The Archivist’s Nook: Farewell and Thanks for All the Files!

“To Build a Stronger Union of Oil Workers”, from the CIO collection, 1950

This week’s post is guest authored by Marielle Gage, a recent CUA graduate in Library Science.

Two years ago, I walked into the American Catholic Research Center and University Archives as a student worker. I thought I would like the job — I knew one of my new coworkers from class, and had approved of John Shepherd’s fine collection of New England Patriots’ memorabilia — but I was surprised by how much. At the time, I was finishing my Master’s in History, and was assuming I would continue on to the PhD. But unexpected circumstances, and my new job, made me reconsider, and this last year has seen me finish a second Master’s, this one in Library and Information Science, and searching for a position in the field of archives rather than academia.

More than once, I’ve been asked, “What is it you do at an archives, anyway?” Normally, I explain what an archive is, and that answers their curiosity, but sometimes I get a follow-up: “Okay, so that’s the use of an archive, but why do you do all day? Just wait for researchers?” That question is actually harder to answer than you might expect, not because there isn’t anything to respond with, but because there’s just so much, it’s hard to describe a “typical” day. There isn’t one, really.

Take just this last month, as I finish my time at ACUA. I’ve processed a collection, including moving files into acid-free boxes and folders and giving everything labels, as well as fully organizing it, coded the Electronic Archival Description for it (using html), created a preliminary listing for another collection, scanned images for independent researchers and CUA staff, updated records, introduced researchers to our archives and rules, pulled boxes, created PDFs of hundreds of pages of original documents, taken phone calls, compiled a list of previous commencement speakers by reviewing old commencement handouts, moved artwork from our stacks to the vault, and more. Sometimes I arrive at the archives not sure what I’m going to work on that day; and even if I think I do, that could change with a phone call from the Registrar or some other university office, or with the arrival of an unexpected researcher. In my two years here, I have very few memories of being idle or without anything to do, even for twenty minutes.

Marvel’s “Mother Teresa of Calcutta”, from the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa collection, 1984

Even more than keeping me busy and out of the proverbial pool halls, my work at ACUA has been incredibly rewarding. Contrary to any stereotypes of librarian-type students, I am very much a people person, and take great satisfaction in helping people along their way: especially if they are seeking information and knowledge. I wish sometimes I had the ability to read the final version of every researcher’s book or article assigned by their investigations here, and it makes my day when we are able to provide something above and beyond the expectations of our visitors. That’s not really to our credit, necessarily: our records really are amazing. Not just highly informative — such as our various labor collections or the USCCB files — by sometimes really fun; we have, for example, a copy of a comic book Marvel produced about Mother Teresa. Even if it is simply her biography (and not, as I was hoping, a team-up with The Incredible Hulk to defeat Professor Poverty) it’s still a delightful record of the cultural impact she had even during her lifetime. There’s dozens of more items and collections I could talk about, but that’s not the point here.

Really, the point is to thank Dr. Meagher, Dr. Mazzenga, Mr. Shepherd, Shane MacDonald, and everyone else at the Archives for such a wonderful opportunity. They took a chance on a bookish girl, knee-high to a grasshopper even in her twenties, and trusted that she would be an asset to their community. I hope I have paid back that trust at least partially, but truly I owe all of them a debt I may never be able to repay. I very much doubt I ever would have sought that second Master’s, or sought a career in this field, if I hadn’t worked here. Now, as I move on to (hopefully), bigger and better things, I’d like to take this final chance to wish them all the very best. So here’s to you, ACUA: may your donors be plentiful and your HVACs never leak.

The Archivist’s Nook: Philip Murray – A Pennsylvania Scot in Big Labor’s Court

Murray adorns the cover of Time magazine, a symbol of his national stature, on August 4, 1952. Time Magazine Online.

In 1904, a young coal miner in western Pennsylvania, terminated for fighting with his boss over fraudulent practices, was also evicted from his home and forced to leave town. He sadly observed the workingman “is alone. He has no organization to defend him. He has nowhere to go.”¹ Thereafter, this Catholic immigrant from Scotland, Philip Murray (1886-1952), devoted his life to unionism, becoming one of the most important labor leaders in twentieth century America. He served as Vice President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), 1920-1942; second President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), 1940-1952; and first President of the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), 1942-1952. He worked to form an alliance between industrial unions and the Democratic Party as well as smoothing relations with the older American Federation of Labor (AFL) leading to the merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955. He was also active in supporting civil rights and standing against Communism.

Resolution from a steel workers local in Monessen, PA, September 14, 1942, decrying the internecine Lewis-Murray conflict. Murray Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Murray was born May 25, 1886 in Blantyre, Scotland, to Irish immigrants William Murray and Rose Ann Layden. His father was a coal miner and his mother a weaver in a cotton mill who died when Murray was only aged two. His father soon remarried, to a Scottish woman, having eight children with her. Young Murray joined his father in the Scottish mines at age ten and went to union meetings with him. In 1902, they immigrated to the mining town of Irwin, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Following the travails mentioned above, Murray was elected President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) local in Horning in 1905, becoming a member of the UMWA’s International Board in 1912, President of District 5 covering western Pennsylvania in 1916, and International Vice President in 1920. An effective negotiator, he worked closely and loyally with UMWA President John L. Lewis through two difficult decades.

After the New Deal began in 1933, Murray successfully reorganized the UMWA and increased membership under federal legislation enabling collective bargaining. His vision of social justice derived from his family union tradition and Catholic faith, in line with papal encyclicals on the rights and responsibilities of both employers and workers. Murray was also Chairman of the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee (SWOC), 1936-1942, and its successor, the United Steelworkers of America (USA), 1942-1952. After repudiating Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 election, Lewis retired as President of the CIO, replaced by Murray, who promoted labor cooperation during the Second World War and supported Roosevelt’s reelection in 1944. In retaliation and after a bitter struggle, Lewis removed Murray as UMWA Vice President in 1942.

United Steelworkers of America, District #33 (Minnesota), Murray with members and officers, September 1943. Murray Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Murray was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and directed the CIO to establish a Committee to Abolish Racial Discrimination. After the war, he opposed the Taft-Hartley Act that eliminated the closed shop and controversially expelled Communists from the CIO He married Elizabeth Lavery in 1910 and they had an adopted son. A naturalized American citizen since 1911 Murray nevertheless spoke with a Scottish accent and often wore a kilt. He died November 9, 1952 in San Francisco and is buried in Saint Anne’s Cemetery in the Pittsburgh suburb of Castle Shannon. A biographer observed Murray never “sought the spotlight and yet his contribution to the welfare of the unionized workers was great.”³ Catholic University houses the Philip Murray Papers, which includes a digitized photograph series, along with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) Records, while additional related collections are at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).


¹Ronald W. Schatz. ‘Philip Murray and the Subordination of the Industrial Unions to the United States Government,’ Labor Leaders in America. Melvyn Dubofsky and Warren Van Tine (eds) Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987, p. 236.

²Steven Rosswurm (ed.) The CIO’s Left-Led Unions. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

³Juanita Ollie Duffay Tate. The Forgotten Labor Leader and Long Time Civil-Rights Advocate-Philip Murray. Greensboro, North Carolina: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Press, 1974, p. xi.

The Archivist’s Nook: Read All About It – From Crime Reporter to Labor Advocate

Havana, Cuba, 1930: Harry Cyril Read (bottom right), Al Capone (back, second to right) Following an illness, Read had been ordered to spend several weeks in a warm climate by his doctor. When Capone learned of this, he invited himself along.

“Capone turned to me. His eyes were twinkling but some of their warmth was gone. ‘Is this a newspaper interview?’ he asked….He fell silent for a moment and then grinned broadly. “[Chicago City Sealer] Serritella says you’re one hundred percent and besides I like that Popeye comic in your newspaper. What do you want to know?’”

So recounts Harry Cyril Read of his first “interview” with gangster Al Capone, as reported in his unpublished manuscript Capone as I Knew Him. The time was 1929, Chicago was rocked by violence resulting from competition in the illegal liquor trade flourishing during Prohibition. It was mere weeks away from the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a fact not lost on Read when he would reflect on this initial meeting. Read, editor of one of the two leading newspapers of Chicago – the Chicago American – had decided to use his contacts to get the inside scoop on the man at the center of the escalating violence. His contacts came through.

Caption reads: “Three hoodlums with guns invaded a downtown Chicago garage on the night of Jan. 31, 1939, terrorized an attendant, cut the telephone wires and stole the American Newspaper Guild sound truck that had been publicizing the Hearst strike. They drove the truck into the river. The next morning coast guardsmen raised it with grappling hooks from twenty feet of water. (Photo by a striking Hearst photographer).

Harry Cyril Read was born in Chicago in 1892. Beginning with a job reporting for the Cheyenne Leader in Wyoming in 1912, Read’s career as a journalist would span three decades. While he would return to his hometown not long after 1912, the rest of the decade saw him set out on a variety of non-journalistic endeavors. In the intervening years, he would work a variety of industrial jobs, serve in the US Army in the First World War as a Sergeant Major of the 346th Tank Battalion, establish an advertising partnership, and earn a business degree from Northwestern University. In 1921, Read began working as a reporter for the Chicago American, one of two daily Chicago newspapers owned by William Hearst. An intrepid reporter, Read worked his way up the editor post of the newspaper by 1926, coinciding with the bloodiest period of the Prohibition-fueled gang wars in the Windy City. An aggressive newsman who sought to get to the bottom of the bloodshed, Read’s papers highlight numerous hours spent figuring out the politics, personalities, and patterns involved in the underworld. He collected fingerprint records, plotted gang crimes on a map, and plumbed the depths of his contacts for leads. An enterprising investigator, Read would even forge a tense, but cordial relationship with the infamous Al Capone in order to plumb the depths of the ongoing violence and political corruption rocking Chicago. At one point, Read would even go so far as to travel with the bootlegger to Florida and Cuba to maintain a working relationship and in search of a promised scoop. Along the way, he was able to provide details of Capone’s views and actions to the press.

With Capone’s arrest and sentencing for tax evasion in 1931 and the end of Prohibition not long after, the violence in Chicago began to ebb. Read continued to work as a reporter, but became increasingly involved in the labor struggles of the Great Depression. By the 1930s, the Congress of Industrial Organizations and its affiliate, the American Newspaper Guild, had organized Local 71, the Chicago Newspaper Guild. After layoffs in both of the Hearst-owned Chicago newspapers, the Guild called for a strike that began on December 4, 1938. As a leading member, Read was included in a suit filed by the Hearst papers to restrain strike activity in early 1939. The strike would not end until 1940. Despite the end of the strike, Read did not return to his former job, but instead began writing for several labor-affiliated newspapers including the United Auto Worker, the Wage Earner, and as editor of the Michigan CIO News.

Read (back row, second to left) meeting with President Dwight Eisenhower as a member of the President’s Committee for Traffic Safety, 1957.

In 1945, Read relocated to Washington, DC to accept a position as Assistant to the Secretary-Treasurer of the CIO. It is a position that he would continue to serve in for the rest of his working life, even transitioning with the merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and CIO in 1955. In his this capacity, Read represented the CIO at the United Nations Conference for International Organization in 1948 and at the World Federation of Trade Unions in Rome in 1948. While in Rome, Pope Pius XII received him in private audience. In light of his labor advocacy, Read served as a member of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, the Catholic Economic Association, the Catholic Labor Alliance, and the Catholic Inter-racial Council of Washington, DC. Furthermore, his later years were spent working on several books on politics, his experiences, and social commentary. He was also active on health and safety committees in Washington, D.C. being recognized posthumously by the National Safety Council. He passed away in 1957.

His wife, Lucy Read, donated the Harry Cyril Read Papers in 1958. They highlight the life and career of this enterprising journalist, labor and safety advocate, and author.