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Inventory of the San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council Records, 1907-1986
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Introduction
  • History
  • Scope and Content
  • Additional Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1907-1986
    Accession number: 1990/078
    Creator: San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council
    Extent: 2.5 cubic feet and 2.5 linear feet (volumes)
    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], San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council Records, 1990/078, Labor Archives & Research Center, San Francisco State University.


    These records were donated by the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council in 1990. The collection was processed by Kim Klausner in the winter of 1996.


    The San Francisco Building Trades Council (BTC) was formed in February 1893 by several local unions of carpenters, plasterers, painters, cornice makers, and granite stone cutters to represent the interests of the city's construction trades workers. Under the 29-year reign (1893-1922) of its second president, P. H. McCarthy, the organization grew to considerable influence in San Francisco's vibrant labor movement and in the political realm. In 1908 the BTC affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor. At some point the name of the organization was changed to the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council.
    The Trades Council was headquartered at 978 Mission Street when the 1906 earthquake struck. Its building demolished, the BTC authorized P. H. McCarthy to purchase land at the southwest corner of Guerrero and Fourteenth Streets in order to construct a Labor Temple. Plans were drawn up and ground was broken within six months. Incorporation papers for the San Francisco Building Trades Council's Temple Association were signed in June 1907 and the building was officially opened in April 1908 at a dedication ceremony attended by 10,000 people (Barons of Labor, page 102).
    The block-long, three-story, steel and concrete structure, fronted by Ionic columns, represented status and equity for the BTC as it emerged as a major player in San Francisco's political scene. The building contained nine meeting halls, a 3,000 seat auditorium, offices for most BTC locals, recreation facilities, and employment services. The BTC had outgrown its space and had already expanded into offices on Market Street when the edifice was destroyed by fire in 1961.
    The Temple Association financed the building through a combination of loans provided by local unions and the Anglo American Bank and through $5 membership certificates sold to members of affiliated building trades unions. By 1925, under the astute business leadership of W. H. Bemiss and George Newsom, the Temple Association's first two secretary-building managers, all bank debt had been repaid.
    In 1942 the Temple Association board of directors voted "to transfer the control of this Association from individuals to local unions and building and construction trades councils." (Minutes, page 199)
    The following is a list of Temple Association officials and their term of offices:


    • P.H. McCarthy 1907-1922
    • Larry Flaherty 1922-1926
    • John T. Burns 1926-1936
    • Frank McDonald 1936-1948
    • Jack Smith 1948- ?


    • W. H. Bemiss 1907-1922
    • George Newsom 1922-1948
    • James (Jimmy) Newsom 1948- ?

    Scope and Content

    The BTC files are divided into two series: the San Francisco Building Trades Council (later known as the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council) and the San Francisco Building Trades Council's Temple Association. Neither series contain complete records for their respective organization. Types of materials within the collection include articles of incorporation and by-laws, title papers and other real estate documents, membership certificates, minutes, wage rates and statistics handbooks, and financial and membership records. A detailed series list is attached.
    Among the earliest materials contained in the collection are those dating from the Temple Association's 1907 incorporators' meeting and also include other documents related to the purchase of the Guerrero Street property. The most current materials are wage rates and statistics handbooks from 1952-1976 and a per capita tax ledger from 1949-1986. Volumes one through six are Local and Office Receipts Ledgers from January 1931 to November 1940 (March-April 1935 are missing).

    Additional Information


    More information about the BTC can be found in:
    • The Barons of Labor: The San Francisco Building Trades and Union Power in the Progressive Era by Michael Kazin (University of Illinois Press, Urbana: 1987)
    • A History of the Labor Movement in California by Ira B. Cross (University of California, Berkeley: 1935)
    • Golden Anniversary Commemorative Edition of Organized Labor: 1900-1950

    Material Cataloged Separately

    For related materials on the Temple Association's membership certificates see accession 1995/078 donated by Thelma Gilland.
    1. 8x10 group photo, includes Daniel Del Carlo.

      Relocated to Photograph Collection 4: Subjects A-Z (unprocessed)
    2. Panorama photo, 1958 BTC meeting.

      Relocated to Panorama Photographs (unprocessed)
    3. Booklet, "Pilebutt: Stories & Photographs about Pile Driving."

      Relocated to Ephemera-Pile Drivers, Bridge, Wharf & Dock Builders
    4. By-laws of Displaymen and Show Card Writers' Union, 1937.

      Relocated to Ephemera [check with Carol Cuenod where]
    5. Three union pins.

      Relocated to LARC Button & Badges collection