The Papers cover aspects of Smith's life as a miner, union officer and organizer, from 1933 - 1958. An incomplete, two-page work history contains some information about his life prior to these years. In 1933, Smith was working in the Pickands, Mather Co. mine in Mather (Greene County), Pa. An accident on August 1, 1934 obliged Smith to relinquish mining for a time. Smith became an officer of the AFL in December 1934, being noted as Business Agent for the Central Labor Union in Fredericktown, Pa. Correspondence between December 1934 - June 1935 deal with his activities as an AFL organizer and especially with his efforts to organize a program for the June 15, 1935 Miner's Day Celebration in Waynesburg, Pa.
Correspondence from 1935 to 1936 shows Smith again employed in the Mather Collieries and a member of the Legislative Committee of UMWA Local Union No. 6151. Smith had another injury on June 29, 1935. During this time, Smith applied unsuccessfully for an organizer's position with the UMWA later that year, and in 1937, lobbied for an appointment as a member of the Miner's Examining Board. There are autographed letters from John L. Lewis, Kathryn Lewis, Philip Murray, and others about these matters, but no evidence of Smith's success with the petitions.
John A. Smith was a delegate to the Washington County, Pa., Convention of Labor's Non-Partisan League, in December 1940. The correspondence from 1942 centers on Smith's efforts to grieve a case where miners were held two hours beyond quitting time and not paid following a breakdown in operations. Letters from Smith to UMWA District 4 President, William Hynes (Uniontown, Pa.) and to John L. Lewis and letters from them, including Lewis' autograph are within this file. In 1942, Smith held the position of President of UMWA Local 6151 in Mather. A federal government form shows Smith paying rent to the Mather Collieries for his company-owned "bungalow." Smith's tenure as Local 6151 President continued through 1944. At that time poor health forced him to discontinue work at the Mather mine.
In the mid-1940's, Smith was seeking work in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Remaining correspondence deals with Smith's frustrated efforts to secure a UMWA Pension notwithstanding the fact that he had retired prior to the legislated cutoff eligibility date of May 29, 1946.