The State Historical Society of Missouri’s labor collections preserve the historical records of working people and their organizations. These collections include materials such as union records, papers of labor leaders and organizations, and other materials on labor-related issues.
The evolution of improved labor conditions can be attributed to the unionization of trades workers, legislation, and other governmental action to protect Missouri’s labor force. Several manuscript collections reflect the experience of labor organizations in Missouri. Examples of these collections include the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Records, the Kansas City Typographical Union (ITU) #80 Records, and the James Adam Davis Papers.
- Andrews, Gregg "Immigrant Cement Workers: The Strike of 1910 in Ilasco, Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 89 (January 1995): 162-183.
- Atherton, Lewis E. "Life, Labor, and Society in Boone County, Missouri, 1834-1852, as Revealed in the Correspondence of an Immigrant Slave Owning Family from North Carolina."
Part 1: Missouri Historical Review 38 (April 1944): 277-304.
Part 2: Missouri Historical Review 38 (July 1944): 408-429.
- Ehrlich, Walter "Birth Pangs of a Teachers Union: The St. Louis Story."
Part I: Missouri Historical Review 79 (October 1984): 24-42.
Part II: Missouri Historical Review 79 (January 1985): 209-228.
- Fink, Gary M. "The Unwanted Conflict: Missouri Labor and the CIO."
Missouri Historical Review 64 (July 1970): 432-447.
- Firkus, Angela. "At the Factory, on the Street, and in State Institutions: Child Workers of Kansas City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century."
Missouri Historical Review 114 (October 2019): 40-63.
- Houf, Walter R. "Organized Labor in Missouri Politics Before the Civil War."
Missouri Historical Review 56 (April 1962): 244-254.
- McInnis, Tom N. "The Kansas City Free Speech Fight of 1911."
Missouri Historical Review 84 (April 1990): 253-269.
- McIntyre, Stephen L. "The City Belongs to the Local Unions: The Rise of the Springfield Labor Movement, 1871-1912."
Missouri Historical Review 98 (October 2003): 24-46.
- Meriwether, Lee "A Century of Labor in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 15 (October 1920): 163-175.
- Nolen, Russel M. "The Labor Movement in St. Louis from 1860 to 1890."
Missouri Historical Review 34 (October 1939): 18-37.
"The Labor Movement in St. Louis Prior to the Civil War."
Missouri Historical Review 34 (January 1940): 157-181.
- Reynolds, Bruce "Convict Labor, The Montserrat Experience."
Missouri Historical Review 77 (October 1982): 47-63.
- Steiner, Michael J. "Toilers of the Cities and Tillers of the Soil: The 1889 St. Louis Convention of the Middle Classes."
Missouri Historical Review 93 (July 1999): 397-416.
Many of the State Historical Society’s holdings are included in Merlin, the shared library catalog of the four University of Missouri campuses. The best terms to search for labor sources are simply “labor,” “unions,” and “workers.”
The Society’s Historic Missourians website contains biographies of a number of significant businessmen, journalists, and activists who worked on behalf of the laborers throughout the state of Missouri.
- Adolphus Busch (1839 - 1913) - Adolphus Busch was a German immigrant who built the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association in St. Louis into the largest brewery in the United States. In 1891, in response to a boycott of Anheuser-Busch beer from the American Federation of Labor, Busch became the first major brewer to sign an agreement with a labor union. In 2007, the US Department of Labor Hall of Fame honored Adolphus Busch for promoting fair labor practices.
- George Creel - George E. Creel was a journalist, politician, and author. Creel launched a newspaper, the Independent, wwith his friend Arthur Grissum in 1899. Grissum soon left, and Creel became sole editor and publisher. He used the Independent to promote political reform and the rights of women and labor.
- A.P. Green - A. P. Green was a successful manufacturer who brought jobs and economic growth to Missouri. His brick manufacturing business became a multimillion-dollar firm with branches all over the world. Green expressed interest in the welfare of his nonunionized employees and routinely gave lectures about safety issues to his staff.
- Kate Richards O'Hare - Kate Richards O’Hare was an activist, reformer, and Socialist. She sought to improve conditions for the working class through advocacy and reform. Some of the reforms she supported, such as the abolishment of child labor, succeeded and continue to this day.
- Nell Donnelly Reed - Nell Donnelly Reed was a prominent women’s clothing manufacturer, entrepreneur, and owner of the Donnelly Garment Company. She provided her employees with a pension plan, established an on-site medical clinic and cafeteria, paid for group hospitalization and life insurance benefits, and provided a recreation center for her employees. When the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) attempted to unionize the Donnelly Garment Company in 1937, its effort was rejected by company employees. It was not until 1968, long after Reed had retired, that company employees joined the ILGWU.
Society manuscript collections include union records, papers of labor leaders and organizations, and materials on labor related issues.
Several newspapers in the Society’s collection reflect Missouri’s worker’s associations and labor union history. These newspapers featured news coverage aimed at manufacturers, laborers, and their families. For example, the Farmer's Union, a weekly newspaper published on Thursdays in Memphis, Scotland County, Missouri, was a Populist journal that supported the Farmers’ and Laborers’ Union in northeast Missouri.
For a list of all digitized newspapers, visit the Missouri Digital Newspaper Project.
For a list of newspapers on microfilm at the State Historical Society of Missouri, visit the newspaper catalog.
Labor and Union Newspapers in SHSMO Holdings
|County||City||Title||Also Available On||Date Range|
|Greene||Springfield||Springfield Labor Record||Microfilm||1979-1985|
|Greene||Springfield||Union Labor Record||Microfilm||1937-1979|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Kansas City Labor||Microfilm||1895|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Kansas City Labor News||Microfilm||1924-1938|
|Jasper||Joplin||Joplin Missouri Trades Unionist||Microfilm||1908-1921|
|Marion||Hannibal||Hannibal Labor Press||Microfilm||1915-1972|
|St. Louis||Illinois Labor Tribune||Microfilm||1963-1966|
|St. Louis||Indiana Labor Tribune||Microfilm||1955-1970|
|St. Louis||Labor Campaign||Microfilm||1894|
|St. Louis||Labor Compendium||Microfilm||1901-1905, 1907-1911|
|St. Louis||St. Louis/ Southern Illinois Labor Tribune||Microfilm||2012-2014|
|St. Louis||Labor’s Call||Microfilm||1977-1979|
|St. Louis||Midwest Labor World||Microfilm||1943-1963|
|St. Louis||Milwaukee Labor||Microfilm||1894|
|St. Louis||Missouri Labor||Microfilm||1896-1906|
|St. Louis||Southern Illinois Labor Tribune||Microfilm||1954-1963, 1966-1970|
|St. Louis||St. Louis||St. Louis Commercial News and Labor Gazette||Microfilm||1911|
|St. Louis||St. Louis||St. Louis Labor||Microfilm||1895-1896, 1903-1930|
|St. Louis||St. Louis||St. Louis Labor Tribune||Microfilm||1937-1985|
|St. Louis||St. Louis||St. Louis Union||Microfilm||1883|
|St. Louis||St. Louis||St. Louis Union Labor Advocate||Microfilm||1934-1958|
|St. Louis||Troy Labor||Microfilm||1894|
SHSMO has numerous collections containing photographs documenting labor and unions in Missouri. A small percentage of these photographs have been digitized and are available in the Columbia Digital Photograph Collection.
- Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, 1933-1984 (S0741) - 518 photographs
- Construction and General Laborers Local Union No. 264 Photograph Collection, 1957-1958 (K0684)
- Henry Tobias Brewers and Maltsters Union No. 6, Collection, 1873-1990 (S0615) - 576 photographs
- International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (1900- ) Photograph Collection, 1930-1977 (S0572) - 242 photographs
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