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.

Student Spotlight: Instruction & Outreach GA Edie Sandler

IMG_3915_1It is a leisurely summer weekend following my freshman year at UCLA, and I’ve got my fencing  gear packed in the back of my boyfriend’s 1986 Volvo, and four hours until practice. Just enough time to warrant spending 20-something dollars for a visitor’s ticket to the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. The grounds are breathtaking and perfectly manicured; the reputation of its art collection peerless and the architecture of the library and museum impressive. But nothing compared to the moment I walked into the library and spotted the vault.  The vault door looks like something out of a bank, cracked open just far enough for the curious to get a glimpse inside.  I was hooked.

Years later, I am now married to the boyfriend with the 1986 Volvo, though the Volvo is long gone and I now live and work in the DC area. Though I miss being able to visit the Huntington Library, I am thrilled to be working as Graduate Assistant for Instruction and Outreach in Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library, especially because it doesn’t cost me 20-something dollars to come to work every day. There might be a perception that the job of a librarian is boring and repetitive, but I can now confirm that that is not necessarily the case.

My main project has been the Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit. The exhibit team and I began with a rough plan of how we wanted to organize the exhibit, which evolved into outreach and social media plans and a year-long timeline. Over the course of that year, I helped flesh out the details, working with my fellow co-curator, the collectors, the designer, and a team of library staff and student interns.  I learned how to use Photoshop to manipulate digitized images and design captions, signs and all kinds of ephemera. I edited caption, panel, and other text countless times. I compiled facts and quotes and scheduled them on social media, wrote blog posts, designed lobby screens, wrote a press release, and more. I used the phrase “fall down the rabbit hole” so many times, I thought I may have fallen down some kind of rabbit hole myself.

Was I relieved when the exhibit finally opened in October? A little. I felt like I understood a little bit better what it’s like to see your baby all grown up and going to college. But there is still work to be done with Alice. I’m working on getting the online exhibit up now, and soon a catalog will follow.

I also get to flex my teaching muscles as part of my GA-ship. I’ve worked closely with our Instruction and Outreach Coordinator to develop lesson plans and pull material for undergraduate classes who come to Hornbake to learn about what we do and how they can use our resources for their research. One of my favorite classes was a Shakespeare course that was interested in comparing early editions of Shakespeare. Watching the class get excited about early 17th and 18th century Shakespearean literature got my heart all a-flutter.

11-18-2015 5-47-29 PM

Every day of my job is different and I love it. I feel like a dragon sitting on a treasure trove of books, papers and other archival odds and ends. But in my story, I welcome the hero into my treasure-trove, where he finds all the other heroes of past journeys reading animatedly. That is what I believe is the responsibility of a Special Collections. Not only to allow people to come share in the treasure, but to reach out and show them that what we have and what we can do is priceless beyond measure.


Halloween Comes to Special Collections

Looking for  devilishly entertaining rare books? Visit Hornbake Library this week to view two Halloween-inspired exhibits featuring our most frightful items from Special Collections and University Archives.

From A History of Serpents (1742), entomology bug models, and ghostly Nancy Drew novels to hauntingly illustrated tales by Edgar Allan Poe, these items will send a chill down your spine.

It’s all part of the Halloweek fun this week at the University of Maryland Libraries!

Looking for more scary items from Special Collections and University Archives? Ask a librarian in the Maryland Room how you can view more rare items like a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ and books on ghosthunting in Maryland, or Katherine Anne Porter’s painted coffin.

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

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.

Symposium Flyer

Symposium: Organizing for Power and Workers’ Rights in the 21st Century

We are pleased to announce a symposium and introduction to our very special labor archives. See specific information about the symposium below:


On March 5, 2015, the Center for the History of the New America at the University of Maryland will host a symposium exploring workers and organizing in the twenty-first century.  The symposium will be coordinated with the annual meeting of the Southern Labor Studies Association in Washington, D.C. on March 6-8, 2015.  In addition to the symposium, participants will be invited to view the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive, a prestigious archive recently added to Special Collections in Labor History & Workplace studies at the University of Maryland Libraries, and unique labor materials from the Gordon W. Prange Collection.  For more information about speakers and topics visit:

Organizing for Power and Workers’ Rights Flyer March 2015