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Inventory of the John Francis "Jack" Shelley Collection, 1905-1974
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Introduction
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John Francis "Jack" Shelley Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1905-1974
    Accession number: 1992/020
    Creator: Shelley, John Francis
    Extent: 27 cubic feet
    Repository: San Francisco State University. Labor Archives & Research Center
    San Francisco, California 94132
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Center's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Labor Archives & Research Center 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], John Francis "Jack" Shelley Collection, 1992/020, Labor Archives & Research Center, San Francisco State University.


    The John F. Shelley collection was donated to the Labor Archives in March 1992 by his widow, Thelma Shelley. The material was transferred to the Archives by Lynn Bonfield and Leon Sompolinsky. Upon the donor's request photocopies were made of bound material pulled together by the Library of Congress Congressional Information Service covering Shelley's career in the United States Congress and the originals were returned. The collection was processed in late 1992 and early 1993 by Leon Sompolinsky.


    Jack Shelley was born in San Francisco on September 3, 1905, the eldest of nine children in a working class, Irish Catholic family. Raised and educated in the city, Shelley made his first of many trips at sea after graduating from grammar school. Sailing and the shipping industry remained a passion of his for the rest of his life. While attending Mission High School, he regularly shipped out summers as a member of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific. He continued this practice while attending St. Ignatius College (later the University of San Francisco Law School) where he played varsity football and continued to work part time in a steamship office. The economic necessities of supporting a large family forced him to drop out of school after two years, when he had the opportunity to ship as a purser, eventually becoming a licensed officer. After various trips, he was able to locate employment at home as a bakery wagon drive during the day, allowing him to continue the study of law at night. In 1932 he received his law degree from the University of San Francisco and rather than enter the legal profession he chose to continue working with the bakery wagon drivers' union as a business agent.
    While serving as an official of the Teamster Bakery Wagon Drivers and Salesmen Union, Local 484, in 1937 Shelley became the youngest President of the San Francisco Labor Council at the age of 31. He remained President of the Council until 1948 when he served for two years as Secretary-Treasurer. From 1947 to 1950 he also served as the President of the California State Federation of Labor.
    Shelley's political career began in 1938 when he was elected State Senator for San Francisco for two consecutive terms. While in Sacramento, Shelley sponsored and supported welfare and labor legislation including improving care for the aged, improvements in the workmen's compensation laws, disability insurance reform, apprenticeship opportunities for youths, and the outlawing of loan sharks. Shelley also advocated returning control of the Port of San Francisco back to the city. He spearheaded appropriations for the purchase of the Lake Merced site of San Francisco State College and for the completion of the Cow Palace. In 1946, he was defeated by Goodwin Knight for Lieutenant Governor of California.
    In 1949, Shelley won a special election to fill the vacancy for the Fifth District Congressional seat to the United States House of Representatives, a position he held until 1964 when he defeated Supervisor Harold Dobbs in an election for Mayor of San Francisco. From 1968 until his death in 1974, he served San Francisco as the city's lobbyist in Sacramento.
    Throughout Shelley's public career, he mediated between business and labor interests, and between conservative and progressive unionism. He took great pride in settling labor-management disputes without resorting to the use of strikes. He stood for unity within the labor movement before the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress on Industrial Organizations. His career spanned the period from "new deal" to "great society" liberalism.

    Scope and Content

    Contents of the collection are primarily newspaper clipping scrapbooks and files maintained by Shelley's office staff and provided by a professional clipping service. Newspapers represented include the San Francisco Chronicle, Examiner and Call-Bulletin, the Sacramento Bee and as well as a number of neighborhood and ethnic publications. (A full list of publications can be found in Addendum A.) Additionally the collection contains campaign literature and ballots, photocopies of private and public bills sponsored by Shelley and Congressional Record speeches and inserts pulled together by the Library of Congress Congressional Information Service.