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Arthur H. Landis Oral History Collection

Call Number



1963-1965, inclusive


Landis, Arthur H., 1917-1986


6 Linear Feet

General Physical Description note

(71 1/4" reel-to-reel tapes and 89 audiocassettes)

Language of Materials

English .


Arthur H. Landis (1917-1986) went to Spain in 1937 as a volunteer with the 15th International Brigade and fought with the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion. In 1967, Landis wrote The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a general history of American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, and later published Spain! The Unfinished Revolution, about the political complexities of the war. The Landis collection of audiotapes consists primarily of interviews with American Spanish Civil War veterans conducted in the 1960s as part of his research for The Abraham Lincoln Brigade. A few miscellaneous tapes recorded for other purposes are also included.

Historical/Biographical Note

Arthur H. Landis (1917-1986) went to Spain in 1937 to join the 15th International Brigade; he served with the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion, as an American volunteer in what became a predominantly Canadian unit. In 1967, Landis wrote The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a general history of American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, and later published Spain! The Unfinished Revolution, about the political complexities of the war.

The Arthur H. Landis Oral History Collection is comprised primarily of approximately 100 hours of audio-taped recordings of American veterans of the Spanish Civil War. The original 1/4" tapes were created between 1963 and 1965 as part of the research for Landis's The Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) associates around the country, alone and in small groups, recorded their memories of battles and day-to-day activities in which they had participated.

The idea of audio-taping veterans first occurred to Landis in April of 1963, and by August 1964 the project was gathering steam. On August 10th Landis sent a letter to VALB associate Donald Thayer in San Francisco detailing the information that he was seeking from SCW veterans. Thayer excerpted Landis's letter in a general mailing to VALB members, requesting that they make their own audiotapes, in which they were to supply detailed information about their battalions, units, firepower, orders received, positions occupied, nature of attacks, terrain conditions, day-to-day positions, casualties and prisoners, wins and losses, "human-interest vignettes," promotions or substitutions, and related information. Landis emphasized that he still badly needed information on Aragon, Teruel, the Retreats, and the Ebro. A decade after the research was completed, Landis recalled that the tapes contained the "detailed examination of American brigade and battalion involvement in a particular battle or series of battles in a particular campaign, and/or the structure, personnel and participation in action of a unit such as transport, artillery, the American Medical Bureau, etc." At least 20 of the tapings were not personally attended by Landis, but were produced according to his explicit instructions. Veterans Steve Nelson and Donald Thayer conducted a handful of the interviews. After Landis completed a draft of the book, veterans in VALB's New York office met and recorded their suggestions for changes (tapes ALBA A 66-2 and ALBA A 66-36).

Landis's research project stimulated intense interest among VALB members. Donald Thayer reported that when he played a tape made for Landis by a veteran for a group of VALB members, it stirred in the vets "all of the memories of the Brigade years."

Responding to a comment in 1977 by veteran Randall "Pete" Smith that Landis had downplayed the involvement of a fellow SCW veteran in his book, Landis recounted in a detailed letter the way in which veterans had been notified about the project, charging the New York VALB office with neglecting to invite the participation of a number of vets.

In the late sixties, Landis tried to interest the VALB leadership in funding a project to preserve the audiotapes, and later proposed a project that went beyond preservation. He explained his reasons for wanting to embark on this project in a 1974 letter to Brandeis University Special Collections Librarian Victor Berch, arguing that "new tapes [should] be made--and quickly, before the rest of us die off." Landis further proposed to "edit and re-tape" the tapes he had of vets who had already died. This project does not appear to have been carried out. But in the 1980s the reel-to-reel tapes were copied to audiocassettes.

For further biographical information on Arthur Landis, and for more information on the audiotape project see, Arthur H. Landis Papers, ALBA #66.


Each tape has been assigned a unique item number (i.e., ALBA A 48-11), and the collection is arranged in item number order. In general, the tapes are arranged alphabetically by the first name mentioned in the caption.

Entries in the reel-to-reel item lists indicate whether there is a CD reference copy and/or audiocassette copies. The reference CDs are numbered to correspond with the reel-to-reel numbers (followed by an "R") and are stored separately. Cassette copies are numbered ALBA A 66-72 through ALBA A 66-160 and are arranged numerically and stored separately.

The files are organized in 2 series:

Missing Title

  1. I, Reel-to-Reel Tapes, Book Project, 1963-1965.
  2. II, Miscellaneous Reel-to-Reel Tapes, 1945-1970.

Scope and Content Note

For the audiotape project Landis provided veterans with a demo tape (ALBA A 66-038) that "gave the outline structure of the book and a detailed explanation of his desire to give adequate attention to all phases of the war which Americans participated in, from ambulance drivers to the commando zealots." Further, Landis stressed: "material for taping [should] be put in chronological order to avoid a time-consuming play-back," that veterans "make notes before making the tape," and "tape at a speed of 3-1/4." Members were told that they could use their own tape recorders, or that VALB would loan out both a recorder and tapes.

The tapes were not professionally recorded, nor were the sessions conducted as conventional oral histories. Consequently, the sound quality varies from tape to tape, and veterans at times do not identify themselves or provide many autobiographical details. The focus is on their day-by-day participation in the Spanuish Civil War.

Series I: Reel-to-Reel Tapes. Book Project, 1963-1965, contains individual and group interviews conducted in the course of research for Arthur Landis's book, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade , and one demo tape produced by Landis.

Series II: Miscellaneous Reel-to-Reel Tapes, 1945-1970, consists mostly of interviews with Spanish Civil War veterans, some commenting on Landis's published work, and music tapes, several of which feature singer (and veteran) Bart Van der Schelling singing songs of the Spanish Civil War. Van der Schelling is pictured with Paul Robeson and Arthur Landis, among others, in a photograph in the Arthur H. Landis Photo Collection.

The availability of CD reference copies and audiocassettes copies in indicated in the entries for individual items. Reel-to-reel tapes labeled "not transferable" in the descriptions were damaged or posed other serious problems that prevented transferring them to CD.


Access Restrictions

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information and to schedule an appointment, or 212-998-2630.

Use Restrictions

The Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Copyrights held by original creators of individual items in the collection are expected to pass into the public domain 70 years after the creator's death. For more information, please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, or 212-998-2630.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.


The Arthur H. Landis Oral History Collection was donated to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives by Arthur H. Landis in the early 1980s. The collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University. The audiotapes in the Arthur H. Landis Collection were separated from the Arthur H. Landis Papers at the time of processing.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access CDs for audiovisual materials in the collection are available by appointment for reading room viewing and listening only.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

ALBA collections at the Tamiment Library.

Arthur H. Landis Papers (ALBA 66)

Arthur H. Landis Photograph Collection (ALBA Photo 66)

Collection processed by

Wendy Scheir, June 2004; Gail Malmgreen, 2012

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-06-13 10:47:45 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Processing Information

Decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2022 are unknown. In 2022, a student worker edited the titles and top container numbers for two boxes of audiocassettes.

Revisions to this Guide

November 2022: Edited by Maddie DeLaere to update titles and top containers for select audiocassettes.
May 2024: Updated by Olivija Liepa to reflect that audio materials are digitized and accessible to patrons.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from Landis ALBA Audio 66 New


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012