Workers World

Notes regarding Workers World 1919 Kansas City MO generally, and specifically the digital archive I have produced of the Columbia University microfilm of Workers World 1919.

by Marty Goodman, 9 April 2011

As best I can at this time ascertain, the only near complete microfilm record of Workers World Kansas City MO 1919 is on a microfilm made by Columbia University in the 1950's.

On line catalogs suggest that there exist at this time only two positive use prints available. One at the Wisconsin Historical Society (confirmed to be the Columbia film by personal communication with John A. Friend), and the other at Columbia University. Emily Holmes, assistant director of preservation at Columia's Butler Library, has informed me she is unable to find Columbia's master negative of this film.

Tamiment library has a 35mm roll film (R7186 in Tamiment's numbering) that pops up is you search BobCat at NYU. I viewed this record. The roll is almost entirely records of The Communist and Truth. In the middle is a record of a single 8 page issue (number 25) of Workers World 1919. The original for this records was in extremely bad condition, with many pages in fragmentary shape.

I cannot find a listing at Hatcher / Labadie library.

No Greenwood or other reprint of this material is known to exist.

Originals are scarce.

Syracuse University Library, which has the Earl Browder papers, is listed as having two original issues of Workers World.

It is possible (tho I hope it is NOT so!) that my own personal collection of 13 rather good condition originals is the largest single existing holding of this periodical today.


Regarding numbering of Workers World 1919 Kansas City MO:

There is the following oddity in the numbering of Workers World 1919: July 4 is No. 14. However, July 11 is ALSO numbered No. 14. July 18 is then numbered No 15. But July 25 is numbered No. 17.

Thus, there is no No. 16, and two No. 14's.

I know this for a fact, for I have in my possession originals of all July issues of Workers World 1919.

The Columbia University microfilm was labeled "Incomplete". This indeed is so: It is missing both issue No. 11 (which unfortunately is not in my collection, or any other I currently know of) and also the second No. 14, July 11 (which I do have in my personal collection). The Columbia film has a total of 33 issues of Workers World on it.

There were a total of 35 issues published of Workers World published between April 4 and November 28, 1919. Between the digital record of this microfilm and my personal collection of originals, I have records of 34 of them now.


Regarding the scanning of the Columbia Microfilm: I scanned each of 33 four page (original page broadsheet size) microfilm records at Columbia University, using their new ScanPro 2000 microfilm scanner. Ms. Emily Holmes informed me Columbia University had no reservations with my either scanning the issues or distributing the scans. Note that I informed her that I / The Riazanov Library would be distributing the scans free of charge to those interested among research libraries, researchers, and the workers movement, and anyone else interested.

The originals photographed for the microfilm were generally in very good condition. Numbers 34 and 35 did have some notable damage: 34 missing a chunk out of the top corner of the sheet on which was printed pages 1 and 2, and 35 missing some small triangular pieces in the vicinity of its vertical centerfold. But overall the vast majority... at the 98% level at least, I'd speculate... of the text was present and readable.

The positive use copy of the microfilm itself was in superlative physical shape. It appeared it had seldom been in a reader. There were nearly no scratches, and few other physical flaws to the film. [I personally advised both the Wisconsin Historical Society and Columbia University to duplicate that use positive film, given the original negative appears to be lost and those two copies may be the only record remaining.]

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the technical quality of the photography of the originals in making the microfilm was execrable. Though from what I'm told, such shoddy work was common in the 1950's, before standards for making microfilms were well established.

When photographed, the pages were not flattened by either frames or glass. The lighting was poorly set up. As a result, the top of each page tended to be very brightly lit, and the bottom dark, with added shadows around creases and other unevenness in the paper. Text in many cases was almost (not quite, but durn near) lost in the shadows toward the bottom of some pages.

Normally I prefer to create our digital records of old text-only or mostly text-only newspapers using 300 dpi, black and white (single bit) scans. However, given limitations in rendering contrast, I could not use single bit scans for this record, and had to resort to gray scale to preserve visible text over the full range of the film. Also, because I was not sure whether I'd have access to this rare film again, I used 600 dpi instead of my accustomed 300 dpi for rendering newspapers. This decision was influenced by the fact that each issue was only 4 pages, and there were only 33 four page records. The resulting .pdf scans occupied roughly 3.5 to 4.0 megabytes of file space for each issue. This is big for a 4 page newspapers, but easily manageable with today's massive storage capacities. It will of course be even less of a problem in the future, as cost of storage goes down, and size of storage on a given media goes up exponentially.


Regarding the historical significance of Workers World Kansas City MO 1919:

Workers World 1919 is of interest just because it was an important paper of the left wing of the Socialist Party at the time just before that left wing split out to form the Communist Party late in 1919. In this, it is similar to a number of other such papers from that period, such as Revolutionary Age and Ohio Socialist.

What makes Workers World of special interest is this:

Issue No. 14 July 4, and Issue No. 14 July 11 (this second issue 14 is in my collection of originals, though not represented on the Columbia microfilm scans) state the chief editor is Earl Browder. Browder, I believe, was the chief editor prior to this, though is not specifically credited.

However, starting with issue number 15, July 18, the chief editor is listed as his then comrade James P. Cannon (!!). I am told Browder was jailed, so Cannon took over the job of chief editor.

As readers of this note probably know well, both Browder and Cannon went on to be important founding members of the Communist Party at the end of 1919. Then, nine years later, they became mortal enemies (and remained so ever after), with Browder being the leader of the Stalinized Communist Party, and Cannon becoming the founder of the American Trotskyist movement, first as leader of the Communist League of America (Opposition), then co-leader of the fused Workers Party, and finally in 1938 as founder and leader of the SWP.

Inventory of Originals in my personal collection as of the date of these notes:

Workers World
Vol 1, 1919


No. Date
----- -----
3 April 18
7 May 16
12 June 20
14 July 4
14* July 11 (* should be No. 15 ?)
15* July 18 (* should be No. 16 ?)
17 July 25
18 August 1
21 August 21
22 August 29
23 September 5
24 September 12
25 September 19
26 September 26