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Guide to the Daily Worker and  Daily World Photographs Collection  PHOTOS.223

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 Hillel Arnold. Finding aid by Hillel Arnold, Erika Gottfried and Michael Nash.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 03, 2019
Finding aid is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Box numbers updated to match rehousing efforts.  , September 2018

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of approximately 178,000 photographic prints produced by a variety of processes, as well as clippings and graphic material. Although materials in the collection were gathered throughout the life of the paper, their bulk falls roughly between 1930-1948 and 1968-1990.

The collection was created by the photography editors of the Daily Worker and its successor newspapers as a means of maintaining an organized collection of images for use in publication. Many of these photographs were taken by staff photographers at the  Daily Worker (usually noted by a "  Daily Worker" stamp on the verso), including "Art" and "Pete" (whose full name was Peter Aprievesky) in the 1940s; Al Simon in the 1960s; Bill Andrews, Ted Reich, Terry Santana, Sheldon Ramsdell, and Mike Giocondo in the 1960s and 1970s; Maxine Orris in the 1970s to 1980s; and Ken BeSaw and Tim Wheeler from the 1960s through the 1990s. Images by photographers from other Communist Party newspapers and publications, such as Elmer Allen for the San Francisco-based  People's World, are also present in the collection. Also included are images by freelance photographers, including significant individuals such as Arthur "Weegee" Fellig, Sid Grossman (co-founder of the Photo League) and Annie Liebovitz.

A large number of images in the collection come from news agencies, including United Press International, Associated Press, Wide World, International News Service, Sovfoto, TASS, ADN (for East Germany), and Japan Press Service. Although some of these images were created using silver gelatin printing processes, many of them were created by other photographic processes, including thermally processed silver materials, xerographic and electrolytic processes. Many of these images are of poor quality and generally unsuitable for reproduction.

In addition, a small number of photographic images clipped from newspapers and magazines and non-photographic materials, including cartoons, logos, other graphic material, and photocopies of original artwork, are also found in the collection. Many of these come from publications produced by Communist or Soviet bloc countries.

The different print formats present in the collection document the history of newspaper printing technologies, and the changing ways in which news services distributed images for publication. In addition, they reveal the process of the Daily Worker's image-making by documenting the collecting of images for publication, as well as the ways in which images were cropped, sized and captioned before being published in the paper.

Images of CPUSA activities, its leaders, members, and affiliated organizations form a significant part of the collection. There are also images photographs depicting the larger world of the American Left. Labor struggles were always central to the Daily Worker's news coverage. Some of the earliest photographs depict textile strikes in Paterson, New Jersey and Lawrence, Massachusetts in the years before World War I. Photographs from the 1920s depict activities of William Z. Foster's Trade Union Educational League, the work of the Chicago building trades unions, the 1922 coal and railroad shop workers strikes, labor conflict in the automobile and textile industries, Marcus Garvey's "Back-to-Africa" movement, the American Negro Labor Congress, and slum housing conditions in Harlem. There are also photographs documenting the Sacco and Vanzetti trial; missions to Moscow involving Earl Browder, Rose Pastor Stokes, and "Mother" Ella Bloor; Soviet Comintern meetings; and Moscow's community of color.

Images from the 1930s depict the impact of the Great Depression on American working people and the movement to organize the unemployed including Hunger Marches in New York State and across the country. Photos of a large number of athletes from this period are also in the collection, including prominent African American athletes like Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, underscoring the Daily Worker's support for the desegregation of professional sports in the United States. The  Daily Worker supported the CPUSA's efforts to end segregation and racial intimidation, depicting anti-lynching campaigns, the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, the Angelo Herndon trial, and the work of the International Labor Defense. Photographs documenting the Spanish Civil War, taken by the paper's teams of photographers, depict the lives of ordinary Spanish people resisting fascism, the relationship between the Republican army and the International Brigades, and the impact of the fascist bombing in cities such as Guernica. In 1939, with the fall of Spain and the signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, the  Daily Worker refocused on domestic labor and civil rights struggles in order to create a counter narrative at a time when most news coverage was focused on the Soviet Union's non-aggression pact with Germany and the early battles of World War II. Photographs from this period highlight campaigns for collective bargaining, job security, and higher wages in the steel, coal, and automobile industries among others.

One of the most historically significant portions of this collection is the many pictures of ordinary people at work in both industrial and rural America that exist in many folders throughout the collection. Depictions of urban street scenes in metropolitan centers including New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Cleveland; photos of farmers and migrant workers around the world; and images of minority and immigrant communities offer a window into daily life in the United States and abroad over the last century. Influenced by individuals such as Lewis Hine, Charles Rivers and other photographers associated with the Photo League, these pictures are part of the tradition of social realism that reached its apogee in the 1930s and was connected to the labor and progressive movements. Although these photos are not political in the usual sense, they clearly present a point of view, and are inspired by the belief that socially concerned photography could help change the world. As such, they are important sources for American social history.

Since the Daily Worker was located in New York City, coverage of the City's politics, labor, and civil rights struggles are very extensive. There is an emphasis on the New York garment industry which often reflects the perspective of the Communist-led International Fur and Leather Workers Union. Similarly, there is extensive coverage of many of the left unions, most notably the Transport Workers Union of American, United Automobile Workers, District Council 65, and the United Electrical Workers. Social conditions in Harlem, Brooklyn's Brownsville neighborhood, and the South East Bronx are a perennial subject.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941 the paper focused heavily on World War II, depicting it as an epic struggle against the Nazis, with the Soviet Union playing a major role as one of the primary battlefields of the war. The impact of the German invasion on the Soviet Union's civilian population was stressed, as were historic moments of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States such as the Elbe River Linkage of August 1945. On the cultural front, there are many photographs documenting the relationship between politics, folk music and folk dance. Photographs depicting performances of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Martha Graham, Sophie Maslow, Pearl Primus, and the Weavers show the ways in which the Communist Party sought to promote political folk music and careers of sympathetic performers in the 1940s and beyond.

The post-war period saw the rise of McCarthyism and the Communist Party under relentless attack. Although the paper closed briefly in the late 1950s, the collection is nonetheless a rich source of visual information about the Red Scare of the 1950s: the Smith Act trials, the Rosenberg case, the Alger Hiss trial, and the trial of the Hollywood Ten.

A significant fraction of the collection is the photographs depicting Communist countries, particularly the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe. Many of these photographs were produced by government controlled press services, and as a result depict life in these countries in an uncritically positive light, one that often crosses the line into propaganda. The Daily Worker reproduced these images both in an attempt to link American progressive political experience to the international Communist movement led by the Soviet Union as well as to construct a narrative to counter the Cold War discourse so dominant in the United States media. However, these images from the Soviet and Eastern European press services provide a perspective about life under Communism that is rarely seen in western sources and archives.

As McCarthyism began to come to and end in the early 1960s, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. The paper (now a weekly known as The Worker) captured the rebirth of this movement with dramatic images of the Freedom Rides, sit-ins, and voter registration campaigns. The activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee were often highlighted. After 1965 coverage pivoted to the Vietnam War and the peace movements, including demonstrations on college campuses and Moratorium Day demonstrations in New York City and across the country. The paper's reporters and photographers had unusual access to North Vietnam and there are some extraordinary images of life in North Vietnam and wartime destruction in the collection. Black Nationalism, the Black Panther Party, and the campaign to free Angela Davis are well documented.

There is considerable documentation in the collection of movements in the 1980s to resist the policies of Ronald Reagan and efforts to roll back the labor protections that had been enacted during the New Deal. There is also coverage of the Iran hostage crisis, the first Iraq War and the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict.

Partial indices of images published in the Daily Worker and the  Daily World, mostly during the late 1960s, include biographical indices and a topical index on Vietnam.


The collection is arranged into four series:

Series I: Biographical Files, Series II: Subject Files, Series III: Oversize Material, and Series IV: Indices

Materials are arranged alphabetically.