1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY
1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY

Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Communications Workers of America Records


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This collection documents the activities of the Albany Typographical Union, the first labor union founded in Albany, N.Y.


Albany Typographical Union No. 4 (Albany, N.Y.)
Date Coverage:
27 reels of microfilm

The earliest precursor to the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 was the Albany Typographical Society, which was founded on March 3, 1829. This organization, however, was more of a fraternal or professional organization than a labor union. The Albany Typographical Society continued at least until 1832.[Historical Souvenir and First Year-Book of Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Half Century Number, January 1905. Edited and compiled by Charles H. Whittemore. Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Co., Printers, 1905, pp. 17 and 19.]

On May 23, 1850, printers from the city of Albany met in the Clinton Hotel to discuss the establishment of a typographical association. A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution and by-laws. Three days later the constitution and by-laws of the Printers' Union of the City of Albany were unanimously adopted. The committee had decided against forming a benefit society and counseled in favor of a union. That day, 54 people signed the first constitution which stated that the "objects of this Union shall be the maintenance of a fair rate of wages, the encouragement of good workmen, and to use every means which may tend to the elevation of printers in the scale of social life."[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Constitution, 1850.] The election of officers was held on June 1, 1850, and this is the date the union marks as its date of founding.

From its founding, the union struggled with many problems facing its members. In 1850, printers worked 54- and 60-hour weeks, and reducing the work week to 40 hours was a goal that the union strove toward for decades. In the early 1850's, the printers complained about the hiring of "two-thirders," young men paid two-thirds the going rate. The hiring of these men undermined the union's expressed payment scales. Early in its history and especially in the 1870's, the union fought for control to determine the number of apprentices allowed per journeyman, as a means of regulating the profession.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, November 27, 1875.]

In 1854, the Albany Printers' Union joined the National Typographical Union, thereby changing its name to the Albany Typographical Union No. 4.["Seventy Years' Record: Officers of Albany Typographical Union No. 4 From June 1, 1850, to July 31, 1921." In Official Souvenir Book: Albany Typographical Union No. 4 Commemorating the Sixty-Fifth Session of the International Typographical Union and the Seventieth Anniversary of A.T.U. Number 4. Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Co., Printers, 1920.] The Albany Typographical Union became inactive that year and did not resume regular activity until it rejoined the National Typographical Union (NTU) in 1860. NTU, itself organized only in 1852, changed its name to the International Typographical Union with the addition of Canadian locals in 1869.[Labor Unions (The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions), Gary M. Fink, ed. Greenwood Press: Westport, Conn., 1977, p. 404.]

The Albany Typographical Union No. 4 was founded with the notion that strikes should be avoided if at all possible, but by 1878 the union began its first strike. The firm of Weed, Parsons & Co. was not complying with the union's apprentice rules, and Mr. Parsons would not even discuss the matter with the union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, January 21, 1878.]] A strike committee was formed to design strategy. Some members of the union continued to work at Weed, Parsons, and were expelled from the union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, February 23, 1878.] By October, the union had accepted its loss and voted to excuse dues of former Weed, Parsons, employees "until they obtain employment."[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, October 26, 1878.] Weed, Parson & Co. appears again and again in the minutes of the union from the 1800's. It was a difficult shop to reorganize and was the least friendly towards the union. The Albany Typographical Union had a number of strikes over different types of disputes: price reduction for composition in 1882, the eight-hour day in 1906, and unfair bargaining in 1928. Ironically, on the 100th anniversary of its founding as a union opposed to strikes, the union voted to strike the Albany Times Union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, June 16, 1950.]

The Albany Typographical Union No. 4 has changed the composition of its membership over the years. At first, the union included all printers in the city of Albany, but pressmen were not accepted as full members until 1851.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, March 29, 1851.] Early in its existence, the Albany Printers' Union tried to organize printers in Troy with no success, and it was not until 1860 that the Troy Typographical Union was founded.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, June 26, 1852.] As early as 1879, the union discussed whether pressmen should withdraw from the union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, March 2, 1879. ] The Albany Printing Pressmen's Union appears to have originally consisted of pressmen who had broken away from Local 4.[Historical Souvenir and First Year-Book of Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Half Century Number, January 1905. Edited and compiled by Charles H. Whittemore. Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Co., Printers, 1905, p. 29.]

On February 6, 1886, the Albany pressmen were chartered as a separate local of the ITU. [Elizabeth Faulkner Baker. Printer and Technology: A History of the International Printing Pressmen and Assistants' Union. Columbia University Press: New York, 1957, p. 71. And Albany Printing Pressmen and Assistants' Union No. 23. "Constitution, By-Laws and Rules of Order," 1954.] By 1890, however, the local had broken away from the ITU to become one of the founding members of the International Printing Pressmen's Union of North America.[Albany Printing Pressmen and Assistants' Union No. 23. "Constitution, By-Laws and Rules of Order," 1954.] Although there appears to be no documentation of this, bookbinders were thought to have originally been part of the Albany Typographical Union until they split off to form the Book-binders Society of Albany, International Brotherhood of Bookbinders, Local Union No. 10, in 1892. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Albany Typographical Union has merged with a number of locals over a broad geographical area: the Columbia County Typographical Union No. 896 in 1966, the Troy Typographical Union No. 52 in 1978, and the Poughkeepsie Typographical Union No. 315 in 1987.

The internal structure of the Albany Typographical Union was quite sophisticated. Even from its earliest moments, the union operated extensively by committee. It was a committee that first put together the proposal for the union, and Albany Typographical Union has been using that system ever since. When the union went on strike, a strike committee was always formed. Scale committees studied the question of scale in the trade. In the 1870's, many members of the union were brought up on constitutional charges related to working below scale, conduct unbecoming a member, etc., and these charges were presented and argued before committees. The union formed an executive committee to replace all other committees in 1878. This committee had the responsibility to hear grievances, make decisions about members of the union, and "to transact the business of the Union between meetings," but soon subcommittees and eventually other specialized committees were also instituted.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, February 27, 1879.] Standing committees included those for finance, business, and room, but the number and types of committees were always in flux.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Constitution, Article, VI, 1869.]

The Albany Typographical Union was also divided into chapels, one for each shop in which the union had members. Each chapel elected a chairman once a year who was responsible for the members in that chapel, who upheld the union's laws, and who informed the members of upcoming meetings.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Constitution, Article, VII, 1910.] Occasionally, there were disagreements between individual chapels and the local union, which were customarily brought up before the executive committee for resolution.

In 1988, the International Typographical Union (ITU) merged with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), with the former ITU operating as an autonomous sector of CWA. This development was the first significant step the ITU had made to bringing organized labor "closer to the creation of one huge union in the printing and electronic communications industry."[ McMichen, Robert S., Billy J. Austin and Bill Boardman. "Stepping Into the Future With CWA." Typographical Journal, Vol. 189, No. 2, Aug. 1, 1986, p. 2.] This huge union is conceived to eventually encompass locals currently affiliated with the Graphic Communications International Union and the Newspaper Guild. As communications conglomerates have expanded in size, many unionists have felt that the unions whose members work for these must also be large and sophisticated. Currently, the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 remains an autonomous local representing workers in the typographical trade, but the CWA encourages consolidation at the local level.

The Albany Typographical Union, which was the first labor union founded in Albany, N.Y., kept an almost complete set of its minutes from its beginnings in 1850. These minutes are the major record series of this manuscript collection. The only gap is one from 1855 to 1874. Since the union was basically inactive from 1854 to 1860, minutes do not exist for these years. And the minutes for 1860 through 1874 probably filled a single minute book. The completeness of its records is one of the most significant aspects of the union's records, showing the development of the union over 140 years.

The strategies and goals of an early union are delineated in the records of this union, as are the successes and failures the union faced as it tried to attain those goals. The relationship between the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 and management is varied: some employers were quite helpful to the union, and other employers worked against any organizing of its work force. For related records, see the records of the Fulton County Typographical Union, No. 268, 1894-1963; the Columbia County Typographical Union No. 896, 1927-67; the Graphic Communications International Union, Local 10-B, 1907-89; and the Graphic Communications International Union, Local 259-M, 1941-88. All of these were unions in the printing trades that had contact with the Albany Typographical Union.

The collection is organized into the following series: 1 - Constitutions and Rules of Order: 1850-1955; 2 - Minutes: 1850-1988; 3 - Membership Record Book: 1907-1988; 4 - Series 4 - The Albany Citizen: 1928-1929; Series 5 - Scale of Prices: 1893-1972; Series 6 - Memorabilia: 1872-1950.

Albany Typographical Union No. 4 allowed its original records to be microfilmed by the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives. After microfilming, the originals were returned.1988-1989

Processed by: Geoffrey A. Huth

Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on

Published: 2018-03-05 23:09:08 -0500

Encoded in EAD by Jodi Boyle, 2016 December

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Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Communications Workers of America Records, 1850-1988. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 Records).

Contents of Collection

Quantity: 1 reels of microfilm

Arranged chronologically.

Printed copies of the Albany Typographical Union's constitutions and rules of order.



Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1850


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1869


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1910


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1917


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1924


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1928


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1939


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1947


Reel 1Constitutions and Rules of Order1955
Quantity: 22 reels of microfilm

Arranged chronologically.

The minutes include correspondence, newspaper clippings, committee and convention reports, financial reports, and other material. The 1850-55 minute book ends with a copy of the local's constitution signed by each charter member. The 1892-97 minute book is partially burned, and many of the final pages of the book are water damaged, so it is possible that that 1855-74 minute book merely suffered greater damage and was subsequently discarded. The first few minute books are handwritten into bound volumes; however, by the 1890s many of the sheets are typewritten and glued into the volumes. This technique often reduces the legibility of the record. By the twentieth century, the volumes are bound from loose sheets of minutes, correspondence and other material, and the records are more difficult to use. From 1960, the minutes are filed loose in folders. The minutes from 1960s on contain increased documentation of financial activities.



Reel 1Minutes1850-1855


Reel 1Minutes1874-1887


Reel 1Minutes1887-1892


Reel 2Minutes1892-1897


Reel 2Minutes1897-1900


Reel 2Minutes1900-1906


Reel 3Minutes1906-1913


Reel 3Minutes1913-1915


Reel 3Minutes1915-1916


Reel 4Minutes1916-1922


Reel 4Minutes1922-1926


Reel 4Minutes1926-1929


Reel 5Minutes1929-1931


Reel 5Minutes1931-1932


Reel 6Minutes1932-1933


Reel 6Minutes1933-1934


Reel 7Minutes1934-1935


Reel 7Minutes1935-1936


Reel 8Minutes1936-1937


Reel 8Minutes1937-1938


Reel 9Minutes1938-1939


Reel 9Minutes1939-1940


Reel 10Minutes1940-1941


Reel 10Minutes1941-1943


Reel 11Minutes1943-1945


Reel 11Minutes1945-1948


Reel 12Minutes1948-1952


Reel 12Minutes1952-1953


Reel 12Minutes1954


Reel 13Minutes1955


Reel 13Minutes1956


Reel 14Minutes1957


Reel 14Minutes1958


Reel 15Minutes1959


Reel 15Minutes1960


Reel 15Minutes1961


Reel 16Minutes1962


Reel 16Minutes1963


Reel 16Minutes1964


Reel 16Minutes1965


Reel 17Minutes1966


Reel 17Minutes1967


Reel 17Minutes1968


Reel 17Minutes1969


Reel 18Minutes1970


Reel 18Minutes1971


Reel 18Minutes1972


Reel 18Minutes1973


Reel 19Minutes1974


Reel 19Minutes1975


Reel 19Minutes1976


Reel 19Minutes1977


Reel 20Minutes1978


Reel 20Minutes1979


Reel 20Minutes1980


Reel 20Minutes1981


Reel 21Minutes1982


Reel 21Minutes1983


Reel 21Minutes1984


Reel 21Minutes1985


Reel 22Minutes1986


Reel 22Minutes1987


Reel 22Minutes1988
Quantity: 1 reels of mircrofilm

Arranged numerically by entry number.

This single volume has been updated by the Albany Typographical Union for over 80 years and contains information about members from decades previous to 1907. The record book "starts with the active enrollment as given on the election list of May 15, 1907," and the names of signatories of the constitution roll book of 1860 are also included. All subsequent enrollments were included until the book was filled in 1953, but the record book was updated with information about members' deaths, etc., through 1988. Information included in this volume includes age of member, place where apprenticeship was fulfilled, dates membership began, dates and reasons membership was severed, and date and cause of death. The book includes a name index to the entries which gives the entry number for each member's name.



Reel 23Membership Record Book1907-1988
Quantity: 3 reels of microfilm

Arranged chronologically.

Daily strike newspaper produced by the Albany Typographical Union from November 26, 1928, to April 6, 1929. Publication of this paper continued for a few weeks following the end of the strike. This is the only complete run of the newspaper available. No issue was published on December 25, 1928, or January 1, 1929, and the publishing of the Sunday edition was suspended beginning March 3, 1929.



Reel 24 The Albany Citizen 1928 November 26-December 31


Reel 25 The Albany Citizen 1929 January 2-February 28


Reel 26 The Albany Citizen 1929 March 1-April 6
Quantity: 1 reels of microfilm

Arranged by type of scale and chronologically thereunder.

Scales of prices are the typographical union's contracts with employers. Although the varying wage rates for different types of work and different shifts are incorporated into these documents, agreements on working conditions are also included. These scales of prices have been divided into general scales (which include all types of work), newspaper scales, and book and job scales. As newspaper work is the predominant form in the union, newspaper scales of prices make up the bulk of this series.

The dates for newspaper scales of prices are not inclusive.



Reel 27General1893, 1906, 1918


Reel 27Book and Job1923, 1925, 1928


Reel 27Newspaper1917-1972
Quantity: 1 reels of microfilm

Arranged alphabetically.

This series contains a selection of memorabilia, including invitations to union events and souvenir books.



Reel 27Circular1873


Reel 27Invitations to Albany Typographical Union Events1886-1946


Reel 27Newspaper Clippings1920, 1938


Reel 27PhotographsUndated


Reel 27Priority Lists1943, 1968


Reel 27Rules Governing the Chapel of the Albany Morning Express1886


Reel 27Souvenir Books1905, 1920, 1950


Reel 27The Victory, Vol 1, No 1 (Official organ of the Rubies, a social club composed of members of Albany Typographical Union No. 4)1886


Reel 27Working Cards--Samples1872, 1875, 1896-1898, 1913