Papers of David Lasser, labor activist and aerospace visionary. In the early 1930s, David Lasser founded and became the first president of both the American Interplanetary Society and the Workers Alliance of America. He wrote one of the first books in English dealing with the possibility of space exploration titled, THE CONQUEST OF SPACE. The collection is arranged in seven series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) ECONOMIC COOPERATION ADMINISTRATION COURT CASE, 4) INTERVIEWS, 5) ORGANIZATIONS, 6) SUBJECT FILES, and 7) WRITINGS. The accession processed in 2000 contains mostly correspondence and photographs, and is arranged in two series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE and 2) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS.


David Lasser was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1902. After attending a half year of high school, he quit, and lying about his age, enlisted in the United States Army. He was sent to France where he suffered shell shock and was later honorably discharged. Upon release from the hospital, he entered M.I.T. where he graduated with a B.S. in Engineering Administration, despite his lack of a high school education.

In 1930, after founding the American Interplanetary Society, the first organization in the U.S. to deal with space travel by means of rocket, Lasser wrote and self-published one of the first non-fiction accounts, in English, dealing with space travel titled THE CONQUEST OF SPACE. Arthur C. Clarke, world-reknowned science fiction author and scientific investigator, wrote "my encounter with the CONQUEST OF SPACE, soon after its publication in 1931, was one of the turning points in my life, and I suspect, not only of mine...."

In his early years, Lasser was an editor at Science Wonders Stories in New York City. With the deepening of the Great Depression, Lasser also worked as coordinator of a city-wide union for the unemployed. In fact, he spent so much time organizing the unemployed that his publishers at Science Wonder Stories one day told him "Since you love the unemployed so much, we suggest that you join them." In 1933, he founded a nationwide union for the unemployed named the Workers Alliance of America and became its first president. Seven years later, he resigned due to increasing Communist involvement in the organization.

Upon his resignation from the Workers Alliance of America, President Roosevelt nominated Lasser to join the Works Projects Administration which trained the long-term unemployed for private industry. Later that year, however, the U.S. Congress inserted a clause into WPA legislation stating that no part of their funds might be used to "pay the compensation of David Lasser." This action was prompted by Martin Dies, a Republican Congressman, who at the debate for the 1942-1943 Appropriations Bill for WPA Expenditures declared that "this fellow Lasser is not only a radical but a crackpot, with mental delusions we can travel to the moon!" Soon after, Lasser was released from his position. One year later, the House Appropriations Committee granted him full clearance and the offending clause was stricken from the legislation. This would prove to be only the beginning of David Lasser's struggle to permanently clear his name.

In the following years, Lasser worked at the War Productions Board as a coordinator of trade union officials serving various WPA industry divisions. In 1945, Lasser wrote PRIVATE MONOPOLY - THE ENEMY AT HOME and soon became labor consultant to Secretary of Commerce, W. Averell Harriman, who was assigned to develop the Marshall Plan. Lasser assisted in dealing with anti-Marshall Plan trade unions under Communist influence.

In 1948, Lasser was again offered a position as labor consultant to Harriman, who was at this time an ambassador charged with foreign operations for the Economic Cooperation Administration. Lasser was refused clearance by the E.C.A. security staff on grounds that his Workers Alliance affiliation violated E.C.A. law which prohibited appointments of those who had been members of disloyal organizations that advocated "contrary views." The E.C.A. claim that the Workers Alliance was such an organization was backed up by the Workers Alliance's appearance on the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations. The Workers Alliance was cleared by the Justice Department for the period of David Lasser's membership and he was temporarily assigned to the E.C.A. office in Paris, France, pending final determination of his eligibility. Three months later, he was refused an extension of his assignment and an E.C.A. hearing took place. In 1950, for the second time in his life, Lasser was ousted from a government position as the hearing board cleared the Workers Alliance for "contrary views" during Lasser's membership, but recommended against his employment on the basis of alleged "Communist control" and following the "Communist line."

Lasser next took a job as a research director for the International Union of Electrical Workers affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (I.U.E.-A.F.L.-C.I.O.). He was assigned to visit European and Asian countries to improve relationships with the United States Labor Movement. Lasser retired from the I.U.E. - A.F.L. - C.I.O. as Assistant to the President for Economic and Collective Bargaining in 1969.

In the 1970s, Lasser began work on several literary projects, one of which was a fictional account of an asteroid, Big Joey, and its possible collision with Earth. Titled "Big Joey," the book was rejected for publication and abandoned, only to be revised and reworked in the early 1980s. Another unfinished work was on the nature of the universe, tentatively titled "The Infinite Adventure." For this book, Lasser spent ten years researching hundreds of journal and newspaper articles and took extensive notes. The book was abandoned after several years due to his discovery of a number of other books on similar topics by other authors.

After the passage of the Freedom of Information Act , Lasser began collecting government documents regarding his affiliation with the Workers Alliance and his alleged Communist ties. Requests were sent to President Carter by U.S. Senator Cranston and many other prominent officials in support of reopening David Lasser's case. A review was finally secured and directed by the Honorable Joseph Onek, Deputy Council to the President. As a result, in 1980 David Lasser received a letter from President Carter clearing him of all charges.

Later in his life, David Lasser became very active in his community of Rancho Bernardo, California. He was one of the founders of the San Diego State University Continuing Education Center in Rancho Bernardo and was the chairman of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee. He also taught a class on the universe titled "The Infinite Adventure." In addition to his work with San Diego State University, Lasser was chairman of the Citizens Fact Finding Commission charged with gathering information on the problem to astronomical observation of high sodium versus low sodium street lights. The low sodium lights were chosen by the City of San Diego, and Lasser received special recognition from CALTECH on behalf of Palomar Observatory.

David Lasser died on May 5, 1996, at the age of 94.

Scope and Content

Accession Processed in 1996

Correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, biographical information, documents regarding the Economic Cooperation Administration court case, and notes on writings of others make up this collection which covers the years 1931-1994 and occupies 8.00 linear feet. This collection is arranged into seven series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL; 2) CORRESPONDENCE; 3) ECONOMIC COOPERATION ADMINISTRATION COURT CASE; 4) INTERVIEWS; 5) ORGANIZATIONS; 6) SUBJECT FILES and 7) WRITINGS.


This series consists of news clippings, Lasser's employment background including resumes and applications, photographs, Who's Who biographies and his Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Army.


The correspondence in this series spans Lasser's entire life with the bulk of it sent or received in his later years. It is arranged in alphabetical order by name of correspondent. Notable correspondents include Eleanor Roosevelt and Arthur C. Clarke.


This series contains documents and general correspondence regarding the E.C.A. court case from 1948 - 1950. Many of the documents are arranged numerically according to Lasser's index of documents. Also included in this series are letters of support from friends and acquaintances and Lasser's notes on the case.


This series contains interview notes arranged alphabetically by the name of the individual interviewed. Also contained in this series are interview questions and an index of those interviewed.


The ORGANIZATIONS series contains documents and correspondence from the organizations with which Lasser was affiliated. Most of the material in this series relates to Lasser's work with the Workers Alliance of America. He was a founding member and the first president of this organization, but was only active for five years until his resignation in 1940 due to an increasing Communist presence in the organization.

Lasser was a founding member and the first president of the American Interplanetary Society in 1930. This organization has undergone a few name changes, however. The first change was in 1934, when it was renamed the American Rocket Society and the second was in 1963 when the American Rocket Society merged with the Institute of the Aerospace Sciences to form the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Documents and correspondence can be found under all three organization names, although the few items regarding the American Rocket Society are located in the American Interplanetary Society folder.

Also included in this series are documents and correspondence from the American Association for the Advancement of Science with which Lasser was associated (1981-1982).


The SUBJECT FILES series is arranged alphabetically by subject. This series contains material on conferences attended by Lasser, the Freedom of Information Act documents, Lasser's name clearance litigation, documents related to government cases against Lasser (i.e. Attorney General's list, Dies Committee, notes on front groups and miscellaneous legislation), material from IUE-AFL-CIO and other organizations with which he was employed (W.P.A. and Wonder Stories), and material from his work in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego (SDSU and Sodium lamp controversy).


This series is divided into two subseries: A) Writings by Lasser and B) Notes on the Writings of Others. The first subseries consists of original manuscripts, poetry, movie scripts, and musicals written by Lasser. Most of the writing in this series is titled BIG JOEY which Lasser worked on for several years but never published. The papers contain only a very small amount of material on THE CONQUEST OF SPACE, one of Lasser's most significant works. This collection houses no material on PRIVATE MONOPOLY - THE ENEMY AT HOME, another book written by Lasser in 1945.

The second subseries consists of notes by Lasser on writings of others. This subseries makes up a significant portion of the entire collection and in most cases is arranged alphabetically by the subject of the writing. In some cases, however, when Lasser wrote extensively on one title, the title of the writing is used as the folder title.

Accession Processed in 2000

The accession to the David Lasser Papers processed in 2000 contains mostly correspondence and photographs. It spans the period 1978-1998, occupies 0.33 linear feet, and is arranged in two series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE and 2) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS.


The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged alphabetically by the name of the correspondent. Many of the letters in this series date to near the end of David Lasser's life when his wife, Mimi Lasser, carried on much of his correspondence. Notable correspondents include President Jimmy Carter and Arthur C. Clarke.


The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series, arranged alphabetically, contains photographs of Lasser with others, including a photograph of him with President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson which is signed by President Johnson. The series also contains materials related to Lasser's membership in organizations, writings by and about Lasser, and a plaque given to Lasser by the Palomar Observatory in appreciation of his efforts during the "sodium lamp controversy."

Accession Processed in 1996


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11 90th birthday celebration. March 20, 1992.
12 Biographies.
13 Employment information, 1942 - 1973. Applications and resumes.
14 Interviews with David Lasser, 1981 - 1986. Written questions and answers.
15 News clippings, 1931 - 1979.
16 News clippings, 1980 - 1992.
17 Photographs.
18 United States Army honorable discharge papers, 1919.
19 Who's Who and Man of the Year biographical information.


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110 Bangs, Allan, 1994 - 1995.
111 Benjamin, Herbert, 1967 - 1976.
112 Black Cat Studios, 1994.
113 Clarke, Arthur C., 1969 - 1995.
114 Davin, Eric, 1986.
115 Davin, Eric, 1987 - 1994.
116 Harford, James, 1981 - 1989.
117 Harriman, W. Averell, 1949 - 1978.
118 Johns, John, 1980.
119 Keyser, Steve, 1995.
120 Kiesel, Diane, 1980 - 1981.
21 Kotz, Nick, 1980 - 1994.
22 Labor History Encyclopedia, 1984.
23 Miscellaneous.
24 Morrow, Tom, 1986.
25 Nature Magazine, 1991.
26 Pendray, G. Edward, 1969 - 1987.
27 Perlman, Alfred, 1979.
28 Planetary Society, Carl Sagan President, 1980 - 1992.
29 Ponnamperuma, Cyril, 1976.
210 Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1940.
211 Sandfield, Max, 1980.
212 Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, 1974 - 1980.
213 Union of Concerned Scientists, 1984 - 1994.
214 Walker, Chuck, President of the National Space Society, 1994.


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215 Biography and outline of events.
216 Correspondence.
217 Documents 1-20.
218 Documents 21-40.
219 Documents 41-61.
220 Documents index, 1-61.
221 Documents, misc.
31 Exhibits 1-37 and A, C-F & S.
32 History of David Lasser case, 1980. Written account of the events leading up to the case and of the case itself.
33 Letters of support.
34 Notes on case. Handwritten and typed, 1 of 2 folders.
35 Notes on case. Handwritten and typed, 2 of 2 folders.


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36 Index, summaries and interview questions.
37 Interviews A - F.
38 Interviews G - P.
39 Interviews S - W.


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310 American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1981 - 1982.
311 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1985. 36th Congress of the International Astronautical Federation report.
41 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics - 50th anniversary, 1980 - 1981.
42 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics - correspondence, 1981 - 1989.
43 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics - correspondence, 1990 - 1995.
44 American Interplanetary Society, 1930 - 1992. This organization was later known as the American Rocket Society.
45 Workers Alliance of America - correspondence, 1936 - 1980.
46 Workers Alliance of America - correspondence, 1981 - 1989.
47 Workers Alliance of America - documents, notes, press clippings, 1936 - 1939.
48 Workers Alliance of America - documents, notes, press clippings, 1940.


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49 Attorney General's list of subversive organizations, 1941 - 1973.
410 Book clubs.
411 Conference - 25th anniversary of the Industrial Relations Center, Univ. of Minn., 1970.
412 Conference - International Brotherhood of Operative Potters, 1970.
413 Conference - National Conference, Chicago, 1940.
414 Consulting, 1948 - 1971.
51 Copley, Helen, 1978.
52 Dies committee, 1940.
53 Freedom of Information Act, 1975 - 1995.
54 Front groups. Lassers typed notes.
55 Guth, Alan.
56 Hawking, Stephen.
57 I.U.E. - A. F. L. - C. I. O. - correspondence, 1968 - 1980. IUE-AFL-CIO stands for Int'l Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
58 I.U.E. - A. F. L. - C. I. O. - correspondence, 1981 - 1987. IUE-AFL-CIO stands for Int'l Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
59 Miscellaneous documents, notes and press clippings.
510 Name clearance, 1978 - 1979.
511 Name clearance, 1980.
512 San Diego State University - Continuing Education.
61 Sodium lamp controversy - Lasser's commission against high sodium street lamps, 1983 - 1984.
62 Subpenas from the Congress of the U. S., 1951 - 1954.
63 Travel, 1963 - 1968.
64 United States National Archives and Records Service - research notes, 1976.
65 War Production Board, 1943 - 1945.
66 Wonder Stories, 1931 - 1954.
67 Work Projects Admin. (W.P.A.) legislation - congressional ouster against Lasser, 1941.
68 Work Relief and Relief for Fiscal Years 1942 & 1943. Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations - U. S. House of Representatives.
69 U. S. House of Representatives Mutual Security Act of 1954.


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Writings by Lasser

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610 Big Joey - characters.
611 Big Joey - correspondence, A - Z.
612 Big Joey - draft, 1984.
613 Big Joey - draft, chapters I - III.
614 Big Joey - draft, chapter IV.
615 Big Joey - draft, pages 3 - 49.
616 Big Joey - draft, pages 5 - 110.
71 Big Joey - draft, pages 108 - 175.
72 Big Joey - draft, pages 176 - 233.
73 Big Joey - draft, table of contents & Ch I - III.
74 Big Joey - draft, text of last part.
75 Big Joey - manuscript, 1970. 1 of 2 folders.
76 Big Joey - manuscript, 1970. 2 of 2 folders.
77 Big Joey - manuscript, 1984. 1 of 2 folders.
78 Big Joey - manuscript, 1984. 2 of 2 folders.
79 Big Joey - misc. notes. 1 of 4 folders.
81 Big Joey - misc. notes. 2 of 4 folders.
82 Big Joey - misc. notes. 3 of 4 folders.
83 Big Joey - misc. notes. 4 of 4 folders.
84 Big Joey - movie script.
85 Big Joey - outline. 1 of 4 folders.
86 Big Joey - outline. 2 of 4 folders.
87 Big Joey - outline. 3 of 4 folders.
88 Big Joey - outline. 4 of 4 folders.
89 Big Joey - story notes.
810 By Rocket to the Planets. Published in NATURE MAGAZINE, November 1931.
811 Conquest of Space, 1931.
91 Cosmic Adventure.
92 Cosmic Contact.
93 Infinite Adventure - lecture series.
94 Infinite Adventure - manuscript.
95 Infinite Adventure - video game.
96 Island Paradise - musical in two acts, 1962.
97 Island Paradise - musical in three acts.
98 Labor and world affairs. Published in FOREIGN POLICY REPORTS, Nov. 15, 1949.
99 Labor looks at industrial engineering. Published in SOCIETY FOR ADVANCED MANAGEMENT, 1956.
910 Letter from David Lasser. Published in an A.I.A.A. anniversary publication, 1981.
911 Poetry, 1943 - 1988.
912 Speeches, lectures, misc. writings.
913 Waiting Room.
914 What's new in collective bargaining. Published in THE INDIAN WORKER and AMERICAN LABOR, 1968.
915 With vehicle perfected, science hopes to plumb mystery of outer space. Published in NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, July 13, 1930.

Notes on the Writings of Others

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916 Accidental Universe by Paul Davies, 1982.
917 Arms control.
918 Asteroids.
101 Astronomy.
102 Atoms to Quarks by James Trefil, 1980.
103 Beyond Einstein by Nickio Kaku, 1987.
104 Big bang.
105 Biology. 1 of 2 folders.
106 Biology. 2 of 2 folders.
107 Black holes.
108 Cell.
109 Cell by Isaac Asimov.
1010 Cosmic Blueprint by Paul Davies.
1011 Cosmic Dawn by Eric Chaisson, 1980.
1012 Cosmology. 1 of 2 folders.
1013 Cosmology. 2 of 2 folders.
111 Cosmology by Edward Harrison, 1981.
112 Cosmos by Carl Sagan, 1980.
113 DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).
114 Development of the universe.
115 Earth and the universe.
116 Edge of Infinity by Paul Davies, 1981.
117 Einstein and the theory of relativity.
118 Evolution.
119 Evolution vs. creationism.
1110 Extinction.
121 Extraterrestrial intelligence.
122 First Three Minutes by Steven Weinberg.
123 Future, socio/science.
124 Future, space/universe.
125 Galaxies. 1 of 2 folders.
126 Galaxies. 2 of 2 folders.
127 Gamma rays.
128 Gravitational waves.
129 Laws governing the universe.
1210 Lefthand of Creation by John Barrow and Joseph Silk, 1952.
1211 Lifetide by Lyall Watson, 1979 - 1980.
1212 Light.
1213 List of books/authors reviewed.
1214 Mars.
1215 Matter. 1 of 2 folders.
1216 Matter. 2 of 2 folders.
1217 Matter/energy.
131 Miscellaneous notes on writings of others.
132 Multiple universes.
133 Mythology.
134 Neutrinos.
135 Origin of life.
136 Origin of the universe. 1 of 2 folders.
137 Origin of the universe. 2 of 2 folders.
138 Other Worlds by Paul Davies, 1980.
139 Parallel universes.
1310 Physics.
1311 Pulsars.
1312 Quantum theory.
1313 Quarks.
1314 Quasars.
141 Religion. 1 of 7 folders.
142 Religion. 2 of 7 folders.
143 Religion. 3 of 7 folders.
144 Religion. 4 of 7 folders.
145 Religion. 5 of 7 folders.
146 Religion. 6 of 7 folders.
147 Religion. 7 of 7 folders.
151 Religion/God.
152 Religion and the universe.
153 Science.
154 Science news/research.
155 Scientists, information and interviews.
156 Solar system.
157 Space. 1 of 2 folders.
158 Space. 2 of 2 folders.
159 Space mysteries/strange forces.
1510 Space stations/missions.
1511 Stars.
1512 Supernovas.
1513 Technology.
1514 Telescopes.
1515 Theories.
1516 Thursday's Universe by Marcia Bartusiak, 1986.
161 Universal events.
162 Universe. 1 of 5 folders.
163 Universe. 2 of 5 folders.
164 Universe. 3 of 5 folders.
165 Universe. 4 of 5 folders.
166 Universe. 5 of 5 folders.
167 Universe, size and distance of.
168 Until the Sun Dies by Joseph Jastrow.
169 Unusual events.

Accession Processed in 2000


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171 Bleiler, Everett F., 1995 - 1996.
172 Burgess, Eric, 1998.
173 Carter, Jimmy, 1980. Color photocopy of one letter.
174 Ciancone, Michael, 1992 - 1996. Includes photograph, magazine articles.
175 Clarke, Arthur C., 1995. Includes correspondence with the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.
176 Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 1995.
177 CSPASE Press, 1996.
178 Davin, Eric Leif, 1986 - 1989.
179 Gould, Robert J., 1980.
1710 Harper and Collins Publishers, 1995.
1711 Harriman, W. Averell, 1978.
1712 Maran, Stephen, 1986.
1713 Miller, Ron, 1990.
1714 Princeton University. Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, 1995.
1715 Romig, Reverend, 1986.


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1716 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1989 - 1996.
1717 American Interplanetary Society, 1930.
1718FB-317-09Photograph of Lasser with President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964. Signed by President Johnson.
1719 Photographs of Lasser with others, 1968 - 1995. Includes undated photographs.
1720 Reflections on the Challenger Tragedy, 1986. Essay by Lasser. Typescript draft and fair copy, with a poem attached.
1721 Roosevelt, Lasser and the Workers' Alliance: Organizing WPA Workers and the Unemployed, 1935-1940, 1982. Photocopy of a typescript of an academic paper by James E. Sargent.
1722 Sodium lamp controversy, 1984. Plaque and letter from the Palomar Observatory.

Finding aid generated: 2005-10-28