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International Typographical Union Records, 1903-1986
MSS 028  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: International Typographical Union Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1903-1986
    Collection number: MSS 028
    Creator: International Typographical Union, Locals: 650, 579, 583, 862 and 994
    Extent: 24 letter boxes, one half box legal size, 5 flat letter boxes, 5 flat legal boxes

    10 linear feet
    Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
    Los Angeles, CA 90044
    Abstract: The collections are the partial records of five Los Angeles region International Typographical Union locals, specifically: Local 650 - Long Beach, Local 583 - Pasadena; Local 579 - Orange, Local 994 - Pomona/San Gabriel Valleys, and Local 862 - San Pedro. There is a small amount of material from the national organization and Locals in Chicago and San Francisco. The materials primarily document the activities of the Local 650, Long Beach during the 1950s to the 1970s.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Materials from Southern California Locals were donated to the Library by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO on December 17, 1987. Publications from the national ITU were donated by James L. Daugherty. Materials from Locals 16 and 21 came from the papers of Harry J. Canter.


    The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles. The Library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research query prior to making a visit.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], International Typographical Union Records, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles, California.

    Organizational History

    International Typographical Union - national union
    The International Typographical Union (ITU) was founded May 5, 1852 in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was the oldest union in the United States to continuously operate into the late 20th century. Originally titled the National Typographical Union, it had the reputation as the most democratically governed union in the country. From the outset the ITU had a strict policy of full financial reporting to its membership. Throughout its history the ITU was at the forefront of progressive initiatives within the labor movement. At the founding convention the ITU resolved to condemn Sunday work. From 1865 the ITU lobbied for an eight hour work day.
    In 1869 with the affiliation of the Canadian printing trades unions, the National Typographical Union became the International Typographical Union. Originally the ITU claimed jurisdiction over all aspects of printing trades. However, the ITU was instrumental in helping to found separate national and international unions of printing related unions for mailers, bookbinders, stereotypers and electrotypers, as well as supporting organizing efforts by other craft unions. In 1870 Augusta Lewis became the first woman officer of any national or international union when she was elected as corresponding secretary of the ITU. In 1878 the ITU declared itself opposed to the influence of communism and socialism within labor organizations. At this same time it promoted mutual support between member locals and spearheaded the initiative for cooperation among unions by calling for the formation of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1879. The ITU was a key player in the early AFL. Its first two presidents were ITU members.
    The ITU was opposed to using the strike, except as a tool of last resort, preferring negotiation. Locals were forbidden to call for strikes without approval from the national union. Beyond wages and working conditions, the ITU advocated for quality of life benefits including paid vacations, sick pay and health insurance. The union itself provided mortuary and death benefits for members, and was proud of building, in 1892, a Union Printers Home to care for sick and aged members.
    While the ITU was committed to embracing technological change and keeping member skills up to date, eventually computerization of printing trades reduced the number of typographical jobs and undermined the strength of the union. In December 1986 the ITU merged with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
    ITU in Los Angeles
    The ITU was the first union to organize in Los Angeles. While the membership was always small in number compared to other trades, the early history of labor in Los Angeles was intimately bound up with the ITU. The first attempt to form a typographical union in Los Angeles was in 1859 when Local 44 was chartered. This local disbanded in 1860. In 1875 a second, successful attempt to form a union was achieved with the chartering of Local 174. The minutes of the first meeting of Local 175 record the appointment of a Committee on Female Labor. The ITU was promoting the equalization of wages, hours and working conditions for women at this time. In 1883 the first woman was accepted as a member of the Los Angeles local.
    The focus of 174's earliest and continuing activities was to get newspapers to accept union workers and enforce a closed shop policy. Ironically, the first paper targeted by the union was the Daily Star , the official voice of the Workingmen's Party. The union was quickly successful in getting agreement to employ only union printers at the Daily News . However, in 1882 "the most notorious, most persistent and most unfair enemy of trades unionism on the North American continent" arrived at the Los Angeles Times in the person of General Harrison Gray Otis. In his youth, Otis had been a printer and a member of the Typographical Union in Washington D.C. By the time he became the editor at the Times he was decidedly anti-union, a position that only intensified over time. While Otis was against all unions, and used the Times to deride and decry all organized labor activity, he was particularly obsessed with destroying the ITU. The war between Otis and the ITU affected the status of all organized labor in Los Angeles until Otis' death in 1917.
    While the ITU lost the battle for the closed shop for itself and therefore all other unions in Los Angeles, its actions produced benefits for labor at large as well. The Typographical Union was instrumental as a guide to the formation of unions for other trades and was critical to the formation of solidarity between unions, being a key founder of the Trades Council, an affiliation of all organized labor in early Los Angeles. The long and bitter fights with the Times also gave rise to the founding of regional alliances among unions in California and the west to provide mutual financial support and solidarity. The ITU Local 174 was the first union in the area to use the boycott as a tactic against unfair employers.
    Los Angeles Local 174 was the oldest and most influential typographical local in Southern California throughout its existence, but other ITU locals were formed in surrounding areas. Local 650, Long Beach was chartered on March 28, 1905. Originally titled Long Beach - San Pedro, until San Pedro formed its own local, it was eventually titled Coast Valleys Typographical Union following the mergers with Local 583 - Pasadena; Local 579 - Orange, Local 994 - Pomona/San Gabriel Valleys, and Local 862 - San Pedro. The first official meeting of Local 650 was held on April 9, 1905 with 17 chartered members in attendance. Arthur Hay from Local 174 presided until the first officers were elected and installed at the meeting. Those officers were: George P. Davis, President; Harry R. Palmer, Vice President; P.C. Pierson, Secretary/Treasurer. In 1996 Local 650 and Local 174 merged to form International Typographical Union CWA Local 14903.

    Scope and Content

    The collection is comprised largely of the records of ITU Local 650 Long Beach and from four additional Southern California ITU Locals that merged with Local 650. Those Locals are: Local 583 - Pasadena; Local 579 - Orange, Local 994 - Pomona/San Gabriel Valleys; and Local 862 - San Pedro. Materials include: correspondence, financial records, minutes, legal documents, contracts and negotiation documents, member records and publications. None of the materials provide complete documentation for the respective locals. The bulk of the materials date from the 1950s to the 1970s, and this period is particularly well documented for Local 650. The minutes of the founding meeting of Local 650 is in the minutes book covering the first six years of the local.
    The ITU, with its policy of direct election of all officers by the membership, had a system of union parties that backed local and national candidates for union officers. The Independents and the Progressives were two of these parties. In the period after World War II, Local 174, Los Angeles was predominantly an Independents (Indies) party local, while Local 650, Long Beach was affiliated with the Progressives (Progs). A minutes book of the Southern California Progressive Club meetings from 1963 to 1971 is in the Local 650 collection.
    The Centennial Book for Local 174, Los Angeles, provides a concise history of the early history of the ITU in the Los Angeles, and for labor history of the region in general.
    Collections with related materials can be found at Archives of the University of Colorado at Boulder, www.libraries.colorado.edu/ps/arv/pdf/catalog.pdf and the Urban Archives Center, California State University Northridge.


    The collection is divided into nine series: 1. Local 650 - Long Beach, 2. Local 579 - Orange, 3. Local 583 - Pasadena, 4. Local 994 - San Gabriel Valleys, 5. Local 862 - San Pedro, 6. Local 21 - San Francisco, 7. Local 12 - Baltimore, 8. Local 16 - Chicago, and 9. Publications.

    Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

    Title: Harry J. Canter Papers,
    Date: 1946-1971
    Physical Description: 1 folder
    Grace Heilman Stimson. Rise of the Labor Movement. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1955
    Louis B. Perry and Richard S. Perry. A History of the Los Angeles Labor Movement, 1911-1941. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1963
    George A. Tracy. History of The Typographical Union. Indianapolis: International Typographical Union, 1913
    The Executive Council, International Typographical Union A Study of the History of the International Typographical Union, 1852-1963, Vol 1. Colorado Springs, CO: The International Typographical Union, 1963
    Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolt. Thinking Big: The Story of the Los Angeles Times, Its Publishers, and Their Influence on Southern California. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1977
    Harry Kelber and Carl Schlesinger. Union Printers and Controlled Automation. New York: The Free Press, 1967