The Social Documents Collection

The Social Documents Collection of the University of Iowa Libraries is a large assemblage of research materials published by conservative organizations, groups generally considered to be to the right on the political spectrum. Originally called the “Tensions File,” the collection was started to preserve pamphlets distributed by foreign governments as propaganda during World War II. Soon the holdings were expanded to include publications of domestic groups interested in shaping America’s foreign policy.

In the postwar period, the focus of the collection was broadened to include conservative and anti-Communist organizations in the U.S. In the 1950s and 1960s the scope of the collection was again expanded to include material on integration, taxation, states’ rights, fluoridation of water, socialized medicine, and the United Nations. Because libertarians occasionally shared ideas with conservative groups, some libertarian material was included. Periodicals issued by religious organizations with a strong conservative viewpoint were particularly well represented. In the late 1970s parts of the collection were microfilmed by the Microfilming Corporation of America and made available for purchase. The guide to the microfilm is entitled The Right Wing Collection of the University of Iowa Libraries: A Guide to the Microfilm Collection. Both the guide (Z7165.U5U6, copies in both “x” and stacks) and the microfilm (Film 22675) are available in the University Libraries.

Today the collection contains periodicals, pamphlets, flyers, radio broadcast scripts, handbills, leaflets, bulletins, news sheets, correspondence, bumper stickers, and even tea bags issued by the Tax Rebellion Committee of Los Angeles County. Periodicals in the Collection include such titles as America’s Future, Christian News, Colorado Leader, Free China Journal, Spotlight, and Sword of the Lord. These materials are overwhelmingly the gift of their publishers. The collection currently occupies over 500 linear feet.

As material is acquired it is divided into “serial” and “non-serial” publications and notes on author or title added to an Excel database file. “See” and “See also” references are also used frequently. The Excel file is available in/from the Special Collections Department but is not yet openly available via the Internet.

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