Guide to the Fred Wright Papers, 1949-1986 UE.13

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

Repository
ULS Archives & Special Collections
Title
Fred Wright Papers
Creator
Wright, Fred, 1907-1984
Collection Number
UE.13
Date [inclusive]
1949-1986
Extent
80.4 linear feet (47 boxes)
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.

Preferred Citation

Fred Wright Papers, 1949-1986, UE.13, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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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.

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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.

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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

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, April 2009

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
Website: library.pitt.edu/archives-special-collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us: www.library.pitt.edu/ask-archivist

Revision Description

 Addition of boxes 43-47. August 2014

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.

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.

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.

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.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of the collection are available electronically at http://digital2.library.pitt.edu/collection/fred-wright-cartoons.

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Related Materials

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.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Genre(s)

  • Political cartoons

Personal Name(s)

  • Wright, Fred, 1907-1984

Subject(s)

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

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Previous Citation

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

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Collection Inventory

Subgrp  13.1. Original Cartoons 

Scope and Contents note

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

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Subgrp  13.2. Correspondence 

Scope and Contents note

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.

  BoxFolder
Correspondence from England 281
  Folder
Correspondence from the Soviet Union 2
  Folder
Correspondence from Italy 3
  Folder
Correspondence from France, Bulgaria, and China 4
  Folder
Wright Cartoons in Foreign Publications 5
  Folder
Correspondence with UE Districts and Locals 6
  Folder
Correspondence with the United Furniture Workers of America 7
  Folder
Correspondence with the United Steelworkers of America 8
  Folder
Correspondence from Geraldine Ferrero, 1982 9
  Folder
Wright Cartoons for the United States Army 10
  Folder
Fred Wright Memorial Program and Speeches 11
  Folder
Fred Wright Memorial Photographs 12
  Folder
Letters of Condolence 13
  Folder
Fred Wright Obituaries 14
  Folder
UE 50th Anniversary/Fred Wright Memorial Cartoon Calendar, 1986 15
  Folder
Pat Wright Memorial Booklet, 1993 16
  Folder
UE District 1 Achievement Award 17
  Folder
Cartoon Slides 18
  BoxFolder
Correspondence, 1967-1984 441

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Subgrp  13.3. Publication Plates 

Scope and Contents note

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 Contents note

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.

  BoxFolder
Labor History Series Cartoons Number 1-110 2819-132
  BoxFolder
Labor History Series Cartoons Number 111-175 2901-65

Series  13.3.2. Other Cartoon Series 

Scope and Contents note

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

Series  13.3.3. UE Publications 

Scope and Contents note

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
Too Many Hours 88-89
  Folder
How Foreign is Foreign Competition, 1971 90
  Folder
Safeguarding the Union’s Integrity, 1973 91
  Folder
The Role of Labor Today, 1975 92
  Folder
Together We Win 93
  BoxFolder
“Shop Steward’s Guide” in Spanish 301
  Folder
Catalogue of UE Publications 2
  Folder
Unidos Venceremos 3
  Folder
Union with a Difference in Spanish 4
  Folder
“UE Guide on the Preparation and Conduct of a Strike”, 1975 5
  Folder
“102 Days” 6
  Folder
“The Time We Kept Westinghouse Honest!” 7
  Folder
“What Should Union Officials be Paid?” 8
  Folder
“Products of a War Economy” by Seymour Melman 9
  Folder
“Automation and Jobs: Who Decides?” 10
  Folder
So Long, Partner! 11-15
  Folder
The Charge is “Disturbing the War!”, 1973 16-19
  Folder
“Basic Principles: Aggressive Struggle Rank and File Control” 20
  Folder
“Sing Out” 21-22
  Folder
Community Song Sheet Negatives 23
  Folder
“Organizer’s Handbook” Negatives 24
  Folder
Mimeomat Pages, 1960s-1970 25-34
  BoxFolder
Mimeomat Pages, 1970-1971 311-2
  Folder
“They Are Driven” 3
  Folder
“Thirst for Learning” 4-5
  Folder
Pamphlet on the House Un-American Activities Committee 6
  BoxFolder
“Labor Unity” 442
  Folder
“Together We Win” 3
  Folder
“It Wasn’t ‘Easy Come’ at Westinghouse” 4
  Folder
“They Are Driven!” 5
  Folder
“Make Labor Rights Violations an Unfair Trade Practice!” 6
  Folder
“Alliance for Survival” 7
  Folder
Studies on the Left James Matles Interview 8
  Folder
“Don’t Let It Happen Again” 9
  Folder
“72 Day Strike” 10
  Folder
“35 Years of UE Gains in GE” 11
  Folder
“40 Years of UE Gains in GE” 12
  Folder
“A Little Bit of UE History You Should Know” 13

Series  13.3.4. Layouts and Artwork 

Scope and Contents note

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.

  BoxFolder
District 6 Mail Back Cards 317
  Folder
Meeting Flyers 8
  Folder
Flyers and Circulars 9-10
  Folder
Flyers 11-16
  Folder
Leaflet Artwork 17
  Folder
Local Shop Papers, 1978 18
  Folder
UE Forms 19
  Folder
UE Certificates 20
  Folder
Column Headings 21
  Folder
UE News Nameplates 22
  Folder
Letterhead Designs 23-26
  Folder
Spot Cartoons 27-29
  Folder
Bulletin Layouts 30
  Folder
Pittsburgh Committee to End the War in Vietnam 31
  Folder
Non-UE Pamphlets 32
  BoxFolder
Westinghouse and GE Pamphlets, 1983 4414
  Folder
“Can The Workers Be Tricked” 15
  Folder
“UE Gains” 16
  Folder
“El Orgulloso Historial de Una Union Americana” 17
  Folder
Mimeomat Sheets 18
  Folder
Flyers on Taxes and Plant Closings 19
  Folder
Charter Member Certificates 20
  Folder
LaRocque Pamphlet 21
  Folder
Litton Booklet 22
  Folder
Local Union Meeting Flyers 23
  BoxFolder
Machine Tool Exhibits 451
  Folder
UE International Convention UE History Slideshow, September 18, 1985 2
  Box
Pamphlet Publication Plates 47

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Subgrp  13.4. Cartoon Proofs and Negatives 

Scope and Contents note

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 Contents note

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.

  BoxFolder
Proofs, 1970-1975 3201-48
  Folder
UE News Backpage Cartoons 49-50
  Folder
Miscellaneous Cartoon Proofs and Negatives 51-63
  BoxFolder
Cartoon and Publication Proofs and Negatives 453-11
  BoxFolder
Illustrated Afro-American History Series Proofs 471
  BoxFolder
Clipped Cartoons 3301-02
  Folder
Comic Books 3

Series  13.4.2. Labor Issues 

Scope and Contents note

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
Accidents 4
  Folder
Anti-Smoking 5
  Folder
Automation 6
  Folder
Censorship 7
  Folder
Civil Rights 8
  Folder
Cold War 9
  Folder
Cost of Living 10-11
  Folder
Editorials 12
  Folder
Foremen and Bosses 13
  Folder
Health 14
  Folder
Labor Management 15
  Folder
Military Budget 16
  Folder
Milk Trust 17
  Folder
Negotiations 18
  Folder
Organizing 19-22
  Folder
Other Unions- IAM 23
  Folder
Other Unions- IBEW 24
  Folder
Other Unions- IUE 25
  Folder
Other Unions- Teamsters 26
  Folder
Other Unions 27-29
  Folder
Pensions 30
  Folder
Political Action 31
  Folder
Politics 32
  Folder
Profits, Speed-ups, Prices, and Wages 33
  BoxFolder
Red Baiting 341
  Folder
Reference- Non-Wright Cartoons 2
  Folder
Run Away Plants 3
  Folder
Slogans 4
  Folder
Spanish 5
  Folder
Sweetheart Contracts, Spies, and Stoolies 6
  Folder
Taxes 7
  Folder
Union Elections 8
  Folder
Union Raids 9
  Folder
Vote for Milton Shapp 10
  Folder
Vote UE 11-12
  Folder
War and Peace 13-14
  Folder
Witch Hunts 15
  Folder
Women 16

Series  13.4.3. Companies 

Scope and Contents note

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

Series  13.4.4. Districts and Locals 

Scope and Contents note

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

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

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Subgrp  13.5. Fred Wright Publications 

Scope and Contents note

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
Wright Cartoon Calendars, 1953-1962, 1986 35
  BoxFolder
So Long, Partner! 351
  Folder
“Cartoons for Shop Papers” Mimeomat Booklet 2
  Folder
“UE is the Union with the Difference You Can Feel” 3
  Folder
Catalogue of UE Publications 4
  Folder
Wright Publications 5

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Subgrp  13.6. Scrapbooks 

Scope and Contents note

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

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Subgrp  13.7. Printer Plates 

Scope and Contents note

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
Printer Plates 36-42

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Subgrp  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.

  BoxItem
Original Cartoons 431-18
  Folder
Cover Illustrations for James Lerner's Children's Books, 1965-1972 1
  Folder
Fred Wright Hospital Diary, 1981-1984 2

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