Abe and Selma Bluestein were active in the anarchist movement in the U.S. in the 20th century. Abe worked as a reporter for the Freie Arveiter Stimme, a Yiddish anarchist publication in New York, and Selma was an artist and worked with the WPA. Both reported on the Spanish Civil War in 1937, which was foundational in the evolution of their anarchist philosophies. While in Spain, Abe also served as an information officer giving radio broadcasts for the anarchist fighters in Barcelona. Back in the U.S., Abe worked for several housing co-operatives while Selma raised their children. The collection documents the couples' personal and professional lives, including correspondence, writings, and art.
The Bluestein papers comprise a variety of materials, including correspondence, writings, translations, histories, family documents, artwork, and photographs. The bulk of these materials range from 1930 until 1990, although some of the photographs and family documents are dated earlier.
The Bluestein Family papers are separated into eight series: Correspondence, Family Documents, Biographies, Writings, Corporate Files, Subject Files, Modern School, and Photographs.
Correspondence contains 1 linear foot of letters to and from the Bluestein family. The files are arranged alphabetically, first generally A-Z, with unknown correspondents following, then by principle correspondent. There are two folders of correspondence between Abe and Selma Bluestein, labeled "Bluestein, Abe to Selma" and "Bluestein Selma (Cohen) to Abe." These letters are mostly dated early in their relationship (1930), then again in 1933 when Abe was living and working at Unity House in Phildelphia, again in 1937, when Selma returned from Spain a few months before Abe. There are a few letters from Abe to Selma in 1946, when he made several short trips away from home for business purposes.* Their letters are significant for the historical information as well as the intimacy they reveal.
In the folder labeled "Bluestein, Minnie", there is one letter to Abe from Minnie, and one letter from Lou (her husband?) while they lived at the Sunrise Cooperative Farm Community in Michigan in the mid-1930s. The letter from Lou discusses life at the Cooperative as well as some gossip and infighting.
There are also letters from Mollie Steimer and Senya Fleshin, Erika and René Fülöp-Miller, Sam Dolgoff, Federico Arcos, Paul Avrich, Augustín Souchy, Harry Kelly, Milly Rocker, Rudolf Rocker, and one three-page letter to Abe from Emma Goldman. Although most of the letters are in English, there are a few in Spanish without translations. Some of the letters are not written to the Bluesteins but are copies of correspondence sent to others.
Selma designed many of the family's greeting cards which were sent out every year, and several examples are included in her biographical file, along with press clippings regarding her art exhibits. Selma often sent Abe drawings in her letters to him, and these were not separated from the letters, so although there is a folder containing her artwork, several examples of her work can be found in the "Bluestein, Selma to Abe" correspondence files.
Several of Daniel Bluestein's published and unpublished works are included the series Writings (Daniel Bluestein). Daniel had a strong interest in his family's history, and in its anarchist past, and much of that interest shows in his writings. Daniel's humorous side shows through in a letter to Abe from "Ronald Reagan." In Writings (Abe Bluestein) can be found Abe's essays, histories, and translations, as well as transcriptions of his lectures. Other people's writings can also be found in this series, including those of Sam Dolgoff and Frank Miller.
There are many newspaper clippings on the subject of Spain during the 1970s, both from Spanish and American newspapers. It was during this time that Abe, frustrated by the lack of accurate information in the American press on the CNT and labor uprisings in Spain, decided to start News From Libertarian Spain, with Sam Dolgoff and Murray Bookchin. The title was later changed to Anarchist News, and after Dolgoff died in 1990, Gabriel Javsicas joined the group.
The Modern School series is of great significance to anyone interested in the perceptions of those who attended. As mentioned earlier, Abe's experience growing up at Stelton had a profound affect on him throughout the rest of his life. In a 1975 letter to Rina Garst he asks the question, "Why does the Stelton experience create such a warm, strong bond among us, regardless of our later living experiences?" His answer was "... living and growing in freedom fosters the development of the strongest possible roots in human beings." Abe started the Modern School Reunions in 1974, and as chair of the Reunion Committee, he held the files of each of the annual events. They are arranged chronologically (with no files for 1985, 1987, 1988), ending in 1991, when Abe handed the responsibility over to Jon Scott. The files contain minutes from the Modern School Reunion Committee meetings, as well as flyers announcing each reunion, clippings, and correspondence from each of the reunion attendees. The correspondence is particularly interesting; it contains not just the usual reunion business, but also reminiscences of childhoods spent at Stelton, thoughts and comparisons of living in a modern world, sad news of illness and death, good news of finding more old Stelton-ites, and some truly heartfelt stories. Some of the correspondents are also represented in the Correspondence series (Paul Avrich, Ahrne Thorne, Thomas Yane, Clara and Sidney Solomon, Nelly Dick, Audrey Goodfriend, Pearl and Victor Morris, Dora Keyser, Federico Arcos), however, the Modern School series correpondence relates only to the Modern School reunions and was kept with the Modern School materials by Abe. Abe saw the historic value in these documents, for in 1975, and again in 1983 he sent out questionaires about remembrances to all the reunion participants, and these responses are included. There are also several histories written by various people, as well as three original record books from the Stelton Modern School (1918, 1924-28, 1936).
There are many photographs in the collection, including a family album, several loose photos, and a large portrait of Abe as a small child with his mother, Esther and his sister, Mae(?). Most of the photographs are unidentified and undated, although David Bluestein helped to identify some of them at the time of the donation. As well as the Bluestein and Cohen families, there are photographs of Rudolf Rocker, Boris Yane, Clara and Sidney Solomon, and Federico Arcos.
Sometime during the 1980s Abe dictated a biography of his life onto cassette tapes. The cassettes were not found with the collection, and no one seems to know what happened to them, however, they were transcribed by Eileen Coto of Richmond Hill, New York in 1991 or 1992. The partially-edited transcription is included in Histories (Oral) - Abe Bluestein.
There are two cassette tapes in the collection. One is a microcassette of an interview with Abe about the Spanish Civil War (Biographies, Box 2). The other is a recording of the Ahrne Thorne Memorial Meeting which took place in New York City on March 27, 1986 (Box 3).
* According to American Labor and United States Foreign Policy by Ronald Radosh (Random House 1969), it appears that Bluestein was in Germany working for the AFL (pp 328-329).