The Catholic University of America

ACUA Labor Collections

A Selected List of Holdings in the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, The Catholic University of America. For more information on how to access materials in this guide, please visit the ACUA website.


Collections documenting the American Labor Movement have been acquired by CUA since 1941 when the university accepted the Terence V. Powderly Papers. At that time, few repositories collected personal papers and records related to labor organizations. The connection between CUA and the labor movement can be traced to faculty members such as Father William Kerby, Bishop Francis Haas, and Monsignor George G. Higgins, all of whom personally knew labor leaders and, in the case of Haas and Higgins, supported labor causes throughout their professional careers. However, the collection policy of the newly established CUA archives department in 1948 did not appear to include labor collections in the scope. Father Henry J. Browne, the first CUA archivist from 1948 until 1956, had used the Powderly and the John W. Hayes Papers for his own dissertation research and decided the collection policy must also include material related to “American Catholic Life.” The expansion of the collection policy allowed for further development of labor collections, including the Phillip Murray Papers in the 1950s and the Records of the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the 1960s. By the 1970s and 1980s, the CUA archives had changed its collection policy, and it no longer actively collected non-Catholic labor collections. The strong connection between the Catholic Church in America and labor no longer existed, and other repositories had begun in the 1960s to compete with the CUA archives for labor collections. However, the CUA archives continues to acquire labor collections with a strong connection to Catholic religious thought, such as the George G. Higgins Papers and the John C. Cort Papers.

Source: Turrini, Joseph M., “Catholic Social Action at Work: A Brief History of the Labor Collections at The Catholic University of America,” The American Archivist 67 (Spring/Summer 2004): 130–151.


Brophy, John. Papers. 1918–1963. 33.5 linear feet; 55 boxes; 6 oversized boxes. ACUA 006

A finding aid to the papers of John Brophy.

Born in northern England in 1883, Brophy emigrated to America with his parents in 1892, settling in Pennsylvania where he started working in the coal mines in 1894. He joined the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in 1899, rising to become president of District 2, Central Pennsylvania, 1916–1926. He challenged John L. Lewis for the UMWA Presidency in 1926 and was not only defeated but expelled from the union shortly thereafter. Reconciled to Lewis in 1933, Brophy rejoined the UMWA and served as assistant to Lewis and union organizer. He was deeply embroiled in the industrial union controversy which resulted in the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1935. After several years of organizing union councils throughout the country, Brophy was made a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practices Committee. He also served on the War Labor Board and in 1945 founded the Anti Communist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, an organization which opposed the Communist influence in American unions.

Private and official correspondence, diaries, speeches, UMWA and CIO convention proceedings (many bearing annotations in Brophy’s hand), memoranda, articles, labor pamphlets, photographs, and scrapbooks. In addition, there is an unpublished history entitled The American Coal Miner, an unpublished autobiography entitled Twenty Years with the CIO, and his published autobiography, entitled A Miner’s Life (including a manuscript copy, and oral history transcripts for the work). These materials reflect Brophy’s involvement in and contribution to the American labor movement, particularly the UMWA and the CIO. The course of the Lewis-Brophy power struggle as well as the formative years of the CIO can be traced in these papers. In addition, much of the correspondence, diaries, and expense books document his extensive travels, both in the United States and abroad, on behalf of the labor movement.

Callahan, Patrick Henry. Papers. 1911–1940. 2 linear feet, 4 boxes. ACUA 019

A finding aid to the papers of Patrick Henry Callahan.

Born in 1865, Callahan was educated at St. John’s High School and the Spencerian Business College in Cleveland, Ohio. After a brief baseball career with the Chicago White Stockings, Callahan married Julia Cahill. The couple moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Callahan became manager and later president of the Louisville Varnish Company. While with the company Callahan and Rev. John A. Ryan formulated a profit sharing program between stockholders and workers. During the Great Depression, Callahan became a supporter of New Deal programs, and served as a trustee of the National Child Labor Commission and vice president of the Kentucky Interracial Commission.

The collection includes correspondence on his labor activities, as well as labor-related newspaper clippings.

Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems (CCIP). 1922–11957. 12 linear feet; 10 boxes. ACUA 010

A finding aid to the records of the Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems is available in series 12 of the Social Action Department.

Founded upon the initiative of the Social Action Department, the CCIP was conceived as an association to discuss and promote the study of industrial problems. Linna E. Bressette served as the Field Secretary and was particularly concerned to bring papal teachings on the social order to a wider audience. At the first meeting in 1923,and at subsequent meetings, the CCIP’s was to discuss industrial policy. Attendance was drawn primarily from representatives of labor, education, and social work. Fewer employers participated although some such as Patrick Henry Callahan assumed an active role. Eventually, it became evident that its interests were too limited to assimilate the widening types of Catholic social action so, in 1957, it gave way to a successor organization of broader scope, the National Catholic Social Action Conference.

Records relate primarily to the meetings held in cities across the country, 1922–1951. They are arranged chronologically by meeting date with no particular order thereunder. In addition, there are Linna Bressette general administrative files, 1922–1957, which include correspondence, membership material, financial records, publications, and some photographs. Finally, there are some topical and meeting files of the CCIP’s Interracial Secretary, ca. 1931–1950.

Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Records. 1934–1958. 59 linear feet; 116 boxes; 1 oversized box. ACUA 001

A finding aid to the records of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Founded in 1935, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) sought to organize the unskilled workers of mass industry and thereby offered an alternative to the American Federation of Labor (AFL) unions whose members practiced skilled trades. John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and vice president of the AFL, and several other AFL officers, led in the formation of the CIO. The CIO’s attempts to reach all workers—regardless of level of skill, race, or creed—broadened the base of the union movement. Despite numerous and significant victories, the CIO often experienced bitter defeats and lost many members to the AFL before the unions merged as the AFL-CIO in 1955.

The records of the Nationals, Internationals, and Organizing Committees (1935–1956); Industrial Union Councils (1939–1952); Local Industrial Councils (1937–1955); and Local Industrial Unions (1937–1955) consist largely of charter files. The Central Office Files (1937–1941) consist of routine business correspondence, including letters of appreciation and criticism. The papers of the Labor Non-Partisan League (1936–1941) include some papers from the CIO central office and thereby address more than the concerns of the CIO’s political arm. The CUA Archives also includes a complete set of the CIO News (1938–1955) and some volumes of the AFL-CIO News (1955–1959).

Cort, John. Papers 18.5 linear feet; 37 boxes.ACUA 197

A finding aid to the John Cort papers.

John Cort was born in 1913 in New York City and also attended school there. He received a scholarship to Taft High School and went on to matriculate at Harvard University. While at Harvard, Cort converted to Catholicism (he had been raised in the Episcopal Church) and also became interested in the labor movement. In 1936, he joined the Catholic Workers and moved back to New York City after being inspired by a speech by Dorothy Day. Cort became more involved with the labor movement and helped found the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU). The ACTU promoted organized labor among Catholic workers and priests through teaching labor history, parliamentary law, and other subjects in labor schools. Among other things, the ACTU actively discouraged Communism in the ranks of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. In 1950, he returned to Boston to accept a position as the executive secretary of the Newspaper Guild. He quit the guild in 1962, joined the Peace Corp, then returned to Boston in 1964 and accepted an appointment as the director of the state anti-poverty agency. He moved on in 1970 to become the director of the Lynn Model Cities Program until 1973, when he became a full-time writer and socialist. His book Christian Socialism: an Informal History was published in 1988, and his autobiography Dreadful Conversions: the Making of a Catholic Socialist was published in 2003.

The John Cort Papers consists of correspondence, subject files, and drafts of his publications.

Deverall, Richard Lawrence Grace. Papers. ca. 1920–1959. 15 linear feet; 30 boxes. ACUA 008

A finding aid to the papers of Richard L.G. Deverall.

Deverall was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 20, 1911, the eldest son of George Lawrence and Josephine Grace Deverall. He went to work as a machinist apprentice at age fourteen, continued his education at night school, and later worked his way through college. In 1936, he became co-editor, along with Norman C. McKenna, of The Christian Front, a Christian radical monthly that later became Christian Social Action. Subsequently, he moved to Detroit and became the first Executive Secretary of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists while teaching labor history and socio-economics at Assumption College in Ontario, Canada. In 1940 he joined the staff of the United Auto Workers, CIO, Detroit, and shortly became Chief of the Labor Education Department of that union. Deverall next went to Washington, DC, joined the Office of War Information as a labor analyst, and later played a role in the Coal Strike of 1943, as a special advisor to Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior.

Deverall was eventually commissioned a second lieutenant, and at the end of the war he was stationed in Japan as a military government officer. First assigned as a MP to the 11th Airborne Division in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, he was transferred to Nara, and then stationed with the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Tokyo where he became Chief of the Labor Education Branch, Labor Division, Economic and Science Section, GHO. He designed and supervised a labor education program for the workers, employers, and government of Japan. Deverall resigned his post in Tokyo in August 1948, he claimed, because of a leftist/anti-Communist fight inside SCAP. In 1949 he became an Asia representative of the A.F. of L. Free Trade Union Committee and was stationed in India until June 1952. From July 1952 to 1955 he had the same responsibility in Tokyo. Later he became Special Assistant to the Assistant General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and worked in Brussels, Belgium.

The papers related broadly to national and international labor history and are a resource of interest to those who are concerned with the labor movement in Japan during the Occupation and the period immediately thereafter. The collection of Deverall papers can be divided roughly into five periods and designated as follows: 1) Pre-Japan (before 1945); 2) Occupation period (1946–1948); 3) India period (1949–1952); 4) Post-Occupation period in Japan (1952–1955); and 5) ICFTU period (1956–1959). Deverall’s papers from the early years of the Occupation, 1946–1948, deal with notes on the labor movement, and many trade union pamphlets that were published in English and translated into Japanese and Korean.

Haas, Francis Joseph. Papers. 1904–1953. 65.5 linear feet; 131 boxes. ACUA 009

A finding aid to the papers of Francis Joseph Haas.

An important priest, educator, and labor relations advocate, Bishop Haas was born in Racine, Wisconsin in 1889. Haas is most influential and best known for his work in labor relations and civil rights. It has been suggested that he was involved in the mediation of approximately 1,500 disputes during his career. Haas strongly supported the New Deal, seeing it as an opportunity to initiate labor and social reform. As such, Haas soon served in many New Deal programs. From 1933–1935 he was served on the National Recovery Act’s Labor Advisory Board, and in this position he helped write codes for equal racial employment opportunities, child labor practices, and a minimum wage. After the NRA was disbanded by the Supreme Court, Haas was appointed to Sen. Robert Wagner’s National Labor Board, which mediated several labor disputes for the Roosevelt Administration. He served as a Special Commissioner of Conciliation for the Department of Labor, and was chairman of several industry committees of the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division. When Haas returned to Wisconsin for the Rectorate, the Bishop was appointed to the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board, where he mediated over 800 separate disputes. During World War II, Haas was named a mediator for the National War Labor Board. In 1943 President Roosevelt placed Haas at the helm of the President’s Fair Employment Practices Committee. He used this position to actively pursue racially discriminatory hiring practices, especially in companies manufacturing products for the war effort. In recognition of his dedication in this area, he was named to President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights in 1947, and, when sent to Michigan for the Bishopric, Haas continued his service to social justice as Chairman of the Michigan Advisory Committee on Civil Rights in 1949.

The papers cover the entire scope of Haas’ career working with labor and government in Series 3.

Hayes, John William. Papers. 1880–1921. 24.5 linear feet; 49 boxes. ACUA 004

A finding aid to the John W. Hayes Papers.

Born in 1854 in Philadelphia to Irish immigrants, Edward and Mary (Galbreath) Hayes, John went to Illinois in 1871 and worked first as a farm hand, then as a brakeman for the Dayton and Michigan Railroad. In 1872, he went to work as a brakeman with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Trenton, NJ, and Philadelphia, PA, but he lost his right arm in a railroad accident in 1878 and thereafter learned telegraphy. He joined the Knights of Labor in 1874 and was a delegate to the national telegraphers’ convention of 1883, which called a strike for better wages. Blacklisted after this, Hayes operated a grocery store in New Brunswick, NJ. However, in 1884, he was elected to the General Executive Board of the Knights of Labor and soon became an ally and confidant of Terence Vincent Powderly, General Master Workman of the Knights. Four years later he became General Secretary Treasurer and continued to work closely with Powderly until 1893 when Hayes elected to join with the socialists and the populist agrarians in order to oust Powderly from leadership of the Knights which was already in decline, giving way to the emerging American Federation of Labor (AFL). Hayes remained in firm control of the Knights though, first as General Secretary-Treasurer until 1902, then as General Master Workman until the closure of the Knights headquarters in Washington, DC, in 1916 even though he continued to use the title for some years. In later years, Hayes was mostly involved in business promotion as well as publishing the National Labor Digest.

The Hayes Papers are almost equally divided between official Knights of Labor correspondence with district (1883–1902) and local (1881–1915) assemblies and his personal affairs (1890–1921). The former also include records of the General Executive Board (1881–1905), membership (1898–1900), miscellaneous (1895–1919), Powderly Correspondence as General Master Workman (1880–1890), Hayes as General Secretary Treasurer (1888–1902) and Hayes as General Master Workman (1902–1920).

Higgins, George Gilmary. Papers. 1932–2002. 272 linear feet; 482 boxes. ACUA 129

A finding aid to the George Gilmary Higgins papers.

Monsignor Higgins, one of the influential “Labor Priests,” was born in 1916 to Anna Rethinger and Charles Higgins in Chicago. In 1944, Higgins was invited to serve with the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC). It was here that Higgins learned under such luminaries as Msgr. John A. Ryan and Fr. Raymond McGowan, both important figures in the field of Catholic social thought and labor relations. Higgins himself was named Assistant Director of the department in 1946, and eventually was appointed Director in 1954, a position in which he served until 1967. His service to the NCWC continued as the Director of the Division of Urban Affairs (Social Action Department), 1967–1972, Secretary for Research in 1972, and Secretary for Special Concerns in 1979. Higgins retired from the NCWC in 1980.

Always a champion for economic justice (including farm labor, where Higgins was the moving force in the Church’s support for Cesar Chavez and his union movement) and human rights for all, Higgins served in several committees, including the Bishops’ Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations, the Bishops’ Committee on Farm Labor, Chairman of the Public Review Board, United Auto Workers of America (AFL-CIO), member of the American Arbitration Association, Executive Committee member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, member of the Board of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Fund of the United Farmworkers, Advisor to the Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Belgrade Conference on Human Rights.

This important body of records includes correspondence, sermons, reference files, publications, photographs, awards, and audio-visual materials.

Jones, Mary Harris “Mother.” Collection. ca. 1900–1932. 1 linear foot; 3 boxes. ACUA 007

A finding aid to the Mary Harris “Mother” Jones collection.

Mary Harris, reportedly born May 1, 1830, but more likely born in 1836, in Cork, Ireland, was an active participant in the labor movement in the United States for nearly sixty years. Before acquiring the name “Mother” Jones and perceived as the “Miners’ Angel,” Mary Harris had taught in Catholic schools in Michigan and Tennessee, had married George Jones and had four children. By 1867, Jones had lost her family to a yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee. By the 1870s, “Mother” Jones began her long involvement in the labor struggle, by participating in various strikes such as the Pittsburgh Labor Riots (1877), the Western Virginia Anthracite Coal Strike (1902), and the Colorado Coal Field and Arizona Copper Field organization movements. She also led the Children Textile Workers March from Philadelphia to Teddy Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay, Long Island (1902). Mother Jones was affiliated with the Knights of Labor and a lifelong friend of Terence V. Powderly. She was an official labor organizer for the United Mine Workers. Up to her death on November 30, 1930 in Maryland, Mother Jones spoke out against labor injustice and for the protection of “her boys.” Mother Jones is buried in the United Mine Workers Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois.

The Mother Jones Papers is an unprocessed collection of scattered letters, articles, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets gathered together from a variety of sources. There are some eight inches of materials (the bulk of which are newspaper clippings) date from ca. 1900 to 1932. There does not appear to be a body of inclusive “papers” in any repository and there is probably little or no extant original manuscript material of Mother Jones prior to 1900.

Keenan, Joseph Daniel. Papers. 1935–1988. 20 linear feet; 39 boxes. ACUA 075

A finding aid to the papers of Joseph Daniel Keenan.

Keenan, a Catholic labor leader and advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, started as an electrician and rose to be an AFL-CIO vice president and International Secretary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He also served as vice chairman of the World War II War Production Board, labor campaign liaison with Truman, and advisor to General Lucius Clay to establish postwar German trade unions.

Small but important collection, organized into six series containing general correspondence, oral histories and transcripts; articles, reports, and publications; IBEW correspondence and conference material; AFL-CIO correspondence, conference, and committee material; and photographs and scrapbooks.

McKenna, Norman C. Papers. 1934–1971. 1.25 linear feet; 1 box. ACUA 169

A finding aid to the papers of Norman C. McKenna.

Correspondence, reports, newsletters, clippings, and publications relating to the following activities of McKenna, an editor of Catholic and labor publications: Catholic Interracial Council of Prince George’s County, Maryland, 1964–1971; Cana Conference of Washington, D.C., 1950–1962; Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, 1937–1951; and Christian Front newspaper, 1934–1948. Relating to the latter are letters from noted Catholic writers and the original of a drawing by G.K. Chesterton.

Mitchell, John. Papers. 1885–1924. 130 linear feet; 189 boxes. ACUA 003

A finding aid to the John Mitchell papers.

Mitchell, a legendary leader of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), was born 4 February 1870 in Braidwood, Illinois, to Robert Mitchell and Martha Halley. He left home at age 10 and began working, first as a farm laborer and later as a coal miner. Mitchell was first a member of the Knights of Labor and then, successively, legislative agent, organizer, vice president and president of the fledgling UMWA. He was also vice president of the American Federal of Labor (AFL) and member of the National Child Labor Committee, the National Civic Federation, Federal Milk Commission, Federal Food Board for New York City, New York State Labor Industrial Commission, New York State Food Administration, and the New York State Council of Farms and Markets. It was, however, as president of the UMWA, 1899–1908, that Mitchell would have his greatest impact. His leadership in the momentous Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 resulted in significant gains for coal miners and greater recognition for the UMWA. Often in poor health, Mitchell stepped down as UMWA president in 1908 and died in 1919. He is buried in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His published works include Organized Labor: Its Problems, Purposes, and Ideals (1903) and The Wage Earner (1912).

Papers reflect his myriad labor and civil affiliations and are organized into five series: Correspondence, 1885–1919; United Mine Workers of America, Minutes, Proceedings, Constitutions, and Reports, 1891–1908; Miscellaneous Minutes, Proceedings, and Reports, 1914–1919; Printed Matter, 1888–1912; and Photographs, 1896–1924. The correspondence includes drafts of articles and speeches, minutes of meetings, financial reports, and convention resolutions. Significant people, events, and conditions of the ‘Gilded Age’ are revealed, especially in the UMWA material, regarding such watershed issues as standardized wages, safe working conditions, and collective bargaining.

Murray, Philip. Papers. 1936–1952. 123 linear feet; 184 boxes; 1 oversized box; 99 scrapbooks. ACUA 005

A finding aid to the papers of Philip Murray.

Labor leader born in Blantyre, Scotland, 25 May 1886 to Irish immigrants William and Rose Ann (Layden) Murray. He became a member of the international board of the United Mine Workers of America in 1912, president of the union’s fifth district in 1916, and international vice president in 1920. During the First World War he served on Pennsylvania’s Regional Labor Board and in 1935 was named to the National Industrial Recovery Administration. He was Chairman of the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee, 1936–1942, and its successor, the United Steelworkers of America, 1942–1952. Murray succeeded John L. Lewis as President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1940, a post he held until his death in 1952. During the Second World War, Murray promoted the active cooperation of labor in the war effort. After the war, he pledged full support in the campaign to purge Communists out of the CIO ranks.

Primarily correspondence and scrapbooks detailing Murray’s years as head of the United Steel Workers of America. Said correspondence, 1943–1952, sixty linear feet, includes annual files on each USWA district, interoffice communications, material on the settlement of controls with steel companies and government relations. The collection includes the positive and negative reactions of the rank and file union membership and the general public to USWA policies and actions, particularly during strikes. The scrapbook series, 1936–1952, thirty linear feet, contains news clippings on all aspects of American labor from a vast cross section of the press.

Neill, Charles Patrick. Papers. 1883–1956. 7 boxes; 1 reel of microfilm; 4.9 linear feet. ACUA 012

A finding aid to the papers of Charles Patrick Neill.

Born in Illinois to Irish Catholic immigrants, Neill grew up in Texas and graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, in 1891. From 1905 to 1913 he served as United States Commissioner of Labor and Commissioner of Labor Statistics in 1913. In these posts he provided federal mediation services in railroad labor disputes and drafted the Newlands Act (1913). He investigated the meat packing industry, which resulted in an inspection law in 1906, and prepared a report on child labor which fomented congressional legislation. Reputed as a skilled arbitrator, he was employed by Southeastern Railways (1915–1939) to handle labor issues, and also served on the United States Railroad Board of Adjustments (1919–1921). He was also interested in industrial safety and workmen’s compensation laws.

The Charles Patrick Neill Papers includes legal papers, news clippings, and other printed material dealing with his work for the United States Department of Labor, 1905–1913, the American Smelting and Refining Company, 1913–1915, and the Bureau of Information of Southeastern Railways, 1915–1939. Scrapbooks concerning his Labor Department activities and his membership on the Railway Commission are on microfilm. Also included in the collection is a copy of a dissertation by Richard G. Balfe titled Charles Patrick Neill and the United States Bureau of Labor, Notre Dame University, 1956.

Powderly, Terence Vincent. Papers. 1864–1937. 175 linear feet; 271 boxes, 1 file cabinet. ACUA 002

A finding aid to the T.V. Powderly papers.

Powderly, the son of Irish immigrants Terence and Madge (Walsh) Powderly, was born 22 January 1849 in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. He was employed at a young age as a railroad switchman, and later apprenticed as a machinist. He joined the International Union of Machinists and Blacksmiths in 1871, later becoming local president. His union activities and the Depression of 1873 left him out of work and blacklisted as a union agitator. Powderly joined the Scranton, Pennsylvania, Local Assembly No. 88 of the Knights of Labor in 1876 and rose steadily until assuming the national leadership as Grand (later General) Master Workman, 1879–1893. The Knights came into national prominence during his tenure but was riven with a divisive power struggle that led to Powderly’s removal and succession by John William Hayes. In 1999, Powderly was honored by being the newest inductee into the U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Fame, joining figures such as Samuel Gompers, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and Philip Murray.

The Knights of Labor Series (1864–1924) contains a significant body of primary source material detailing the organization and development of labor in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America.

Ryan, John Augustine. Papers. 1892–1945. 43 linear feet: 80 boxes. ACUA 011

A finding aid to the papers of John A. Ryan.

From the first decade of the twentieth century to his death in 1945, John Augustine Ryan was the Catholic Church in America’s leading expert on social and economic questions and one of its strongest advocates for improving the living and working conditions of American workers. Ryan helped found the Catholic Association for International Peace in 1927 and served in a number of federal government posts during the New Deal era of the 1930s. From 1920 until 1945, Ryan headed the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. Ryan wrote sixteen books and hundreds of articles and spoke frequently to audiences around the nation and on radio. His books include: Living Wage (1906), Distributive Justice (1916), and A Better Economic Order (1935). In 1914, he engaged in a famous debate with Morris Hillquit over the advantages and disadvantages of Socialism. In the 1930s he gave radio addresses on economic and political issues. Two of his most prominent speeches in that era responded to Father Charles Coughlin’s attacks on Franklin Roosevelt and his neutrality policy. (See Also: Social Justice Collection, edited by Father Charles Coughlin) In 1919, he wrote the advanced draft of the Bishop’s Program for Social Reconstruction, which advocated national health and old age insurance, a minimum wage, factory safety legislation, and labor’s right to organize.

The collection consists of personal diaries and journals from Ryan’s seminary days; correspondence from 1925 to 1945, including letters written to him after his attack on Coughlin; drafts and copies of many of his writings; outlines and lecture notes from his courses; reference files; and scrapbooks.

Read, Harry Cyril. Papers. 1928–1957. 15.4 linear feet; 22 boxes. ACUA 013

A finding aid to the papers of Harry Cyril Read.

Harry Cyril Read, a Chicago-born Catholic newspaper editor and author, was also a soldier and noted labor leader. Between 1912 and 1945, he worked at several newspapers, including the Michigan CIO News, and the Wage Earner through 1945. He served as an assistant to the AFL-CIO secretary treasurer, 1945–1951, member of the CIO delegation to the San Francisco United Nations Conference in 1945, and alternate member of the Executive Committee of the World Federation of Trade Unions in 1958, the year of his death.

The Read papers include professional correspondence during his time with the CIO and the AFL-CIO, as well as some correspondence when he worked for the labor newspapers.

Social Action Department (NCWC). 1920(1920–1979)2007. 120 linear feet; 97 boxes [total inclusive of all parts]. ACUA 010

A finding aid to the records of the Social Action Department.

An original department of the NCWC established as a clearinghouse to promote, interpret, and apply Catholic social thought with special focus on industrial, international, and interracial relations as well as rural life, communism, social work and charities. Principal tools in this effort were the papal encyclicals and the statements of the American bishops on social and economic matters. Soon after its creation, the department began to sponsor addresses and lectures, publish books and pamphlets, and conducted conferences and institutes. The department’s three directors, Msgr. John A. Ryan, 1919–1945; Rev. Raymond A. McGowan, 1945–1954; and Msgr. George G. Higgins, 1954–1967, were all especially interested in industrial relations. The department was re-organized and renamed as Social Development, and is currently known as the Department of Social Development and World Peace.

The records begin with general departmental files, 1920–1950, followed by various bodies sponsored by the department, including the National Social Action Conferences, 1938–1939; Inter-American Seminars on Social Studies, 1942–1946; and the Inter-American Catholic Social Action Confederation, 1948–1952. These are followed by material on intercreedal cooperation, 1938–1948, then the files of assistant directors Fathers John Hayes, George Higgins, and John Cronin, 1942–1959. Next are files on organizations and topics of special interest, 1930–1959, followed by those of assistant director, Father Raymond McGowan, 1925–1954, whose influence was evident in almost every sphere of the department’s activity. Next come records of the department’s field secretary, Linna E. Bressette, 1921–1955, and those of the Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems, 1922–1951, followed by those of the CCIP’s successor, the National Social Action Conference, 1956–1957. There are also records related to labor schools, 1936–1944; priests 1937–1946, and files of the Catholic Association for International Peace (CAIP), Family Life, and Rural Life bureaus. Photographs dated 1936–1952, miscellaneous oversized items, and printed materials round out the collection.


The records of the Office of the CUA Rector and President contain approximately 13 correspondence and administrative folders on labor from the 1930s to the 1980s. However, restrictions may limit the use of these records.

An in-house database is available for researcher use.

Approximately 60 CUA theses and dissertations have been written on the subject of labor, including George Gilmary Higgins’ dissertation “Voluntarism in Organized Labor in the United States, 1930–1940.”

An in-house database is available for researcher use.

Approximately 200 articles on the subject of labor appear in issues of the Catholic University Bulletin, The University Symposium, Catholic University Envoy, Catholic University of America Magazine, U.S. Catholic Historian, NCWC Bulletin, NCWC Review (NCWC Bulletin), Catholic Action (NCWC Bulletin), and Catholic Charities Review.

An in-house database is available for researcher use.

Books and periodicals on labor.

There are no inventories available for researcher use. Please contact the archives.


In addition to photographs contained within manuscript collections, approximately 300 labor photographs can also be found in the Photograph Collection under John Mitchell, George Gilmary Higgins, and Terence Vincent Powderly.

Various photograph inventories are available for researcher use.


Several reel-to-reel films and approximately 20 audio tapes document the work of George Higgins. One box of phonograph records containing various speeches supplements the John A. Ryan Papers.

Various audio/visual inventories are available for researcher use.


A small number of large format labor materials can be found in the Mapcase Inventory under Peter Guilday, Terence Vincent Powderly, and Mary Harris Jones.

An in-house database is available for researcher use.


Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Collections

Laboring for Justice: Celebrating Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree Monsignor George G. Higgins and his Lifetime of Service to the Cause of Workers’ Rights

“Mother” Jones


Catholic Responses to Industrialization

Forging Bonds of Sympathy: The Catholic Church and the Knights of Labor

How Much is Enough? Catholics and a Living Wage

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