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Philip P. Mason Oral History

Identifier: WSOH002956

Scope and Content

This oral history documents Philip Parker Mason’s early life and education in Massachusetts and Michigan, training and early employment as an archivist and historian, and development of the Wayne State University Archives, which evolved to become the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs. Mason likewise reveals how he developed an archival education program and made acquisitions of important archival and manuscript collections. Conducted by Dr. Louis Jones, the thirteen chapters comprising the oral history include, 1. Early Years, Education, and First Positions as an Archivist, 2. Wayne State University, 3. United Farm Workers, 4. Creating Our Archival Program, 5. Woodcock Wing, 6. WSU: Archival Administration, 7. Society of American Archivists, 8. Oral History, 9. Archival Theft and Security Forgeries, 10. Research and Publications, 11. Historical Organizations, 12. Awards and Honors, and 13. Consulting.


  • 2021


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: Due to the personal nature of oral history, the Library prohibits use of the material in any way that infringes on individual right to privacy, or results in libelous statements or slander, in accordance with U.S. law.


Beginning in 2007, Louis Jones began conducting oral history interviews with Philip Mason after Jones convinced him of the merit of an oral history with him. Most of the sessions took place in the Woodcock Conference Room of the Walter P. Reuther Library. However, several sessions took place in Eagle Harbor, MI, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The interviews were completed ca. 2013. Given the agreement between Mason and Jones, Mason was to have rights to edit the oral history, which he did over a number of years. Alberta Asmar typed the transcript of the oral history. The editing of the transcript was completed in 2021.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Philip Parker Mason evinced an early interest in history beginning in high school and extending through undergraduate studies at Boston University followed by graduate work at the University of Michigan. During his studies at the University of Michigan, he was introduced to the world of archives and manuscript collections at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library where he worked during a portion of his graduate studies. This experience inspired him to pursue a career as an archivist, first as archivist for the State of Michigan (1953-1958) and then at Wayne State University (1958-1992). His tenure at Wayne State University began as university archivist with a joint appointment in the university’s history department. With the approval of the university, he expanded the role of the archives to include a labor and urban focus. During his tenure at Wayne State, he would nurture relationships with leaders within organized labor resulting in Wayne State becoming the home of the records of the United Auto Workers, United Farm Workers, the industrial Workers of the World, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Service Employees International Union. Other collections he successfully pursued include the papers of Rosa Parks and the records of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP. The establishment of an archival education program, founding of conferences, involvement as a consultant, research culminating in a vast publication record, and leadership within archival and historical organizations, including the presidency of the Society of American Archivists, comprise a few of his other accomplishments. Many awards followed, including being named a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists, that organization’s highest honor. After a long and productive career, he retired in Arizona.


1.6 Megabytes


The oral history chronicles Mason’s life and career, beginning with his early years in Massachusetts, participation in WWII, education at Boston University and, then the University of Michigan where he received his doctorate in history and learned about archival work at what would become the Bentley Historical Library. The interview also explores the collections he acquired, the archival education program he established, the universities, state governments, labor unions, and foundations that contracted him for consultations about their records, publications he authored or edited, organizations and conferences he founded, and the leadership roles he played within organizations dedicated to history, archival administration, and oral history.


Files are listed by their location.


This oral history was donated to the Reuther Library by Louis Jones in 2021.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Louis Jones on May 10, 2021.
Guide to the Philip P. Mason Oral History
In Progress
Processed by Louis Jones.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA