• IdentificationMidwest MS Brommel-Debs
  • TitleInventory of the Bernard J. Brommel-Eugene V. Debs Papers, 1886-2003 Midwest.MS.Brommel-Debs
  • PublisherThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • RepositoryThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • Physical Description8.0 linear feet (12 boxes, 2 oversize boxes)
  • Date1886-2003
  • Location1 7 7, 1 16 3
  • AbstractResearch material and works of Eugene V. Debs biographer Bernard J. Brommel, including correspondence, notes, photocopies, photographs, pamphlets, newsclippings, and memorabilia. Also letters and personal materials of Grace Laird, a teacher with whom Brommel retained a long time correspondence.
  • OriginationBrommel, Bernard J., 1930-

Gift of Bernard J. Brommel.

The Bernard J. Brommel-Eugene V. Debs Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

The Bernard J. Brommel-Eugene V. Debs are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Bernard J. Brommel-Eugene V. Debs Papers, The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Alison Hinderliter and Emma Martin, 2011.

This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Eugene V. Debs was a five-time candidate for president on the Socialist ticket, an advocate of industrial unionism and a tireless champion of the working class.

Born in 1855 in Terre Haute, Indiana, Debs was introduced to the plight of the working man as a fireman on the railroad. He organized firemen in 1875, was elected city clerk of Terre Haute in 1883 and member of the Indiana House in 1885. In 1893 Debs formed the American Railway Union (ARU) and in 1894, as its leader, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars due to the Pullman Company's unfair labor practices. He was jailed for his actions, and his involvement in the Pullman Strike made him famous as a champion of the rights of the common laborer against big business. In 1897 Debs transformed the ARU into the Social Democratic Party of America (later the Socialist Party of America) and ran unsuccessfully for president on its ticket in 1900 and 1904. After helping found the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, Debs ran for president again in 1908 and 1912. In 1907 Debs moved to Girard, Kansas, to work on the Socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason, but he never sold his Terre Haute home and he was constantly touring and giving speeches. In 1916, instead of trying another Presidential campaign, Debs accepted the editorship of another Socialist newspaper, the Rip-Saw. Debs' vehement opposition to U.S. entry into World War I secured him a jail term for violation of the Espionage Act, and in 1920 from the Atlanta prison, he ran for president for the last time. Released in 1921 by President Warren Harding, Debs spent the rest of his life lecturing and writing. He died in Elmhurst, Illinois in 1926.

Professor of speech and performing arts at Indiana State University and at Northeastern Illinois University, Debs biographer, and author.

Dr. Brommel began his study of Eugene V. Debs in 1959 when he moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, to teach at Indiana State University. He interviewed people who knew Debs, and started to collect pamphlets and other source materials by and about Debs, both in Terre Haute, and at repositories holding Debs material, such as the Rand School of Labor in New York City (later transferred to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University). In Terre Haute he established an acquaintanceship with Marguerite Debs Cooper, the daughter of Theodore Debs, and Eugene V. Debs' niece and last surviving relative.Through this close association, he was able to gather materials for the Debs Foundation (which he helped establish) and to gain access to sources previously unseen by other Debs biographers. He also worked with Ms. Cooper to establish the Debs Collection at Indiana State University in 1967. His book Eugene V. Debs: Spokesman for Labor and Socialism (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co., 1978), is the result of his years of research.

Correspondence, research materials, articles, clippings, pamphlets, publications, works, photographs, and microfilm relating to Eugene V. Debs and to writing and publishing Brommel's biography of Debs.

The first part of the collection is material assembled by Brommel for the writing of articles and the book on Debs. This includes correspondence with people (most notably author and Socialist Upton Sinclair) and repositories with Debs materials, with publishers to find a means to publish the book, research notes (consisting of photocopies of original letters and documents, handwritten and typewritten notes, and typed and handwritten transcripts of Debs speeches and newspaper articles), and collected transcripts and letters of contacts' personal recollections of Debs, focusing on his style of giving speeches. This section also includes materials relating to the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, with which Brommel was involved, and the Foundation's activities in opening Debs' Terre Haute home as a museum and resource center. Brommel's dissertation, manuscript for the book, and assorted articles are at the end of this section.

The second grouping of materials are primary sources about Debs himself, including correspondence, works, and miscellanea. Essays by Debs printed in brochures, pamphlets, and newspapers during his life were collected by Brommel, and because of Brommel's close association with Debs' niece Marguerite Debs Cooper, these materials may have been once owned by Debs himself. This group includes an interesting letter to Theodore Debs from Bartolomeo Vanzetti, of the infamous Sacco-Vanzetti case, written two months before Sacco and Vanzetti were executed by electric chair on August 23, 1927. The collection also contains photographs, both originals and photoreproductions, many of which were reproduced in Brommel's book.

The third grouping of materials contains correspondence, photographs, datebooks, and professional documents pertaining to the life and career of Brommel. This grouping contains extensive correspondence between Brommel and his former school teacher beginning in 1958, Grace Laird. Laird taught for decades in Iowa and maintained a strong friendship with Brommel and an interest in his career. They remained in close contact until her death in 1991. Collection also contains Laird's biographical information, diaries, and diplomas.

There are also three appendices attached to this guide: The first is a list of 5 microfilm reels Brommel obtained of Debs scrapbooks (clippings and correspondence), the originals of which are owned by New York University, Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. The second is a list of 76 books and booklets that came in with the collection, and are cataloged separately and available in the Newberry Library under their specific call numbers (see the Newberry online catalog for access). The third appendix is a list of 23 books and booklets already owned by the Newberry Library and deaccessioned (call numbers for the books owned by the Newberry are indicated).

Materials arranged alphabetically.

  • Names
    • American Railway Union.
    • Cooper, Marguerite Debs
    • Curry, Mabel Dunlop
    • Day, Dorothy, 1897-1980
    • Debs, Eugene V., (Eugene Victor), 1855-1926
    • Debs, Theodore, 1864-1945
    • Eugene V. Debs Foundation.
    • Hillquit, Morris, 1869-1933
    • Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899
    • Laird, Grace, 1891-1991
    • O'Hare, Kate Richards, 1877-1948
    • Oneal, James, b. 1875
    • Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968
    • Socialist Party of the United States of America.
    • Stokes, Rose Pastor, 1879-1933
    • Vanzetti, Bartolomeo, 1888-1927
  • Subject
    • Chicago
    • Labor laws and legislation -- United States
    • Labor unions -- United States
    • Manuscripts, American -- Illinois -- Chicago
    • Prison reformers -- United States
    • Social Action
    • Socialists -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources