Skip to main content


W. Jett Lauck papers

Identifier: MSS 4742

Scope and Contents

The W. Jett Lauck collection consists of his professional, business and personal papers as an economist, statistician and government consultant on immigration, banking, railroads, coal, and unemployment problems as well as other facets of labor in the United States. Included are correspondence, scrapbooks of news clippings reflecting his activities, labor reports and studies, drafts of congressional bills, legal briefs, and other material concerning labor problems in the United States from its formative World War I years until 1949. They begin with his association with the progressive labor codes of the Taft-Walsh Labor Relations Commission and continue with the Railway Labor Act of 1926; the fight to gain recognition of labor's right to collective bargaining "through representatives of their own choosing" under the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933; the incorporation of its principles in the National Labor Relations Act; and further activity in defense of this act.

Other manuscripts deal with studies of government competition with private business, the American Association for Economic Freedom, the New York Power Authority; branch, chain, and group banking, drafts of speeches, and work diary accounts of activities and meetings with prominent congressional and labor leaders on labor problems and legislation.

The largest portions of the W. Jett Lauck papers deal with cases and arbitrations, chiefly railroad and coal related, his work on various boards and commission and topical files.

His correspondence with individuals heading organizations interested in labor and industrial relations was wide-spread, just as it was with political figures, educators, and labor leaders. Among the public figures with whom he corresponded are Bernard Baruch, Homer S. Cummings, Clarence A. Dystra, John T. Flynn, Guy M. Gillette, Leon Henderson, Herbert Hoover, Hugh S. Johnson, Jesse Jones, William S. Knudsen, Robert M. Fa Follette, Jr., Franklin K. Lane, John L. Lewis, H.C. Lodge, Jr., William G. McAdoo, James M. Mead, Francis P. Miller, Henry Morgenthau, Karl E. Mundt, Donald Nelson, Judge Ferdinand Pecora, Frances Perkins, Gifford Pinchot, James H. Price, Franklin D. Roosevelt, E.R. Stettinius, Jr., Robert F. Wagner, David I. Walsh, Burton K. Wheeler, and Woodrow Wilson. The educators include Hardy Dillard, Edward C. Elliot, Frank Graham, J.W. Jenks, Richard R. Mead, Lewis Tyree, Harry F. Ward, H.B. Wells, and Ray Lyman Wilbur; and the labor leaders Jacob Baker, Solomon Barkin, Van A. Bittner, Sophia Carey, David Dubinsky, P.T. Fagan, John P. Frey, William Green, Sydney Hillman, Earl E. Houck, Thomas Kennedy, Donald MacMillan, and A.O. Wharton.


  • Creation: circa 1900-1952


Conditions Governing Access

Work diaries used to keep a record of Lauck’s activities on behalf of a number of organizations, arranged by date in Boxes 216-219. Due to their fragile condition, access to the original diaries is restricted. Researchers should use the diaries on microfilm M-1239-1241.

Biographical / Historical

William Jett Lauck, an American economist and statistician, whose work expertise and experience was both broad and varied, was born on August 2, 1879, in Keyser, West Virginia, to William Blackford Lauck, a railway official, and Emma Eltinge (Spengler) Lauck. He attended Keyser High School and Washington and Lee University (Bachelor of Arts, 1903), becoming a Fellow in the department of political economy at the University of Chicago, 1903-1906. Lauck was an associate professor of economics and political science at Washington and Lee University, 1905-1908, until he entered government service in 1908. That same year, he was married to Eleanor Moore Dunlap of Lexington, Virginia, and they had three children, William Jett Lauck, Jr., Eleanor Moore Lauck and Peter Blackford Lauck. Lauck belonged to the Cosmos and Chevy Chase clubs and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Kappa Sigma, and Theta Nu Epsilon.

Lauck joining the United States Immigration Commission in 1908-1909, where he designed a survey of immigration for the Commission. Lauck was the chief examiner for the Tariff Board, 1910-1911. The U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations hired Lauck in 1913-1915 as a managerial expert and consulting statistician to design their investigation into industrial problems in the United States. He was an economic advisor on the Canadian Commission on Economic Development, 1916. Lauck joined the U.S. National War Labor Board in 1918 as Secretary.

Lauck also took part in the national movement for banking reform and the establishment of the Federal Reserve banking system1911-1912. As an expert on railway economics, he represented the Brotherhoods of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers in their demands for wage increases during a series of arbitrations from 1912-1919, the Western freight weight case, 1915, and also represented the railroad unions in several high-profile national railroad arbitrations in the early twenties. Lauck functioned as the economic advisor for presidential candidate James B. Cox in 1920 and 1924. In 1926, Lauck devised a settlement to end the Passaic New Jersey textile strike.

During a large part of his career, W. Jett Lauck acted as an economic advisor to John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers, the Committee on Industrial Organization, the United Automobile Workers and other union organizations, in arbitrations and cases, 1919-1939. He was an investigator for the U.S. Coal Commission, 1923 and economist for the Grain Marketing Company, Chicago, 1924-1925. Lauck assisted on the legislative drafting committee for the National Recovery Act in 1933 and as an expert advisor to the Senate Finance Committee on the revision of the National Recovery Act in 1935. He was also a member of various special boards, and a labor advisor to the Coal Section of the National Recovery Act, 1933-1935. He was also often a government expert witness, as seen in his work for the House of Representatives Special Committee on Government Competition with Private Business, 1933. Lauck served as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Industry Coal Commission, 1937.

Lauck was Vice President of the organization American Association for Economic Freedom. He was also an author or co-author of many books and other publications, including “The Causes of the Panic of 1893” (1905); “The Immigration Problem” with Johann Wolfgang Jenks (1911); “Conditions of Labor in American Industries” with Edgar Sydenstricker (1917); “The Industrial Code” with C.S. Watts (1923); Political and Industrial Democracy, 1776-1926” (1926); and “The New Industrial Revolution and Wages” (1929) and Editor of “British War Experience Series.”

"W. Jett Lauck: Biography of a Reformer" by Carmen Brissette Grayson is a 1975 University of Virginia dissertation that covers the early part of Lauck's career up until the Depression.


212 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



There are fifteen series in this collection. The two largest series are the Cases and Topical series. The majority of series have at least two subseries. Lauck had created two earlier indexes to his files and they were used to shape the current re-organization of the collection, particularly concerning the case files. Some of the decisions concerning arrangement were made due to the difficulties of completing the processing of the W. Jett Lauck papers during the Pandemic of 2020-2021.

An Outline of the Arrangement is as follows: Series 1) Correspondence (Boxes 1-16); Series 2) American Association for Economic Freedom (Boxes 17-37 and Card files boxes 1-12); Series 3) National War Labor Board (Boxes 38-56); Series 4) Congress of Industrial Organizations (Boxes 57-67); Series 5) Commission on Industrial Relations (Boxes 68-72); Series 6) Articles, Memoranda, and Speeches by W. Jett Lauck (Boxes 73-91) with Subseries A) Work created by W. Jett Lauck for use by himself (Boxes 73-91), Subseries B) Work created by W. Jett Lauck for other people to use (Boxes 82-88), and Subseries C) Banking Monograph by W. Jett Lauck (Boxes 89-91); Series 7) Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Commission (Boxes 92-103); Series 8) Cases (Boxes 104-204) with Subseries A) Railroad (Boxes 104-146), Subseries B) General (Boxes 147-169), and Subseries C) Coal (Boxes 170-204); Series 9) Arbitrations (Boxes 205-211); Series 10) Dockets and Other Records of Work by W. Jett Lauck (Boxes 212-219); Series 11) Personal, Financial and Miscellany Papers (Boxes 220-233) with Subseries A) Financial Correspondence and Files (Boxes 220-225), Subseries B) Bureau of Applied Economics (Boxes 225-226), Subseries C) College Notes and School Papers (Boxes 227-230), and Subseries D) Notes, Notebooks, Photographs, Post cards and Miscellany (Boxes 230-233); Series 12) The National Recovery Act and National Recovery Administration (Boxes 234-241) with Subseries A) General Files (Boxes 234-238) and Subseries B) National Recovery Administration Codes (Boxes 238-241); Series 13) Oversize Scrapbook Volumes of Newspaper Clippings and News clippings Files with Subseries A) Scrapbooks (Boxes 242-252) and Subseries B) News clipping Files (Boxes 253-257); Series 14) Topical Files with Subseries A) Coal (Boxes 258-270), Subseries B) Railroad (Boxes 271-287), and Subseries C) General A-Z (Boxes 288-389); and Series 15) Printed Material and Works by Others (Boxes 389-399) with Subseries A) Printed Material (Boxes 389-396) and Subseries B) Works by Others (Boxes 397-399).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The largest group of W. Jett Lauck papers was given to University of Virginia Law Library by Charles Chase, Washington, D.C. in April 1954 and then transferred from the Law Library to the University of Virginia Special Collections Library on March 23, 1973 and October 7, 1974. The second accession (formerly MSS 4742-a) was given to the Special Collections Library on October 31, 1979, by Charles Chase, with Peter B. Lauck and Eleanor M. Lauck, Annapolis, Maryland, as the donors of record. The last accession (formerly MSS 4742-b)was given to the Libary on 2012 by Peter B. Lauck and Eleanor M. Lauck.

Processing Information

Manuscript student assistants who worked on the W. Jett Lauck papers for at least one semester include Jacob M. Baker, Shannon Lee, Jacob T. Shaw, and Emily Shipman.

Only two copies of identical duplicates having no annotations were kept. Duplicates were compared and only two were kept of each unique document or publication. News clippings were only copied if used by Lauck in a case or arbitration, contained an article or other work by him, or information pertaining to his work and career. Others were sorted and arranged by topcs that he had written on the clipping; those with no obvious relevance were discarded. Ledgers and scrapbooks were rehoused in acid free cubic boxes or phase boxes created by the Preservation staff.

Originally the papers were organized with the help of a University of Virginia history seminar sometime between their transfer to Special Collections from the Law Library and 1973, producing a large paper finding aid consisting of the list of the file folder headings. Folders were replaced near the end of the 1990’s but some folder headings were lost or corrupted. In 2018, the papers were re-organized into series based on several early indexes created by the office of W. Jett Lauck. Folder headings were corrected based on the indexes, the original paper finding aid, and Lauck’s notations on the tops of his documents. Headings were altered on the folders when possible to match the finding aid but only some of the folders were replaced due to constraints of time and money.

Physical processing work was complicated by constant student assistant turn-over and the interruption of the Pandemic of 2020-2021, which prevented onsite work for almost six months and allowed only several onsite short stints per week the rest of the time. The finding aid is as accurate as these conditions have permitted but there may well be inconsistencies. If such errors are discovered, we welcome researcher input.

W. Jett Lauck papers
Sharon Defibaugh
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States