May Day in the Meany Labor Archives!

Today is May Day! Also known as International Workers’ Day. May Day is considered an international labor holiday. This post highlights some of the materials in our collections related to May Day. Much of our May Day material can be found in the May Day, 1885-1986 folder in the vertical file collection, and the Haymarket folders in the Morris B. Schnapper collection!

May Day was created by a resolution initiated by American Socialists at the International Socialist Congress in Paris, France, in July of 1889. The purpose of May Day was to gain support for an eight-hour work day. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, precursor to the American Federation of Labor, and the Knights of Labor cooperated in preparing for a general strike in U.S. cities on May 1, 1886. And on that day, approximately 350,000 American workers went on strike, impacting over 11,000 businesses. Although workers in New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, and other cities participated, Chicago was widely considered the center of May Day agitation, largely due to Chicago being one of the few cities with broad union and radical solidarity in support of the eight-hour day.

In Chicago, May Day demonstrations were large and continued for several days, with roughly 80,000 workers marching down Michigan Avenue, led by Albert and Lucy Parsons. According to a 1935 article written by Lucy Parsons, titled, “The Story of Haymarket,” between May 1st and May 3rd, “the strike was spreading like wild fire. The bosses were hostile, the police were brutal to the last degree!” On May 3rd, employees of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company held a noon meeting to discuss the strike, when, according to Parsons, “two patrol wagons, loaded with police, dashed down upon them and began clubbing and shooting those unarmed workers.” After the incident, August Spies, a speaker at the meeting, returned to the office of the German radical newspaper, Arbeiter Zeiting, and issued a flyer that called the famous meeting in Haymarket Square to “protest against this outrage.”

The next day, approximately 3,000 people attended the meeting at Haymarket Square. According to Lucy Parsons recount, “the Haymarket meeting was a perfectly peaceful meeting,” but as the meeting ended, “about two hundred police rushed upon us with drawn clubs and pistols, clubbing and shooting into this peacefully assembled meeting of men, women, and children.” After police rushed the meeting, “someone hurled a bomb into their ranks. Who threw that bomb was never known.” The bomb killed one policeman, and several others were fatally injured either by the bomb, or the rioting that followed.

Here is a publication from 1915 comparing May Day with Labor Day, written by Socialist Labor Party member Boris Reinstein, titled “International May Day and American Labor Day.” Reinstein compares May Day and Labor Day, arguing that May Day is the “drilling day for the Social Revolution,” that was “created by the workingmen themselves, in defiance of the capitalist class and its governments,” while Labor Day, on the other hand, was a “gift” that workers “received from their masters, the capitalists, through the capitalist politicians,” further arguing that Labor Day was “created by the political agents of the American capitalists to fan the sleeping giant, the American working class, while the capitalists are sucking its blood.”

Next, we have a 1931 “May Day Manifesto,” published by the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party, and printed by the Victoria House Printing Company in London. The manifesto calls for unity and organization, and “renews its pledge to strive in politics and industry for the creation of a saner system in which work and wealth will be equitably shared, leisure will be organised, and science and invention will lighten the toll of all, rather than service to enrich the few.” The manifesto also argues that “organisation is our most pressing and immediate task. In unity of purpose, in fidelity to the principles which inspired the pioneers of our Trade Union, Co-operative and Labour Organisations, we pledge ourselves afresh on this May Day to the ideals of freedom, peace, and social justice which our organised Movement exists to serve.”

Next, we have the front page, and main article the 1937 May Day issue of Miner’s Voice, published by the Butte Miners’ Union. The article revisits the 1917 Butte Miners’ Strike, where “miners, smelter workers, and mechanics in Butte and Anaconda, betrayed by the American Federation of Labor officials, national, state and local, struck against the rustling card system, for the right to organize and live like human beings.” For “the members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers–the bearer of the militant tradition of the Western Federation of Miners and of the long fight for industrial unionism shared with the United Mine Workers–,” May Day 1937 was “a day of rejoicing over signal victories gained and of confidence of victory in the serious struggles for the extension of industrial unionism to the mines, mills, and smelters as yet unorganized.” The article also expresses support for the Peoples Front in Spain, arguing that “the fight against Spanish Fascism is a fight against Fascist reaction in America.”

Next, we have a flyer from the Daily Worker for the 1948 May Day Rally at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., held on Sunday May 2nd. The rally included speakers Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Gerhart Eisler, George Meyers, and William C. Taylor. Written from the perspective of “The Spirit of May Day,” the flyer provides background information on the history of May Day, while calling into question its current legacy, suggesting that mainstream media “spent the last 62 years trying to keep me locked in a closet so the people won’t hear my message.” Echoing the comparison made by Boris Reinstein in 1915, the flyer argues that the media “persuaded the leaders of the American Federation of Labor to change Labor Day from May 1 to the first Monday in September.” The flyer argues that, arriving in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 1948, “the Spirit of May Day finds, in fact, that the rulers of America, in the name of sacred American institutions, are out to dominate the world and establish a police state at home,” while providing a short and simple message: “Get together! Organize! Regardless of race, color or creed, unite!”

Next, we have a full-page article from the May 2-8, 1979 issue of In These Times, written by noted labor historian Richard Schneirov (a graduate student at Northern Illinois University at the time), titled “Haymarket: Albert Parsons and the American origins of May Day.” Suggesting that “May Day goes by quietly” in the U.S., Schneirov provides detailed history not only of May Day, or Haymarket, but the broader history behind the labor movement in Chicago, and the history of Albert Parsons, the “most prominent Chicago anarchist of the period.” Parsons’ political career, Schneirov argues, makes it clear that Haymarket radicals “were neither lone terrorists nor isolated radicals removed from mass trade union activity,” further arguing that “Parsons and the Chicago anarchists played a major formative role in the shaping of the American socialist and labor traditions. And it was those traditions that created the May Day labor holiday, celebrated now in almost every country in the world–except the U.S.”

"Haymarket: Albert Parsons and the American origins of May Day."

May 2-8, 1979 issue of In These Times. Haymarket Riot (1886), 1958-1986. George Meany Memorial Archives, Vertical File collection, 1.20.13. Special Collections and University Archives. https://archives.lib.umd.edu/repositories/2/archival_objects/386349

For more information on May Day materials in our collections, please contact the Meany Labor Archives!

By Alan Wierdak, Archives Specialist for the George Meany Labor Archive.

 

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New Exhibit: Banned, Erased, and Dangerous Texts

From compiling lists of forbidden works to burning books, censorship has manifested in many forms over the years. Books have often been the target of censorship, usually by religious and political institutions threatened by ideas that challenge how we view the world.

Inspired by the recent School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures symposium, a new exhibit in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library highlights artists, authors, and texts that have been banned, erased, and branded dangerous throughout history.

In more recent history, repressive regimes like Franco’s Spain and Nazi Germany in the 1930s were notorious for censorship. Authors and artists who expressed ideas contrary to the government were banned and their books outright destroyed.  In Germany and Spain, this included works by Ernest Hemmingway, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, Bertolt Brecht, and others labeled degenerative or subversive.

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The Story Behind a Surprise Find

Measuring less than two inches by one inch, this Baltimore City streetcar ticket was left in a book, presumably as a bookmark. Using convenient items as bookmarks isn’t all that uncommon, right? We use store receipts, gum wrappers, or trusty Post- It Notes to mark our pages all the time, but usually they are discarded once the reader is finished with the book. So, why is this ticket so fascinating? Because it was left as a bookmark for almost 125 years, its survival opens a window into the past.

Photo of a streetcar ticket from the Baltimore and Curtis Bay Railway Company
The Baltimore and Curtis Bay Railway Company ticket
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Celebrating Women’s History Month with Selections from Literature and Rare Books!

A new exhibit case featuring works by women writers is now on display outside the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library!

Taken from the literature and rare book collections in Special Collections and University Archives, these books represent a variety of genres and styles; from the popular girl detective adventure Nancy Drew #1: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene to the powerful poetry of Baltimore native and abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins.

Included in the exhibit are the landmark works of mother and daughter Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelly. Wollstonecraft wrote the highly influential, early feminist work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792). 26 years later, her daughter Mary Shelly penned the horror classic Frankenstein (1818). An early 1796 edition of A Vindication of the Rights of Women is on display alongside a WWII armed services edition of Frankenstein.

Also included is Katherine Anne Porter’s collection of short novels, Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939). The eponymous story is an account of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, which Porter herself was stricken with while working as a reporter in Denver, Colorado. Special Collections and University Archives is home to the Katherine Anne Porter literary archive.

Two works by artist/author Djuna Barnes are also featured: Ryder (1928), and Nightwood (1936), one of the first works of lesbian literature. Special Collections and University Archives is also home to the Djuna Barnes literary archive.

Works by Anaïs Nin, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, Zora Neale Hurston, Kau Boyle, Virginia Wolf, Flannery O’Conner, Gertrude Stein, and Louisa May Alcott are also on display.

Stop by the Maryland Room to view this colorful and diverse selection of works by women authors. Interested in exploring more works by women? Check out literary special collections, housed in Hornbake Library, or contact us!

New Acquisitions in the National Trust for Historic Preservation Library: Adding to the Papers of William J. Murtagh

This past October, the historic preservation community lost one of its champions in Dr. William J. Murtagh. Dr. Murtagh, who served from 1967 through 1979 as the first “Keeper” of the National Register of Historic Places, led the movement and fostered the organization which recorded, approved, and promoted the preservation of historically significant locales throughout the United States. The Special Collections at the University of Maryland libraries is especially proud to house the William J. Murtagh papers, a portion of which has been available since 2004 within the National Trust Library in Hornbake Library.

A Philadelphia native, “Bill” Murtagh studied abroad from 1954-1955 at the Universities of Bonn and Freiburg in Germany before returning to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a PhD in architectural history in 1963. His early academic career led to a focus in Moravian architecture, a southeastern Pennsylvania Dutch style characterized by its masonry, attention to city planning, and communal organization. In 1967, Murtagh published Moravian Architecture and Town Planning, documenting the style’s prevalence in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and other North American communities.

Murtagh wore many professional hats during a long life devoted to historic preservation, promoting the National Trust for Historic Preservation and supporting preservation efforts nationwide. All of this comes in addition to his service as the National Register’s first keeper, where he presided over the approval of over 20,000 historic sites ranging in size and scope from the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater, to an 18th century brick schoolhouse in Providence, Rhode Island. The position also inherited the registry of other incredibly diverse locales such as the Lincoln Memorial and the San Francisco Cable Car system. [1]

He saw the movement as “a way to combat visual and cultural pollution” and emphasized the intrinsic connection of historic places to local communities [2]. He accepted proposals broadly “so long as a state provided evidence that a place was somehow, to some degree, significant, no matter how provincial it might seem to outsiders” and made the National Register a designation encouraging of local definitions of historical importance rather than a top-down or dismissive establishment. [2]

His organizational presence was boundless and included service on numerous preservation-focused boards and committees including the U. S. Committee of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS), Historic Bethlehem, Inc., Preservation Institute-Nantucket, the Governor’s Consulting Committee on the National Register for the state of Maryland, the Pacific Preservation Consortium, and many others.

Dr. Murtagh extended his academic career as a professor and administrator. He taught at George Washington University, the University of Florida, Columbia University, the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and here at the University of Maryland, just to name a few. In 2006, he would also publish Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America, a textbook and primer introducing a wide range of students to the concepts and field of historic preservation.

In his later years, Murtagh resided in Sarasota, Florida, and Penobscot, Maine, where he continued his involvement in the historic preservation movement, following and advising on both local, national, and international topics. In October 2018 at the age of 95, Dr. Murtagh passed away from heart failure at his Florida residence. [2] [3] He left behind an extensive body of work and a permanent imprint on the protection of many significant “districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects” in the United States. [1]

University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives received Murtagh’s papers in three different accessions. The first and largest accession of the William Murtagh Papers spans 50.25 linear feet and is fully processed. It is organized into 15 series detailing Murtagh’s careers in academia, published writing, and service to professional organizations. Materials include extensive mixed personal and professional correspondence, postcards, photographs, travel materials, reports, papers, conference materials, notes, speeches, publications, course materials, blueprints, drawings, audio recordings, and memorabilia.

The two new additions supplement the original collection in more ways than previously imagined. Newly received lecture recordings, notes, and correspondence enhance our understanding of Dr. Murtagh’s academic and publishing careers while drawings, photographs, and daguerreotypes further contextualize his personal life and genealogy. Lectures, notes, and faculty filings demonstrate Murtagh’s value to historic preservation programs at multiple schools like the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Extensive unprocessed slide collections, estimated at around 9000 slides, document his work and leisure activities (which were not far different), displaying sites across the country and the world.

The new collections also add awards and memorabilia including a key to the city of Savannah, Georgia, a Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award for historic preservation, family keepsakes, and artistic paintings and sketches done by Murtagh post-retirement.

The new collections reiterate and emphasize Dr. Murtagh’s vast commitment to Historic Preservation into retirement and with his local communities in Maine and Florida. The materials also document his active role in the Keepers Preservation Education Fund (a scholarship fund for preservation students), the writing of Keeping Time, and participation in local preservation societies.

University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives, also home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation Library, is honored to have the William J. Murtagh papers, alongside those of his fellow preservationists Frederick L. Rath, Charles Hosmer, Ernest Allen Connally, and Charles E. Peterson, and hope that they are utilized by researchers investigating the history and practice of historic preservation in the twentieth century.

[1] U.S. National Park Service. n.d. “National Register of Historic Places.” Accessed February 4, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/index.htm

[2] Smith, Harrison. 2018 “William J. Murtagh, ‘Pied Piper’ of American Historic Preservation.

Dies at 95.” The Washington Post, October 30, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/william-j-murtagh-pied-piper-of-american-historic-preservation-dies-at-95/2018/10/30/8d3e282e-dc4e-11e8-b3f0-62607289efee_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.57401ee9139b

[3] Roberts, Sam. 2018. “William J. Murtagh, Lion of Historic

Preservation, Dies at 95.” The New York Times, November 5, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/obituaries/william-j-murtagh-dead.html


Willem Kalbach is a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. He works in the State of Maryland and Historical Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.


Offensive content in our collections

Since the revelation of Governor Ralph Northam’s offensive yearbook photos a few weeks ago, many have taken time to dig into their own University’s historical yearbooks to see if they also contained offensive and racist imagery. Due to libraries’ efforts to provide free and publicly accessible digital versions of material online, it didn’t take researchers long to find these histories in their alma mater’s past.

Academic librarians are actively communicating with each other, seeking advice so that we foster access to these materials, and the offensive language and imagery, in responsible ways. Historical material can contain images and language that illustrates racist or hateful attitudes toward people of color, people identifying as LBGTQ, people with disabilities or people from other marginalized communities. These images and language are offensive, and sometimes traumatizing, especially for those who have experienced violence, acts of hate, or microagressions in their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Here at the University of Maryland, our librarians believe in the importance of facilitating the dissemination of knowledge and information, providing a broad view of the University’s history. We seek to be transparent about our digitization choices and practices. Digitization has allowed increased access and discovery of our collections and our campus’ history.  It is not our wish to hide anything from our collections. We know offensive material is there, and we want these records to be to used for research. Our collections enable all of us to engage in more truthful conversations about this history.

We encourage you to use our online collections or to visit us in person to see material that is not yet available online.