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The Debs Collection contains books, pamphlets, memorabilia, scrapbooks, and sundry other material, including approximately 6,000 letters and telegrams. Most of the germane correspondence was microfilmed and included in a collection of letters selected from various collections located throughout the country. The resulting work, The Papers of Eugene V. Debs, 1834-1945, was published in 1983 by the Microfilming Corporation of America along with an accompanying printed guide, which provides limited key-term access to the holdings.
Indiana State University Library possesses the largest holdings and is often asked for information. Robert Carter, a librarian in the Department of Special Collections, began to write abstracts for what he deemed the most important letters in the early 1980s, but discontinued it to complete two other projects. He resumed this project in the early 1990s, when student employees converted his typed index cards into computer text files. After Carter's retirement, Daya de Silva, a researcher and noted author hired for this and similar tasks, and David Vancil, the department head, worked on letters in file areas that Mr. Carter had not reached. Still, the work was incomplete and suffered from having been worked on piecemeal.
A decision was made to try to complete the project with an entry for everything in the collection. Consequently, during the 1997/98 academic year, a graduate student in American Labor History, Jason Martinek, thoroughly revised the existing abstracts and added nearly 1,600 new records, more than doubling the existing computer file sizes. Included for the first time were letters by members of the Debs family, many of a personal nature. Presumably at this point, every scrap of paper in the file cabinets containing the Debs correspondence had been at the very least identified by an entry in the abstracts. However, letters are sometimes received as gifts. These are abstracted as received and added to the appropriate files. Such a gift is the Leslie Family Gift, which contains two ring binders of correspondence between Debs and members of the Leslie family.
While most new letters are integrated into the regular collection, this gift has been kept in its original containers and the abstracts listed separately. These letters, along with selected other documents, have been microfilmed in order to preserve them. Additional preservation projects for other materials in the Debs Collection are in the planning stages.
We have mounted, divided by each letter of the alphabet, both HTML versions and unformatted text files of the abstracts suitable for downloading. Arranged by last name first, these files also contain "SEE" and "SEE ALSO" references to indicate name forms and similar information under which the researcher should look. While the text files are selectable from this page, they are best viewed off-line in a text editor. The askSam database is a much more sophisticated research tool, allowing the user to combine words and phrases with Boolean operators.
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