Guide to the Chester Alan Arthur Papers, 1911-1962


Sign painter and labor union official of Richmond, Virginia.

Includes information on labor legislation; wages; strikes; employment; labor newspapers; the American Federation of Labor; the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators, and Paperhangers of America; the Sign and Pictorial Painters Local Union #60, especially during the period 1943-1953 when Arthur served as financial secretary; the poll tax, and Virginia gubernatorial, local, and presidential elections of 1945, 1947, and 1952. Correspondents include William Green, Harry F. Byrd, and William Z. Foster.

Descriptive Summary

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Arthur, Chester Alan.
Chester Alan Arthur papers 1911-1962
Language of Material
2.8 Linear Feet, 1,817 Items
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

This collection is rich in labor material of various types. There is information on labor legislation, wages, strikes, employment, and labor newspapers, as well as on the American Federation of Labor and the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators, and Paperhangers of America, with which the Sign and Pictorial Painters Local Union was affiliated. Included also are items relating to the poll tax, Harry F. Byrd, and Virginia elections.

There are only a few letters from 1915 through the 1930s, one of which concerns the Labor Temple in Richmond. The bulk of the correspondence covers the decade from 1943 to 1953, during Arthur's tenure as financial secretary of his union. Some of this correspondence pertains to routine dues matters and to contract arrangements with the General Outdoor Advertising Company, Inc. Campaign letters in 1945 and 1947 concern the gubernatorial and other elections in Virginia, and in 1952 a letter notes labor's endorsement of Adlai Stevenson for President. Other items concern the Taft-Hartley Law, the Taft-Ellender-Wagner Housing Bill, and Labor's League for Political Education, which had a Women's Division. Correspondents include William Green, Harry F. Byrd, and William Z. Foster. In 1953, due to the small number of persons in Local Union 60, its members were transferred to Local Union 1018 of the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators, and Paperhangers of America. Letters in 1962 concern the gift of this collection to Duke University.

Throughout the collection, and continuing in the alphabetical files, are records of the Sign and Pictorial Painters Local. Related headings are Applications for Membership, Bad Checks and Bills, Financial Papers, Headquarters, Monthly Reports, and Personal-Local 60. The relationship of the Local to other labor organizations is shown in the files for the Building Trades Council, the Central Trades and Labor Council, Richmond Labor's League for Political Education, and Virginia Labor's League for Political Education. In the Department of Labor folder are statistics on employment and wages, as well as (Virginia) Department of Labor News bulletins. A large section is the Virginia State Federation of Labor, with information on the poll tax, education, labor legislation, and strikes. Bulletins include (Virginia) Legislative Bulletins and publications of the Communist Party of Virginia and the Virginia League for Peoples Education.

Included in the miscellany are union agreements, a flyer announcing a speech by Hubert Humphrey in 1950, and Communist Party of Virginia items. The clippings are from Virginia newspapers and from labor journals, and concern such issues as the employment of women, wages, and trade unions. A series of cuttings in 1904 are from the column, "Progress and Labor," in the New York Evening Journal.

Printed items include leaflets, pamphlets, broadsides, campaign materials, and labor union forms. Several of these small pamphlets were published by Labor's League for Political Education, and others were written by Philip Murray and by James L. McDevitt. Topics covered include employment, strikes, Virginia legislation, the American Federation of Labor, and social security. There is a run of Political Memo from Cope from 1958 to 1960.

Oversize items include printed materials and clippings from The Square Deal, a newspaper published by the Richmond Central Trades and Labor Council.

Volumes include daybooks for Local Union 60, as well as Treasurer's Cashbooks, 1929-1943, a Minute Book, 1940-1950, and a Roll Book, 1928-1951, all for the Sign and Pictorial Painters Local.

Restrictions on Access & Use

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Series contains correspondence, labor union records, and a collection of labor publications from 1913-1955.

Correspondence, 1939-1962
Box 1
Alphabetical Files, A-B
Box 1
Alphabetical Files, C-O
Box 2
Alphabetical Files, P-Z
Box 3
Printed Volumes
Box 4
Newspaper clippings
(1 folder)
Box 5
Printed material
(2 folders)
Box 5
(1 folder)
Box 5
Handwritten volumes
(7 volumes)
Box 5
Labor-related serials, A-L
Box 6
Labor-related serials, M-Z
Box 7
Folder 1
Box Sec. A OV8
Folder 2
Oversize Folder 2

Historical Note

Chester A. Arthur was a sign painter who was born in northern New York. After taking a correspondence course in lettering and sign painting, he served his apprenticeship in New York City. He traveled and worked in upper New York, Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Memphis, Alabama, and Atlanta, before finally settling in Richmond in about 1911. Arthur was employed by the General Outdoor Advertising Company, Inc., until about 1945, when he formed his own commercial sign company. A member of the labor movement since 1912, he became financial secretary of the Sign and Pictorial Painters Local Union 60 in 1943.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Chester Alan Arthur Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.


The Chester Alan Arthur Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 1965.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein Library staff, 1976

Encoded by Carrie Mills and Meghan Lyon, May 2011

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 1965-0050, 6-5-1976

This collection is minimally processed: materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.