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Guide to the Gerald O'Reilly Papers WAG.105

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


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Brenda Parnes, 1988 and Wendy Scheir, 2005

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 08, 2018
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: O'Reilly, Gerald, 1903-1990
Source - dnr: O'Reilly, Gerald, 1903-1990
Source - dnr: Kirwan, Christopher
Title: Gerald O'Reilly Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1934-1988, (Bulk 1944-1947)
Dates [bulk]: 1944-1947
Abstract: Born in Ireland, Gerald O'Reilly (1903-1990) joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and served time in jail in Dublin. O'Reilly immigrated to the United States in 1926, and in 1928 became a conductor on the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway line in New York City. In 1934, he helped found the Transit Workers Union (TWU). In the late 1940s, when TWU president Michael Quill wanted to sever TWU ties to the Communist Party, O'Reilly was fired from his union position. A few years later, he was reinstated to his former position. The Gerald O'Reilly Papers reflect O'Reilly's Irish nationalist activities and his union involvement, including correspondence, news clippings, programs, publicity materials, and writings by O'Reilly.
Quantity: 0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Call Phrase: WAG.105

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Historical/Biographical Note

Gerald O'Reilly was born in 1903 in Navan, County Meath, Republic of Ireland. He served in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and after the treaty with Britain and partition of Ireland in 1922, continued to fight with the 4th Northern Division, IRA. After being jailed in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, O'Reilly immigrated to the United States in 1926. He spent his first two years in the U.S. working in a Yonkers carpet factory until he was hired as a conductor on the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway line in New York City.

Still active in the Irish nationalist organization Clan na Gael, O'Reilly and fellow Irish transit workers--many ex-IRA members like himself--began to train their political acumen and energy upon immediate concerns: the harsh conditions which they were experiencing at work. Soon they were discussing ways to effect change for all transit workers, an estimated fifty percent of whom were Irish emigrants. Inspired by Irish nationalist, labor activist, and martyr, James Connolly, O'Reilly, Michael Quill, Austin Hogan, and others gradually built enough support among workers to found a labor union. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) was established in 1934, with Quill as the union's long-reigning president.

O'Reilly served on the TWU's Executive Board in the early years, and was made a full-time paid organizer for IRT conductors during World War II. During this period, he played a key role in challenging racial discrimination in the transit system. He also continued his Irish nationalist activity as a member of the Republican Congress, and as head of the U.S. committee to free Irish Republican Frank Ryan, who had been imprisoned by Franco at the end of the Spanish Civil War. In 1946, O'Reilly, who was also chairman of the Fordham American Labor Party Club, ran as the American Labor Party candidate for Congress in his Bronx district. In the late 1940s, when Quill was endeavoring to sever TWU ties to the Communist Party, O'Reilly was fired from his union position. A few years later, he was reinstated to his former post.

O'Reilly died in Long Beach, New York on August 11, 1990.

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Scope and Content Note

Series I, General Files. The general correspondence in the Gerald O'Reilly Papers mainly reflects O'Reilly's Irish nationalist activities. Other Ireland-related materials include a file on commemorations for James Connolly; Irish nationalist poems and leaflets; and copies of the Irish Review, the Irish Democrat, and The Torch. A file of Fordham American Labor Party materials includes newsletters with editorials by O'Reilly, as well as publicity material and membership lists. TWU files include news clippings about the union; a souvenir program from its tenth anniversary celebration in 1944; and correspondence and publicity about the union's support of the Irish nationalist cause. Also in the collection are O'Reilly's membership books and identification cards for the TWU and other groups, and photocopies of excerpts from a redacted FBI surveillance file on O'Reilly. O'Reilly's writings include a typescript critique of Shirley Garry Quill's book,  Mike Quill-Himself and a pamphlet entitled, "The Birth and Growth of the Transport Workers Union."

Arrangement

Series I is arranged alphabetically.

The files are grouped into one series:

  1. I, General Files

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Quill, Mike.
  • Larkin, James, 1876-1947
  • Connolly, James, 1868-1916
  • O'Reilly, Gerald, 1903-1990
  • Quill, Shirley, 1915-1991
  • O'Reilly, Gerald, 1903-1990
  • Kirwan, Christopher

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence.
  • Articles.
  • Leaflets (printed works)
  • Hearings (event)
  • Printed ephemera.
  • Typescripts.

Subject Organizations

  • Transport Workers Union of America
  • Interborough Rapid Transit Company
  • Irish Republican Army
  • James Connolly Society (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Political prisoners -- Ireland.
  • Communists -- New York (State)
  • Collective bargaining -- United States.
  • Collective bargaining -x Transport workers -- United States.
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State)
  • Labor leaders -- New York (State)
  • Transport workers -- Labor unions -- New York (State)
  • Collective labor agreements -x Transport workers -- United States.

Subject Places

  • New York (N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by Gerald O'Reilly was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Gerald O'Reilly Papers; WAG 105; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

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

Transport Workers Union of America Records (WAG 34).

Sean Cronin Papers (Tam 460).

Maurice Forge Papers(WAG 106).

Transport Workers Union of America Records (WAG 235). (Box 71 includes an O'Reilly memoir and oral history notes.)

Transport Workers Union Oral History Collection (OH 11). (includes interview with Gerald O'Reilly)

Transport Workers Union of America, Records of Locals (WAG 234).

Separated Material

Several photographs were transferred to the Tamiment Library Non-print Collections.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Gerald O'Reilly, 1987 and 1988. The accession number associated with this gift is 1987.001. Additional materials were donated in 1992 by Christopher Kirwan.

Materials found in the repository were added to the collection in 2014. The accession number associated with this material is 2014.102.

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Container List

Series I: General Files

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Connolly, James: Memorial and writings on
undated , 1941-1947 , 1979
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Connolly, James: O'Reilly writings on
undated , 1986
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Correspondence: General
1944-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Fordham American Labor Party Club
undated , 1944-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Ireland: Political information and event publicity
undated , 1944-1947 , 1988
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Irish socialist newspapers
1942-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 19 1913 - Jim Larkin and the Dublin Lockout

Scope and Content Note

Flyleaf is of this book is autographed by James Larkin to Gerald O'Reilly.

1964
Box: 1 Folder : 7 O'Reilly, Gerald: Biographical
1940 , 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 8 O'Reilly, Gerald: Campaign for Congress
1946
Box: 1 Folder : 9 O'Reilly, Gerald: Credentials, identification cards, membership books
1934-1949
Box: 1 Folder : 10 O'Reilly, Gerald: FBI file on (photocopies/excerpts)
undated , 1942-1945 , 1950-1959
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Quill, Shirley: O'Reilly's response to memoir by
1986
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Santo, John: Deportation hearing of
1947
Box: 1 Folder : 13 TWU: Articles on
undated , 1941 , 1984
Box: 1 Folder : 14 TWU: Correspondence
1944-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 15 TWU: Irish politics
undated , 1943-1944 , 1963
Box: 1 Folder : 16 TWU: O'Reilly writings on
undated , 1986
Box: 1 Folder : 17 TWU: Second Biennial Convention, Testimonial Banquet - program
1939
Box: 1 Folder : 18 TWU: Tenth anniversary - souvenir program
1944

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