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Henry Kraus Papers

Identifier: LP000112

Scope and Content

The papers of Henry Kraus relate to the early attempts to organize auto workers and to the early history of the UAW history, from 1935 through 1941. The Flint Sit-Down Strike and factionalism in the UAW are particularly well documented.

Important subjects covered in the collection are: Black Legion Briggs strike, 1933 Chrysler strike, 1937 Cleveland convention, 1939 Dodge Main, 1935-37 First conference of Federal Labor Unions in the auto industry, 1934 First conference to promote international union, September 1934 First convention UAW-AFL, 1935 Flint sit-down strike and other GM strikes, 1936-37 Ford Hunger March, 1932 Ford organizing attempts, 1933-38 Goodyear Rubber strike, 1936 Hudson strike, 1937 Hupmobile strike, 1934 Martin, Homer, convention, Detroit, 1939 Michigan elections, 1938 Milwaukee convention, UAW, 1937 Motor Products strike, 1935 Murray Body strike, 1929 South Bend convention, UAW, 1936 Toledo Auto-Lite strike, 1934 Toledo Chevrolet strike, 1935 Threatened auto strike, March, 1934 Trial of five UAW officers, 1938 UE Local 430 World War II shipbuilding

Among the important correspondents are: Addes, George Manning, Michael Brophy, John Martel, Frank X. Byrd, Richard L. Martin, Homer Collins, William Morrison, Frank Coughlin, Rev. Charles Mortimer, Wyndham Couzins, Frank Murphy, Frank Dale, Ralph Pesotta, Rose DeCaux, Len Pieper, F. C. Dillon, Francis J. Raymond, Phil Fitzgerald, Frank Reuther, Walter Frankensteen, Richard Sugar, Maurice Germer, Adolph Thomas, R. J. Green, William Travis, Robert Hall, Ed Winn, Frank Lewis, John L.

Microfilm: The Henry Kraus microfilm relates to the early attempts to organize auto workers and to the UAW from 1935 through 1941. The Flint Sit-Down Strike and factionalism in the UAW are particularly well documented.
Part 1 Series I, Pre-AFL Period, 1926-1933, Box 1: Minutes, reports, handbills, clippings and other materials relating to the pre-AFL period in the auto industry. Most of these items concern the activities of the Auto Workers Union of the Trade Union Unity League. Among the topics covered are: the Murray Body strike (1929), Ford Hunger March (1932) and the Briggs strike (1933). A sixty-page history of the AWU is also in this series. The materials are arranged chronologically.

Series II, AFL Organization Efforts, 1933-1936, Boxes l-4: Correspondence, circulars, press releases, clippings and other documents concerning the attempts by the AFL to organize the auto industry. Among the topics considered are: the Auto Code and Auto Labor Board, the strike threat of March, 1934, the Toledo Auto-Lite strike (1934), the first conference of the AFL FLU's in the auto industry (1934), the AFL National Council in the auto industry, Toledo-Chevrolet strike (1935), first convention of the UAW-AFL (1935), and the Motor Products strike (1935). The material is arranged chronologically within three general groups: AFL National Headquarters, AFL Detroit office, and UAW-AFL locals.

Series III, Cleveland Locals, 1933-1936, Boxes 4-6: Minutes, correspondence, clippings and other materials regarding the activities of the Cleveland, Ohio auto locals for l933-1936. These items concern, in the main, the role played by these locals in promoting an international auto union. Arranged chronologically.

Series IV, South Bend Convention and Subsequent Period, 1934-1940, Boxes 6-7: Proceedings, resolutions, correspondence and clippings pertaining to the UAW's South Bend Convention of 1936. This series also contains correspondence, minutes, press releases, etc. concerning the activities of the UAW during the period immediately following the South Bend Convention up to the GM strikes of 1936-37. Arranged chronologically.

Series V, GM Strikes, 1936-1937, Boxes 8-10: Correspondence, minutes, reports, clippings, press releases, and other documents concerning the GM strikes of 1936-1937. The majority of these materials cover the Flint sit-downs, though GM strikes in other cities are also noted. These items are arranged chronologically in four general groupings: Flint prior to the strike (1933-36), including organization work by Wyndham Mortimer and Robert Travis, the sit-down period, GM strikes outside Flint, and Flint after the strikes (1937).

Series VI, UAW-CIO, 1937-1938, Boxes 11-13: Press releases, speeches, correspondence, clippings and other documents pertaining to the UAW-CIO for the period 1937-38. Topics covered include: Chrysler strike, Husdson strike, developing factionalism, Milwaukee convention, 1938 Michigan elections, trial by the UAW of Vice-President Ed Hall and general UAW business. Arranged generally chronologically.

Series VII, Factionalism, 1938-1939, Boxes 13-15: Correspondence, proceedings, speeches, affidavits, and other items relating to the growth of factionalism within the UAW which led to the suspension of five top officers by Homer Martin and, ultimately, to Martin's split with the CIO. Especially well documented is the trial of the five officers: George Addes, Wyndham Mortimer, Walter Wells, Richard Frankensteen, and Ed Hall. The two conventions of 1939, anti-Martin forces in Cleveland and pro-Martin in Detroit are also documented. Arranged chronologically.

Series VIII, Miscellaneous Files, 1928-1940, Box 16 and 2 oversize folders: Of particular note in this miscellaneous series are the items pertaining to attempts to organize the Ford Motor Company during 1933-1938. Another group of records concerns the CIO, 1935-1940. The material is arranged chronologically within each subject. Oversize items relating to various parts of the collection are arranged chronologically in two oversize folders.
Part 2 Series IX, Henry Kraus General Files, 1935-1960, Boxes 17-18: Minutes, reports, drafts and copies of publications, efficiency and improved production suggestions, and reference material. This series relates mainly to California shipyards during World War II and efforts to stimulate war production in which Kraus was involved. There is also material relating the The Many and the Few and his articles and pamphlets, particularly "Here Is Your Union, "a history of UE Local 430. Files are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series X, Newspaper Clippings, 1935-1943, Boxes 18-22: Newspaper clippings collected by Kraus chronicling the unionization of the automobile industry, opposition to entry into World War II, and war production. Files are arranged chronologically.
Part III: Series I through III contain manuscripts, notes and research materials from Kraus’s three major books: The Acquisition of Courage (1998; memoir published posthumously), The Many and the Few (1947) and Heroes of Unwritten Story: The UAW 1934-1939 (1993). Series IV contains materials from his other books and writings, especially The Hidden World of Misericords, Gold Was the Mortar and In the City Was a Garden, as well as many short stories and articles written from the 1930s to the 1980s. Series V contains transcripts of oral histories from a variety of individuals involved in the labor movement, especially those from the 1937 Flint Sit-Down Strike.


  • 1926 - 1960
  • Majority of material found within 1935 - 1944


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


Henry Kraus was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1905, the son of an active member of the IWW barber's union. The family subsequently moved to New York City and then to Cleveland where Kraus earned a B.A. and an M.A. degree in mathematics at Western Reserve University. After he married Dorothy Rogin they traveled to France in 1928. He worked there as a medical translator while attempting to launch a writing career.

They returned to Cleveland in 1930. Kraus was interested in writing about workers and met Wyndham Mortimer who was organizing Cleveland Auto Workers. Mortimer had Kraus begin writing publicity for the Cleveland Auto Council, and in 1935 Kraus began the United Auto Worker, in 1936 the United Automobile Worker, became the official newspaper of the UAW.

He worked closely with Mortimer in Flint in 1936 organizing auto workers into the UAW. He also began Flint Auto Worker which he edited. In that year he was also involved in the Kelsey-Hayes and Midland sit-down strikes. He and his wife were among the leaders of the Flint Sit-Down Strike in the winter of 1936-1937. He published his account of it in 1947 in The Many and the Few.

In March, 1937 Kraus was fired by President Homer Martin from the editorship of both union papers. He moved to California when Mortimer requested in his help in 1940 in organizing hte West Coast aircraft industry. After the North American Aviation strike was broken by government troops and the organizers repudiated by the international union, Kraus left union work.

He worked for a time for the Technicolor Corporation, and during World War II, he worked in the Consolidated Steel Coroporation shipyards as a shipfitter's helper and in the engineering department. Throughout that period the Krauses lived in an interracial housing project in San Pedro and developed a plan for tenants to buy their units. This was described in his book, In the City Was a Garden (1951).

During his years with teh UAW he was often labeled as a communist and this housing plan also called communistic. In the Cold War atmosphere of the postwar period this resulted in his having difficulty securing employment. Therefore, he took a position as a medical reporter in Europe and opened the Paris Bureau for Physicians News Service.

In Europe he was able to pursue an interest which dated from his earlier visit, medieval art. After his retirement in 1962 he devoted himself completely to the study of European cathedrals and the publication of scholarly articles and books his books on art are: The Living Theatre of Medieval Art (1967), The Hidden World of Misericords (1975), with Dorothy Kraus, Gold Was the Mortar (1979), and The Gothic Choirstalls of Spain. In 1984 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship to support his studies and writing on art. He and his wife continued ot reside in Paris.


22 Linear Feet ((22 MB, 11 SB), 3 OS, 9 microfilm reels)


Mr. Kraus was the first editor of the UAW's newspaper The United Auto Worker (later changed to Solidarity). He was active in the early attempts by the UAW (first under the AFL and later under the CIO) to organize the auto industry. Files for the late 1920s and early 1930s cover the attempts by groups, including the Auto Workers Union of the Trade Union Unity League, to organize auto workers, and discuss such events as the Murray Body Strike (1929); the Ford Hunger March (1932); and the Briggs Strike (1933). There are many items pertaining to the AFL's work in the auto industry, such as material on the threatened auto strike of March 1934, the Toledo Auto-Lite and Chevrolet strikes of 1934 and 1935, and conferences and conventions of the UAW-AFL. The collection also has many files of the AFL's Detroit office for the early 1930s. Particularly well covered are the activities of the UAW-CIO from 1936 to 1940, including the South Bend Convention, the sit-downs, early attempts to organize Ford, and the Homer Martin controversy (resulting in the split of 1939). The Flint Sit-Down Strike and factionalism in the UAW are particularly well documented. Correspondents include nearly every major AFL, CIO, and UAW leader of the period. Among them are John Brophy, F. J. Dillon, Adolph Germer, William Green, John L. Lewis, Homer Martin, Rose Pesotta, Walter Reuther, and R. J. Thomas. Public figures include Charles Coughlin and Frank Murphy. Nine reels of microfilm complement content in Part I and are described in a separate guide.

Part 3 contains manuscripts, notes and research materials from Kraus’s three major books, as well as materials from his other books and writings including those on medieval art. Also included are transcripts of oral histories from a variety of individuals involved in the labor movement, especially those from the 1937 Flint Sit-Down Strike.


Microfilm: There are nine reels of microfilm, each divided into sections.
Part I: Arranged in 8 series – Series 1 (Box 1), Series 2 (Boxes 1-4), Series 3 (Boxes 4-6), Series 4 (Boxes 6-7), Series 5 (Boxes 8-10), Series 6 (Boxes 11-13), Series 7 (Boxes 13-15), and Series 8 (Box 16 and 2 oversize folders). Folders are arranged chronologically.
Part II: Arranged in 2 series - Series 9 (Boxes 17-18), and Series 10 (Boxes 18-22). Folders are arranged chronologically.
Part III: This collection is arranged in 7 series. Series III and V are further divided into subseries. Most of the material contained inventories by Kraus. Photocopies of notations are included in the corresponding folders. Folder titles were taken from those notations and are arranged alphabetically by title.

Series I: The Acquisition of Courage (Box 23) Series II: The Many and The Few (Box 24) Series III: Heroes of Unwritten Story: The UAW, 1934-39 (Boxes 25-29) Subseries A: Rough drafts, manuscripts and proofs (Box 25) Subseries B: Research materials, notes and correspondence (Boxes 26-29) Series IV: Other books & writings by Kraus, 1930s-1990s (Box 30) Series V: Oral Histories and Interviews (Boxes 30-31) Subseries A: General (Box 30) Subseries B: Flint (Box 31) Series VI: Correspondence, 1930s-1990s (Box 31) Series VII: Personal papers, 1930s-1990s (Boxes 32-33)


Parts I and II: The papers of Henry Kraus were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in October 1965. Additional papers were received in April 1968 and March 1984.
Part III: Additional papers received on February 20, 1996.

Other Copies

There is a duplicate set of boxes 9-1 and 9-2.

Related Materials

Parts I and II: Henry Kraus, Part I Microfilm includes 9 reels of material related to the content in Series I – VIII.
Part III: Dorothy Kraus Papers


Parts I and II: The original materials used to make the photocopies found in boxes 9-1 and 9-2 are located in the vault.

Photographs of World War II shipbuilding and photos and original artwork for "Here Is Your Union" have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collection.
Part III: Materials transferred to the Reuther’s Audiovisual Department include videotapes, audiotapes, and photographs, which include labor movement events and persons, primarily in the 1930s and 1940s, and personal photos from the 1930s to the 1990s.

Processing History

Parts I and II: Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in 1965. Additional papers wer eopened for research in March 1985.
Part III: Processed and finding aid updated by Aimee Ergas on May 18, 2010.


Guide to the Henry Kraus Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA