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Guide to the United Automobile Workers of America, District 65 Photographs PHOTOS 023 001

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 Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Tamiment Staff

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 07, 2018
Finding aid is written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of approximately 34,000 primarily black and white photographs spanning the late 1930s through the early 1990s, with the bulk from the 1940s, 1950s and 1980s. Besides documenting the life and times of the union itself, these images provide especially strong documentation for left and liberal causes of the 1940s-1960s, including civil rights, rank and file participation in union activities, and working class leisure and recreational activities. What particularly distinguishes these photographs from most collections of labor union images—which are largely limited to formal shots of the leadership and its activities—is that the Collection documents the everyday organizational life of District 65 and that of its diverse membership (including men and women of Jewish, African-American, Irish and Hispanic descent), as well as its leaders. Still more unusual, and probably unique among photographs shot for labor unions, the images in Series I – Subseries C (Historical Prints), Series II (Contact Prints), as well as some in Series III, were shot by District 65's own Camera Club, which functioned as staff photographers for the union's biweekly newspaper (known variously as New Voices,  Union Voice,  RWDSU Record, and  The 65er). Because these volunteer photographers were themselves members of District 65, shooting from the inside of the organization, they were able to capture more relaxed, intimate views of fellow members than the images shot by the commercial contract photographers usually engaged by other unions.

In the process of recording the organizational occupational, recreational, and political activities, and (occasionally) the home lives of its members and leaders, the Camera Club's images also captured a wealth of valuable historical and social information. Warehouses, offices, factories; the storefronts, facades, and interiors of dozens of department stores (the union's members worked in dozens of now-vanished department stores that were then ubiquitous in cities large and small throughout of the U.S.), marquees and interiors of hotels, auditoria, nightclubs, and other public spaces; young working people at parties and dances and engaged in amateur team sports, retired workers, workers' homes and workplaces, streetscapes of New York City, and unguarded social interactions of working people are only some of the examples of the types of visual data that can be discerned from these images. In many cases the "unintentional" documentation that is contained in these images may as valuable as the documentation they hold of the events they were meant to record. The remainder of the images in the collection, more typically, were shot by various commercial photographers.

The first series of this collection is comprised of the photo morgue of The Distributive Worker (the union's newspaper from 1969-1994), the second series includes contact prints of some of the negatives contained in the collection United Automobile Workers of America, District 65 Negatives (PHOTOS 023), and the third series includes photographs documenting the union's different divisions, which were organized by industry.


This collection is arranged into four series, one of which is arranged into subseries:

Series I: Distributive Worker, 1964-1990

Subseries I:A: Internal District 65

Subseries I:B: Worksites

Subseries I:C: Historical Prints

Subseries I:D: Domestic Issues

Subseries I:E: International Issues

Subseries I:F: Negatives

Subseries I:G: Contact Sheets

Series II: Contact Prints, 1940-1964

Series III: District 65 Divisions, undated

Series IV: Unprocessed Materials, undated