Philip Murray Papers, 1832-1969 (bulk 1936-1952)


Collection Overview

Philip Murray papers
Dates (Inclusive):
1832-1969 (bulk 1936-1952)
Dates (Inclusive):
Murray, Philip
Murray was International Vice-President to the United Mine Workers of America (1920-1942); Chairman, Steel Workers Organizing Committee (1936-1942); International President, United Steelworkers of America (1942-1952); and President of the CIO (1942-1952).
This collection contains correspondence, clippings, documents, and photographs primarily documenting Phillip Murray's presidency of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Collection Number:
6.44 Cubic feet
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.

Biographical Note

Philip Murray (1886-1952) was born on May 25, 1886 of Irish parents who had emigrated to Scotland. As a young boy, Murray worked in the coal mines near Bothwell, Scotland and attended union meetings with his father, growing up with strong trade union traditions. Murray emigrated from Scotland to America with his father arriving at Ellis Island in December, 1902. The two immigrants went on to Madison, Pennsylvania, to join Murray's uncle who was already working there in the mines.

Murray worked at bituminous coal mines in southwestern Pennsylvania and joined the local union of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW). He became a local union official and soon grew popular with the coal miners of the area. In 1910, he married Elizabeth Lavery, the daughter of a coal miner.

Murray's rise to national prominence in the labor movement began in 1916 when he was elected to the presidency of the UMW District 5 (southwestern Pennsylvania), one of the union's largest regions in terms of membership. During World War I, Murray succeeded in having contracts with coal operators revised to include higher wages. He also became a member of regional boards of the federal government and of the Pittsburgh Board of Education. His abilities as a negotiator and his leadership qualities attracted the attention of another rising UMW official, John L. Lewis. When Lewis ran for the office of president of the UMW in 1920, he chose Murray to run for the union's vice presidency. Both men were elected to office.

Murray remained vice president of the United Mine Workers from 1920 to 1942. As Lewis' chief assistant, he usually took part in negotiations with industry representatives on national contracts. Murray was also the ranking troubleshooter for Lewis with responsibilities for fending off Lewis' opponents within the union and for conducting difficult strikes. He maintained his office in Pittsburgh during his years as union vice president, a position from which he witnessed the weakening of the UMW and the threat to the labor movement of open shop employers in basic industries.

Murray was deeply involved in the formation of the Committee for Industrial Organization in 1935. The CIO, led by Lewis with assistance from several United Mine Worker officials, began union organizing campaigns in mass production industries. Lewis appointed Murray to direct the campaign to unionize the steel industry and related metal manufacturing firms. Through an agreement with the existing craft union in the steel industry, the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, CIO established the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC). The organizing campaign was under the direction of the CIO and was financed by the United Mine Workers. Murray's position as chairman of SWOC strengthened the bond between the steel unionizing campaign and the miner's union.

SWOC's progress was steady but slow from the inauguration of the organizing drive in June, 1936 until 1941 to 1942. Following negotiations between Lewis and Myron Taylor, chairman of the finance committee of United States Steel, SWOC and the company signed an agreement in March, 1937. Hundreds of other contracts were completed, mostly with small steel producing companies, but also with larger firms like Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. The momentum behind the union campaign slowed perceptibly after the middle of 1937 because of SWOC's defeat in a national strike against several major steel companies and because of a slump in the economy that lasted through 1938. During this period, SWOC continued to enter contracts with small companies, to renew contracts with firms that had first signed up in 1937, and to campaign against the large steel producers that remained non-union.

Philip Murray assumed the leadership of CIO in 1940 when Lewis resigned. With the new responsibilities of directing the national labor federation, he devoted less time to the unfinished steel organizing campaign, delegating authority to other members of the SWOC staff and in particular to the Secretary-Treasurer, David J. McDonald. But when SWOC held a constitutional convention in 1942 to transform itself into the USWA, Murray was elected president. Murray and Lewis, partners in the leadership of both the UMW and the CIO for twenty years, began to grow apart. Lewis berated Murray for favoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt's interventionist policy in World War II; Murray criticized Lewis as a union dictator. After failing to smooth out his disagreement with Murray, Lewis had the executive board of the UMW remove Murray as vice president of the union. Deeply hurt by this rejection from the organization he considered his home in the labor movement, Murray brooded for weeks afterward.

Murray's reputation as a national labor leader, already well-established in 1940, was greatly enhanced during the United States' participation in World War II. Murray decried the subordinate position assigned to labor representatives in the federal government's war administration bureaucracy, and he chafed at the restrictions placed on unions that were not balanced by equally effective restrictions on business. But he accepted the necessity of abiding by the limitations placed by the war emergency on unions' operations. Unlike Lewis and some other national labor figures who contested these limitations, Murray accepted them and took advantage of the opportunities provided by the war for enlarging CIO membership and demonstrating labor's responsibility and patriotism. His policy in the early 1940s earned for him the mantle of "labor statesman," which he shared with the CIO's other major pro-Roosevelt, pro-war spokesman, Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers.

Murray returned to a role of labor leader after World War II ended. He articulated the justification for large wage increases during the 1945-46 strike wages, in which the major CIO unions (including his own Steelworkers) took part. Murray also tried to stem the tide of anti-labor feeling that was rising throughout the country. He toured the country, speaking to various public and private groups, and met with members of the press to urge that legislation restricting labor union activities not be passed. His appeal proved ineffective. Congress passed the Taft Hartley Act in 1947, which amended the 1935 National Labor Relations Act and narrowed the scope of union operations and increased the regulatory power of the federal government over unions.

Murray had to adjust to the chillier climate of industrial relations from 1945 until the end of his life. He used the close ties between the CIO and the federal government administrations to help settle labor-management disputes on a basis favorable to labor. He continued to actively support Democratic candidates who were sympathetic to organized labor. And he clamped down on the communist members of the CIO and on the unions in which they had the most influence, in order to spare the CIO public hostility. His anti-communist attitudes expressed throughout his career and repeated forcefully in the first post-war years, crystallized in CIO policies from 1946 to 1952. Communist-led unions were raided by other CIO unions; CIO conventions investigated and expelled affiliates with close ties to the Communist Party; the CIO refused to endorse the Progressive Party in the 1948 national election, partly because of strong backing for the Progressives by communists. Expunging radical influence in the CIO helped to spare the CIO criticism, but it did not substantially alleviate Murray's problem of restoring labor to the place in public opinion and government councils that it had enjoyed in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Murray died on November 9, 1952, acknowledged as a founder of modern industrial unionism and as the builder of the mature CIO.

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Collection Overview

The Phillip Murray Papers is a small but diverse collection of material concerning the life and career of one of the foremost American labor leaders of the twentieth century. The majority of the material covers the years from 1936 to 1952 although a small quantity dates from earlier and later years. The collection includes newspaper and magazine clippings; business and personal correspondence to Murray and his wife, Elizabeth L. Murray; memorabilia and documents; photographs and plaques. In addition to Murray's career with the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), the collection has items concerning Murray's personal, family, and social life.

The early days of Philip Murray's involvement in the UMW are not well-documented by this collection. Material pertaining to the UMW consists of several newspaper and magazine articles in scrapbooks, proceedings of the twenty-fourth annual convention of UMW District 5 (1913), and joint decisions of northern west Virginia sub-divisional Coal Association and UMW District 31 (1936), and several photographs of Murray as a participant in UMW functions.

The majority of the collection pertains to Murray's position as president of the CIO, an office which he held from 1940 until his death in 1952. The collection's CIO-related material includes newspaper and magazine articles, texts of several speeches, memorabilia, documents, and photographs. There is some mention of his personal and family life in newspaper and magazine articles in the collection's scrapbooks and clipping files. Several personal and family photographs dating from 1910-1940 are also part of the collection.

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Collection Arrangement

This collection is organized into eight series:

The Papers series contains books, booklets, clippings, personal and business correspondence of Phillip Murray and of his wife, Elizabeth Murray. The books include proceedings of the 24th annual convention of the UMW, contracts and the constitution of the UMW. Other printed materials include resolutions and text of speeches, newspapers and magazine clippings, obituaries, and funeral cards. It also contains an 1832 union card, called a pense card, of Robert Ramage of Scotland. There are also memorial tributes, condolences, and newspaper clippings about Murray's funeral and deliberations on his successor as CIO president. The collection also includes a book entitled 'Coal! A History of the Coal-Mining Industry in Scotland with Special Reference to the Cambuslang District of Lanarkshire' by John Anderson. It gives an interesting history of coal mining in the country where Murray began his work and union membership.

Plaques, medals & awards includes seven convention badges, numerous awards, citations, and certificates. It contains Murray's original certificate of naturalization issued to him by the United States in 1912 and the citation which accompanied the award of the Medal of Merit to Murray from Harry Truman. In this series can be found evidence of Murray' service on government boards and agencies. Most of the plaques, including a humanitarian award, were presented to Murray for his union activities.

Memorabilia consists of a gavel dated 1941, probably one of the several he used as a union officer.

Scrapbooks cover the newspaper and magazines clippings of the early days of Phillip Murray's involvement in the UMW. There is also some mention of his personal life in newspaper and magazine articles in this series. Scrapbooks contain articles on topics such as the first Carnegie Illinois Steel Corporation SWOC contract, the Philip Murray John L. Lewis feud, and proposals for peace between the AFL and CIO.

Photographs span the early life and later career of Murray. One photo shows young Murray with his wife around 1910. It also has a group of thirty portraits of Murray's friends and associates. However, most of the photos are undated.

Photograph Albums include: Photograph album #1, entitled "Inspection of the Pittsburgh 'Victory Valley' Plants of the Steel Industry", has photos of Murray and other visitors, steelworkers, machinery, and interior and exterior views of several steel plants. The two UMW tri-district photograph albums show scenes from the 1922 national conventions. They include photos of Murray, Sidney Hillman, James B. Carey and other prominent labor leaders of the day. These albums have been disbound for preservation purposes, but the photographs are maintained in their original order.

Negatives contains an uncounted number of negatives of photographs in the collection.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Philip Murray Papers, HCLA 1670, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections staff.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Artifacts
  • Audio
  • Graphic
  • Scrapbooks
  • Photographic

Personal Name(s)

  • Murray, Philip

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Collection Inventory

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