products by sending Agnew a free sample. There are several portraits of Agnew and other pieces of art in the collection. Some of the artists faithfully captured Agnew’s likeness while others took more creative liberties.
For instance, this collection of memorabilia includes a red, white, and blue statue of a bird that was named “Sparrow Agnew.” Another individual sent the Vice President a portrait that she carved out of a piece of driftwood from Lake Michigan. It is not always clear who sent Agnew a particular item, why they thought that Agnew would want it, nor even why Agnew decided to keep it among his papers. But those enigmas just add to the fun.
Spiro Agnew was an avid golfer and many of the gifts that he received while in office were related to the sport. He received a plethora of golf balls, tees, and towels. Other golf-themed items include a barometer (or “Golfer’s Fore-Caster”), a mink golf club cover, and a hat labeled “Agnew Golf Helmet.” There are also objects from golf tournaments that Agnew entered, such as the Bob Hope Desert Classic.
Other items appear to have been chosen for Spiro Agnew because of his Greek heritage. One New York man sent Vice President Agnew a pair of traditional Greek shoes with large, red tassels. The accompanying gift card mentions that the sender found the shoes during his vacation to Greece and hoped that they would bring Agnew good luck. The card also states that the shoes were previously worn, so hopefully Vice President Agnew was comfortable receiving secondhand goods.
This is just a small sample of the gifts and other oddities contained within the Spiro T. Agnew papers. This collection is available to researchers in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library, and a preliminary inventory of the Agnew memorabilia is available upon request. To learn more about the Spiro T. Agnew papers, please consult the finding aid for the collection.
Emily Flint is a first year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. She works in the State of Maryland and Historical Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.