• IdentificationMidwest MS Kerr
  • TitleInventory of the Charles H. Kerr Company Records, 1885-1999 Midwest.MS.Kerr
  • PublisherThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • RepositoryThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • Physical Description34.0 linear feet (48 boxes, 1 oversize box, and 17 volumes)
  • Date1885-1999
  • Location1 9 4-6, 1 16 3
  • AbstractBusiness records (financial, stock, and customer order files), manuscripts, author information, and publishing, production, and promotion information for the Charles H. Kerr Company, the oldest labor and socialist publishing house in the United States. The collections also includes some information about The Socialist Party, The Proletarian Party, unions, and radical organizations, primarily in the United States.
  • OriginationCharles H. Kerr Company.

Purchase, Beasley Books, Aug. 1985; with subsequent donations.

The Charles H. Kerr Company Records are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

The Charles H. Kerr Company Records 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.

Charles H. Kerr Company Records, The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Martha Briggs, Alison Hinderliter, Pamela Olson, and Monica Petraglia, 2003.

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.

The Charles H. Kerr Company, founded in Chicago in 1886 by Charles Hope Kerr, is the oldest labor and socialist publishing house in the United States. It is best known for its editions of radical classics; it was the first publisher to bring out the three volumes of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital in English, and published the International Socialist Review since its inception in 1900. Other authors whose books or contributions were published by Kerr include such well-known radical and socialist thinkers as Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, Jack London, Mary E. Marcy, Joe Hill, Clarence Darrow, Sen Katayama, Antonio Labriola, V.I. Lenin, Friedrich Engels, Leon Trotsky, Carl Sandburg, Ralph Chaplin, and Arturo M. Giovannitti.

Charles H. Kerr began his career in publishing in 1883 as an assistant editor and business manager for Unity, a monthly journal for the Western Unitarian Conference. By 1886, the interests of the Unity venture were transferred to the brand new Charles H. Kerr & Company. The new company expanded in the 1880's and 1890's to include the publication of other Unitarian-related literature, and expanded yet again at the turn of the century to start publishing populist, reform, socialist, communist, and other radical literature. When Charles Kerr retired in 1928 he left the company to be handled by John Keracher, who had been a Kerr Company board member since 1924, had been active in the past in socialist, communist, and Marxist organizations, and who was also one of the founders of the Proletarian Party. Keracher combined offices of the Kerr Company and of the Proletarian Party, and that practice was continued by his successor, Al Wysocki, when he assumed the management around 1953. The company nearly went out of existence in the late 1960's, and due to Wysocki's age and failing health, he transferred the company over to four men in 1971: Fred Thompson, Burton Rosen, Virgil Vogel, and Irving Abrams. Virgil Vogel resigned in 1973, and Joe Giganti replaced him. Burton Rosen, who was secretary and did the bulk of the day-to-day operations and office tasks, retired in 1983 and handed over operations and management to Franklin and Penelope Rosemont, who run the company to this day.

Author contracts and manuscripts, correspondence, minutes of stockholder and board of directors' meetings, subscription lists, book order information, stockholder information, photographs, clippings, printed material, and some artwork. Notable pre-1920 records include photographs (many published in the International Socialist Review) of well-known radicals, and of strike activity mainly in the United States.

The Proletarian Party's and Kerr Company’s records were searched by U.S. government agencies during the Palmer Raids of 1918-1921, and it is believed that many records were seized or destroyed at that time. The fate of the majority of records during the 1930's and early to mid-1940's is undetermined; the remaining records sold to the Newberry are primarily dating from the late 1940's forward.

Papers are organized in the following series:

Title Box Series 1: Corporate Records, 1886-1999 Boxes 1-7 Series 2: Financial Records, 1890-1983 Boxes 1-6; Volumes 1-17 Series 3: Author Files, 1885-1999 Boxes 1-10 Series 4: Order Files, 1912-1999; bulk 1945-1999 Boxes 1-17 Series 5: Book Production/Promotion Records, 1894-1998 Boxes 1-8

  • Names
    • Abrams, Irving S., 1891-1980
    • Charles H. Kerr Company.
    • Debs, Eugene V., (Eugene Victor), 1855-1926
    • Engels, Friedrich, 1820-1895
    • Giganti, Joe
    • Industrial Workers of the World.
    • Keracher, John
    • Kerr Company.
    • Kerr, Charles H., b. 1860
    • Proletarian Party (U.S.).
    • Rosemont, Franklin
    • Rosemont, Penelope
    • Rosen, Burton
    • Socialist Party of the United States of America.
    • Thompson, Fred, 1900-1987
    • Vogel, Virgil J.
    • Wysocki, Al
  • Subject
    • Business
    • Chicago
    • Manuscripts, American -- Illinois -- Chicago
    • Publishers and publishing -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
    • Publishing Industry -- United States -- Records and correspondence
    • Social Action
    • Socialism -- 20th century