The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA) is one of the largest and most influential labor unions in North America. The union was founded in 1881 and continues to train and advocate for carpenters and others in the building trades. The UBCJA archives consists of correspondence, publications, reports, meeting minutes, charters, bylaws, financial materials, newspaper clippings, photographs, memorabilia and audiovisual materials. Subjects covered in the records include the information about union leadership, the Brotherhood's Carpenters' Home for retired members, celebrations of the union's 75th and 100th anniversaries, jurisdictional disputes between the UBCJA and other unions, member' benefits, anti-communism, and the organization of locals. The collection covers the period from 1826 to 2015; the bulk of the materials date from 1940 to 1985.
Some files are restricted. Refer to individual folder headings for more information.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
602.75 Linear Feet
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America archives covers the period from 1826 to 2015; the bulk of the materials date from 1940 to 1985. The collection consists of correspondence, publications, reports, meeting minutes, charters, bylaws, financial materials, newspaper clippings, photographs, memorabilia, and audiovisual materials. Subjects covered in the records include information about union officials, administrative files, the Brotherhood's Carpenters' Home for retired members, celebrations of the union's 75th and 100th anniversaries, jurisdictional disputes between the UBCJA and other unions, members' benefits, anti-communism, and the organization of locals.
Arrangement of the Collection:
This collection is organized into 16 series.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA), often known as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, was founded in April 1881 by Peter J. McGuire and Gustav Luebkert in Chicago as the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (1). Local unions of carpenters had existed since the 1700s and continued to flourish into the early nineteenth century, such as the Journeyman House Carpenters' Association of Philadelphia, but the UBCJA was the first national American movement to consolidate the power of the carpenters' locals. The UBCJA's first convention, held in August 1881, was attended by thirty-six delegates (2). The union gained its current name in 1888 after affiliating with the United Order of American Carpenters and Joiners (3). Members of the UBCJA helped found the Federation of Organized Trades in 1881, which eventually became known as the American Federation of Labor (4).
The UBCJA is one of the United States' most important labor unions and was involved in many of organized labors' activities in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.
Peter J. McGuire published the first edition of The Carpenter newspaper in St. Louis in 1881 before the founding of the UBCJA (5). The first issues were only four pages long, with a circulation of one thousand. About half of each issue was written in German, because of the existence of many German-American trade unionists during this time period. (6). A portion of The Carpenter was published in German until World War I (7). The Carpenter became the official publication of the union, keeping its members updated on relevant legislation and the activities of local unions. For over a hundred years, from its beginning up until 1990, The Carpenter was a monthly publication. From 1990 until the present day, production has gradually decreased from seven issues a year to one annual issue.
The Brotherhood fought for the adoption of the 8-hour workday starting in 1890 and has campaigned against anti-union legislation throughout its existence. The union was a strong opponent of communism. In the late 1920s, the UBCJA expelled suspected communists from its ranks and at the 1936 Convention altered the member initiation procedures to include the caveat that any member who joined the Communist Party must relinquish their affiliation with the UBCJA (8).
The UBCJA was dedicated to the war efforts during World War I and World War II, while still protecting its earlier gains, including the right to bargain collectively and the 8-hour workday. The president of the UBCJA, William Hutcheson, was a member of the National War Labor Board during WWI (9).
The UBCJA had many jurisdictional disputes with other woodworking and building trades unions, including the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, the Teamsters, and the Knights of Labor. The UBCJA disaffiliated itself from the AFL in 1953 in protest over other AFL unions raiding the UBCJA's jurisdiction. After the AFL created a committee to resolve jurisdictional disputes, the UBCJA rejoined (10). Throughout most of its early existence, the UBCJA refrained from official involvement in national politics. However, as labor's power decreased in the second half of the twentieth century, the union became more politically active. The UBCJA first endorsed a presidential candidate when it publically supported Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (11). The Carpenters' Legislative Improvement Committee (CLIC) was formed in 1966 to focus the union's political agendas (12).
The headquarters of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners moved from Philadelphia to Indianapolis in 1909, in order to be more centrally located (13). In 1960 the headquarters moved again, to Washington, D.C., reflecting the growing importance of the union's influence in national politics (14).
In the 1980s the UBCJA began consolidating local unions into district and regional councils to adapt to the expanding area in which contractors worked. In 2001 the Carpenters disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO and joined with several other unions to form the group Change to Win, of which the UBCJA was a member until 2009. The UBCJA now comprises not only house carpenters, but also shipwrights, lumber and sawmill workers, piledrivers, cabinetmakers, and millwrights (15).
In recent decades the UBCJA has focused heavily on apprenticeship training and keeping its members' skills current. For that purpose, in 2000 the UBCJA opened the International Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Center contains 300 dorm rooms, classrooms and training facilities. The UBCJA trains its members through over 200 training centers in the United States and Canada (16).
The first UBJCA general secretary, Peter J. McGuire, is known as the father of Labor Day. McGuire, an active strike organizer before the founding of the UBCJA, was also active in the 8-hour day movement and helped found the American Federation of Labor, as well as champion legislation to improve the lives of laborers and union workers (17). Gabriel Edmonston, a Washington, D.C. carpenter, served as the UBCJA's first president, as well as serving as the first treasurer of the American Federation of Labor (18). Frank Duffy, general secretary from 1901 to 1948, spent over a decade compiling and writing a history of the UBCJA (19). Father and son, William and Maurice Hutcheson, lead the union as General President for fifty-seven years between them, from 1915 to 1972 (20). The current general president of the UBCJA is Douglas J. McCarron (21).
The Brotherhood is run by a general executive board, elected by union members. The board has changed composition over time, but it has always included regional or district representatives. For much of the union's history the board met four or five times a year. Currently they meet once every five years. During P.J. McGuire's tenure as general secretary of the union, that position held the most power in the organization, and at least for the union's first few years, it was the Carpenters' only full-time paid officer position. After McGuire left the post, influence in the union shifted to the position of general president.
Officers the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
First General Vice Presidents
Second General Vice Presidents
General Secretary-Treasurer (United positions in 1995)
Membership increased rapidly in the first few decades of the twentieth century, from 68,400 members in 1900 to 200,700 in 1910, to 400,000 members in 1920 (22). The UBCJA is an international labor union, with affiliated unions in Canada. Tension arose between the Canadian and American sections of the UBCJA from the 1950s to the 1970s when the Canadian members petitioned for more autonomy within the union (23).
In 1929, the Brotherhood opened the Carpenters' Home in Lakeland, Florida to care for retired members (24). The Home was in operation from the 1920s to the 1970s. Activities available to residents of the home included fishing, woodworking hobbies and watching movies. The Home even had its own infirmary. The Carpenters used the land surrounding the Home for commercial activities, including a golf course and citrus groves. Retired Carpenters who chose not live at the Home received a pension.
While the UBCJA admitted black members, segregated locals existed in the South until the 1960s when they were disbanded (25). In 1884, L.E. Rames, secretary of a black local in Charleston, South Carolina, was elected fourth vice-president of the UBJCA (26). By 1886 there were eleven black locals in the South (27). In 1903 the president of the union appointed a black organizer and faced some backlash (28). Some white carpenters were supportive of the move, however, because they saw that non-unionized African American carpenters were paid less and thus depressed wages overall. The UBCJA joined with other building unions to participate in the Recruitment and Training Program to increase the number of minority carpenters in the mid-1960s. Between 1966 and 1971 racial minorities constituted 25.7% of new apprentices in the Brotherhood and 16.9% of apprentices who completed the training program (29).
Women first joined the UBCJA in the 1930s. The first women member was Margaret Ellings of Coos Bay who joined in 1935 (26). Earlier, in 1918, when the Carpenters acquired the United Order of Boxmakers and Sawyers, which included female members, the Union had admitted women into those locals as associate members, who only paid local, not national, dues and were not eligible for benefits (31). By 1957, there were almost 9,000 female members of the Carpenters union (32). In 1998, the first local Sisters in the Brotherhood committee formed, and in 2002 the union held its first Women's Conference (33). Sisters in the Brotherhood recruits women into the Carpenters union and mentors and advocates for them.
Women also participated in the UBCJA through Ladies Auxiliary Unions, which were partnered with UBCJA locals and consisted of female family members of carpenters in the local. Ladies Auxiliaries were incorporated in the structure of the UBCJA officially at the 1916 convention (34).
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America collection is organized as 16 series.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America donated their archives to the University of Maryland in December 1994. The first portion of the collection was transferred to the University of Maryland Libraries in 1995. There have been several subsequent donations, including a large accession of records in 1999, and some smaller donations in 2011 and 2012.
Most issues of The Carpenter, and some issues of The Lather, The Lather convention proceedings, the UBCJA convention proceedings and some photographs, film, audio material and other items have been digitized and are available online through links in the inventory below.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America archives came to the University of Maryland in two large accessions in 1995 and 1999 and then in several smaller accessions. The accessions were integrated together but the original order of the materials was retained as much as possible. Other than in the oversize photographs subseries and the oversize and memorabilia and audiovisual series, which are described at the item level, materials are listed at the folder level in the finding aid.
Whenever multiple copies of publications, photographs and other materials were found, only the two best copies were retained. Folders were removed from the Biography series when they only contained one sheet of paper with the person's name and the dates they held various positions, since this information was readily available in published sources, either in general histories of the union or UBCJA membership directories. Materials concerning the AFL and AFL-CIO (Series 12) that were not directly related to the UBCJA were transferred to the AFL-CIO collection including copies of publications such as the American Federationist.
Some of the most acidic newspaper clippings and papers were photocopied on archival paper. Some originals of these acidic papers were retained and placed between acid-free sheets of paper to protect other documents within the folder. Materials were placed in acid-free folders only when the old folders were structurally unsound or highly acidic. Photographs, audiovisual materials, oversized materials, and memorabilia were removed from files containing paper and placed in their own series. Acid-free separation sheets direct researchers to original folder locations of these materials. Photographs were placed into mylar sleeves and appropriately sized photograph boxes. Oversized materials were removed to mapcases and oversized boxes. The 16mm films were rehoused onto archival cores and into archival film canisters. Audio materials were placed in appropriately sized boxed and the reel-to-reel audio materials were digitized. Additional film and audio preservation is planned.
Issues of The Carpenter magazine from 1881 to 1989 were digitized, as were many local union charters, some folders of photographs, and some films and audio items. Hyperlinks to these digitized materials can be found in the box list of this finding aid. Two letters from J.P. McGuire to Mead (1895-1896) were originally matted and framed and part of Subseries 15.2: Memorabilia, 1835-2010 of this collection since the dimensions were larger than a letter size document box. The letters were sent to preservation so they could be unframed and removed from the matt (2016.30 UBCJ, 2 letters). The letters were returned to Special Collections staff in June 2018 and were added to Subseries 2.6: Correspondence, 1883-1997 since they no longer needed to be stored in an oversize box. Folder 19 from Box 2 of Subseries 15.2 was deleted and Folder 1 from Box 32 of Subseries 2.6 was added.