Scope and Content
Title: San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council Records,
Date (inclusive): 1907-1986
Accession number: 1990/078
San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council
Extent: 2.5 cubic feet and 2.5 linear feet (volumes)
San Francisco State University. Labor Archives & Research Center
San Francisco, California 94132
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Center's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests for
permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing
to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the Labor Archives & Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be
obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council Records, 1990/078, Labor Archives & Research
San Francisco State University.
These records were donated by the San Francisco Building and
Construction Trades Council in 1990. The collection was
processed by Kim Klausner in the winter of 1996.
The San Francisco Building Trades Council (BTC) was formed in
February 1893 by several local unions of carpenters, plasterers,
painters, cornice makers, and granite stone cutters to represent
the interests of the city's construction trades workers. Under
the 29-year reign (1893-1922) of its second president, P. H.
McCarthy, the organization grew to considerable influence in San
Francisco's vibrant labor movement and in the political realm.
In 1908 the BTC affiliated with the Building and Construction
Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor. At some
point the name of the organization was changed to the San
Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council.
The Trades Council was headquartered at 978 Mission Street when
the 1906 earthquake struck. Its building demolished, the BTC
authorized P. H. McCarthy to purchase land at the southwest
corner of Guerrero and Fourteenth Streets in order to construct a
Labor Temple. Plans were drawn up and ground was broken within
six months. Incorporation papers for the San Francisco Building
Trades Council's Temple Association were signed in June 1907 and
the building was officially opened in April 1908 at a dedication
ceremony attended by 10,000 people
(Barons of Labor, page 102).
The block-long, three-story, steel and concrete structure,
fronted by Ionic columns, represented status and equity for the
BTC as it emerged as a major player in San Francisco's political
scene. The building contained nine meeting halls, a 3,000 seat
auditorium, offices for most BTC locals, recreation facilities,
and employment services. The BTC had outgrown its space and had
already expanded into offices on Market Street when the edifice
was destroyed by fire in 1961.
The Temple Association financed the building through a
combination of loans provided by local unions and the Anglo
American Bank and through $5 membership certificates sold to
members of affiliated building trades unions. By 1925, under the
astute business leadership of W. H. Bemiss and George Newsom, the
Temple Association's first two secretary-building managers, all
bank debt had been repaid.
In 1942 the Temple Association board of directors voted "to
transfer the control of this Association from individuals to
local unions and building and construction trades councils."
(Minutes, page 199)
The following is a list of Temple Association officials and their
term of offices:
- P.H. McCarthy 1907-1922
- Larry Flaherty 1922-1926
- John T. Burns 1926-1936
- Frank McDonald 1936-1948
- Jack Smith 1948- ?
- W. H. Bemiss 1907-1922
- George Newsom 1922-1948
- James (Jimmy) Newsom 1948- ?
Scope and Content
The BTC files are divided into two series: the San Francisco
Building Trades Council (later known as the San Francisco
Building and Construction Trades Council) and the San Francisco
Building Trades Council's Temple Association. Neither series
contain complete records for their respective organization. Types
of materials within the collection include articles of
incorporation and by-laws, title papers and other real estate
documents, membership certificates, minutes, wage rates and
statistics handbooks, and financial and membership records. A
detailed series list is attached.
Among the earliest materials contained in the collection are
those dating from the Temple Association's 1907 incorporators'
meeting and also include other documents related to the purchase
of the Guerrero Street property. The most current materials are
wage rates and statistics handbooks from 1952-1976 and a per
capita tax ledger from 1949-1986. Volumes one through six are
Local and Office Receipts Ledgers from January 1931 to November
1940 (March-April 1935 are missing).
More information about the BTC can be found in:
The Barons of Labor: The San Francisco Building Trades and Union Power in the Progressive Era by Michael Kazin (University of Illinois Press, Urbana: 1987)
A History of the Labor Movement in California by Ira B. Cross (University of California, Berkeley: 1935)
Golden Anniversary Commemorative Edition of Organized Labor: 1900-1950
Material Cataloged Separately
For related materials on the Temple Association's membership certificates see accession 1995/078 donated by Thelma Gilland.
- 8x10 group photo, includes Daniel Del Carlo.
Relocated to Photograph Collection 4: Subjects A-Z (unprocessed)
- Panorama photo, 1958 BTC meeting.
Relocated to Panorama Photographs (unprocessed)
- Booklet, "Pilebutt: Stories & Photographs about Pile Driving."
Relocated to Ephemera-Pile Drivers, Bridge, Wharf & Dock Builders
- By-laws of Displaymen and Show Card Writers' Union, 1937.
Relocated to Ephemera [check with Carol Cuenod where]
- Three union pins.
Relocated to LARC Button & Badges collection