The Records of the Steam Engine Makers' Society

The SEM is notable mainly because of the extremely detailed records which survive, mainly in printed form. This document describes the main sources and known holdings. Note that by far the most comprehensive set of Monthly and Annual Reports is held by the Bishopsgate Institute in the City of London.

Annual reports

These are the principal source used for the construction of the database, and their most remarkable feature was the quantity and variety of information about individual members which was included almost continuously from 1835 to 1919; a sample page is included as figure 2. The main section of each Report consisted of branch reports which begin by listing the members, by name and in descending order of seniority. Along with the member's name is various information about them including: an explanation of what had happened to men disappearing from the list (in general: died, gone abroad, excluded for non-payment, or transferred to another branch); payments for travel; unemployment payments; contingent benefit; superannuation expenses; sick expenses and funeral expenses. The branch records then end with a list of miscellaneous expenses, generally administrative but including payments to members on union business, and a financial summary for the branch. The Annual Reports also include financial tables for the union as a whole, names and addresses of branch secretaries, lists of superannuated members, including those granted superannuation during the year and those dying, and lists of recipients of ad hoc payments from the benevolent fund.

Known holdings are:

Amalgamated Engineering & Electrical Union, Peckham, London 1878-1897, 1899-1918
Bishopsgate Institute, London1836/7-1849/50, 1852, 1853-69, 1871-1918
British Library of Political and Economic Science, London 1835/6-1837/8, 1839-40, 1881, 1884-87, 1890-94, 1909
Modern Records Centre, Warwick University 1878-1919
Trades' Union Congress Library1914, 1918
Warwick University Library1875-82,1885-1907, 1909-12, 1915
Working Class Movement Library, Salford 1911-1912, 1918

Our work uses the almost complete run held by the Bishopsgate Institute in the City of London, plus the 1835/6 report from the British Library of Political and Economic Science.

Monthly reports

The earliest monthly reports were single sheet newsletters, including short reports from the individual branches covering both the state of trade and industrial disputes. A report from the General Committee of Management, or later the Executive Council, was followed by a list of members dying, going abroad and excluded; once a quarter, the income and expenditure of the General Committee was listed, as were the results of union ballots when relevant. From 1875, the report also lists applicants for admission and generally includes their age and some details of their previous history; for example, where they served their apprenticeship. From the 1870s onwards, the reports also include occasional tabulations listing wage rates and normal hours worked for each branch. However, although the monthly reports increased in length they never contained much systematic information and are mainly of interest for their detailed reports on local events and conditions. Known holdings are:

Bishopsgate Institute, London1848-1903; 1861-1906; 1907-1919 (i.e. two separate runs cover 1861-1903)
British Library of Political and Economic Science, London Dec 1913- Jun 1914, Dec 1916- Nov 1917
Modern Records Centre, Warwick1907-18


These document the union's workings, and in particular lay down rates of benefits, entitlement and so on. Known collections are as follows:

Bishopsgate Institute, London1827, 1848, 1851, 1854, 1858, 1861, 1865, 1873, 1879, 1889, 1903, 1905, 1915, 1927
British Library of Political and Economic Science, London 1846, 1848, 1878; 1889
Trades' Union Congress Library1826, 1878, 1889
Working Class Movement Library1915

Manuscript records

The SEM Registration Books, 1853-1920, are held by the Modern Records Centre and list members joining by name, age , branch joined, trade (e.g. fitter), marital status at entry, date of admission, whether excluded and, if later re-admitted, the date and the name of the branch. The SEM Admission Schedules, 1900-1919 are held at the Peckham headquarters of the successor union, the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) and consist of forms filled in for each recruit: age, trade, name of employer, and current wage. The MRC also holds the Bolton branch contributions book for 1827-37, listing members' names and their monthly contributions, and the Wigan branch minutes for 1844-90.

(c) Humphrey Southall 1997

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