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Socialist Labor Party Records

Call Number



1879-1900, inclusive


Socialist Labor Party


1 Linear Feet in 1 manuscript box, 1 half manuscript box, and 2 folders.

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


The Socialist Labor Party (SLP), was founded in 1877. By the early 1890s, its moderate leadership was ousted by a militant group headed by Daniel De Leon that advocated revolutionary unionism and independent political action for an immediate revolutionary conversion to an industrial democracy, and that foreswore alliances with other groups to achieve reform measures. The decline of the SLP dates from the winter of 1900 when a group of moderates, led by Morris Hillquit, split from the party and gathered in Rochester, New York, for a special convention and adopted a more gradualist, reform-oriented program. Eventually Hillquit and his followers joined the Social Democratic Party in organizing the Socialist Party of America in 1901. The collection contains forty subject files, of which 32 pertain to SLP state chapters, 7 to the national organization, with one miscellaneous file. The files contain minutes, correspondence, circular letters, articles, lists, and financial papers. The bulk of the materials pertain to the factional conflict between the De Leon and Hillquit groupings.

Historical Note

The Socialist Labor Party (SLP), founded in 1877, was the first significant American socialist organization. It was also one of the most important organizations in the early socialist period because its history of internal conflicts set the pattern for the factionalist tendencies that later plagued the Socialist Party.

For the first 15 years known as the Socialistic Labor Party (more commonly known by its German title, Sozialistische Arbeiter Partei), the SLP was hampered by numerous struggles between various ideological factions. The conservative group, who were disciples of socialist theoretician Ferdinand Lassalle, were committed to a purely political program. Although they managed to retain control of the party organization until 1889 and, during this period, were even able to support several non socialist movements like the Greenback movement of 1880 and Henry George's "Single Tax" campaign in 1886, they were able to do so only within the context of bitter internal struggles.

During the 1890s, the radical element in the party purged the Lassallean wing and entered upon the most aggressive and successful period of the SLP's history. Much of the party's success at this time was due to the leadership of Daniel De Leon. Under De Leon's supervision, the SLP was transformed into a doctrinaire Marxian movement. It repudiated both its own earlier tendency to political reformism and also the type of trade union activity practiced by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). In its place, the SLP developed a revolutionary program of militant trade unionism and political action. In opposition to the AFL, De Leon and the SLP organized the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance in 1895 and participated in the formation of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. After 1894, the SLP also withdrew from all progressive and populist movements and dedicated itself to a program which advocated immediate revolutionary conversion to an industrial democracy.

The decline of the SLP dates from the winter of 1900 when a group of moderates, led by Morris Hillquit, split from the party and gathered in Rochester, New York, for a special convention to determine an alternative socialist program. Known as the "Kangaroos", Hillquit's faction not only resented the autocratic and dogmatic discipline imposed by De Leon, but they advocated a more conservative socialist program which consisted of support for the AFL's craft union policy and a gradualistic approach toward achieving a socialist state in America. Eventually Hillquit and his followers joined the Social Democratic Party in organizing the Socialist Party of America in 1901. Following the withdrawal of the "Kangaroos" and De Leon's death in 1914, the SLP's decline accelerated to the point in which its principal activity, for many years, was restricted to agitation of a purely educational nature.


The folders are arranged topically and chronologically.

Scope and Contents

The Socialist Labor Party Papers, 1879-1900, consist of 40 subject files, many of which pertain to SLP state chapters. Each subject file has been assigned a frame number. A list of these subject files can be found in the complete reel list that follows this description of the arrangement of the collection. In the representative frame number III:4, the number 4 indicates that this is the 4th frame, while the numeral III indicates that the SLP Papers are the third collection within the microfilm set Socialist Collections in the Tamiment Library, 1872-1956. The researcher should also note that an error was made in the targeting for this collection. On each frame, the word "Series" appears adjacent to the frame number. This term should actually be interpreted as "Collection".

The first seven files pertain to the records of the national headquarters and the New York City local. These files include minutes, correspondence, circular letters, articles, lists, and financial papers. These files as well as the items within the files have been arranged in chronological order. Of special interest in these files are the Central Committee (III:l) and Grievance Committee (111:4) minutes of the New York City local. There are also several items from the National Board of Appeals of the SLP (111:5). This committee was established for the purpose of ruling on various grievances made by party members. This file primarily consists of correspondence from Robert Bandlow, the Board's secretary, to Henry Slobodkin, the acting national secretary of the SLP.

There are 32 files pertaining to SLP state chapters in this collection. The largest files in this part of the collection pertain to state chapters in California (III:10), Connecticut (111:12), Illinois (111:14), Massachusetts (111:21), New Jersey (111:27), and New York (111:28). Most of the other state chapters have relatively small files. The state chapter files are arranged in alphabetical order according to the name of the state. The only exception to this order are the papers of the District of Columbia local which follow the Maryland chapter papers (111:20). Items within each chapter file have been arranged in chronological order, with undated items placed at the end of the file. Each state file is cited in the complete reel list. The number enclosed in parentheses at the end of each state's entry in the complete reel list indicates the total number of items for that particular state.

The contents of the state chapter files primarily relate to the SLP conflict between the "Kangaroos" and De Leon's supporters. The material pertaining to this conflict is quite informative and offers the scholar a unique insight into how the various chapters and regions of the country reacted to this particular event. Other items within these files which reflect routine chapter business include grievance reports, financial reports, information about SLP publications, applications for new local chapters, resolutions, and general correspondence.

There are approximately 13 miscellaneous items located at the end of the collection (111:40). These items are arranged in chronological order and pertain to routine SLP operations.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Tamiment Library has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Materials in this collection, which were created in 1879-1900, are expected to enter the public domain in 2021.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Socialist Labor Party Records; TAM 056.003; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Location of Materials

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least two business days prior to your research visit to coordinate access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Rand School Archives, 1963. The accession number associated with this material is 1962.005.

Materials found in repository in 2018; provenance is unknown. The accession number associated with this material is 2018.030.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Due to the fragile nature of the original materials, researchers must use the microfilmed version; microfilm call number is Film R-7124, Reel 4.

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

Socialist Party (U.S.) Minutes (TAM 056.006)

Socialist Minute Books (TAM 056.001)

Socialist collections in the Tamiment Library, 1872-1956 : a guide to the microfilm edition (Sanford, N.C. : Microfilming Corp. of America, c1979), 181 p.

Collection processed by

Tamiment Staff

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:48:31 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

Decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2019 are unknown. In 2019, materials were rehoused in new acid-free folders and boxes in preparation for offsite storage.

Revisions to this Guide

March 2019: Updated by Amy C. Vo for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from SLP Guide

Note Statement

Finding Aid


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