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Labor History: Encyclopedias & Guides

A guide to U.S. labor history resources in NYU's Tamiment Library and beyond.

Encyclopedias & Guides

The ABC-CLIO Companion to the American Labor Movement. Paul F. Taylor. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1993. Brief entries on the people, places and events related to labor, arranged alphabetically. Contains chronology, bibliography, and index.  

American Federation of Labor: History, Encyclopedia, Reference Book. American Federation of Labor. Washington, D.C.: AFL, 1919-60. 3 volumes in four containing useful and difficult to find information. Volume I (1919) contains a long historical account of the AFL along with AFL organizers by state, treaties, and descriptions of unions. Volume II (1924) also begins with a historical essay. Volume III (1960, in two parts) includes a series of photographs. Each volume has its own index. Reprinted by Greenwood Press (ISBN for the set: 0837195683) in 1977. 

The American Labor Movement, 1955-1995. Walter Galenson. Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1996.  Contributions in labor studies ; no. 47.

American Labor Unions, What They Are and How They Work, 2nd ed. / Florence Peterson. New York: Harper, 1963. Describes how labor unions, as organisms, perform their functions and conduct their daily affairs. Divided into five sections: growth of the American labor movement, structure and internal government, unions and the law, unions and employers, and "off-the-job activities." Contains a glossary of labor terms, a directory of unions, and an index.  

The American Labor Year Book. New York City: Rand School of Social Science, 1916-1932. The yearbooks were prepared by the Department of Labor Research at the Rand School (the Tamiment Library is the successor to the school) to meet the needs of the labor movement. "[T]his volume represents the first attempt in this country to establish a reliable chronicle of the aims, struggles and achievements of labor throughout the world" (from the introduction by Morris Hillquit, p. 7). This guide provides detailed information on every aspect of the labor and socialist movements. Many of the essays are signed by major labor and socialist leaders. In 1916 it was divided into five parts; by 1931 it had grown to 15 parts. All the volumes have their own index. An invaluable source of information on the labor and socialist movements. Available on microfilm as part of Socialist Collections in the Tamiment Library. Ann Arbor: UMI, shelved at Film R-7124, Reels 51-52.  

American Labor History: Research, Teaching and Bibliographic Aids / Dirk Hoerder. Berlin: John-F.-Kennedy-Institut Fur Nordamerikastudien, 1976. Basic guide to labor history sources (including Canada). Contains a directory of labor history institutions, bibliographies, reference works, historiographical sources, and newspaper index. 

Encyclopedia of the American Left. 2nd ed. Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Includes articles on the people, organizations, movements and events related to labor in the U.S.  

Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History. Eric Arneson. New York: Routledge, c2007. This three volume set contains more than 650 signed entries with bibliographies on the people, organizations, events, and issues related to labor history from the colonial era to the present.  

First Facts of American Labor. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1984. Edited by Philip S. Foner, this begins by pointing out the difficulty of determining many first facts about American labor. Arranged alphabetically. Contains an index. Foner's first cited strike is 1619 at Jamestown. Unfortunately no sources are given.  

Handbook of Labor Unions / Florence Peterson. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Public Affairs, 1944. This guide provides basic directory information: name and address (including a brief history), affiliations, membership as of 1943, number of locals, territorial coverage, official journal, trade jurisdiction, governance, apprentice information, financial information including dues of both the international and its locals, benefits, agreements, strikes, and union labels. An index provides access by trades, i.e. actors, engineers, etc. 

Historical Dictionary of Organized Labor. 2nd ed. J.C. Docherty. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2004. Table of contents available online.  

Historical Directory of Trade Unions. Arthur Ivor Marsh and Victoria Ryan. Farnborough, Hants., England: Gower, 1980. Published in four volumes covering non-manual unions; engineering, iron and steel, coal, agriculture and chemicals; transport and construction; and textiles, printing, retail distribution and miscellaneous industries in Great Britain. Each entry gives a basic history of the union with membership characteristics, policy and identifies sources of information on the union.  

Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor / Robert E. Weir and James P. Hanlan. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Includes signed entries on labor cases, various strikes, industries, unions, labor leaders, political parties, labor movements, legislation and other assorted topics. Recommended reading follows articles. Includes appendix of 55 labor documents. 

History of the Labor Movement in the United States  Philip Foner.  NY: International Publishers, 1947-. Contents: v. 1. From colonial times to the founding of the American federation of labor -- v. 2. From the founding of the American federation of labor to the emergence of American imperialism -- v. 3. The policies and practices of the American federation of labor, 1900-1909 -- v. 4. The industrial workers of the world, 1905-1917 -- v. 5. The AFL in the progressive era, 1910-1915 -- v. 6. On the eve of America's entrance into World War l, 1915-1916 -- v. 7. Labor and World and War I, 1914-1918 -- v. 8. Postwar struggles, 1918-1920 -- v. 9. The T.U.E.L. to the end of the Gompers Era -- v. 10. The T.U.E.L, 1925-1929.

  The Labor Almanac / Adrian A. Paradis and Grace D. Paradis. Littleton: Libraries Unlimited, 1983. Organized into eight sections: labor history chronology, national labor organizations, prominent labor leaders (both living and deceased), principal legislation and executive orders, federal and state agencies concerned with labor relations, sources of information, glossary of terms, and an index are provided. One of the best sources for concise information, especially on labor legislation and events.  

Labor Conflict in the United States. An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1990. Edited by Ronald L. Filipelli, this encyclopedia provides 254 signed entries by scholars on major labor disputes involving the use of force, not limited to strikes or lockouts. Racial and ethnic conflict are included when competition for employment, a strike, or a union, were involved as in the San Francisco Anti-Chinese Riots of 1877. There is also an entry on slave rebellions. Each narrative entry provides a grasp of the "issues, events, personalities, and outcomes" and includes a brief bibliography. A labor history chronology, a glossary of terms, and a selected general bibliography are also included.  

Labor Fact Book. New York: International Publishers, v. 1-17; 1931-1965. Prepared by the Labor Research Association and published by the CPUSA, these books provide information on a wide range of labor related issues. Economic Statistics are provided in all the volumes, as well as trade union information. Scope of coverage varies over the years reflecting the changing political concerns. A reprint edition was published in 1972 by Oriole Editions in New York but this too is out of print. The reprint has a separate volume with an index to the set.

Labor History Archives in the United States: A Guide for Researching and Teaching / Daniel J. Leab and Philip P. Mason, eds. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992. A revised and expanded compilation of lists that appeared in Labor History, this guide provides the essential information on forty libraries, archives and historical societies in the United States. An introductory essay by Philip Mason, former Director of Wayne State University's Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, provides an important discussion on collections. The signed listings are arranged by region, beginning with New England and going west. The entries do not follow a standard format but each essay contains information about important holdings, access, and contact information. An integrated index provides access by subject, personal name, union, and institution.  

Labor Unions. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1977. ISBN: 0837189381. Edited by Gary Fink, this volume provides signed, historical sketches with suggestions for further reading on more than 200 unions and labor federations in the United States. The criteria for inclusion were "longevity, historical significance, size and economic power, and the influence." Thus the scope is not limited to AFL-CIO affiliates or to unions in existence when the volume was written. Useful appendices include national affiliations, chronology, union genealogies, executive leadership from the founding, and a glossary. Unions are listed under the first keyword of the organizational name, dropping words like Brotherhood or United. There is an index to names of individuals and organizations.  

The Lexicon of Labor: More then 500 Key Terms, Biographical Sketches, and Historical Highlights Concerning Labor in America / R. Emmett Murray. New York: New Press, 1998. Brief definitions of all things labor. 

St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and their Impact. Neil Schlager. Detroit: St. James Press/Gale Group/Thomson Learning, 2003. The 2 vol. set covers, "more than 300 key events in labor history over the last 200 years, focusing on the relevance of these events to both the labor movement as a whole and to societal changes around the world. Each entry, written and signed by an expert in the field, is three to five pages in length and includes a description of the event, information about the key players involved and discusses the event in historical context. 

The U.S. Labor Movement: References and Resources  Stern, Robert N., and Daniel B. Cornfield. New York: G.K. Hall, 1996. Research guide organized topically, including sociology of the labor movement, social movement theory, organizational structure of the labor movement, movement mobilization, labor and politics, and anti-labor counter movements, among other subjects. 

U.S. Union Sourcebook. West Orange, N.J.: IRDIS, 1985. This directory provides membership, financial, and other data from the years 1897-1983. Divided into seven sections: overview, 1982-84 events, membership tables, finances, governance and structure, directory of labor organizations, and state and international union Statistics. Series appendixes provide additional membership information.