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.
Caption: Portrait of Terence V. Powderly