Research Guides:

Labor Newspapers

Cover of Current Issue

Newspapers aimed at workers and members of labor unions have been published in Missouri's cities and larger towns for over a century. In the Society's Newspaper Collection are labor newspapers from Hannibal, Jefferson City, Joplin, Sedalia and Springfield as well as Kansas City, St. Joseph and St. Louis.

One late–nineteenth–century paper, St. Louis Labor, served as the official organ of the Socialist Labor Party. Its editor published articles and cartoons disparaging capitalism and advocating socialism. The Labor also carried information about local union activities, including negotiations with employers and the results of elections for officers.

Many of the labor papers printed personal news as well as columns about union activities. Readers could check listings to find locations and times of locals' meeting. Notices printed in large, bold type often called for boycotts of employers or stores that did not hire union workers. Some papers listed employers in good standing with unions; the Hannibal Labor Press published a series of articles about the town's businesses during the 1910s.

The editors of labor newspapers included many features found in standard papers. Articles focusing on national economic problems and scientific discoveries appeared, as did serial stories, religion columns and comics.

Labor papers provided coverage of strikes and grievances. During a streetcar strike in 1916–1917, the Springfield Laborer printed articles about the “scabs” employed by the Springfield Traction Company and featured a box showing the number of days the strike had been in effect. Labor newspapers, particularly those published in the first half of the twentieth century, can be useful resource for studying local events as well as labor–related issues.