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Guide to the Milton Wolff Photograph Collection ALBA.PHOTO.170

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Gail Malmgreen, 2011

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 19, 2017

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Wolff, Milton.
Title: Milton Wolff Photographs
Dates [inclusive]: 1939-1960
Abstract: Milton (Milt) Wolff (1915-2008) was born in Brooklyn, NY to a working-class family. He left school at fifteen, found work in a Manhattan garment factory, and became politically active through membership in the Young Communist League. When the Civil War broke out in Spain he responded to a YCL appeal for volunteers and sailed for Europe, aged 21, in March 1937. He fought in the Battle of Brunete, at Belchite and in the unsuccessful assault at Fuentes del Ebro, and was promoted to captain during the battle of Teruel in January 1938. Wolff, aged 22, soon became the youngest commander of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. He served in Burma, Italy, France and India in World War II, and continued to be active in a variety of left-wing causes throughout his life. The collection consists of 27 black and white photos and 7 contact sheets, mostly dating from the 1940s. Many of the images are of Milton Wolff speaking at meetings or demonstrations; others show him marching in demonstrations or with other Spanish Civil War veterans and guests at Abraham Lincolon Brigade anniversaries or other large gatherings. Prominent individuals pictured include Hugo Gellert, Burl Ives, Vito Marcantonio, John Gates, and Paul Robeson.
Quantity: 0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)
Call Phrase: ALBA.PHOTO.170

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Historical/Biographical Note

Milton (Milt) Wolff (1915-2008) was born in Brooklyn, NY to a working-class family. He left school at fifteen and worked in the New Deal 's Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1934. He later found work in a Manhattan garment factory and became politically active through membership in the Young Communist League. When the Civil War broke out in Spain he responded to a YCL appeal for volunteers and sailed for Europe, aged 21, in March 1937. He initially served as a medic and then saw action in a machine-gun unit of the Washington Battalion in the Battle of Brunete in July 1937. The depleted U.S. forces were merged with the Lincoln battalion and Wolf rose quickly through the ranks. He led his unit at Belchite and in the unsuccessful assault at Fuentes del Ebro, and was promoted to captain during the battle of Teruel in January 1938. As the Loyalist forces retreated across the Ebro, and regrouped for a final offensive, Wolff, aged 22, became commander of the Lincoln Battalion.

Wolff met Ernest Hemingway while on leave after Brunete, and forged with him an intense, lasting, and sometimes contentious friendship. Hemingway once described Wolff as being "as brave and as good a soldier as any that commanded battalions at Gettysburg." On his return from Spain Wolff immediately became active in organizing support for Loyalist refugees and opposition to the Franco regime, and he remained active in a host of left-wing causes. Over the years he campaigned for civil rights -- and especially for the integration of the Brooklyn Dodgers, organized aid to Cuba, demonstrated against the Vietnam War, and joined with other Lincoln veterans to send ambulances to Nicaragua.

In June 1942 he volunteered as a private in the U.S. Army infantry and went on to see action in Burma, where he received a field commission as a lieutenant, and other places. He served the OSS under General "Wild Bill" Donovan in building an intelligence network with Communist partisans in Italy, was a paratrooper in Italy, was a liaison to the Spanish Maquis in southern France, and served in India. After the War he found a variety of jobs, and developed his talents as a writer, painter, and photographer. Wolff made his home in California for many years, and died on January 14, 2008, only a few months before the dedication of the national monument to the U.S. volunteers in San Francisco.

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Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 27 black and white photos and 7 contact sheets, mostly dating from the 1940s. Many of the images are of Milton Wolff speaking at meetings or demonstrations; others show him marching in demonstrations or with other Spanish Civil War veterans and guests at Abraham Lincolon Brigade anniversaries or other large gatherings. Prominent individuals pictured include Hugo Gellert, Burl Ives, Vito Marcantonio, John Gates, and Paul Robeson.

Arrangement

The collection is organized into one series: I: Photographs, 1939-1960.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976
  • Wolff, Milton.
  • Marcantonio, Vito, 1902-1954.
  • Quintanilla, Luis, 1895-1978
  • Gellert, Hugo, 1892-1985

Subject Organizations

  • Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Subject Topics

  • Demonstrations -- United States.
  • Demonstrations -- New York (State) -- New York -v Pictorial works.
  • Demonstrations |y 1940-1950.

Subject Places

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Participation, American.
  • Germany (East)

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Administrative Information

Provenance

The collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University.

Access Restrictions

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information and to schedule an appointment, tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Use Restrictions

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), were transferred to New York University in November 2000 by the ALBA Board of Governors. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. For more information, contact tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Milton Wolff Papers (ALBA 170) Other ALBA collections.

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Container List

Series I: Photographs, 1939-1960.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Carnegie Hall: VALB Chorus Performing
[ca. 1945-1947]
Box: 1 Folder : 2 (Mixed Materials) Christmas Party, VALB: MW with [Norman Berkowitz as] Santa, Art Munday; Veterans' Children
Dec 1941
Box: 1 Folder : 2 (Photographs)
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Demonstration, NYC: MW (center) with Actress Betty Garrett and Others (New York City Committee to Win the Peace)
[circa 1946?]
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Demonstration, NYC: MW, Jack Bjoze, Nils Berg with Actors and Actresses (American Committee for Spanish Freedom)
[circa 1946-1947]
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Demonstration, NYC: MW Speaking, with Flags and Signs
May 1947 [?]
Box: 1 Folder : 6 East Germany: MW Speaking at Mass Rally, Berlin (photographs are of a tv screen)
1960
Box: 1 Folder : 7 East Germany: MW Speaking at Microphone, Berlin
Sep 9, 1960
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Gellert, Hugo, with Betty Shafran
1947
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Johnson, Herschel, Interview: (l to r) MW, Paul Robeson, Schnee, Steele, Dr. Edward Barsky
May 22, 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Madison Square Garden: MW at Podium
[1947?]
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Marcantonio, Vito, with MW and Others
[1940s]
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Meeting, "Lift the Embargo" Mecca Temple," NYC: John Gates (speaking), Dr. Langley, Dr. Edith Summerskill, MW
1939
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Meeting: MW Speaking at Podium
[circa 1945-1947]
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Meeting [?] with Polish General: MW, Angel Guest, Jack Bjoze; Group of Veterans' Wives
[circa 1945-1947?]
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Portrait: MW in World War II Uniform
1943
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Quintanilla, Luis, Dinner for (Hotel Roosevelt, NYC): MW with Diplomats
Nov 21, 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Briagde (VALB) Anniversary Gathering: MW Speaking and with Others
1957
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Wellman, Peggy, with Veterans' Children
[1940s]
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Wives of Veterans, at a Party
[early 1940s]

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