Houston Public Library, Houston Metropolitan Research Center

Gilbert Mers Collection MSS.0063

Descriptive Summary

Creator Mers, Gilbert, 1908-
Title: Gilbert Mers Collection
Dates: 1936-1969
Identification: MSS.0063
Quantity: 3.25 Linear feet, 3 boxes
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library

Biographical Note

John Gilbert Mers, best known by his middle name, Gilbert, was born in Oklahoma, spent his youth in Arizona, and moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1929 at the age of twenty-one. In July of the following year, he began working with the longshoremen on the waterfront there. Mers did not become involved politically in union activities until December 1931, when he was elected president of the Local International Longshoremen's Association (I.L.A.) in Corpus Christi. In May 1934, Mers edited the official American Federation of Labor paper, which unfortunately only lasted a short time. He then retired from active participation in union offices of the I.L.A. During that time, he was also involved in several strike activities, and served on the contract committee in the waterfront strike of 1935. Mers left Corpus Christi in March 1941, when he was called up in the peacetime draft. After World War II, he came to Houston where in 1947 he joined the International Workers of the World (I.W.W.), or the "Wobblies" as they were known. In 1948, Mers moved back to Corpus Christi, and in 1949 he was elected president of the Local Union for three consecutive terms. In 1957, Mers returned to Houston permanently, and remained interested in union activities.

Scope and Contents

The Gilbert Mers Collection contains newspaper publications and clippings, correspondence, minutes, and miscellaneous handbills and propaganda concerning labor activities and the union career of Gilbert Mers, dating from 1936 through 1969. The collection's primary emphasis, however, is on publications dating from 1936-1939 concerning union organizations such as the Sailors Union of the Pacific (S.U.P.), Progressive Sea-going Firemen, International Longshoremen's Association (I.L.A.), and the National Maritime Union. These publications are significant in that they are early mimeographed publications not generally available. Each issue contains pertinent information about prominent issues and leading labor personalitites of the time, including Joseph P. Ryan and Harry Bridges.

Another significant contribution of the Mers Collection is its abundance of records of contract demands, strike negotiations, and law enforcement during union strikes in the Gulf Coast region. In relation to this, there is also a wealth of correspondence to and from union headquarters in New York concerning these strike activities. Also located in the collection is the miscellaneous propaganda of the Houston-Galveston, New Orleans, and New York Seamen-Longshoremen, including such items as open-letters and news sheets. All of this material is valuable to the study of local lobor union development, and the apparent apathy of Texans toward labor in the 1930's and 1940's.


The collection is arranged primarily by topic. In some cases, however, it is arranged by an organization or publication title.


Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Gilbert Mers Collection must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Index Terms

International Longshoremen’s Association.
Mers, Gilbert, 1908-
National Maritime Union of America
Progressive Sea-going Firemen
Sailors’ Union of the Pacific
Labor union locals--Texas
Labor union members--Texas
Labor unions--Texas

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Gilbert Mers Collection. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Gilbert Mers in 1977.

Processing Information

Processed by Claire Wilkins, April 1979.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Newspaper Clippings and Union Publications

Box Folder
1 1 Newspaper clippings: Christmas Massacre, 1936
2 West Coast Sailors: Publications of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific, 1937-1938
3 West Coast Firemen: Publications of the Progressive Sea-going Firemen, 1937-1938
4 Shape-Up: Publications of the International Longshoremen’s Association, 1937
5 Longshoremen's News: Publications of the International Longshoremen’s Association, 1938
6 The Pilot: Publications of the National Maritime Union, 1937-1938
7 Miscellaneous handbills and publications: Longshoremen, 1937-1939
8 Miscellaneous

International Longshoremen's Association

Box Folder
1 9 History of Local 1273


Box Folder
2 10 Rank and File Seamen's Strike: Correspondence, 1936-1937
11 Rank and File Seamen's Strike: Correspondence, continued, 1936-1937
12 "Outlaw" Strike: A Personal Report
13 Rank and File Seamen's Strike: Law enforcement reports 1936-1937
14 Miscellaneous minutes of the Striking Maritime Workers' meetings
15 Rank and File Seamen's Strike: Financial reports 1936-1937
16 Rank and File Seamen's Strike: Minutes of meetings, Port of Houston, 1936-1937
17 Houston-Galveston Seamen-Longshoremen Propaganda
18 New York Seamen-Longshoremen Propaganda
19 New Orleans Seamen-Longshoremen Propaganda


Box Folder
2 20 Personal correspondence
21 Clippings and Correspondence: International Longshoremen's Association Strike, 1968-1969

Ship Channel

Box Folder
2 22 Publications of the Maritime Progressive Committee, 1936-1937
23 Publications of the Maritime Progressive Committee, continued, 1936-1937
24 Publications of the Maritime Progressive Committee, continued, 1936-1937