Scope and Content of the Collection
This collection consists of letters exchanged between Samuel Gompers and Woodrow Wilson during the latter part of Wilson's presidency. Inclusive dates are July 29, 1914 to December 24, 1919. The correspondence is arranged chronologically and covers a wide variety of topics pertaining to labor and to World War I.
Four topics are the subject of several letters: 1) labor troubles with the sugar corporations in Puerto Rico and Gompers' dissatisfaction with that island's governor, Arthur Yager, because of the suspension of the workers' civil rights, (February 1916 - January 1918); 2) the American Federation of Labor Executive Council urging Wilson's administration to recognize the Mexican government of General V. Carranza (August 1915 - August 1917); 3) illegal harassment and deportation of protesting workers in Arizona and New Mexico (July 1917 - August 1917); and 4) the investigation of the Steamboat Inspection Service after the capsizing of the Eastland, an excursion steamer in Chicago, Illinois, (August 1915).
Subjects also include the move to draft Secretary of State William B. Wilson for United States Senator from Pennsylvania (February 1916); securing executive clemency for eight members of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers serving sentences in the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth (December 1916); the Tom Moony Case (June 1918); and the appointment of a Supreme Court justice who will lean toward the newer concepts of the essentials of social justice (July 1914).
Several topics in this collection are also the subject of material contained in the larger research collections at The George Meany Memorial Archives. These include the dedication of the new American Federation of Labor headquarters, the Mexico situation, Puerto Rican labor, the Tom Mooney case and Gompers' meeting with European trade delegations during World War I.
One letter is a copy of a condolence note to Wilson from Gompers on the death of Wilson's first wife. Several notes are about invitations Wilson received to speak at labor functions or suggestions for appointees to labor committees or to public office. A few letters reflect labor issues of particular concern under wartime conditions, such as Wilson agreeing with Gompers that half-holidays should be maintained whenever feasible even in light of wartime production schedules (June 1917). The patriotic message of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees is lauded (March 1918).
In his autobiography, Gompers said of his correspondence with Woodrow Wilson, "There are no letters in my files which I value more highly than the inimitable ones which bear his signature. There was always something so personal in the wording or in the spirit that each seemed like a very special communication." (Samuel Gompers, Seventy Years of Life and Labor, (New York,
1925), pp. 547-548.).