- Kistler, Elmer Charles
- Elmer Charles Kistler papers
- 1917-1996 (inclusive)19171996
- .84 cubic feet, including textual materials, photographs, artifacts, and a sound cassette (3 boxes)
- Collection Number
- 5347 (Accession No. 5347-001)
- Papers of a Seattle-area communist and labor union activist.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
- Access Restrictions
The papers are open to all users.
- English, Spanish
- Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Biographical NoteReturn to Top
Elmer Charles Kistler was a long-time Washington State labor unionist and Communist Party activist committed to social justice, labor rights, and racial equality.
Kistler was born on January 17, 1915, in Cleveland, Wisconsin, and in 1926 his family moved to Longview, Washington. After graduating from high school in 1931, Kistler worked in a plywood mill at a time when there was no union organization in the industry. In 1934 he moved to Seattle to attend the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington. As a student, he helped organize a local chapter of the American Student Union, organized peace demonstrations, and picketed in support of union organization.
In 1940 Kistler began working at Boeing Aircraft Company as a union shop steward in the Clipper shop. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he worked in the shipyards and then entered the army as a volunteer officer candidate in July 1942. Kistler was commissioned in February 1943 and served in anti-aircraft until May 1944, when he was transferred to the infantry. Kistler was sent overseas in August 1944 with the 106th Division as a first lieutenant mortar platoon leader. He earned three battle stars, including the Ardennes for his service during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.
Kistler left the army in 1946 and returned to the University of Washington, where he helped organize the University District Post and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He served on the state board of Young Democrats from 1946 to 1947. Kistler left school in 1947 and worked in shipyards until 1951, when he went back to work in lumber mills. Kistler was later blacklisted from sawmill and construction jobs because of his affiliation with the Communist Party.
Kistler appeared at a hearing of the United States Subversive Activities Control Board in 1965. The hearing was part of an effort to prove that Kistler was a member of the Communist Party and in violation of the McCarran Act requirement that Communist Party members register with the attorney general. Robert W. Winsor, a Seattle attorney, served as Kistler's counsel. The Gus Hall-Benjamin J. Davis Defense Committee also assisted Kistler with legal defense.
Kistler ran unsuccessfully for elected office as a Communist Party candidate three times. These races included a run for Washington State's 35th legislative district representative seat in 1976 and again in 1984 for the 37th legislative district representative seat. In 1978 he challenged incumbent United States Representative Jack Cunningham on a platform of Native American land rights.
Elmer Charles Kistler died of cancer on November 28, 1996, at the age of 81.
Content DescriptionReturn to Top
The Kistler papers contain correspondence, speeches, testimony, hearing notices, clippings, ephemera, pins and buttons, a sound cassette, and photographs regarding Kistler's military experience, work as a labor union activist, and activities as a Communist Party member and candidate for elected office. Correspondence and statements related to Kistler's hearing before the United States Subversive Activities Control Board in 1965 are included. The bulk of the material is from 1964-1984. Represented in the papers is 1985 Seattle Communist mayoral candidate B.J. Mangaoang.
Use of the CollectionReturn to Top
Literary rights have been transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.
Administrative InformationReturn to Top
Arranged in 4 series:
- Personal papers, 1917-1996
- Activism papers, 1966-1996
- Political campaign papers, 1972-1985
- Memorabilia, 1946-circa 1989
Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top
Personal papers, 1917-1996, (bulk 1943-1964) Return to Top
Obituary and memorial service programs
United States Subversive Activities Control Board subject files
Statement on McCarran Act hearing
Gus Hall correspondence
Photographs of childhood, family, and friends
Includes a baby portrait and snapshots of Kistler as a child and young adult. Also contains several vacation photographs including trips to Devil's Lake,Wisconsin, Yellowstone National Park, and Mount Rainier National Park.
Birth and marriage certificates
High school and university records
Ina Mable Kistler estate correspondence
Cuba trips: ephemera, membership cards, and photograph
Military service papers
Contains portraits of Kistler in military uniform and Kistler's U.S. War Department identification. Also includes snapshots, including one taken at the Battle of the Bulge.
Certificates and clippings
Contains official correspondence, handwritten letters to Kistler's mother, telegrams, and a V-mail envelope.
Miscellaneous personal papers
Includes cards and certificates relating to Kistler's hobbies and non-professional affiliations.
Activism papers, 1966-1996Return to Top
North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement protest
March for Urban Aid, Washington, DC
Features Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown, Maxine Waters, and other politicians.
Unemployment Solidarity March, San Francisco, California
Rally for Work, New York, New York
GI Co-ordinating Committee Moratorium march, San Antonio, Texas
General Electric boycott, Seattle, Washington
Teamsters Local 743 rally
Communist Party USA, 60th anniversary meeting
Communist Party of Washington march, Seattle, Washington
Communist Party USA, 50th anniversary meeting, Seattle, Washington
Speeches and statements
Contains a statement against the Interstate-90 bridge between Seattle and Bellevue, a hearing before the Industrial Welfare Committee from 1975, an essay on "The Negro Question in the United States," and a statement on "The Killing of John Rodney by Policeman Dennis Falk."
Notes on communist ideology and issues
Dues receipts and membership books
Convention ticket and agenda
Winter Soldier Celebration sound recording
Contains a sound cassette recording of a celebration of Elmer Kistler and B.J. Mangoang's work as Communist Party activists.
Puget Sound Council of Senior Citizens
Correspondence and invitation
District Council of Carpenters
Includes membership cards for the United Brothers of Carpenters and Joiners of America from 1956, 1958, and 1969. Also includes membership cards from the King County Area C.O.P.E. of the AFL-CIO from 1962 to 1981 and the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union from 1958 to 1966.
Labor union materials
Contains Kistler's certificate of withdrawal from the International Union of the United Automobile Workers of America, cards from Kistler's rank and file membership, wood rank and file statements and materials, handwritten notes, and statements regarding the Unemployment Act of 1971.
|1941, 1970-1972, undated|
Miscellaneous ephemera, correspondence, and clippings
|1960-1962, 1985, undated|
Political campaign papers, 1972-1985Return to Top
37th Legislative District campaign correspondence
7th District congressional campaign materials
35th Legislative District campaign materials
Democratic convention delegate card
Memorabilia, 1946-circa 1989Return to Top
Container(s): Box 3
Consists of 32 pins, with text in Russian, most of which feature Moscow or Vladimir Ilich Lenin. 11 additional pins, including a 1946 pin from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, pins and buttons from the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union, a pin from the 1962 Washington State Labor Council Convention, and other military and labor pins, also form part of the series.
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- Communism--United States--1917-
- Communism--Washington (State)
- Communist trials--United States
- Communists--Washington (State)--Archives
- Demonstrations--United States--Photographs
- Demonstrations--Washington (State)--Photographs
- Labor leaders--Washington (State)--Archives
- Political campaigns--Washington (State)
- Political campaigns--Washington (State)--Photographs
- Political candidates--Washington (State)--Archives
- Subversive activities--United States
- Veterans--Washington (State)--Archives
- Kistler, Elmer Charles--Archives
- Kistler, Elmer Charles--Photographs
- Mangaoang, B. J
- United States. Army--Officers--Archives
- United States. Army--Officers--Photographs
- United States. Subversive Activities Control Board
- Seattle (Wash.)--Politics and government
- Washington (State)--Politics and government--1951-
Form or Genre Terms
- buttons (information artifacts)
- Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
- lapel pins
- Membership cards
- military records
- Sound recordings
- Speeches, addresses, etc
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)