Cornell University Library Digital Collections

Security with FDR

About the collection

This bilingual project conserves, digitizes, and curates a portion of Cornell's International Workers Order (IWO) archives and most especially those of its Jewish division, known as the Jewish People's Fraternal Order (JPFO). The IWO was founded in 1930 as an immigrant fraternal order that provided high-quality, low-cost health and burial insurance and other benefits for members. The origins of the IWO / JPFO arise from a decade of splits (1920-1930) concerning the U.S.S.R., the Bolshevik Revolution and Communism that consumed the Jewish Federation of Socialists and the Arbeter Ring (Workmens' Circle) groups associated with Eugene V. Debs' Socialist Party. While the vast majority of the IWO's members--200,000 at its peak right after World War II--did not belong to the Communist Party of the United States of America, the IWO's politics and leadership were largely aligned with those of the Party. The IWO was legally disbanded in 1953 due to the Cold War "Red Scare." This closure followed on a famous and unprecedented court case: its insurance funds and records were seized by New York State's Insurance Department. The presence of a goodly portion of the IWO's archives in the Kheel Center's 5276 Catherwood Library collection at Cornell's Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) School is a direct result of that seizure.