We at Rare Books Digest got inspired this week on the eve of Labor Day 2012 by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke of all people, since he expressed a popular concern over the labor market. Labor Day’s popularity became obvious since first held in 1882 by the Central Labor Union which created the holiday to allow the public to appreciate the work of the trade and labor organizations. Quite on the contrary, obscure labor themed books remain relatively unpopular. It is our duty to approach these rare books with respect and scholarship, despite the fact that they often fail to receive what they deserve from collectors and booksellers. These books dealing primarily with employment and labor are for the most part categorized under Economics, Government, Rural Labor, Social Fiction and the like. The following grouping of literature constitutes our selection of some of the rarest labor books ever written that we discovered just in time for Labor Day 2012.
The First edition, first printing of economist’s J.M. Keynes, magnum opus is regarded as the most influential social science treatise of the twentieth century. Written in the aftermath of the Great Depression, it proposed that increased government spending and tax cuts could pull industrialized economies out of the Depression. Average price $10,000.
A Book without a Title; or Thrilling Events in the Life of Mira Dana. Tyler, Mrs. M. W. Boston: for the Author, 1855.
Although A Book without a Title received little scholarly consideration because of its incredibly bad writing, it deserves attention for its importance to women’s labor history. It is truly the first work strike novel published depicting the heroine, Mira Dana, leading a strike at the Lowell, Massachusetts, textile mills protesting drastic pay cuts. This largest, most prolonged U.S. strike of its time, with 3,000 women and several hundred men participating, set a precedent to the women’s movement. No copies available for sale, estimated to be worth around $1,000.
A first-hand account of the 1932 Bonus March on Washington, from the point of view of a member of the CPUSA-led Workers Ex-Servicemen’s League. Includes a 16-page section of photographic plates (halftones) and a two-page forward by John Dos Passos. Average $150.
Great Depression photography by the most significant American photographers of the period, including Dorothea Lang, Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and Arthur Rothstein. Parr & Badger. Contains 88 leaves of photographic plates each with accompanying text by MacLeish on facing page. A book that is disappearing from the market especially copies with dust jackets. Around $400.
A high point of the American social fiction, extremely scarce in commerce. Depression-era life in the rural electrification industry with material that definitely could not be found in the annual reports of public utilities. Story of the construction linemen who built the high voltage electric transmission lines which traverse the United States. Scarce in dust jacket, around $800.
As those of you already familiar with our motto know, nothing gives us a greater thrill than receiving your feedback good or bad. In fact if you have any rare books in mind that are appropriately themed as celebrations of Labor Day, we would like to hear from you. We would also like to reach out to our international readers by reminding each and everyone that working men and women are celebrated worldwide on different days on various occasions.