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Brookwood Labor College Records

Identifier: LR000567_BLC

Scope and Content

The records are arranged in 5 series that include administrative files. Series 1: School Files, 1921-1937, includes correspondence, memos, printed material and general school records concerning the Brookwood organization.

Series 2: Subject Files, 1921-1937, includes correspondence and memos concerning various organizations and individuals. Also included are some pamphlets, clippings and miscellaneous material.

Series 3: Extension School Files, 1928-1936, includes correspondence and memos relating to students in several eastern states, as well as reports, publicity material and other records related to Brookwood's Extension Department.

Series 4: Student Files, 1921-1937, is comprised of files on Brookwood students and student-related material consisting of correspondence, memos, questionnaires and some graduation and student election material. This series is divided into 3 subseries: Accepted students, Correspondence with former students, Student-related material.

Series 5: Chautauqua, 1933-1937, includes correspondence and other material related to the Chautauqua program put on by the Brookwood Labor Players.

Important subjects include: American Federation of Labor; Brookwood executive board; Chautauqua program; Conference of Progressive Labor Action (CPLA); Continental Congress of Workers and Farmers; Curricula; Extension school; Faculty; Ideological factionalism; Abraham Johannes (A.J.) Muste; Labor songs and plays; Student activities; Student files; Student newspapers; Union contributors; Worker education.

Correspondents include: Oscar Ameringer, Roger N. Baldwin, Mary C. Barker, Toscan Bennett, Merlin Bishop, Selma Borchardt, John Brophy, Jay G. Brown, Fannia M. Cohn, Josephine Colby, Cara Cook, Eugene V. Debs, Len De Caux, John Dewey, David Dubinsky, John Edelman, Katherine Pollack Ellickson, John Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth G. Flynn, Paul Fuller, Gustav Geiges, Clinton S. Golden, William Green, Carl Haessler, Florence C. Hansen, Sidney Hillman, Charles Evans Hughes, A.J. Kennedy, John C. Kennedy, Charles Kutz, W. Jett Lauck, Abraham Lefkowitz, E.J. (Jack) Lever, Homer Martin, John Martindale, James H. Maurer, A.J. Muste, Harry Nilsson, Jacob Potofsky, Roy Reuther, Victor Reuther, Lawrence Rogin, Florence Rood, David J. Saposs, Rose Schneiderman, Joel Seidman, Tucker Smith, Helen Norton Starr, Mark Starr, Tom Tippett, Mary Van Kleeck, H.G. Wells, Mathew Woll, Phil E. Ziegler.


  • 1921 - 1937


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


The Brookwood Labor College was a co-educational, residential workers' institution situated at Katonah, New York, about forty-one miles from New York City. Founded in 1921, it was the outgrowth of a labor conference held March 31 and April 1 of that year. Its policies called for a progressive, non-factional education for workers, as it sought to play an increasing role in the task of building a militant, intelligent, powerful labor movement. Its curriculum focused on the study, analysis and discussion of the philosophy and policies of labor organizations in the United States and around the world, including the American Federation of Labor.

Brookwood was founded by a group of several labor activists including William Mann Fincke, who donated his 53-acre property and large colonial farmhouse in Katonah, New York, for the college’s location. Evelyn Preston, a philanthropist and head of the League of Women Shoppers, donated a large sum to finance a women’s dormitory. The college's biggest supporter was the AFL (American Federation of Labor) unions. The survival of the college was reliant on union scholarships and donors or “angels,” as Brookwood staff referred to them.

Within a few years after it was established, Brookwood was officially endorsed or financially supported by thirteen national and international unions, including the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, the American Federation of Teachers and the United Textile Workers. In 1928 a rift between the AFL and Brookwood led to the withdrawal of support by the AFL-affiliated unions.

In 1930 Brookwood set up an Extension Department in response to an increasing demand for lectures and courses outside of Brookwood. Earlier, Brookwood had started a program of summer institutes dealing with various labor problems.

In 1933 Brookwood weathered a faculty conflict concerning its policy of non-factional labor education. After A.J. Muste left in 1933, the college slowly began to lose financial support. With a dwindling numbers of students and the effects of the Depression, Brookwood closed in 1937.

Among the many students at Brookwood were Merlin Bishop, Len De Caux, E.J. (Jack) Lever, John Martindale and Roy Reuther. The faculty included such leaders as Katherine Pollack Ellickson, J.C. Kennedy, A.J. Muste, David J. Saposs, Cara Cook, Tucker P. Smith, Mark Starr, Helen Norton Starr and Tom Tippett. Fannia M. Cohn, John Brophy, Abraham Lefkowitz and James H. Maurer were among members of the board of directors.


49 Linear Feet (98 MB)


Brookwood Labor College was a co-educational, residential workers' institution founded in 1921 in Katonah, New York. The curriculum focused on a progressive, non-factional education for workers, as the college sought to play an increasing role in the task of building a militant, intelligent, powerful labor movement. The records document the operation of the college during its sixteen years. Brookwood College closed in 1937.


Arranged in 5 series: Series 1 (Boxes 1-14), Series 2 (Boxes 15-58), Series 3 (Boxes 58-60), Series 4 (Boxes 60-96), Series 5 (Boxes 96-98). Folders are arranged alphabetically.


The papers of the Brookwood Labor College were placed in the Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, in September 1972 by Mark and Helen Norton Starr.


A group of photographs and three scrapbooks relating to Brookwood have been placed in the Reuther Audiovisual Department: "Brookwood Labor College Photographs." Included are photographs of students, faculty, labor leaders, the buildings and grounds, as well as events, at Brookwood Labor College.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the Brookwood Labor College Records.
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

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Detroit MI 48202 USA