Reflections on the Meaning of Thanksgiving, Then and Now

Today, the AFL-CIO’s commentary on Thanksgiving revolves around the discussion over whether retailers should open on the holiday, which Thanksgiving treats are union-made, and how working Americans give back to others during the holiday season. You can read the AFL-CIO’s most-recent Thanksgiving posts online on their blog.

In the 1960s and 1970s, editorial cartoonist John Stampone delivered a different message in the Thanksgiving cartoons that he drew for the AFL-CIO News, the AFL-CIO’s main news publication. Stampone portrays Thanksgiving and its tasty bounties as both symbolic of and the result of American democracy. In a cartoon that Stampone drew to commemorate the holiday in 1966, a family says grace over a turkey that represents the “benefits of democracy.”

In a similar cartoon that Stampone drew in 1974, rays of light bearing the label “Freedom and Democracy” shine down on a family who are also gathered around their Thanksgiving table in prayer.

The cartoons’ overt patriotic message is open for interpretation and leave us with many questions. What did freedom and democracy mean to people in the 1960s and 1970s? What’s the relationship between the benefits of democracy and America’s labor movement? Why don’t Americans today color Thanksgiving with such strong shades of red, white, and blue?

Even though Stampone’s patriotic message seems so different from our modern discussions of the Thanksgiving holiday, the AFL-CIO News cartoons and the AFL-CIO’s more-recent discussions convey a similar and important message: Thanksgiving remains a beloved and cherished family holiday today.

UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives has the original cartoons drawn for the AFL-CIO News by LeBaron Coakley “Coak”, John Stampone “Stam”, Bernard Seaman, and Ben Yomen. Contact Us for more information about this collection and other items in the AFL-CIO archive.

New Additions to Special Collections

New acquisitions to Special Collections and University Archives includes several private press books including The English Bible, printed at the Doves Press, as well as Don Quixote and Spenser’s Faerie Queene printed at the Ashendene Press.   Also included among these beautifully printed books are plates of John Martin’s mezzotint illustrations of Paradise and Lost and Morte D’Arthur,  printed at the Shakespeare Head Press.

Visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to view more items from our literature and rare book collections.

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

Archiving AFL-CIO

Spotlight on Paul Barton:

AFL-CIO European Representative, 1968-1994

By Chris Carter
University of Maryland iSchool graduate, May 2015

Creating a plan

As a part of my Master of Library Science degree, I worked at the AFL-CIO Archives for my field study course and worked on a semester-long project with the institution.  The collection I worked on was the unprocessed records of Paul Barton, the European Representative of the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, to make them accessible to the public.  This collection is twelve linear feet of records created and accumulated by Barton between 1945 and 1992.  To make these records accessible we conducted a survey of the records, created a processing plan, and wrote the finding aid.

Understanding the subject

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

As a part of this process we conducted some research on Paul Barton to provide context for the records.  Paul Barton, whose real name was Jiri Veltrusky, was a Czech from Czechoslovakia born on June 5, 1919.  Barton who, as an intellectual in Prague received his PhD in the philosophy of aesthetics of semiotics with a special interest in theater, was a member of the Prague Circle, a group of intellectuals, as well as an advocate for free trade unions and democracy.  When the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia successfully launched a coup and took over the government in 1948, Barton, like other pro-democracy advocates, was forced to flee the country or face persecution, ultimately fleeing to Paris where he would live the remainder of his life.  In the early years of his exile Barton used several pseudonyms before settling on Paul Barton.  While in Paris he spent time writing articles and supporting the labor union movement, becoming a representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions before joining the AFL-CIO around 1968.  Upon joining the AFL-CIO he served as the European Representative of the AFL-CIO International Affairs department, serving in the Paris office until his death on May 31, 1994.

Contextualizing the collection

Books authored by Barton

Books authored by Barton

Barton’s papers reflect the many communities the AFL-CIO worked with as the records are found in six languages, English, French, German, Russian, Czech and Spanish.   The topics in the records also demonstrate concerns held by Barton and the AFL-CIO, with topics ranging from trade unions in the USSR and developing countries and forced labor in the USSR.  The records also reflect the views of labor unions concerning such historical events like the Prague Spring in 1968 and the 1970 Polish Protests.

These records complement currently available collections in the AFL-CIO Archives, including the records of Jay Lovestone (2014-001-RG18-003), Irving Brown (2014-001-RG18-004), and the Country Files from the International Affairs Department (2014-001-RG18-001 and 2014-001-RG18-010).  The Thomas Kahn papers are also related, however they are not open to the public yet.  Note: Records dating after 1965 may be restricted.

Contact us if you have any questions or are interested in researching these collections.

Explore UMD’s labor collections, including the AFL-CIO archive.


New Exhibit: Achievements and Milestones in UMD Athletics

Have you ever been curious about the history of Midnight Madness? Have you heard talk of the women’s rifle team, which ruled women’s athletics in the 1920s and 1930s? Or perhaps you want to know just how big a size 18 basketball shoe really is.


Visitors to the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library now have the chance to learn more about university athletics through a special exhibit on display until September 18th. The exhibit features milestones in both men’s and women’s athletic competition at the University of Maryland and pairs interesting material objects with related photographs. For example, action photographs from a track meet in 1914, only three years after intercollegiate competitions in track and field began, sit in front of an original 1913 trophy from the Georgetown Relays.


One of the University Archives’ most fragile items can also be viewed here: a flag from the football team’s surprise victory over Michigan State in 1950. The team captured at least two flags from MSU and brought them back to Maryland. The flag in our collection includes signatures of the football team members, coaches, and staff, as well as university president Curley Byrd. Other football highlights include three helmets worn at different times in the 20th century, making obvious the drastic changes in helmet design and safety since the early 1900s.

IMAG1681Developments in women’s athletics feature prominently in the exhibit. For the first female students on campus, opportunities for recreation consisted of intramural competition in sports like tennis, basketball, and field hockey. In the 1920s, the women’s rifle team became the first to engage in competition with other schools. The teams did not travel, but rather transmitted scores via telegraph and exchanged their bullet-riddled paper targets through the mail! Since Title IX and the expansion of women’s varsity teams, many of UMD’s team have achieved national prominence – including women’s basketball, field hockey, and lacrosse.

The University Archives’ Athletics Collections contain much more than what’s highlighted in this exhibit. Documentation about the history of various sports on campus, in addition to statistics, programs, and media guides comprise the majority of the paper records. Many memorabilia items (such as t-shirts, bumper stickers, and gameday tickets), hundreds of trophies, thousands of photographs, and over 10,000 film reels and videotapes can also be found in the collections.


Most of the items on display are donations from university alumni or transfers from the Athletics Department. To find out more about these materials or other items in the collection, or to inquire about donating materials, please contact Athletics Archivist Amanda Hawk at

Featured Collections: Fall 2015

Expect the Unexpected

Did you know that we have collections right here on campus to help you learn more about black history and literature?

African American Literature

Black Judgement by Nikki Giovanni

Black Judgement by Nikki Giovanni

The African-American and African pamphlet collection contains literature, poetry and drama produced by and about African-Americans, primarily from the mid-20th century. Represented in this collection are well-known African-American figures such as Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Gwendolyn Brooks and Nikki Giovanni. Browse the finding aid for specific titles or link directly to the relevant inventories:

Authors and Poets collection

Find primary source material related to major literary figures such as John Updike, William Carlos Williams, and Joyce Carol Oates in our Authors and Poets collection. African-Americans, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, and Claude Brown, are also represented in this collection. Examples of materials within this collection include:

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts and notes
  • Proofs and publications
  • Unique printed material; including programs, posters, sheet music and more
  • Serials – many including first appearances of literary works

Discover authors and poets

Literary Firsts

The First Appearances collection consists of over 1,300 periodicals presenting the first public dissemination, of many seminal 20th century literary works. Spanning 1915 to 1977, this collection contains famous pieces such as “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, “Ulysses” by James Joyce, and “Ship of Fools” by Katherine Anne Porter. Authors well-represented in this collection include Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Langston Hughes, Flannery O’Connor, Gertrude Stein, Amiri Baraka, and more.

Contact us for information about this collection.

Simply Heavenly by Langston Hughes

Simply Heavenly by Langston Hughes

Pride at Work records at UMD

We are excited to announce that the University of Maryland is now the repository for the records of Pride at Work!

Labor Archivist Jennifer Eidson packs up boxes with Pride at Work’s Executive Director Jerame Davis.

Labor Archivist Jennifer Eidson packs up boxes with Pride at Work’s Executive Director Jerame Davis.

Pride at Work (P@W) is an AFL-CIO constituency group that represents and advocates for LGBT union members across the United States. Since 1994, P@W has sought “full equality for LGBT Workers in our workplaces and unions” while “creating a Labor Movement that cherishes diversity, encourages openness, and ensures safety & dignity.”

This July, UMD archives staff accessioned records from P@W’s Washington, D.C. office. The collection documents the work and activities of P@W advocating for worker rights, P@W’s Labor Leadership Initiative’s training and educational component, as well as the evolution of the organization’s history.

In the upcoming months, UMD’s archivists will inventory and organize the records so that researchers can have easier access to them.

Stay tuned for more news as we prepare this exciting new collection to be opened to the public!

Contact us if you have any questions or are interested in researching in the collection.

Learn more about Pride at Work or explore UMD’s labor collections, including the AFL-CIO archive.