Monday, March 16, 2020

Socialist Labor Party

We are pleased to announce that “Collection of Socialist Labor Party pamphlets, flyers, and other material, 1884-1903” is now open to researchers!

The Socialist Labor Party (SLP), established in 1876, is the oldest socialist political party in the United States. The SLP was very active in Massachusetts in the 1890’s, the height of the party’s popularity in this country. In 1893, the SLP published a “Manifesto of the Socialist Labor Party of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts”.  In it, they address “workmen” and lay out their ideas for establishing the “Co-Operative Commonwealth”.

Letter from the Boston American Section,
Socialist Labor Party, 1893.
Manifesto of the Socialist Labor Party of
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1893.


Over the next ten years, the local Massachusetts party established a Constitution and a State Executive Committee. Numerous meetings and rallies were held, many of them featuring candidates for local office or well-known advocates of the SLP’s ideals. One such speaker was newspaper editor Daniel De Leon, who is credited with the expansion of the SLP in the United States through his newspaper’s wide reach and influence.

Announcement Flyer for a SLP
Patriot’s Day Celebration, 1894.
Meeting Flyer, highlighting speaker
Daniel De Leon, 1900.

The collection contains examples of SLP campaign literature, meeting and rally announcements, platform pamphlets, programs, ballots, and reports.  Some items in the collection have the notation, written in pencil, “From T.C. Brophy, Purchased”, suggesting an acquisition of at least part of the collection from Thomas C. Brophy, a member of the Socialist Labor Party of Massachusetts and frequent SLP candidate for local office. 

Undated and unlabeled newspaper clipping, Thomas C. Brophy
and Moritz E. Ruther, Socialist Labor Ticket in Massachusetts.

As we processed the collection, we discovered that many of the items needed attention from our preservation librarian. Paper from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s tends to be highly acidic because it was mass-produced using a high concentration of wood pulp. Wood pulp contains lignin, which causes paper to become brittle and discolored as it ages. What that means for us today (over one hundred years later!) is that these items are fragile and difficult to handle without tearing or crumbling. In some instances, our preservation librarian stabilized fragile materials by using a thin archival paper to mend, repair, and reinforce torn pages. The items that were in the worst condition also needed to be encapsulated in thin Mylar sleeves, which makes them easier to handle and store. 

This meeting poster, circa 1898, was originally folded.
It had to be repaired and reassembled by our Preservation Librarian.

To ensure the ongoing preservation of these records, the Special Collections Department staff is glad to assist researchers in accessing the collection. We invite you to come explore this brief, but interesting, period in Massachusetts history!

Access the guide to the collection here: Collection of Socialist Labor Party pamphlets, flyers, and other material,1884-1903: Guide (Ms.Coll. 176)

Deanna Parsi and Elizabeth Roscio
Special Collections