Summary Information
Title: Fred Wright Papers
Collection Number: UE.13
Creator: Wright, Fred, 1907-1984

Collection Dates: 1949-1986
Extent: 80.4 linear feet (47 boxes)

Language: English

Abstract:
Fred Wright was the staff cartoonist for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) from 1949 to 1984. His cartoons appeared in the UE News, union pamphlets, local shop papers, and animated films. This record group includes many original Wright drawings, in addition to publication layouts, correspondence, and cartoon proofs. Digital reproductions of selected cartoons are available online.
Publisher:

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
412-648-3232
archives-ref@mail.pitt.edu
Date Published:

April 2009
Author:

Finding aid prepared by Zachary Brodt, Emily Hatcher, Meredith Johnson, and Daniel Carthew.
Revision Description:
August 2014:
Addition of boxes 43-47.

History

Fred Wright (1907-1984) was one of America’s most renowned labor cartoonists. His career lasted from 1939 until his death in 1984. He is best known for his work as a staff cartoonist for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). In addition to his cartoons illustrating the union’s newspaper, the UE News, he designed leaflets, strike placards and animated organizing cartoons to contribute to the American Labor Movement.

Wright sold his first cartoon to the National Maritime Union (NMU) publication, The Pilot, in 1939. He continued to draw cartoons for the U.S. Army during World War II and was ultimately hired as a staff cartoonist for the UE in 1949. Throughout this time, his work was reprinted in labor and radical publications worldwide. In the spirit of the Labor movement, his cartoons criticized the Taft-Hartley Act, McCarthyism, and other government post-war attacks on labor unions.

Wright’s life experiences gave him a first-hand view of blue-collar struggles, both in America and abroad. As the child of a seamstress and a wheelwright in Derby, England, and the grandson of a founding member of the British Labour Party, he saw both the struggle of the working class and the political means to alleviate them. As a young man, he supported himself as a musician, playing in speakeasies and silent screen nickelodeons. It was while working as a saxophonist on Caribbean cruise ships that Wright saw the poverty of Central America. With input from the seamen onboard, all members of the NMU, he gained the inspiration to begin drawing cartoons.

His grandfather also influenced him artistically, giving Wright his first drawing lesson at the age of five. He would later study at the Art Students League in New York City with John Sloan, an artist whose work focused mainly on poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods. Contrary to the popular dark and realistic “ash can style” that most cartoonists of the time relied on, Wright was “one of the first cartoonists in America to introduce more of a cartoony style to political cartoons and place an emphasis on humor, keeping in mind that none of the politics are diminished,” said Gary Huck, Wright’s successor as UE cartoonist. Wright was a working man and drew cartoons until he died in 1984. Even when he was too ill to come into the office he mailed his drawings to work.


Collection Scope and Content Notes

This record group contains a variety of cartoons and layouts designed by Fred Wright. Included are original drawings for the UE News and other UE publications at the national, district, and local levels. Also present are publication plates, which are page layouts for UE pamphlets, books, and multi-panel cartoons. There are many cartoon proofs which have been arranged by topic, such as automation, other unions, and red baiting. Scrapbooks of Wright’s cartoons are arranged chronologically. Correspondence includes letters from foreign publishers and other labor unions that used Wright’s cartoons, as well as materials from a Fred Wright memorial and obituaries.


Arrangement

This subgroup has been divided into eight subgroups as follows:

Subgroup 13.1. Original Cartoons

Subgroup 13.2. Correspondence

Subgroup 13.3. Publication Plates

Subgroup 13.4. Cartoon Proofs and Negatives

Subgroup 13.5. Wright Publications

Subgroup 13.6. Scrapbooks

Subgroup 13.7. Printer Plates

Subgroup 13.8. James Lerner Addition


Subject Terms

Topics
  • Caricatures and cartoons -- United States
  • Cartoonists
  • Editorial cartoons
  • Editorial cartoons -- United States
  • Industrial relations -- United States -- Caricatures and cartoons
  • Labor unions -- United States -- Caricatures and cartoons
  • Working class -- United States -- Caricatures and cartoons

Corporate Names
  • United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Personal Names
  • Wright, Fred, 1907-1984

Genres/Forms
  • Political cartoons

Category
  • Labor

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

The records of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America are closed for a period of twenty-five years after their creation.

Acquisition Information:

Gift of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America and Patricia Wright on 1987 and 1988. Additional cartoons were donated by the family of James Lerner in February 2014.

Alternate Format:

Digital reproductions of the collection are available electronically at http://images.library.pitt.edu/f/fredwright/.

Preferred Citation:

Fred Wright Papers, 1949-1986, UE.13, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed and the finding aid written by Zachary Brodt, Emily Hatcher, Meredith Johnson, and Daniel Carthew in October 2008. Additional material was added to the finding aid by Zachary Brodt in 2014.

Copyright:

The University of Pittsburgh holds the property rights to the material in this collection, but the copyright may still be held by the original creator/author. Researchers are therefore advised to follow the regulations set forth in the U.S. Copyright Code when publishing, quoting, or reproducing material from this collection without the consent of the creator/author or that go beyond what is allowed by fair use.

Related Material:

Several animated Fred Wright films are located in UE.8.2 UE Radio Broadcasts and Film Records. These include Free Riding Rufus; Keeping Up with the Van Jones; Time to Come Back; Chug Chug,Shorter Work Week; One Answer to Automation; and The Myth, The Money, and The Many.

An episode of Labor’s Corner from AIS.1997.20 Steffi Domike Papers includes interviews with Gary Huck and Peter Gilmore regarding Fred Wright’s career.


Collection Inventory

Subgroup 13.1. Original Cartoons

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup contains original and reproduced copies of Fred Wright’s labor cartoons for UE publications, including the UE News. Wright’s cartoons depict a number of issues common to the labor movement, spanning his position as a staff cartoonist from 1949 through his death in 1984. The cartoons in this collection represent such topics as workers' rights, satirical representation of politicians in power (especially presidents), economic issues, and international political concerns.

This collection of Wright’s cartoons exemplifies his style as a cartoonist. The cartoons show his cartoony style, bringing humor to otherwise serious political issues. The original copies of his cartoons often are on a thick bristle board. Largely using only black ink, some of the cartoons feature cut out images pasted on top of the original drawing, adding a different design or texture to the illustration. The original cartoons show some of Wright’s original pencil sketches on the back of or underneath the final drawing, giving the observer insight into Wright’s personal drawing process.

Box 1 Original Cartoons 1-150
Box 2 Original Cartoons 151-300
Box 3 Original Cartoons 301-452
Box 4 Original Cartoons 453-585
Box 5 Original Cartoons 586-623
Box 6 Original Cartoons 624-675
Box 7 Original Cartoons 676-721
Box 8 Original Cartoons 722-814
Box 9 Original Cartoons 815-949
Box 10 Original Cartoons 950-1040
Box 11 Original Cartoons 1041-1200
Box 12 Original Cartoons 1201-1350
Box 13 Original Cartoons 1301-1499
Box 14 Original Cartoons 1500-1650
Box 15 Original Cartoons 1651-1799
Box 16 Original Cartoons 1802-1893
Box 17 Original Cartoons 1896-1918
Box 18 Original Cartoons 1919-1937
Box 19 Original Cartoons 1938-1973
Box 20 Original Cartoons 1974-2120
Box 21 Original Cartoons 2121-2237
Box 22 Original Cartoons 2238-2272
Box 23 Original Cartoons ADD1-ADD203
Box 24 Original Cartoons ADD204-ADD245
Box 25 Original Cartoons ADD246-ADD276
Box 26 Original Cartoons ADD277-ADD341
Box 27 Original Cartoons ADD342-ADD560
Box 46 Original Cartoons ADD561-ADD608

Subgroup 13.2. Correspondence

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup contains correspondence between Fred Wright and several foreign publishers regarding the reproduction of some of his cartoons. Included are letters and clippings from France, England, Bulgaria, Italy, and the Soviet Union. Correspondence with several UE national, district, and local officers is also present. In addition, letters of condolence to the UE regarding Wright’s death are included. A program, photographs, and a copy of the speeches given at a memorial banquet held in Wright’s honor are also in this subgroup.


Box 28
Folder 1 Correspondence from England
Folder 2 Correspondence from the Soviet Union
Folder 3 Correspondence from Italy
Folder 4 Correspondence from France, Bulgaria, and China
Folder 5 Wright Cartoons in Foreign Publications
Folder 6 Correspondence with UE Districts and Locals
Folder 7 Correspondence with the United Furniture Workers of America
Folder 8 Correspondence with the United Steelworkers of America
Folder 9 Correspondence from Geraldine Ferrero, 1982
Folder 10 Wright Cartoons for the United States Army
Folder 11 Fred Wright Memorial Program and Speeches
Folder 12 Fred Wright Memorial Photographs
Folder 13 Letters of Condolence
Folder 14 Fred Wright Obituaries
Folder 15 UE 50th Anniversary/Fred Wright Memorial Cartoon Calendar, 1986
Folder 16 Pat Wright Memorial Booklet, 1993
Folder 17 UE District 1 Achievement Award
Folder 18 Cartoon Slides

Box 44
Folder 1 Correspondence, 1967-1984

Subgroup 13.3. Publication Plates

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup contains cut and paste layouts of several Wright publications, leaflets, and cartoons. These layouts were referred to by Wright as publication plates. Many of these plates include a proof of a Wright cartoon and typed titles and text explaining the drawing, cut to size, and pasted to a piece of paper. These plates were one of the last creative steps before the design was printed in newspapers, pamphlets, or flyers.

Series 13.3.1. Labor History Series

Scope and Content Notes:

The Fred Wright “Labor History” cartoon series first appeared in the UE News from 1956 to 1961. These cartoons were a collaboration of Wright, the UE staff cartoonist, and James Lerner, a photographer and reporter for the newspaper. An expanded version of the series ran in the UE News beginning in April 1970. This series of cartoons described some of the conflicts and hardships faced by workers during the American labor movement, from the colonial period to the Vietnam War. In the newspaper, each cartoon cell is accompanied by a paragraph describing the events depicted and, typically, each cartoon consisted of three cells. The Labor History Series is featured on the University of Pittsburgh Web site Drawing on the American Labor Movement.


Box 28
Folder 19-132 Labor History Series Cartoons Number 1-110

Box 29
Folder 01-65 Labor History Series Cartoons Number 111-175

Series 13.3.2. Other Cartoon Series

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains cartoons that were used in series published by the UE and other unions. The “Did You Know” series consists of a single cell and a short paragraph describing the drawing. Each cell portrayed an important moment in American Labor history and appeared in UE publications. The Illustrated Afro-American History series appeared in The United Teacher and other union newspapers as a collaboration between Wright and Eugenia Kemble in 1970. This series depicted the history of African Americans from kingdoms in Africa to the civil rights movement. The Strictly Non-Union cartoons depict workers being treated unfairly by their employers because they do not have a union representing their best interests.

Folder 66-67 "Did You Know?" Series
Folder 68-83 Illustrated Afro-American History Series
Folder 84-87 "Strictly Non-Union" Cartoons

Series 13.3.3. UE Publications

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains publication plates for several UE publications in both English and Spanish. Included are the plates for Wright’s famous book, So Long, Partner!, as well as layouts for his mimeomat booklets which contained cartoons that locals could use for their shop papers. Many of these publications are concerned with labor issues of the 1960s and 1970s, such as automation and the war economy.

Folder 88-89 Too Many Hours
Folder 90 How Foreign is Foreign Competition, 1971
Folder 91 Safeguarding the Union’s Integrity, 1973
Folder 92 The Role of Labor Today, 1975
Folder 93 Together We Win

Box 30
Folder 1 “Shop Steward’s Guide” in Spanish
Folder 2 Catalogue of UE Publications
Folder 3 Unidos Venceremos
Folder 4 Union with a Difference in Spanish
Folder 5 “UE Guide on the Preparation and Conduct of a Strike”, 1975
Folder 6 “102 Days”
Folder 7 “The Time We Kept Westinghouse Honest!”
Folder 8 “What Should Union Officials be Paid?”
Folder 9 “Products of a War Economy” by Seymour Melman
Folder 10 “Automation and Jobs: Who Decides?”
Folder 11-15 So Long, Partner!
Folder 16-19 The Charge is “Disturbing the War!”, 1973
Folder 20 “Basic Principles: Aggressive Struggle Rank and File Control”
Folder 21-22 “Sing Out”
Folder 23 Community Song Sheet Negatives
Folder 24 “Organizer’s Handbook” Negatives
Folder 25-34 Mimeomat Pages, 1960s-1970

Box 31
Folder 1-2 Mimeomat Pages, 1970-1971
Folder 3 “They Are Driven”
Folder 4-5 “Thirst for Learning”
Folder 6 Pamphlet on the House Un-American Activities Committee

Box 44
Folder 2 “Labor Unity”
Folder 3 “Together We Win”
Folder 4 “It Wasn’t ‘Easy Come’ at Westinghouse”
Folder 5 “They Are Driven!”
Folder 6 “Make Labor Rights Violations an Unfair Trade Practice!”
Folder 7 “Alliance for Survival”
Folder 8 Studies on the Left James Matles Interview
Folder 9 “Don’t Let It Happen Again”
Folder 10 “72 Day Strike”
Folder 11 “35 Years of UE Gains in GE”
Folder 12 “40 Years of UE Gains in GE”
Folder 13 “A Little Bit of UE History You Should Know”

Series 13.3.4. Layouts and Artwork

Scope and Content Notes:

Included in this series are publication plates and layouts for several flyers, pamphlets, and other publications. Many of these designs are concerned with elections and organizing. Other publication plates for UE forms and certificates are present, as well as layouts for non-UE publications.


Box 31
Folder 7 District 6 Mail Back Cards
Folder 8 Meeting Flyers
Folder 9-10 Flyers and Circulars
Folder 11-16 Flyers
Folder 17 Leaflet Artwork
Folder 18 Local Shop Papers, 1978
Folder 19 UE Forms
Folder 20 UE Certificates
Folder 21 Column Headings
Folder 22 UE News Nameplates
Folder 23-26 Letterhead Designs
Folder 27-29 Spot Cartoons
Folder 30 Bulletin Layouts
Folder 31 Pittsburgh Committee to End the War in Vietnam
Folder 32 Non-UE Pamphlets

Box 44
Folder 14 Westinghouse and GE Pamphlets, 1983
Folder 15 “Can The Workers Be Tricked”
Folder 16 “UE Gains”
Folder 17 “El Orgulloso Historial de Una Union Americana”
Folder 18 Mimeomat Sheets
Folder 19 Flyers on Taxes and Plant Closings
Folder 20 Charter Member Certificates
Folder 21 LaRocque Pamphlet
Folder 22 Litton Booklet
Folder 23 Local Union Meeting Flyers

Box 45
Folder 1 Machine Tool Exhibits
Folder 2 UE International Convention UE History Slideshow, September 18, 1985
Box 47 Pamphlet Publication Plates

Subgroup 13.4. Cartoon Proofs and Negatives

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup contains copies of many of Wright’s drawings. Included are glossy “proofs” which were reviewed prior to printing. Negatives, or white lined drawings on black paper, are also interspersed throughout this subgroup. These files have retained the same descriptions used by Wright in his own filing system; however, the files were arranged in alphabetical or chronological order to facilitate use.

Series 13.4.1. Proofs and Negatives

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains cartoon proofs and negatives that were not sorted by subject. Included are proofs of cartoons used throughout the UE News from 1970 to 1975, as well as featured cartoons that appeared on the back page of the newspaper. Also included are comic books from Westinghouse and the Republican Party.


Box 32
Folder 01-48 Proofs, 1970-1975
Folder 49-50 UE News Backpage Cartoons
Folder 51-63 Miscellaneous Cartoon Proofs and Negatives

Box 45
Folder 3-11 Cartoon and Publication Proofs and Negatives

Box 47
Folder 1 Illustrated Afro-American History Series Proofs

Box 33
Folder 01-02 Clipped Cartoons
Folder 3 Comic Books

Series 13.4.2. Labor Issues

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains cartoons concerning some of the most important issues facing American workers during Wright’s career. Topics include equal rights, automation, red baiting, and wartime economy, to name a few examples. These cartoons have been arranged alphabetically by topic.

Folder 4 Accidents
Folder 5 Anti-Smoking
Folder 6 Automation
Folder 7 Censorship
Folder 8 Civil Rights
Folder 9 Cold War
Folder 10-11 Cost of Living
Folder 12 Editorials
Folder 13 Foremen and Bosses
Folder 14 Health
Folder 15 Labor Management
Folder 16 Military Budget
Folder 17 Milk Trust
Folder 18 Negotiations
Folder 19-22 Organizing
Folder 23 Other Unions- IAM
Folder 24 Other Unions- IBEW
Folder 25 Other Unions- IUE
Folder 26 Other Unions- Teamsters
Folder 27-29 Other Unions
Folder 30 Pensions
Folder 31 Political Action
Folder 32 Politics
Folder 33 Profits, Speed-ups, Prices, and Wages

Box 34
Folder 1 Red Baiting
Folder 2 Reference- Non-Wright Cartoons
Folder 3 Run Away Plants
Folder 4 Slogans
Folder 5 Spanish
Folder 6 Sweetheart Contracts, Spies, and Stoolies
Folder 7 Taxes
Folder 8 Union Elections
Folder 9 Union Raids
Folder 10 Vote for Milton Shapp
Folder 11-12 Vote UE
Folder 13-14 War and Peace
Folder 15 Witch Hunts
Folder 16 Women

Series 13.4.3. Companies

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains cartoons that address issues faced by workers at specific companies. These drawings were often used for flyers or pamphlets during UE organizing campaigns and National Labor Relations Board elections. Often several generic cartoons were used and company specific information, such as a boss’s name, would be added prior to the cartoon being printed.

Folder 17 Motech, 1961
Folder 18 American Optical Company
Folder 19 Union Twist Drill
Folder 20 Wymann-Gordon, 1966
Folder 21 Horn and Hardart
Folder 22 Locke Insulator Corporation
Folder 23 Litton Industries
Folder 24 Vollrath, Proudfoot, and Kohler

Series 13.4.4. Districts and Locals

Scope and Content Notes:

This series includes layouts designed by Wright specifically for UE Districts and locals. Included are designs for letterhead, shop paper cartoons, and certificates.

Folder 25-26 District 1
Folder 27 District 2
Folder 28 District 5
Folder 29 District 6
Folder 30 District 7
Folder 31 District 9
Folder 32 District 10
Folder 33 District 11
Folder 34 District 12

Subgroup 13.5. Fred Wright Publications

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup contains publications created by Fred Wright. Included are examples of his annual cartoon calendar, mimeomat books used by locals to illustrate their shop papers, and a compilation of cartoons titled So Long, Partner! These publications were sold by the UE to both members and non-members of the union. The Catalogue of UE Publications contains a list of materials available for purchase by members, as well as descriptions of the services Wright offered to locals.

Folder 35 Wright Cartoon Calendars, 1953-1962, 1986

Box 35
Folder 1 So Long, Partner!
Folder 2 “Cartoons for Shop Papers” Mimeomat Booklet
Folder 3 “UE is the Union with the Difference You Can Feel”
Folder 4 Catalogue of UE Publications
Folder 5 Wright Publications

Subgroup 13.6. Scrapbooks

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup includes several scrapbooks documenting Wright’s work for the UE News from 1953 to 1970. Each scrapbook contains cartoons clipped from the newspaper and pasted onto a page in chronological order. Some of the earlier clippings have fallen off of the page and the pages are becoming brittle.

Volume 1 UE News Service, January 1953-December 1956
Volume 2 UE News Service, January 1957-December 1959
Volume 3 UE News Service, January 1960-November 1963
Volume 4 UE News Service, December 1963-December 1969
Volume 5 UE News Service, January 1970

Subgroup 13.7. Printer Plates

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup contains metal plates used by the printer of the UE News to print Wright’s cartoons. Many of these plates are made of a zinc-magnesium-aluminum compound and are in good condition. However, the plates are not labeled or arranged. Some topics depicted on the plates are President Richard M. Nixon, war, and automation.

Box 36-42 Printer Plates

Subgroup 13.8 James Lerner Addition

Scope and Content Notes:

This subgroup contains original Fred Wright cartoons donated by the family of former UE News editor James Lerner. Like most of the other original drawings in Subgroup 13.1, these cartoons were drawn for publication in the UE News. Also included are copies of book covers that Wright had drawn to accompany stories Lerner wrote for his grandchildren. In addition, there is a copy of a journal that Wright kept during his illness in the 1980s.


Box 43
Item 1-18 Original Cartoons
Folder 1 Cover Illustrations for James Lerner's Children's Books, 1965-1972
Folder 2 Fred Wright Hospital Diary, 1981-1984