About This Collection

The correspondence, documents, and images contained within this site are part of Terence Vincent Powderly's personal papers related to Ellis Island from 1897 to 1901. The Terence Vincent Powderly Collection is housed at the Department of Archives, Manuscripts, and Museum Collections at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Below is a description of the materials and subject matter included in the collection and how the collection came to be housed at the University.

The collection includes a significant body of records in textual, photographic, and microfilm formats detailing the organization and development of labor, immigration policy and practice, and political patronage and infighting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. It is organized into eight series: Knights of Labor, 1864-1924; Immigration 1883-1930; Black Diamond Anthracite Coal Company, 1889-1909, Personal Papers, 1869-1937; Printed Matter, 1882-1898; Miscellaneous, 1886-1937, Scrapbooks, 1873-1904; and Photographs. The Knights and Immigration series are especially rich in primary source material while the Photograph series presents both a multifaceted wealth of social imagery and geographical landmarks.

After Powderly's death in 1924, his papers remained with his second wife, Emma Fickenscher, who later transferred the papers to her sister Daisy who survived her. In a legal document signed 9 September 1939, she transferred all rights to Mary Powderly, a niece of Terence. Through the influence of both the late CUA sociologist Rev. William J. Kerby and Dean of the School of Social Science Msgr. Francis J. Haas, Miss Powderly wrote on 3 October 1939 to Joseph H. Corrigan, Rector of the Catholic University of America, offering to donate the Powderly Papers to the University. Corrigan entrusted the matter to Haas, who duly received the collection in his office with a signed receipt dated 7 November 1941.

In 1943 the Powderly Papers were transferred to Mullen Library and were subject to certain restrictions imposed by Miss Powderly which are no longer in effect. In 1948 the papers were transferred to the newly established Department of Archives and Manuscripts where they have since remained a rich and well used historical resource, especially for labor and immigration historians. In 1952, 1958, and 1963, various parts of the papers, including letter press copy books and Knights of Labor proceedings, were microfilmed on campus. These microfilming projects were generally undertaken piecemeal in response to researcher requests.

In 1968, CUA Archivist Moreau B.C. Chambers initiated a formal grant proposal to the National Historical Publications Commission (NHPC) in order to microfilm both the Powderly and J.W. Hayes Papers, since both men were central to the Knights of Labor . In 1969, when NHPC rejected this grant proposal, citing lack of funds, CUA began to contact other organizations, such as the AFL-CIO, but with little result.

In 1972 and 1973, Professor Jonathan Garlock of the University of Rochester, who had used the papers extensively for his own research, developed a revamped microfilming and indexing proposal. Following this, much discussion resulted among the Archivist, Library Director, and other interested university officials. In a letter dated 18 May 1973, Lloyd Wagner, Director of Libraries, informed Dr. Garlock that the Committee on Archives and Manuscripts had decided to pursue its own plans and project for indexing and microfilming the Powderly papers and thanked him for his interest. In 1974 work was undertaken and apparently funded by the Microfilming Corporation of America. The editor of the project was John A. Turcheneske, Jr. and the printed finding aid incorporated text and research of Dr. Garlock.

Restrictions on access appear to have been been lifted by Mary Powderly in the 1950s and, in 1970, a meeting with Powderly's great nieces, Mrs. Ruth Ziebart and Mrs. Robert Corbey, confirmed this. Additionally, Mrs. Ziebart provided additional documentation regarding the papers to the Archives and stated that she had additional archival material in her possession which she might donate. Both ladies were apparently pleased to see the prominence their great uncle's papers have in the Archives and agreed that care and access of the papers was being properly managed.

In 1975, Mrs. Corbey donated a Powderly photo album and in 1981, a bound volume of Knights proceedings were received from the AFL-CIO. In August of 1996, Mrs. Ziebart again offered to donate some of her Powderly material but did not follow through immediately.