Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Selection of MRL Pamphlets

Recently while researching for MRL10: American Home Missionary Society Records, I had to pull some material from the MRL pamphlet collections.  The MRL pamphlet collection, which has been individually item-level cataloged and is available in CLIO, contains over 30,000 missionary reports and other publications. Many of these pamphlets are primary source materials and can often be valuable for the information contained within.

They also can have interesting topics or cover art. Below are a few that stood out during my search:

Henry F. Colby, “Five Great Reasons for Foreign Missions.” [1903]


Titus Coan, “
The Sailor's Sabbath; or, A Word from a Friend to Seamen.” [1846]


Doris M. Cochran, “Poisonous Reptiles of the World: A Wartime Handbook.” [1943]


Edwin L. Jones, “The Church in an Atomic Age.” [1947?]


All of the pamphlets are non-circulating, but they can be requested and reviewed during Special Collections hours. To do so, please fill out our Rare Books & Archives Request Form:

State Council of Churches and Wrap-Up

I want to put in a quick plug for the collection that I just finished…on my LAST day of my internship here at the Burke Archives.  Then I'll do a little wrap up of my time here and what I learned.

WAB: State Council of Churches Records, 1943 – 1974
: Regional ecumenical and interfaith organizations come together under the umbrella of their respective state council of churches.  Rooted in local communities they are able to respond to needs specific to that region.  These councils are agencies of cooperation focused on service and Christian unity. Collection contains bulletins, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, correspondence, annual meeting minutes and reports.

Collection Scope and Content Note: The majority of the collection is comprised of state council bulletins or newsletters and annual state council meetings.  New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey form the bulk of the collection.  Of note within the New York collection is a smaller collection pertaining to the New York City Protestant council, which was a large regional council serving the local needs of the city.  The Ohio collection is a large run of the Ohio Christian News dating from 1946 to 1971.  The Massachusetts collection also contains a large run of the state council’s newsletter Christian Outlook and copies of annual reports.  The New Jersey collection contains reports of its annual meetings from 1958 to 1974.  Michigan is contained in block parenthesis because the state was inferred from locale information contained in the annual meeting report. The collection is arranged alphabetically according to state.  Within the state divisions, state councils are organized first with county, regional and city councils following.  Each folder is arranged alphabetically and the materials within those folders are arranged chronologically.  Other state councils in the collection include Alabama, California – Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Wrap Up!

My final day at the Burke has arrived.  My time here has gone by amazingly fast and I am surprised with the fact that I was able to complete the processing  and DAM on four collections.  Granted one collection contained a single book, but it still feels good to have some experience under my belt.  So did I accomplish what I hoped to accomplish, was the experience all that I had hoped it would be?  Absolutely! This was definitely the place where I could test my theoretical knowledge of archival processing by putting it into practice.  The mundane tasks of sorting, discarding, re-housing and labeling are no longer intimidating mysteries.  Not surprisingly, considering my love of organization, those mundane tasks were some of my favorite activities.  Thankfully, I encountered no bugs and only a little bit of dirt and dust. I was able to shift my focus from item level description to box and folder description and adhere to the “More Product Less Process” standard.  I gradually figured out how to limit my tendency to be verbose in regards to my historical notes and scope and contents notes.  While I’m not perfect and still  have a difficult time using sentence fragments in the abstract, I am much better at it than when I started.  It’s nice to see less and less corrective red from Brigette on them.  I even enjoyed being able to put my long dormant historian training to use while I was researching historical and biographical information regarding the collections. 

Learning how to do archival processing, while important, was not my only goal.  I wanted to learn and experience a way to make internships not only benefit the institutions, but teach students life-long lessons.  My final paper for my Practicum focuses on the need for constructionist and constructivist based learning as a way to engage students more actively in the learning process.  Both methods encourage students to actively interact and create within and with the physical world rather than passively receiving knowledge; however constructionism additionally requires the production of a tangible object in the final outcome.  Learning becomes more than knowledge acquisition and becomes a process of identity formation and empowerment.   Mentors, supervisors, and teachers who use these approaches make it easier for students to see their work not only as personally enriching but also of value to the community they are serving.  As such, new knowledge is not only more effectively embedded in the students mind, but the students become embedded in the community they serve.

I’m only using this high flung academic-speak to illustrate that Brigette uses these approaches to teaching archival practice and processing.  I did not just create finding aids, but I made them available online increasing access, spoke about their relevance in various blog entries, posted information regarding the new collections on Twitter and Facebook, I was even informed one of the collections was given to me because a user had requested the material and the library wanted to accommodate the request in a timely manner.  I did not just learn archival theory or just the do’s and don’ts of archival processing, but I created a tangible object that tied me to a community of archivists and archives users.  Eventually I began to describe myself as an archivist when asked what I do.  I am no longer just a library graduate student, but because of what I was able to accomplish I now identify with being an archivist.  I no longer limit my job searches to special collections or museum libraries. It was great to see this teaching method in action and see the personal affect it had on me.  

If you are still on the fence regarding archives, if you don’t have a clue what to do in an archive, even if you love them I would recommend coming here for an internship and becoming part of the archivist community.  It was a great experience!

Federal Council of Churches and the Bethlehem Steel Strike of 1910

While working on the Federal Council of Churches in America Records collection it is not surprising (considering my American Studies background) that I found the materials relating to the Bethlehem Steel strike of 1910 the most interesting.  The materials comprise an almost minuscule portion of the collection; only one folder, but I love primary source documents and I love figuring out their relationship to the history they are involved in.  It is easy to get distracted while processing a collection on the items that we as archivists personally find interesting, so instead of letting my research only enlighten myself I thought I would write a little bit about the strike and its relation to the papers in our collection.

“At its founding in 1908 the Federal Council [of Churches (FCC)] issued its ‘Social Creed of the Churches.’  This statement on the social responsibility of Christians marked only the beginning of FCC’s work in this field.  The FCC stood behind such issues as worker’s rights to organize or shorter working hours for American labor.”   It is a striking coincidence that the official formation of the FCC  in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania coincided with John Andrews Fitch famous sociological study of the working conditions of the steel workers industry (1907-1908)  in the other major city in Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh.  The steel industry employed almost 80,000 workers in the city and virtually controlled social and civic life.  Fitch spent those two years observing steel workers on the job.  He examined the health problems and accidents which resulted from the pressure of long hours, hazardous machinery, and speed-ups in production.  He also analyzed the early experiments in welfare capitalism, such as accident prevention and compensation and pensions.  His book The Steel Workers was published in 1910 the same year as the Bethlehem Steel Strike.  It is interesting to note that included among the papers in the FCC collection are letters of correspondence between John A. Fitch, who was writing an article on the Bethlehem Strike for “The Survey” and Rev. Francis S. Hort, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church and member of the Ministerial Association in Bethlehem. 

The strike began on February 4, 1910 and lasted 108 days.  The workers main grievances revolved around low pay and long hours.  They wanted Bethlehem Steel Co. owner Charles M. Schwab to agree to give them Sundays off and to raise the laborers’ pay of 12 cents an hour.  They also wanted a change in the “bonus system,” which paid skilled workers so little it forced them to work overtime.  After almost a month of striking Schwab still refused to meet the demands and called in the police instead, resulting in a riot after police charged into a crowd of bystanders beating men, women and children.  Although the riot galvanized the striking workers for a little while to remain on strike as they attempted to get support from local clergy and national organizations, by early May only a fraction of the almost 9000 men originally involved remained on strike.  The U. S. Bureau of Labor began an investigation on March 17 of the Bethlehem strike and on May 4 released its report, which is also located in this collection.   It concluded that “over 97 percent of the work force had a work day of 10 hours, and 51 percent worked 12 hours or more. Twenty nine percent of the men worked seven-day weeks with no extra pay for Sunday work.”  Unfortunately the report had little effect on changing Schwab’s mind, he allowed the men back to work, but made no changes to the working conditions or the worker's wages. 

The FCC’s involvement in the strike was to conduct a survey of the situation after the strike was officially over.  Under the direction of Dr. Josiah Strong; social reformer, proponent of the social gospel and chairman of the Social Services Commission, the survey was done to determine how best the FCC could serve the steel workers.  The survey of the Social Services Commission was not necessarily met with open arms. The FCC collection contains a letter to Josiah Strong and others on the Commission, from  the leaders of the Ministerial Association of Bethlehem, Rev. Francis S. Hort, Rev. Paul de Schweinitz and Rev. G. Schwede.  They state, “The recent strike has been settled.  The remainder of the men, who held out until the final adjustment, have just returned to work.  It appears to us most inopportune and untimely to stir up the whole matter again.  Had your proposition come at the time of the investigation by the Commissioner of Labor, or during the strike period, such an investigation might have been helpful.”  They feared that after four months of “bitter contest” and peaceful relations restored, because there had been no real resolution that the Commission led by Dr. Strong would stir up those bitter feelings again and do more damage than good. 

The Commission proceeded with the survey, thankfully hostilities were not renewed, but the recommendations of the Commission to the FCC would encourage them to become more involved in labor issues and help fight for better working conditions.  The beginnings of this are born out in a letter dated June 10, 1910 from Charles Stelzle secretary of the Commission on the Church and Social Service in which he recommends to the Ministers Association, “the observance of a Labor Sunday on September 4th…and that various ministers preach sermons appropriate to the occasion…”  According to Resolution No. 122 of the Toronto Federation of Labor Convention, as part of Labor Sunday “the churches in America be requested to devote some part of this day to a presentation of the labor question.”  As a result of the survey the FCC concluded that all Christian denominations should advocate for a higher living wage, passage of Sunday labor laws, reduction of the hours of labor, safe working conditions, an end to child labor, and provision for the old age workers and those incapacitated by injury.

Primary source documents mentioned and photographed in this post are contained in a single folder in the FCC Records collection.  (Box 2, Folder 3).

Other sources used are:

           Fitch, John Andrews, and Russell Sage Foundation Charities Publication Committee. The   Steel Workers. Charities Publication Committee, 1911. Web. 23 Oct. 2012.

           Presbyterian Historical Society. “Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America Records, 1894-1952.” Web. 22 Oct. 2012.

           Whelan, Frank. “Steel Strike Of 1910 Wrote Bitter Chapter In Labor History.” The Morning Call: Lehigh Valley’s Newspaper. 10 Mar. 1985. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.