Documentary History of American Industrial Society

Alison Coleman
Hist. 336: Rael
Primary Source Report

 A Documentary History of American Industrial Society


1. What is it? Describe its form and contents.
A Documentary History of American Industrial Society is a ten-volume set of hardbound books containing primary documents such as newspapers and pamphlets distributed by trade unions, transcripts, court cases dealing with labor, labor contracts, supply receipts, as well as diary and journal entries taken from both sides of the struggle: laborers and owners as well as masters and slaves.

2. When was it made? By whom? Why?
The Arthur H. Clark Company published A Documentary History of American Industrial Society in 1910. Richard T. Ely, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, started the project when he set out to compile a comprehensive economic and industrial history of America, but while doing research, he realized that he was not capable of completing the task himself so, with the help of several wealthy men, he formed the American Bureau of Industrial Research. The Bureau consisted of scholars interested in the Labor Movement and was run like any other well-organized group. The Bureau felt that there was a missing component in American history (labor) so they compiled all of these primary sources to secure their preservation for posterity.

3. Who appears in it?
This collection covers the whole spectrum of labor: laborers, owners, slaves, masters, and trade union members. Included in these categories are everyone from wage laborers to foremen and overseers to immigrant and American workers and capitalists.

4. How is it organized?
The collection is organized into ten volumes. Volumes I and II cover the "Plantation and Frontier". Volumes III and IV are on "Labor Conspiracy Cases from 1806-1842". "The Labor Movement" (divided into three different time periods) is the main theme for the remaining volumes. "The Labor Movement from 1820-1840" comprises Volumes V and VI, 1840-1860 make up Volumes VII and VIII, while Volumes IX and X cover "The Labor Movement from 1860-1880".

5. How do you use it? Does it have finding aids or supplemental material?
Each volume has a table of contents shown in the beginning. There is also a bibliography located in the first volume. There is also a supplement to Volume IV "Labor Conspiracy Cases".

6. How do you get access to it? Where is it physically located, and what strictures (if any) are placed on access?
It is found at the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library on the Bowdoin campus. The call number is HC103 .D63. The collection can be checked out with a membership card.

7. What kinds of questions can it answer?
This collection can answer almost any question one might have about American economic and industrial history up to 1910 because of the wealth of information. Regardless of the angle that one takes on the class struggle, this collection will prove helpful because virtually all of the participants in this history are represented in one way or another. These volumes offer an extremely thorough history of labor in America.