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William Sentner Papers

Identifier: LH-wua00370

This collection documents William Sentner's involvement in St. Louis labor movements, various unions, as well as material regarding his political activities and legal battles. The collection contains photographs, labor newsletters, collected news clippings about Sentner, legal and union documents, and Sentner’s personal correspondence.


  • 1918-1967


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


22.00 linear feet

36 boxes (Plus one oversized folder)

Biographical Information

William (Bill) Sentner was born in St. Louis in 1907 to Russian-Jewish immigrants who worked in the garment industry. A bright student, he received a scholarship to attend Washington University. He studied architecture at the University until 1927 when his father died and he was forced to leave St. Louis to find work before completing his degree. He eventually ended up on the West Coast, where he encountered a radical seaman culture that was strong on militant organizing and exposed him to socialism, communism, and the writings of Carl Marx. Sentner eventually returned to St. Louis and became involved in the Unemployed Movement and the Trade Union Unity League.

One of Sentner’s first major successes in the labor movement was with the nut-picker’s strike of 1933, in which black and white female workers united to strike against low wages and racialized pay scales. The strike, led by African American women from the Funston Nut Factory, effectively engaged other working-class community members, who brought feasts to the women on the picket lines to demonstrate that they were prepared for a long fight if necessary. The workers eventually received all of their demands, except for the recognition of their union. The community organizing techniques used in this strike laid the groundwork for future organization efforts.  Sentner organized the District 8 CIO United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (Local 813) in 1935.

For the next fifteen years, Sentner engaged in many other organizing efforts, sometimes risking his own health and safety to fight for a living wage for others. After one strike with the Metal Workers Industrial Union, Sentner was thrown in jail and brutally beaten, after which he decided to officially become a card-carrying member of the communist party.

After WWII, Sentner was accused of being a part of a communist conspiracy and fought a long battle against anti-communist sentiment before a loss of support forced him to forego seeking reelection to his position as head of the union at the end of 1948.

(Biography extracted from "Celebrating Labor Day with the Sentner Papers" by Rose Miyatsu, September 1, 2018)

Note written by Rose Miyatsu

Arrangement Note

This collection has been arranged into 10 series, as follows.

Series 1:  District 8, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America

Series 2: Missouri Valley Authority (MVA)

Series 3: Communist Party Materials

Series 4:  Smith Act

Series 5: Political Action and Social Issues

Series 6:  Personal Correspondence

Series 7: Miscellaneous

Series 8: Antonia Sentner

Series 9: Photographs

Series 10: Objects

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by William Sentner, Jr. of Yardley, PA, 1988.

Related Publications

Related Materials

For additional documents about Union District 8, see ROBERT LOGSDON PAPERS, 1939-1992 (S1070), held by the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Processing Information

Selected and packed by Rose Feurer, graduate student assistant in University Archives, 1987-1988. Water damage to transcripts in Series 4, Sub-series 3 dried and boxed by Library Preservation staff, 1990. Processed by Dina Young in 1990-1991.

Additional accurals processed by Miranda Rectenwald in December 2020. Added to finding aid by Sarah Schnuriger in January 2021.

William Sentner Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 January 22: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Local History Collecting Area

Miranda Rectenwald
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495