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Harold Cranefield Papers

Identifier: LP000595

Scope and Content

The papers of Mr. Cranefield reflect his activities with the N.L.R.B., the La Follette Subcommittee, the Legal Department of the United Auto Workers, and also his attitudes and work as a lawyer of liberal views in connection with unionization, civil and political liberties, labor law, and legal action against Communists.

Series 1: Law practice, Racine Correspondence, legal briefs, and clippings relating to Mr. Cranefield's private practice in Racine, Wisconsin, especially his representation of the strikers at the J.I. Case Company (employees here later forming U.A.W. Local 180).

Series 2: National Labor Relations Board Correspondence and files of Mr. Cranefield's office as Regional Attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago and Detroit. Included are files regarding unfair labor practice cases against Ford and General Motors, and some material on industrial espionage within Timkin Axle Company.

Series 3: La Follette Subcommittee Correspondence and office files detailing Mr. Cranefield's investigations of Pinkerton's Detroit Office, Chrysler Corporation, and General Motors for the La Follette Subcommittee.

Series 4: Legal Department, United Auto Workers Office files and memoranda of Mr. Cranefield as General Counsel of the U.A.W. Documents here Include police reports and union files relating to the shootings of Victor and Walter Reuther in 1948.

Series 5: Speeches, articles, speech notes This series contains articles, speeches, and notes for speeches on a variety of subjects, from the provisions and intent of the National Labor Relations Act, labor law, and foreign aid to Spain, to wartime price controls and union strike tactics.

Series 6: Miscellanea Personal Correspondence, briefs, clippings, and a number of miscellaneous items relating to Mr. Cranefield's interest in the field of civil and political liberties, the court-martial of a First World War conscientious objector, clemency appeals of persons imprisoned under the Smith Act, the National Lawyers Guild, the Committee to Secure Justice for Morton Sobell, and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.


  • 1932 - 1966
  • Majority of material found within 1932 - 1963



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.


Harold Cranefield was born in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 12, 1903. He earned his Ph.B. from the University of Wisconsin in 1926, and his law degree in 1929 from the same university. He became Assistant District Attorney of Racine, Wisconsin,upon his graduation, and a year later opened his own law office in Racine. By 1935 his practice was devoted almost entirely to representing the newly-organized labor unions. With the passage of the Wagner Act, he was appointed Regional Attorney of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago. In May of 1937, he was transferred to the Detroit Regional Office in the same capacity. In the period 1936-37, he was concurrently commissioned an Investigator for the La Follette Subcommittee on industrial espionage of labor organizations. In December of 1948, he resigned from the N.L.R.B. to become Associate General Counsel of the United Auto Workers, becoming General Counsel in 1951. He resigned in 1963 to enter private practice again in the labor field. Mr. Cranefield died in November, 1969.


4 Linear Feet (2 MB, 1 scrapbook)

Language of Materials



A labor attorney, Mr. Cranefield served with the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago and Detroit, as an investigator for the La Follette Committee, and as an associate counsel with the UAW. Correspondence, briefs, clippings, and speeches cover such topics as unionizing the J.I. Case Company in Racine, Wisconsin (1934-35); work of the NLRB in the auto industry; industrial espionage; and the shootings of Victor and Walter Reuther. Correspondents are Heber Blankenhorn, J. Edgar Hoover, Wayne Morse, Joseph Rauh, Walter Reuther, Helen Sobell, and Robert Wohlforth.


Arranged in 6 series – Series 1 (Box 1), Series 2 (Box 1), Series 3 (Boxes 1-2), Series 4 (Boxes 2), Series 5 (Box 2), and Series 6 (Boxes 3-4). Folders are arranged chronologically in Series 1-4, by subject in Series 5, and chronologically in the first two files of Series 6, and alphabetically throughout the remainder of that series.


The papers of Harold A. Cranefield were placed in the Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs in December of 1972 by his nephew, Paul F. Cranefield, and were opened for research in March of 1973.


Some 59 photographs, the majority portraying early unionization attempts at Ford Motor Company, have been placed in the Archives' Audiovisual Collections.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library on in March, 1973.-03.
Guide to the Harold Cranefield Papers
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

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA