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.

Trick or Treat from Alice!


Trick or Treat, watch your feet,

beware any rabbits that you meet, 

If you don’t, best beware,

you might end up in the Jabberwock’s lair!

Here’s our treat (with maybe a few tricks thrown in) from our Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit!

Some of the Lewis Carroll books in our exhibit have some frightful illustrations, here are a few of our favorites:

While almost every image of the Cheshire Cat’s grin is unnerving, here’s some that really gave us the chills:

And perhaps the scariest of them all…the Jabberwocky!alice-module2-throughthelookingglass1984Tenniel_11

Hungry for more?


Our exhibit is now open to the public in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland!

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.

Labor History Wikipedia Edit-a-thon


Hornbake Library

Friday, May 1, 1:30 – 4:30 pm

Join a community interested in promoting labor history by editing the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Part celebration and part workshop, Edit-a-Thons are organized around a single topic as a means to build awareness and community.  We’ll draw content from labor-related collections at the University of Maryland, including the recently acquired AFL-CIO Archives. No editing or technical experience necessary. All participants will receive complimentary issues of Labor’s Heritage journal. As part of a nationwide effort, other libraries with significant labor collections will also participate.

Event details:

This event is followed by:

AFL-CIO Archive Reception & Tour, 4:30 – 6:00 pm

George Meany

George Meany

Join us for a unique opportunity to view the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive, a prestigious archive originally at the National Labor College. These rich archives provide a unique history of the labor struggle in the United States and internationally. See behind the scenes in the archives stacks: labor cartoons, buttons, pins, and memorabilia.  Civil Rights and Labor items will be on display in the Maryland Room. In addition, view labor-related materials, including photographs, censored newspaper articles, posters,  and magazines, from the Gordon W. Prange Collection, the largest archive in the world of Japanese print publications from the early years of the Allied Occupation of Japan, 1945-1949.

The Early Printing Collection: An Introduction

Folio 28 recto

A page from the Cologne Chronicle, printed by Johannes Koelhoff the Younger in 1499.

A new (very old!) collection of early printing has now been processed and digitized, and is available in the Digital Collections or by request in person in the Maryland Room. The Early Printing Collection is a set of thirty-six leaves and pages that were printed in Europe in the late 15th century. It includes printed pages from many well-known works, including the The Nuremberg Chronicle, Historia Scholastica and The Cologne Chronicle.


Typographical printing done before 1501 in Europe is often called Incunabula, a funny pseudo-Latin phrase that refers to the birth of printing in the 15th century. The 15th century saw important advances in the movable type printing press thanks to Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press invented around 1450. The Gutenberg Bible is the first (and probably most famous) book printed using movable type, and while you won’t find any of its pages in the Early Printing Collection, the collection does feature many other pages from Bibles and other religious and historical chronicles printed around the same time period. Within the collection the printing itself is generally clear and easy to read — that is, if you understand Latin or Middle German!

Folio 1

A page of Genesis from Historia Scholastica is covered in paste marks

Early Printing History

Even though the leaves are over 500 years old, the collection is in relatively good condition and provides excellent examples of early printing history, from paper-making to moveable type setting to woodblock printing. Many of the leaves were printer’s proof sheets or scraps, but since paper was still a relatively valuable commodity at the time, these scrap pages were recycled and used in book-binding. They’ve since been removed from bindings, but many still bear marks from the old binding paste. Looking more closely at the leaves in the collection, you can find examples of mould-made papers with visible chain lines and laid lines that indicate how the paper was made by hand using a wire mesh screen. Watermarks, the designs and images found in laid paper, can also be seen on some of the leaves, especially those from the Nuremberg Chronicle. Most of the printing is done in a Gothic typeface, also called Blackletter, though there are a few examples of roman type as well. There are leaves from several important printers from the time period, including Günther Zainer from Augsburg, Konrad Dinckmut from Ulm, and Johann Koelhoff The Younger of Cologne. As for the context, most of the leaves are from religious texts like bibles, psalters, and books of hours, while a few of the leaves come from historical and legal texts.

Folio 21 verso

An unidentified fragment of a Missal is hand-initialed and rubricated in red ink.

Explore the Collection in the Classroom

The Early Printing Collection has many potential applications for undergraduate and graduate courses on campus. Courses in departments like English, History, Art History, Art Studio, Library Science, and others can utilize the collection to study firsthand the history of printing, typography design, and rare books. Plus, with thirty-six separate folios of leave, there are enough examples for students to work individually or in small groups to closely examine the details of the page and learn about early printing firsthand.

New Material Available from the AFL-CIO Collection

This week we’re re-opening 6 more sub-record groups and a small number of selected Labor History publications! See other available portions of the collection or contact us to plan your visit.

Newly opened portions of the collection

 RG4: Executive Council

RG4-010               Early Federation Records, 1881-1888

 RG18: International Affairs Department

RG18‑006            CIO International Affairs Department.  Director’s Files, Michael H.S. Ross, 1934‑1963

 RG20: Information Department

RG20-003             Information Department.  CIO, AFL-CIO Press Releases, 1937-1995

RG20-004             Information Department.  AFL-CIO News Cartoons, 1955-1984

 RG28: Organizing Department

RG28-001             Organization and Field Services Department.  AFL Federal Local Unions (FLUs); AFL-CIO Directly Affiliated Local Unions (DALUs), Charter Records, 1924-1981

RG28‑002            Organizing Department.  Records, 1955‑1975

 Labor History Publications:

AFL List of Affiliated Organizations: 1903-1931, 1940-1955

AFL-CIO List of Affiliated Organizations:  1956-1999, 2002-2003, 2005

Reports AFL 1881-1955

Proceedings of constitutional convention CIO 1938-1955

AFL CIO Proceedings 1955-2009

American Federationist 1894-1982

CIO Union News Service (1936-1937)

CIO News 1937-1955

AFL Weekly Newsletter – Vol. 2-12

AFL News Reporter 1951-1953

AFL News 1954-1955

AFL-CIO News 1955-1996

LLPE League Reporter 1949-1951

America at Work 1996-2002

Union Advocate, Vol. 1 (1887)

The George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive at the University of Maryland

The George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive at the University of Maryland