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Allen Ruff Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Ruff

Scope and Content of the Collection

Working papers, correspondence and publications of Allen Ruff.

Includes a working and final version of his doctoral dissertation and other papers on the subject of socialist publishing in the Midwest. Research files consist mostly of photocopied material from archives and books dating from 1855 through 1997, but also include some original Kerr Co. catalogs and promotional material from ca. 1976-1997. These research files arrived from the donor in his own order, and that order was maintained in processing the collection. Also includes card files created by Ruff, indexing names and resources related to Kerr Company publications and the International Socialist Review.

Separated Material: One microfilm reel of Proletarian (Detroit, Michigan), Vol. 2 No. 1 - Vol. 14 No. 7 (May 1919-July 1931), copied from the New York Public Library and ordered by Allen Ruff in 1990, was cataloged separately.


  • Creation: 1855-1997



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Allen Ruff Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Allen Ruff Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Allen Ruff

Wisconsin-based journalist, book seller, social and political activist and blogger.

Allen Ruff grew up in New Haven, CT and received a B.A. in American Studies from the American University in Washington D.C. He moved to Madison, Wisconsin to attend University of Wisconsin, where he received a M.A. and Ph.D. in History. His dissertation "'We Called Each Other Comrade' : Charles Kerr and the Charles H. Kerr and Company Publishers, 1886-1928" was developed into the book 'We Called Each Other Comrade': Charles H. Kerr and Company, Radical Publishers, published by University of Illinois Press in 1997, and updated and reissued in 2011 by PM Press.

Early in his career, Ruff published and presented several papers about the Charles H. Kerr publishing company, including "Repression of the Press in the World War I Era: The Case of Charles H. Kerr and Company" (1988) which he presented at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians and "Socialist Publishing in Illinois: Charles H. Kerr and Company of Chicago" (Illinois Historical Journal, Illinois State Historical Society) for which he was given the Harry E. Pratt Award. Ruff's essay "Path Not Taken: the Proletarian Party and Early History of Communism in the United States" was published in the collection Culture, Gender, Race, and U.S. Labor History (Contributions in Labor Studies), by Greenwood Press (1993). In 2007 Ruff published a novel, Save Me, Julie Kogon.

Ruff is the Thursday host of "A Public Affair" on community radio station WORT/89.9 FM (Madison, Wisconsin). He currently lives in Madison.

For information about Charles H. Kerr Co. publishing, see the Newberry’s inventory of the company records, Midwest MS Kerr.


2.5 Linear Feet (9 boxes and 1 oversize folder)


Publications and working papers of Ruff, mostly in preparation for his book "We Called Each Other Comrade": Charles H. Kerr and Company, Radical Publishers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997). The bulk of the material is photocopied documents used in research.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Works, undated, 1976-1988
Box 1
Series 2: Research files, undated, 1855-1997
Boxes 2-6, oversize folder
Series 3: Photographs, 1902 and 1982
Box 6
Series 4: Index files, undated
Boxes 7-9

Collection Stack Location

1 31 5, 1 43 10


Gift, Allen Ruff, 2009.

Processed by

Polly Smith, 2012.

Inventory of the Allen Ruff Papers, 1855-1997
Polly Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States