I was breezing through what seems to be an innocuous forgotten document: the 1941 Union Label Catalogue-Directory. It lists the union labels of trades who were part of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), a 32-page pamphlet advising its readers on how to hunt for union-made goods, and to get the union-earned dollar spent with other unions. Even though only 68 years old, the list of unions seems far more antiquarian, the unions and the jobs/workers they protected seemingly from another, earlier time: the Allied Printing Trades, Cigar Makers, Clerks Protective Association, Glove Workers, Hatters, Horse Shoers, Meat Cutters, Pocketbook Workers, Novelty Workers, Sheep Shearers, Stereotypers, Telegraphers, Wall Paper craftsman, and on and on.
But it was the broom and whisk makers union label that really struck me. There is something beautiful and sad in this design--the design is lovely as is the idea of the workers who were probably protected by the union; what is instantly saddening is the recognition of the incongruity that such a trade was widespread enough to need protection and organization, and how far gone such industries are. Really gone.
Looking through the names on the list of union shops of broom and whisk makers suggests elements for a poem on vanished brooms. There is of course the Ace Broom Company, and the Acme, and, yes, the American Broom Company; followed by the Amor, Artzcraftz, Baria, Bard, Birminham, Best, Brown, Buckholtz, Burlington, Coleman, Continental, Eagle, Galesburg, Haferman and Hanset, Ideal, Imperial, Lighthouse, Mid-West, Montana, M & M, Mutual, National, Progress, Progressive, Rainbow, Reliable, Rich, Royal, Western, Terre Haute and Zenith. The "R's" have the field, hands down.
The pamphlet ably describes the design and its color, and where the label appeared on the product. In the case of the brooms and whisks, it also assured the purchaser that the product was not made by "contract prison labor". (I have a prison-manufactured catalog from Angola Prison here that I'll have to write about some day--published in 1937, it was glossy and thick, offering hundreds (?!) of items for the office and home, but mostly heartpine and heavy oak goods for white collar consumption. The scale of the operation is pretty surprising to me.)
I like the whole idea of the handshake, the square deal, the care in the construction of the broom. I just looks right. And as you well know a good broom is a thing of beauty--it will do its just correctly and last forever.