Cornell University

Catherwood Library Kheel Center

Catherwood Library Kheel Center, 227 Ives Hall, 607-255-3183

Collection Overview

Poster urging International Ladies Garment Workers Union members to 'Fight Nazism and Fascism', ca. 1939The Kheel Center collects unique and rare materials in the in the field of industrial and labor relations, including records of labor unions as well as personnel managers, government agencies, advocacy groups, and labor scholars.  The records support the study of a wide variety of topics, including labor's efforts to improve conditions in the workplace, management's strategies to manage personnel efficiently and productively, government initiatives to survey working conditions and mediate labor conflict, and advocates' campaigns to promote protective labor legislation.  Child labor, the effects of the Cold War on unions, labor's fight against sweatshops, and scientific management are just a few examples of the many themes and events scholars will be able to explore in our extensive and rich collections.

Please see a sample of recent scholarship based on Kheel Center resources here.

Kheel Center holdings currently include over twenty thousand linear feet of manuscript letters and documents, in addition to 400,000 historical photographs, 350 oral history interviews, over 40,000 collective bargaining agreements, over 250,000 rare pamphlets and union constitutions, and films, posters, and recordings pertaining to labor and management. The Kheel Center attempts to acquire all relevant microfilmed collections of primary sources in the history of industrial and labor relations. The Center is, in addition, the repository for the ILR School's archives and maintains a growing number of rare books and union-related artifacts.

An Excel file that groups collections by theme and topic is available for researchers' convenience.

American Industrial and Labor Relations Documents

The most significant developments in nineteenth-century labor relations are represented in microfilmed collections, whose originals are in other repositories. The Kheel Center specializes in the Twentieth Century, focusing on New York State industrial relations in the public and private sectors; unions in the garment industry, public schools, railroads, and hospitals; labor arbitration and mediation; labor education; labor legislation; and management theory.

New York State

Holdings pertaining to the state of New York include the records of the Consumers’ League of New York, the Teachers’ Union of the City of New York, the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees (1199), and various city centrals such as those in Auburn, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Geneva, Lockport, Oswego, Peekskill, Rome, and Utica.  Also included are the minutes of a number of New York city local unions.

Garment and Clothing Unions

The Kheel Center is the preeminent repository for records of garment and clothing (or “needle trades”) unions, such as the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, the International Fur and Leather Workers Union, and the Joint Board of Fur, Leather, and Machine Workers. Please see the site dedicated to the history and archives of the ILGWU.

Notable Arbitrators

In addition to having been designated the archives for the National Academy of Arbitrators, the Kheel Center is the repository for the papers of many notable arbitrators, among them Theodore W. Kheel, Paul Abelson, Gabriel Alexander, Jacob Billikopf, Maxwell Copelof, David Cole, I. Robert Feinberg, Clara Friedman, Milton Friedman, James Gross, George Hildebrand, James Hill, E.E. Hilpert, John Horlacker, Willard Hotchkiss, Vernon Jensen, William Leiserson, Mabel Leslie, John McConnell, Jean McKelvey, Arthur Meyer, Eli Rock, Jacob Seidenberg, Isaac Siegmeister, Peter Seitz, Ralph Seward, William Simkin, Morton Singer, Burton Turkus, S. Herbert Unterberger, Saul Wallen, Bertram Willcox, Benjamin Wolf, Sidney Wolff, Louis Yagoda, and Arnold Zack.

Teachers' Unions

The records of American Federation of Teachers Locals 2 and 189, those of the Teachers' Union of the City of New York (AFT Local 5), the New York State Teachers' Association, and the New York State United Teachers form the largest part of our holdings in the area of education. Also significant are the Pearl L. Willen Memorial Collection of the records of the American Labor Education Service, as well as other workers' education programs, such as the Workers' Education Bureau and the Hudson Shore Labor School.

Work-Related Legislation

The activities of groups interested in the development of work-related protective and regulatory legislation are well represented in the collections of the KheelCenter. Included are the records of the American Association for Labor Legislation and the American Association for Social Security. Substantial materials relating to the National Consumers' League and the Consumers' League of New York are also held. These collections include substantial amounts of pamphlets and speeches on working conditions, child labor, unemployment and old age insurance, immigration policy, and women and work.

Labor Education

The efforts of unions and progressive colleges to provide education for workers are documented in the records of, among others, the American Labor Education Service and the Worker’s Education Bureau, and in the files of the Hudson Shore Labor School and the Highlander Folk School.

Railroads and Transportation

The Kheel Center is a major repository for railroad industrial relations records.  Holdings include the records of the United Transportation Union and its predecessors, the Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and the Switchmen's Union of North America. Also held are the records of the Brotherhood of Railway, Airline, and Steamship Clerks, the Railway Labor Executives' Association, and the AFL's Railway Employees Department.

Management Theory

Records relating to management theory include those of the Academy of Management and papers of such important figures as Frederick Taylor, E. Wight Bakke, Harrington Emerson, Richard A. Feiss, Keppele Hall, Ordway Tead, and Sanford E. Thompson. Very extensive files of personnel departments of Fortune 500 companies include company histories, employee newsletters, employee benefit plans, personnel practice manuals, performance appraisal forms, affirmative action policies, training brochures, and other documents spanning the Twentieth century.