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H. Gregg Lewis papers, 1939-1990 28.5 Linear Feet — 17,100 Items

The papers of H. Gregg Lewis, an economist and university professor, span the period 1939 to 1990 with the bulk of the collection dating from the early 1980s. The collection is comprised chiefly of research and background materials for his book Union Relative Wage Effects: A Survey (University of Chicago Press, 1986), and of a collection of various academic articles (mostly working papers on various topics in labor economics). Materials represented in this particular collection include book manuscripts; drafts of papers (including unpublished articles); correspondence; lecture notes and syllabi for several classes taught at Chicago and for others at Duke; referee reports; administrative paperwork associated with the University of Chicago; and papers written by other economists. The primary subjects covered in this collection are: labor economics, trade unions and relative wage effects, University of Chicago Department of Economics, and Duke University Department of Economics. Important and/or substantial correspondence includes those with Gary Becker, Walter Oi, Albert Reese, Sherwin Rosen, and Finis Welch.

H. Gregg Lewis, one of the founders of modern labor economics, brought an unbiased, empirical approach to a field then dominated by the institutionalist school. According to Sherwin Rosen, "Professor Lewis was a pioneer in promoting empirical research with strong microeconomic foundations and in expanding the range of substantive problems that were amenable to economic analysis. This may be his most important legacy to economics." (Rosen, 1994).

A meticulous researcher, Lewis trained his methodical, detail-oriented eye on topics that included the allocation of time between market and non-market activities, the allocation of labor among alternative uses, and the compensation of labor. It is the topic of the influence of trade unions on wage differentials, however, to which Lewis contributed the bulk of his published work. His first book, titled Unionism and Relative Wages in the United States: an Empirical Enquiry was published in 1963, and his second book, Union Relative Wage Effects: A Survey was published in 1986.

Lewis was linked to the University of Chicago Department of Economics for over forty years, first as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student, but for most of this time as a faculty member. As such, his career was inextricably linked to the events and personages of Chicago. He studied under Lloyd Mints, Henry Schultz, and Henry Simons and later was a colleague of Paul Douglas, Ted Schultz, Gale Johnson, Albert Reese, Al Harberger, Milton Friedman, Harry Johnson, Robert Fogel, and James Heckman, to name a few of the eminent economists at the University of Chicago during his tenure there.

The papers are organized in series as follows: Research Notes, Drafts and Proofs Series; Articles, Comments and Notes Series; Correspondence Series; Teaching Materials Series; and Colleagues' Articles: Indexed Series.

The Research Notes, Drafts and Proofs Series dates from around the early 1980s and contains all material found in the collection which relate to Professor Lewis' book Union Relative Wage Effects: A Survey (University of Chicago Press, 1986). His two books are more than just summaries of the existing literature; they also involved extensive work of his own. For example, he recalculated a substantial amount of the data presented in the studies in order to replace or correct what he perceived as errors. As such, this series contains much more than the expected background notes, manuscripts, and proofs. It is comprised of approximately 300 manila folders, each meticulously grouped together by Lewis and sequentially numbered within the groupings. A single manila folder might contain an article/study; notes on that article (e.g. on data sources and coverage, sample restrictions, controls, and definitions of variables); correspondence with the authors of the studies asking for clarification on statistics, variables, and equations; notes showing the numbers which Lewis obtained in reworking the authors' calculations; and manuscript drafts of each chapter. His 1986 book is essentially a synthesis of a number of studies on the relative wage effects of unions, and an update of his earlier Unionism and Relative Wages in the United States: an Empirical Enquiry (University of Chicago Press, 1963). In his second book, Lewis looked specifically at different studies written post-1963 that analyzed the union versus non-union relative wage differential. These studies largely use micro data on individual workers for structural modeling. Unlike his 1963 book, most of the studies analyzed in Union Relative Wage Effects are not University of Chicago economics theses.

The Articles, Comments, and Notes Series contains articles written by Professor Lewis -- many of which were never published. These include: "How Americans Use their Time" (1975), "Notes on Partial Equilibrium Analysis" (1975), "Notes on Corner Problems in Production and Utility Theory" (no date), "Unionism, Wages and Employment in U.S. Coal Mining, 1945-68" (1971), "Notes on the Shadow Price of Household Time" (no date), "The Impact of Unionism on Relative Wages in the U.S." (1963), "Employer Interests in Employee Hours of Work" (late 1960s), "Notes on the Economics of Hours of Work" (1967), and various article reprints and comments that were published during the 1930s-1950s. This series also contains drafts of comments on colleagues' papers that were published. In addition, there are background notes on various topics, e.g. notes on a paper that he and Gary Becker worked on jointly regarding the interaction between the quantity and quality of children. This series also contains a copy of Professor Lewis' Ph.D. thesis, "Studies in the Elasticity of the Demand for Steel" (University of Chicago, March 1947).

The Correspondence Series is quite a substantive collection of letters Professor Lewis wrote to fellow economists or received from them over the period 1958 - 1986. It also includes a file containing referee reports (mostly done for the Journal of Political Economy). Note that the "University of Chicago" file excludes those pieces of correspondence with Albert Reese (who served as the Chairman of the Department of Economics during the 1960s). Instead, those letters are found in the file "Correspondence with Al Reese." The file titled "University of Chicago Department of Economics" contains correspondence that mostly relates to administrative duties that Lewis had as Director of Graduate Studies. Note that the "Milton Friedman" file is sparse, containing only three letters written between Friedman and Lewis. The "AEA Distinguished Fellow, 1981" file contains letters of congratulations from friends and colleagues upon his receipt of this prestigious award.

The Teaching Materials Series covers the period 1967-1986. In chronological order, it contains the lecture notes for classes taught both at the University of Chicago and at Duke. In addition, there are five files (ca. 1979) on University of Chicago dissertations which he supervised even after moving to Duke. In the words of Sherwin Rosen, one of his former students, Professor Lewis wielded his influence largely in the one-on-one teaching he did, serving on the committees of over 90 graduate students at Chicago, and supervising six Ph.D. dissertations at Duke. According to Rosen, his real forte was in this capacity as thesis advisor engaged in "one-on-one teaching in his office, discussing thesis problems and progress and training young economists how to do research. He had no peer in those endeavors. He was extraordinarily unselfish and generous to students in giving away his ideas, time, and criticism." (Rosen, 1994).

His teaching efforts in the classroom, moreover, did not go unnoticed; at the University of Chicago he was awarded the Quantrell Prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching, and at Duke he was given the United Methodist's Teacher-Scholar award, both in recognition of his outstanding teaching.

Finally, the Colleagues' Articles: Indexed Series contains working papers and any hand-written notes (e.g. Lewis' calculations) on these papers. There are also pieces of correspondence related to the papers interspersed throughout this series.


Rosen, Sherwin. H. Gregg Lewis Memorial Comments, 1994. Pamphlet reprinted by the Journal of Labor Economics, ed. Orley Ashenfelter.,


Workers' Defense League records, 1940-1949 0.2 Linear Feet — 38 items

The Workers' Defense League was an American socialist organization devoted to promoting labor rights. Collection comprises material mailed by the Workers Defense League primarily as part of fundraising efforts, particularly on the part of legal cases undertaken by the organization.

Collection comprises material mailed by the Workers' Defense League primarily as part of fundraising efforts, particularly on the part of legal cases undertaken by the organization. The main case was that of Odell Waller, a Virginia sharecropper sentenced to death in 1940 for killing his white landlord. Arguing that the landlord had cheated Waller and that he had in any case acted in self-defense, the WDL raised money for Waller's defense, lobbied for the commutation of his sentence, and mounted a nationwide publicity campaign on his behalf. The effort was unsuccessful, and Waller was executed on July 2, 1942. Other cases included Alton Levey, Rosario Chirillo, and Tee Davis; the organization worked in support of federal regulation to repeal poll taxes. Items include brochures on the Waller case, luncheon and dinner invitations, a tear sheet for an advertisement, action alerts, flyer announcing a contest and a mass meeting in New York, and contribution forms with mailing envelopes.

Also includes a fundraising mailer (1946 May 16) related to Tee Davis and sent by Lillian Smith, the author of the novel STRANGE FRUIT. Tee Davis was an African American from Arkansas who was sentenced to ten years in prison for assault with intent to kill. His crime was firing a shotgun towards the bottom of the front door to his home while an intruder tried to break in. The intruder was a white sheriff looking for thieves.