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Joe Brown Papers

Identifier: LP000047

Scope and Content

Subjects in the collection are of broad range, with particular strength in strikes of the 1930's, such the Briggs and Motor Products strikes; Mechanics Educational Society of America, and factionalism within the UAW.


  • 1933 - 1942

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.


The late Joe Brown was a Detroit automobile unionist, a sheet metal worker who also wrote articles for the Federated Press during the 1930's. He collected and preserved articles, clippings, leaflets, membership lists, pamphlets, and other items pertaining to unionization, especially in the auto industry. Mr. Brown spent four years arranging these rare early materials, some of which he put into indexed scrapbooks. He intended it to be used for studies of the worker on the job, a focus which he felt was a neglected part of history. In a 1942 letter he expressed the philosophy of his collection: "Auto workers are not merely auto workers. They are natives, foreigners, hillbillies and city-born persons, Catholics and protestants, Germans and Britishers, whites and negroes, skilled and unskilled, educated and ignorant, Communists and one hundred per centers, those with no seniority - little seniority - longtime seniority, efficient and inefficient - the list could be contin- ued indefinitely. They bring into the union philosophies and ideas from a bewildering complexity of previous environments. Our project deals with this group action arising from previous environments, and attempts to explain the nature of it."


18 Linear Feet (35 MB, 1 OS), 2 reels (21 scrapbooks)


A one-time reporter for the Federated Press, Mr. Brown gathered a variety of items for a proposed book on unionism in the auto industry. Clippings, correspondence, handbills, and miscellaneous publications relate to the rise of auto unions during the 1930s and 1940s. Nearly every topic of importance for that time and subject is covered, including sit-downs, drives to organize various plants, and strikes. The scrapbooks contain mostly Detroit newspaper clippings about auto unions.

Box 23, Folder "Strikes and Lockouts (by Industry): Glass Companies is unavailable.


Material is listed alphabetically, but a subject may reappear in various categories. A group of rare serial issues follows the alphabetical listing, and the scrapbook index, compiled by Joe Brown, himself, is the concluding section of this guide.


After Joe Brown died, in 1951, his collection was placed in the Wayne State University Library and later transferred to the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the Joe Brown 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 Ave.
Detroit MI 48202 USA