About the Cartoons

Labor History Series

The Fred Wright “Labor History” cartoon series first appeared in the UE News from 1956 to 1961.  These cartoons were a collaboration of Wright, the UE staff cartoonist, and James Lerner, a photographer and reporter for the newspaper.  An expanded version of the series ran in the UE News beginning in April 1970 while Lerner was editor of the newspaper. 

This series of 177 cartoons describes some of the conflicts and hardships faced by workers during the American labor movement, from the colonial period to the Vietnam War.  The series was designed to illustrate these historical events chronologically. While the drawings are not Wright's typical "cartoony" style when compared to his other cartoons, they exhibit the range of his artistic talent.  When published, each cartoon consisted of three cells accompanied by a caption. 

Each cartoon within the series was numbered 1 thru 175 and published in this order in the bi-weekly UE News, although some issues within the time period did not have a Labor History series cartoon.  While these images mostly depict cartoons from the expanded 1970-1977 version of the series, a few cartoons appeared only in the 1956-1961 version and the publication date reflects this distinction.

These specific digital images are of publication plates, or cut and paste pages, used by Wright to layout a proof of his original cartoon and the text that would be published.  They represent the first creative step in which Wright's cartoon was combined with Lerner's text in order to tell the story of the American labor movement.  These plates then served as a template to create a metal printing plate that would be used by the UE News to print the cartoon.

The Labor History series is part of the Fred Wright Papers, 1953-1986 (UE 13), which belongs to the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) collection held by the Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh. This record group contains a variety of cartoons and layouts designed by Fred Wright, including original drawings for the UE News and other UE publications at the national, district, and local levels.  Also present are publication plates, which are page layouts for UE pamphlets, books, and multi-panel cartoons.