About the Project

The digital project Beneath the Surface and Cast in Steel: Forging the American Industrial Union Movement provides researchers unprecedented digital access to Pennsylvania State University’s repository of archival records and material sources. With the generous sponsorship of the Council of Library and Information Resources Digitizing Hidden Collections Grant, the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Special Collections Library and its partners have digitized a series of historical records that document the nexus of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), and the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers (AA) in forging the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), securing fundamental rights for the American worker, and indelibly shaping the nation’s perception of what work is.

These collections demonstrate the contributions of labor unions, leaders, and individual workers. The materials document the struggle for workers to establish safety regulations, obtain health care insurance, and secure pensions, among other key victories of the labor movement. While such rights may now seem commonplace, the individual narratives that comprise these records reveal the precarious nature of American workers at the front lines of organizing and activism in a period when retribution, state and corporation sponsored violence, and discrimination represented business as usual for American workers.

James Quigel, Historical Collections and Labor Archivist, serves as the curator and chief selector for this project. Caitlin Rizzo, the Head of Collection Services, compiled this website and authored digital content with consultation from James Quigel. The PSU Preservation, Conservation, and Digitization Department coordinated and digitized the materials seen here with the generous sponsorship of the Council of Library and Information Resources. The PSU Cataloging and Metadata Services Department provided metadata and PSU’s Copyright Officer Brandy Karl provided rights information for digitized materials.

Special thanks to all of the library team members involved in this project (in alphabetical order): Wendy Adams, Timothy Babcock, Linda Ballinger, Cheri Banks, Vicki Brightbill, Megan Chobot, Anne Copeland, Clara Drummond, Robyn Dyke, Karen Estlund, Matthew Francis, Benjamin Goldman, Steven Harkins, Elizabeth Hobart, Michael Hoyt, Athena Jackson, G. Johns, Sue Kellerman, Susan Lane, Anna Lucas, Joseph Lysiak, Jennifer Meehan, Martha Ney, Ann Passmore, Julie Porterfield, James Quigel, Bethann Rea, Sarah Reese, Caitlin Rizzo, Albert Rozo, Diane Sawyer, Terry Schiavone, Nathan Tallman, Julie Tran, and Maggie Welch, among many others who offered their support and consultation.

Special thanks as well to the scholars who supported this project including: Dr. Kenneth Fones-Wolf at the University of West Virginia, Dr. Lane Windham at Georgetown University, and Dr. Robert Wolensky at University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

Finally, Pennsylvania State University would like to thank the United Mine Workers of America and the United Steelworkers of America for their generous support. Their collections and their permission to open their materials are the foundation of this project.

For more information about this project and for details about how to view materials on site in the Special Collections Library, please contact the Special Collections Library Research Services team at spcollections@psu.edu.

For more information about this website or for information about suggesting changes and/or additions, please contact the Head of Collection Services at cur585@psu.edu.