Thomas J. Morgan (1847-1912), a lawyer, socialist, and labor leader, was born in Birmingham, England, and came to Chicago where he became president of the Machinists' Union in 1874. Thereafter, he was active in numerous labor organizations as an official, speaker, and writer as well as a frequent labor and socialist nominee for political office. He represented Chicago's labor organizations on the committee promoting the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. From 1909 to 1911, he issued a weekly publication, The Provoker.
His wife, Elizabeth Chambers Morgan, was also deeply involved in the labor movement. Among other activities, she investigated sweatshop conditions among women workers in Chicago in 1891. She compiled the correspondence and clippings in this collection.
The collection contains letters, pamphlets, posters, reports, minutes of various organizations, speeches, reports of trials, and clippings on all phases of the Morgans' activities and interests, as well as materials on The Provoker. The collection concerns labor organizations and socialism as well as political, social, philosophical and legal subjects. Specifically mentioned in relation to labor are trusts and the anti-trust laws, the unemployment problem, the right to work, the formation of unions and of a labor party, women's suffrage, taxation, and education.
Correspondents include John P. Altgeld, J. Mahlon Barnes, Charles L. Breckon, Eugene Debs, John and Paul Ehmann, G. T. Fraenckel, Samuel Gompers, Mary Harris ("Mother") Jones, E. W. Latchem, R. W. McClaughry, Aaron L. Voorhees, and John M. Work.
Materials in the collection include loose materials initially housed in 64 folders (now subdivided further for preservation reasons) and 19 bound volumes. They were organized for microfilming in 1967-1968, and are available on seven reels. See also the collection of Thomas J. Morgan Papers in the University of Chicago Library, for which there is an online inventory (2009).
The Illinois Historical Survey, predecessor to the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, acquired the collection before 1956.