History & Description
The Tamiment Library was originally founded in 1906 as part of the Rand School for Social Science, a pioneering workers education school sponsored by the American Socialist Society. In 1917 the school moved to 7 East 15th Street near Union Square where it remained for almost fifty-five years. The Rand School was modeled after the Socialist People's Houses in Europe and it soon became a cultural and educational center for the Left in New York.
The Library was named the Meyer London Library after the long-time Socialist who represented the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Teachers included Scott Nearing and Betrand Russell, who lost teaching positions because of their political beliefs. Charles and Mary Beard were also members of the faculty.
In the early years of the twentieth century the Rand School Library was one of the few repositories in the country collecting materials relating to the history of labor and socialism. The Library actively solicited books, periodicals, pamphlets, and archival material describing the history of the labor and progressive movements. Many of the early leaders of the Socialist Party like Eugene Debs, J.B.S. Hardman, Meyer London, and Harry Laidler donated collections of papers to the Library.
In addition to supporting the teaching programs of the Rand School, the Meyer London Library provided research materials that the New York labor movement needed for contract negotiations, grievances, and arbitration proceedings. It also offered shop steward training, public lectures, theatre and musical productions.
The Rand School and its Meyer London Library were often harassed and attacked by police and state troopers. In 1919 over 75 law enforcement officers, under the auspices of the New York State Lusk Committee, raided the school, seizing documents and library materials that were never returned.
After World War II when many returning soldiers began to take advantage of the G.I. Bill of Rights to finance their college educations, the Rand School fell on hard times as enrollments dropped dramatically. In 1956 Camp Tamiment, a socialist summer camp in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, purchased the Rand School and its library. It closed the school and attempted to integrate its educational and cultural programs into the Tamiment Institute. The Library was renamed the Ben Josephson Library.
In 1963 New York University acquired the Library. In 1977, the Tamiment Institute, New York University, and the New York City Central Labor Council founded the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives in order to preserve the historical records of the New York City labor movement. With the support of Harry Van Arsdale, president of the Central Labor Council, the Wagner became the designated repository of the Central Labor Council's member unions and affiliated organizations.
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