Lieberman, Elias. Manuscripts.

Collection Number: 6036/001

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library


Lieberman, Elias. Manuscripts.,
Collection Number:
Lieberman, Elias
1 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Articles, manuscripts.
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
The collection contains the unbound manuscripts of Elias Liberman, including "The Changing Images of American Trade Unionism: A Threat to Labor and a Challenge to the Statesmen of Labor," "A Portrait of Seventh Avenue: Events and Human-Interest Stories of, by, and about the Garment Center in New York City," "The Mysterious Disappearance of Juliet or A Lady Communist Vanishes (A True Story)," and "A Portrait of a Leader: A True Labor Story of a Man and an Era."
Collection material in English


Founded in 1900 by local union delegates representing about 2,000 members in cities in the northeastern United States, the ILGWU grew in geographical scope, membership size, political influence to become one of the most powerful forces in American organized labor by mid-century. Representing workers in the women's garment industry, the ILGWU worked to improve working and living conditions of its members through collective bargaining agreements, training programs, health care facilities, cooperative housing, educational opportunities, and other efforts. In 1995, the ILGWU merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) to form the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE).


Elias Lieberman had a long history and career with the ILGWU. Born on November 10, 1888, he came from Russia in 1909. He was the deputy clerk of Local 25 from 1913-1916 and the chief clerk from 1916-1917. Lieberman was the chairman of the union's Educational Committee in 1917, and from 1918-1920, he was with the publication department of the International. Afterwards, he became an attorney and counsel for the ILGWU until the 1960s. Lieberman was a member of the New York and Federal Bar, was counsel for not only the ILGWU, but also the United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers' International Union, the International Jewelry Workers' Union, Local 1, the United Furniture Workers of America, the International Ladies Handbag, Pocketbook and Novelty Workers' Union and other labor organizations. In addition, Lieberman wrote on many aspects of the law and labor including "The Collective Labor Agreement: How to Negotiate and Draft the Contract" (1939) and "Unions Befor the Bar: Historic Trials Showing the Evolution of Labor Rights in the United States" (1950). Lieberman died in October 1969.


The collection contains the unpublished manuscripts of Elias Lieberman. As a lawyer, Lieberman's manuscripts often involve legal matters, including trials, testimonies and transcripts. But with Lieberman's lengthy involvement with the ILGWU, the historical accounts are not merely reports of proceedings, but personal eye witness narratives that provide additional insight into the union and garment industry.
"The Changing Images of American Trade Unionism: A Threat to Labor and a Challenge to the Statesmen of Labor," at twenty seven typed pages, discusses the varying view of organized labor and labor leaders with sections entitled "The Image of the Helpless Worker," "The Image of the Union as the Underdog," "The Image of the Rightless," "The Image of Idealism," "The Image of Protection," "The Threat to Labor," "The Challenge," "Guilt by Classification," "A Moral Force of Labor," and "Will the Challenge be Met."
"A Portrait of Seventh Avenue: Events and Human-Interest Stories of, by, and about the Garment Center in New York City" is comprised of stories about the people and historic events of 7th Avenue, focusing on human interest accounts about the manufacturers, contractors and workers. Also included is information on the garment industry and its progress in labor- management relations, including the establishment of industry "courts" to settle disputes between unions and employers. The manuscript focuses on those "courts" and the stories that arose from firsthand knowledge and personal interviews, and while based on fact, the author took the liberty to polish facts and change names. The short stories often center around a particular individual or event, sometimes recounted through a crime, arbitration or court trial. Lieberman presents pressers, contractors, shop owners, machine operators, all having personal stories that paint a broad picture of the garment industry.
"The Mysterious Disappearance of Juliet or A Lady Communist Vanishes (A True Story)," focuses on the disappearance of Mrs. Julia S. Glaser, also known as Miss Juliet Stuart Poyntz. Lieberman had been representing Poyntz in Surrogate's Court in connection with her late husband's estate. Poyntz first became involved with the garment industry and the union when she was hired as the first educational director of the Dressmakers' Union (at the behest of Morris Hillquit), in which she developed a program for adult labor education, set up lecture series by professors, and organized dancing and recreation classes. She also launched some of the early cooperative housing initiatives for the young and unmarried immigrant girls of the union, and the concept of "unity houses" soon expanded into vacation retreats, whose popularity led to the union's purchase of the Unity House summer resort in the Poconos. After much success instituting programs, Poyntz was offered the position of Education Director of the ILGWU. Lieberman's history with Poyntz dates back to her time with the ILGWU as he headed the union's Committee on Education which provided the approval for her educational plans and programs. She was last seen on June 5, 1937 and missing for four months before a friend of Poyntz informed Lieberman that the American Woman's Club, where she had been staying, contacted her to inquire about the unpaid rent. Lieberman initially performed a private investigation before contacting police. Poyntz was active in the Communist Party and became the head of the Women's Department of the CPUSA. She also worked for the Soviet Secret Police. From his personal knowledge of Poyntz and involvement in the case, Lieberman discusses Poyntz's history, the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, and the many theories that circulated regarding her vanishing.
The unbound manuscript pages for "A Portrait of a Leader: A True Labor Story of a Man and an Era" tells the story of Morris Sigman, president of the ILGWU from 1923-1928. The account begins with the death of Herman Liebowitz in July 1910. Liebowitz, a strikebreaker during the Great Revolt of 1910, was found beaten to death on a New York sidewalk. Four years later, Morris Sigman, Morris Stupnicker, and Solomon Metz were arrested for his murder. After being released on bail, the case was continually adjourned month after month until on May 11, 1915, Sigman, Stupnicker, and Metz were rearrested along with Julius Woolf, Abraham Weidiger, Max D. Singer, Isidore Asphitz and Louis Holzer, and charged with the murder of Liebowitz. In September, the charges against Holzer were dismissed, and the "Trial of the Seven Cloakmakers" began September 23, 1915 in New York Supreme Court with Assistant ADA Lucien S. Breckinridge and DA Charles A. Perkins, and Morris Hillquit who served as the defense attorney. The trial ended in a not guilty verdict and the manuscript provides an eyewitness account of the events, even providing word for word accounts of the court room, including opening statements, witness questioning and testimony, and closing arguments.
The manuscript also offers a complete account on the history of the ILGWU, including such events as the Uprising of 20,000 (1909), the Great Revolt (1910) and the internal struggle within the union and with Dr. Hourwich. But mainly the pages focus on the life of Sigman and his tenure with the union. Detailed is Sigman's early history, including coming to New York and finding work as a presser, his early involvement with the Socialist Labor Party and the IWW, his work to form an independent union of cloak pressers, and his eventual involvement with the ILGWU. Sigman quickly moved up the ranks of the ILGWU holding various positions until his election in 1914 as general secretary-treasurer. Also interspersed is background information on Benjamin Schlesinger, David Dubinsky, and Charles Zimmerman. Particular attention is paid to the tempestuous nature of Sigman's presidency, the behind the scenes internal struggle among the Communists and the union, as well as the internal struggle that ultimately unseated Sigman. During his time as president, an opposition faction existed within the union that sought to change the election of officers to a memorandum vote of the membership after the convention instead of the current practice of election through the majority of present delegates at the convention. Such a change would require a change in the union's constitution. The referendum was rejected and Sigman re-elected president in 1925 while Schlesinger (who was the opposition's choice for the presidency) became a new vice president. As internal tensions continued, Sigman resigned due to differences in principle for the welfare of the union at the general executive board meeting in October 1928. Upon his resignation, Schlesinger became the president of the union for the third time.
The manuscript continues with Sigman's retirement and home life with his wife at their amusement park in Iowa, his health and illnesses, his return to New York to find employment as a presser, and his sudden death on July 19, 1931 from a heart attack. Lieberman intimately documents the life and legacy of Morris Sigman.

Lieberman, Elias, -- b. 1888.
Sigman, Morris.
Poyntz, Juliet.
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

Form and Genre Terms:


Access Restrictions:
Access to the collections in the Kheel Center is restricted. Please contact a reference archivist for access to these materials.
Restrictions on Use:
This collection must be used in keeping with the Kheel Center Information Sheet and Procedures for Document Use.
Cite As:
Lieberman, Elias. Manuscripts. #6036/001. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Related Collections:
5780: ILGWU records


Box 1 Folder 1
Typescript. Pages 1-50.
Box 1 Folder 2
Typescript. Pages 51-100.
Box 1 Folder 3
Typescript. Pages 101-152.
Box 1 Folder 4
Typescript. Pages 153-200.
Box 1 Folder 5
Typescript. Pages 201-250.
Box 1 Folder 6
Typescript. Pages 251-300.
Box 1 Folder 7
Typescript. Pages 301-312.
Box 1 Folder 8
Typescript. Pages 313-353.
Box 1 Folder 9
Typescript. Pages 354-401.
Box 1 Folder 10
Typescript. Pages 402-440.
Box 1 Folder 11
Typescript. Pages 441-490.
Box 1 Folder 12
Typescript. Pages 491-540.
Box 1 Folder 13
Typescript. Pages 541-590.
Box 1 Folder 14
Typescript. Pages 591-622.
Box 2 Folder 1
Typescript. 27 pages.
Box 2 Folder 2
Typescript. 62 pages.
Box 2 Folder 3