Exploring Labor’s History Through the AFL-CIO Poster Collection: A Blog Series (Part 4)

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One of the more unexpected items in the collection are two objects from student protests in Paris. 1968 was a tumultuous year in France which saw radical student demonstrations erupt in Paris. Most notably, students held demonstrations and occupied their universities in opposition to Charles de Gaulle. The first item depicts de Gaulle with the now iconic phrase “Le Chienlit C’est Lui!” (one translation: “He is the chaos”.) The phrase appropriates a pun de Gaulle made in a speech.  The second, larger item was created by a student group at the Sorbonne, a Parisian university, la Coordination des Comités d’Action. The poster criticizes de Gaulle along with Georges Pompidou, the president, and Christian Fouchet, the interior minister, claiming “Les provocateurs ce son eux!” (They are the agents of violence)

Contact us at askhornbake@umd.edu for more information about our Labor Collections.


Benjamin Bradley is a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. He works in the Labor Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives. You can also find him over in McKeldin Library where he is the GA for Electronic Resources.

A Look Back at 2016

With 2017 right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to reminisce on all the happenings that shaped Special Collections and University Archives in 2015!

We’ve posted stories on new acquisitionsexhibits and events like Alice 150 and Maryland Day, and also UMD class visits to Special Collections and University Archives.

Take a trip back in the year with the top 10 blog posts with the most views in 2016:

  1. Heavy Metal Parking Lot and the Jeff Krulik Collection
  2. Explore ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ at UMD!
  3. AFL-CIO Merger
  4. 130 Years of Progress: The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, 1886-2016
  5. LGBT Advocacy and the AFL-CIO
  6. AFL-CIO Artifact Project: Summer 2016
  7. Spotlight on Wonderland: The March Hare
  8. Minikins Miss Dot Sr. and Miss Dot Jr. Return to Campus after a Half-Century
  9. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speech to AFL-CIO
  10. Spotlight on Wonderland: The Dormouse

Here’s a shout out to posts that were published in previous years, but still rank among our most viewed posts this year:

  1. William Morris, Walter Crane, and Socialist Art
  2. Books Published Before 1850
  3. Featured Novelist from Special Collections: Ferdinand Reyher
  4. Achievements and Milestones in UMD Athletics
  5. Edgar Allan Poe in Special Collections

Is there something you want to learn about Special Collections and University Archives in 2017? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Holidays from Special Collections

A new exhibit is on display in the Maryland Room will get you in the holiday spirit! We’ve selected the jolliest holiday cards and ephemera from our literary and historical several collections, including the Theodore R. McKeldin Paper, Gordon W. Prange Papers, Djuna Barnes Papers, Robert Frost Book Collection, and Spiro T. Agnew Papers, and  William Addison Dwiggins Collection.

Items from our literary collection include a selection of holiday chapbooks printed by the Spiral Press with the poetry of Robert Frost.  Colorful holiday cards from author T.S. Eliot and socialite Peggy Guggenheim to writer/artist Djuna Barnes are also featured. An impressive oversized edition of A Christmas Carol on display was designed and illustrated by W.A. Dwiggins, and was bound in festive green leather and marbled paper design.

We also pulled interesting holiday-themed items from our historical collection, including a set of beautiful Japanese inspired holiday cards received by UMD professor and historian Gordon W. Prange. A variety of presidential holiday cards given to Governor of Maryland Theodore McKeldin include holiday greetings from US Presidents Nixon, Eisenhower, Johnson, as well as the President of Israel Zalman Sazar. A political cartoon with Santa from the AFL-CIO archives and speech given by Vice President Agnew at a tree lighting ceremony on Washington DC also add to the historical holiday fun.

Visit the Maryland Room to explore the holiday fun! You can also pick up a free holiday card featuring images from our Baltimore News American Photograph Collection!

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Remembering E. Barrett Prettyman

On November 4, 2016, E. Barret Prettyman Jr. (1925-2016) passed away. He was a well-known attorney with an impressive legacy that spans international relations, civil rights, literature, and more. He also holds an interesting connection to American author Katherine Anne Porter and the University of Maryland.

You care about Prettyman if you care about important Supreme Court cases like Brown versus Board of Education, the landmark case that desegregated public schools, and for which Prettyman served as on the advisory council for in 1954. You care about Prettyman if you care about the 1962 release of American prisoners taken during Bay of Pigs crisis during which Prettyman successfully negotiated with then Cuban President Fidel Castro for their return and safe release. You care about Prettyman if you are at all concerned with the House Ethics committee, the First Ammendment, and the death penalty. Over the course of his long legal career, Prettyman became heavily involved with all of these areas of the legal system. The obituaries in the Washington Post and New York Times illustrate his storied career and commitment to the legal system.

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Portrait of Prettyman inscribed to Porter: “For Katherine Anne, With happy memories of lovely, relaxed, and fiery reminiscent afternoons of good talk in the best of company, and with love, Barrett”

As the one of the repositories of Prettyman’s personal papers, Special Collections and University Archives at UMD holds not only the documents that reveal Prettyman’s legal Continue reading

Exploring Labor’s History Through the AFL-CIO Poster Collection: A Blog Series (Part 1)

The American Federation of Labor was founded just about 150 years ago in 1886. Continuing today, the AFL-CIO and its member unions and organizations have traveled together through a tumultuous history of social challenges and changes: worker’s rights, child labor, segregation, World War II, Apartheid, the 40 hour work week, communism, LGBT rights, and so much more. During the past year, I have been inventorying the AFL-CIO poster collection here at the University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives’ Labor Collections. This inventory will enable researchers and staff to find and access these posters and facilitate future digitization projects. As I finish up inventorying the collection, I thought I would share my experience with the collection.

This AFL-CIO Posters collection contains over 900 items ranging from broadsides, circulars, posters, and clipsheets. It spans the early days of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) up to the present-day AFL-CIO. It contains items from a variety of unions and organizations, international and American, and in a variety of languages including: French, Spanish, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Polish, Chinese, Korean, Icelandic, Hebrew, and Arabic. My time with this collection truly has been a journey through time and place. From late 19th century shipyards to contemporary, global struggles for human rights.

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Continue reading

50 YEARS AGO:  Maryland Responds to Floods in Italy

Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland Libraries is home to political collections such as the Spiro T. Agnew papers, the Theodore R. McKeldin papers, the Daniel Brewster papers, and the Hervey Machen papers, which contain information and interesting perspectives on local, national, and international events. One such event documented in these four collections is the effort of Marylanders to assist in the relief of Italians flooded out of their homes fifty years ago this month. In early November 1966, much of north-central Italy was inundated by flood waters. As many as 300 people may have been killed, up to 50,000 farm animals were drowned, and countless shops and buildings destroyed (1). Refugees sought shelter in makeshift housing. The cities of Florence and Venice were especially hard hit. Devastatingly, the great concentration of art, architecture, and cultural heritage found in Florence was subjected to flood waters that reached 22 feet high in some places. The National Library of Florence was underwater. Astride the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio, which dates back 2300 years to Roman times, had been badly damaged.

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The Baltimore News American collection includes photographs of the Italian floods of 1966. Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

The response to the 1966 flood in Florence was decidedly international, as Americans Continue reading

William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins: The Art of Book Design

Our Literature and Rare Book currators recently hosted a talented class of UMD art students studying typography and book design.What better way to illustrate the meticulous work of designing letters and page layouts than giving them opportunity to examine books from our William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins collections!


kelmscottWilliam Morris (1834-1896) founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891. He was already well know as an artist and author in England, as well as an avid socialist. His decorative arts firm Morris & Co. produced textiles, furniture, and stained glass to for decades before he ventured into book design. Towards the end of his life, he set out to create books that reflected his notion of an “ideal book”.  He criticized the ugly, machine-made books of industrialized England, from both a design aesthetic and the impact on traditional craftsmen. His press highlighted the artistry and craftsmanship he admired from the medieval era of early printed books.

Kelmscott Press books have a distinctive look and feel, reflecting Morris’s specific design principles for space, layout, and materials. He designed his own typeface, including decorative borders and intricate initial lettering for use in the press. He also had a hand in selecting the handmade paper and ink used in the printing process.

The masterpiece of the Kelmscott Press is the Kelmscott Chaucer, completed just months before Morris passed away. His lifelong friend and collaborator Edward Burne-Jones wrote of the Chaucer: “Indeed when the book is done, if we live to finish it, it will be like a pocket cathedral – so full of design and I think Morris the greatest master of ornament in the world”

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William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) was an American illustrator, typographer, and book designer. Like Morris, Dwiggins lamented the decline in the quality of books being printed in his lifetime. In 1919, he published Extracts from an Investigation into the Physical Properties of Books as they are at Present Published, which included a humorous graph illustrating the plummeting quality of book design.

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Dwiggins designed books that reached a more commercial audience, often working with Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, a publishing house in New York  later purchased by Random House.

Dwiggins’s designs are minimalist, utilizing stencil illustrations and playing with bold colors, a stark contrast to the heavily ornamented works by the Kelmscott Press.  However, Dwiggins utilized several of Morris’s design principles, including proportional margins and two-page unified design. He designed several typefaces for his books, including Caledonia, Electra, and Metro. Dwiggins used his familiar stencil designed to produce equally beautiful bindings. This is another clear difference from Kelmscott Press books, which featured plain vellum or blue board bindings. The result is a unique and modern take on a well-designed book.

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And that’s what makes these two collections such a great teaching tool for students interested in graphic design. Comparing the works of two very different, yet connected artists can inspire young designers. They question why the artists made the choices they did, explore what makes their work similar, and why they are unique. Of course it begs the ultimate question when comparing William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins- who designed the better book?

Visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to explore books from the William Morris and W.A. Dwiggins collections.