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AFL-CIO Education Department Film Productions, Americans at Work

 Collection 0037-LBR-RG97-004

Americans at Work is a moving image collection with accompanying documentary and visual materials. Each of the films explores the job of an American laborer in moderate detail. The films often include information about skills, training, and the nature of the job. Some of the films concentrate more on the processes of industry rather than the role of the worker. Fifteen minutes is the maximum running time for a film, and several of the films are no longer than thirteen and a half minutes.

The accompanying materials include correspondence, newspaper clippings, promotional posters, production records, transcripts, and photographs. The materials document the series from its release in August 1959 through the second year of production, and offer general background about personnel, production and dissemination of the films.


  • 1959-1960

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Playback of these films is restricted. Please contact the collection curator for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection contains moving image formats that will need to be evaluated and approved before playing. Please contact us before visiting the Special Collections reading room to view this collection.

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


26.83 Linear Feet

Biographical / Historical

In August 1958, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, William F. Schnitzler, announced the production of a weekly television series entitled Americans at Work. Originally, the AFL-CIO intended to produce 52 films to run weekly for one year. The popularity of the series persuaded the AFL-CIO to extend the project by an additional 52 films. The films were produced for public service programming in order to showcase the value of people in industry during a period revolutionized by mechanized production.

The AFL-CIO Public Relations Department, led by director Albert J. Zack and assistant director Robert J. Wentworth, primarily coordinated the production and distribution of Americans at Work. Two AFL-CIO staff members hired at the onset of the project were Milton Murray, television coordinator, and George Craig, television field director. Production was contracted to Norwood Studios, Inc. of Washington, DC, which was founded and managed by Phillip M. Martin.

At the time it was produced, Americans at Work was compared to an ongoing film series, Industry on Parade, produced by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) beginning in 1950. In comparing the two series, George Meany indicated that whereas the NAM focused on machines, the AFL-CIO focused on people.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into five series:

Series 1
Correspondence and Promotion Materials
Series 2
Production Records
Series 3
Transcripts and Photographs
Series 4
3/4" Video
Series 5

Custodial History

The AFL-CIO Education Department transferred these records to the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1981. The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.

Processing Information

Janna Robinson and Lynda DeLoach at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 2003. The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker exported and cleaned the finding aid contents from the Eloquent Systems database using OpenRefine, and finally transformed the finding aids into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) using a series of programmatic scripts. The finding aid was ingested into ArchivesSpace in 2017, at which point Jennifer Eidson updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Jennifer Eidson also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards. Item numbers were assigned due to ArchivesSpace requirements; there are not corresponding numbers on the items.

Guide to the AFL-CIO Education Department Film Productions, Americans at Work
Processed by Janna Robinson and Lynda DeLoach at the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archives.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742