Scope and arrangement
The Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. papers, dating from 1922-2007, document the historian's life and work through extensive correspondence, journals, writings, research material, office files and personal records. The papers provide insight into Schlesinger's philosophical, political, and historical thinking, while offering a glimpse of his daily activities. The collection represents Schlesinger's vocation as a popular and academic historian, as well as his life as a political activist and advisor. Every era of Schlesinger's life and career appear in the collection; however, much of the material generated by Schlesinger as part of the Kennedy Administration is held by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The holdings of the Kennedy Library include correspondence, subject files, speech files, and telephone logs from Schlesinger's tenure at the White House. Research material for A Thousand Days, as well as various drafts of the book, can also be found among the Schlesinger papers at the Kennedy Library. Nineteen boxes of alphabetical correspondence unrelated to the Kennedy Administration, spanning the years 1945-1960, are held by the Kennedy Library; researchers seeking a complete record of Schlesinger's personal and professional correspondence should be prepared to search the Kennedy Library's collection also.
Schlesinger's correspondence spans almost his entire life, beginning when he was first learning to write, and continuing to his death. He corresponded with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, readers, publishers, editors, and relatives. The collection illustrates the often fluid nature of those categories, as Schlesinger often combined friendship with professional and political association. Schlesinger maintained his correspondence according to a variety of filing systems kept in separate offices, and the collection contains letters organized alphabetically, chronologically, and by subject. Since Schlesinger did not use a single consistent means of filing, researchers should consider all the correspondence subseries, as well as relevant writings (in Series III) and research files (in Series IV), when seeking out a particular subject, era, or individual.
The journals chronicle most of Schlesinger's adult life, spanning fifty years beginning in the early 1950s. The time between entries ranges from one day to several months, and the number of pages devoted to a given year ranges from sixty to over four hundred. Schlesinger used his journal to describe meetings, political events, and social engagements; he also frequently expressed his political insights and opinions when writing. An edited compilation of the journals was published posthumously. (Journals, 1952-2000 by Arthur M. Schlesinger; edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger. New York: Penguin Press, 2007.)
The collection includes many unpublished writings, such as lectures, speeches, eulogies, and commencement addresses; drafts of published writings include those of Robert Kennedy and His Times (see Series IV), as well as some article drafts with related correspondence in Series IV.
As a historian and political commentator, Schlesinger was a careful and prodigious researcher. He maintained research files on his full-length works (The Age of Roosevelt, The Age of Jackson and Robert Kennedy and His Times included here), as well as subject files for other writings. The files include clippings, research notes, interviews, correspondence, and student papers.
The collection includes files on Schlesinger's family and various eras of his own life. These include schoolwork, scrapbooks, photographs, legal documents, and documentation from his service in World War II. The papers also contain copies of Schlesinger's F.B.I. files, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act., found in Series V.
Finally, the collection contains appointment books and phone message logs, illustrating the details of Schlesinger's daily activities from the early 1950s onward.
The Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. papers are arranged in six series:
- 1923-2007286 boxes
This series represents a lifetime of communication, both personal and professional. Beginning in his childhood during the 1920s and continuing to the end of his life, Schlesinger's correspondence traces his relationships and activities in the political, literary and academic spheres. The series includes correspondence with friends, colleagues, publishers and organizations, on a variety of subjects ranging from the frivolity of Schlesinger's personal fashion to the gravity of war and political regime change. The spectrum of correspondents reflects the wide-ranging nature of Schlesinger's acquaintanceship. There are letters to and from sitting presidents of the United States, as well as noted intellectuals, authors, critics, government officials, Supreme Court justices, celebrities, students and fans. Schlesinger was always eager to share ideas, and the volume and quality of the letters in this series provide insight into the views of Schlesinger and his friends and associates.
Schlesinger's correspondence from the late 1940s onward was usually sent through an office and secretary, but there are also many examples of letters written or typed by Schlesinger himself. As Schlesinger maintained numerous correspondence files at both his home and CUNY offices, and these files were organized in different ways, researchers should examine all of the correspondence subseries, as the same correspondent may appear in the alphabetical, chronological and/or subject correspondence. Related correspondence can also be found in Series III and Series IV. Apart from the chronological office file (Subseries C), all of the subseries herein contain a combination of incoming and outgoing letters, with Schlesinger's replies often attached to incoming letters. A file of restricted correspondence will become available in 2050 and a file of presidential memoranda will become available as it is declassified.
Much of Schlesinger's office correspondence from 1961-1963 is absent from the collection, to be found in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The Kennedy Library also possesses a file of alphabetical correspondence from the fifteen years preceding Schlesinger's 1961 White House appointment. Since the Kennedy Library holdings overlap chronologically with this collection, researchers seeking the complete correspondence of a given period, or between Schlesinger and a particular individual, may well have to visit both repositories. The Kennedy Library's finding aid for its Schlesinger papers can be viewed here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Archives+and+Manuscripts/fa_schlesinger.htm
- circa 1930; 1950-200314 boxes
The bulk of Schlesinger's journals cover the years 1952-2002. They document Schlesinger's work for the Democratic Party in the 1950s; his tenure as a member of John F. Kennedy's campaign and presidential staffs; his activities as a journalist, professor, and public intellectual after moving to New York in 1966; his role as an advisor to the Democratic Party and its leadership, such as Robert and Ted Kennedy, Averell Harriman, George McGovern, Bill Clinton and Al Gore; and his friendships with other politically-oriented intellectuals, the staffs of the Kennedy and other presidential administrations, and prominent cultural figures. The earliest journals in this series date back to the early 1930s and are included here in their original handwritten versions. A teenage Schlesinger began keeping them to record his travel experiences and his observations and musings about his destinations.
Schlesinger wrote not just for public consumption, but also for himself, and his personal journals provide perhaps the greatest insight into his opinions, and in some cases his daily life. Although entries include some information and reflections on Schlesinger's private life, their focus, like Schlesinger's, is on current events. The journals are not deeply introspective. Personal remarks usually center on his progress on current writing, his teaching, and personal and family milestones. Mentions of such topics are, in any case, brief.
Most of the journal entries report and comment on the news of the day. Schlesinger is often present and frequently participating in the events he describes. For instance, Schlesinger went to nearly every Democratic National Convention during his adulthood, and often had some official or unofficial role or influence; he was on President Kennedy's staff and participated in meetings on such topics as Cuba, Vietnam, and civil rights legislation; he drafted speeches, and took official trips, such as one to South America in 1961; and he found himself at the center of the events in the aftermath of the President's assassination. Later, after leaving official public life, his friends and colleagues in political and other circles continued to call on Schlesinger for advice and to comment on their plans of action, speeches, letters, and editorials. At dinners, cocktail parties, and informal gatherings, he was there as Robert Kennedy decided whether to run against Lyndon Johnson in 1968, as George McGovern mounted his 1972 campaign, and as Ted Kennedy struggled seemingly every four years over his presidential aspirations. His views on Bill Clinton's campaign and presidency are here, as well as his contributions as an unofficial consultant to the Al Gore campaign in 2000.
Schlesinger was very active socially and many of his entries are framed as reports on a party, a trip to a friend's country home, or a lunch at the Century Club. Although he is often not the main character in the events about which he writes, he narrates with a distinct point of view while reporting facts and the opinions of others.
In addition to the usual motivations for keeping a journal, Schlesinger used his as an aid in writing his books, letters, articles, memorials, and speeches recalling past events. For this reason, entries may contain annotations made some years after the fact. Schlesinger also sent copies of pages to colleagues to help them recall or write about specific past events. Although an edited version of these journals was published after Schlesinger's death (xxJournals, 1952-2000xx by Arthur M. Schlesinger; edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger. New York: Penguin Press, 2007), it is not clear whether or not he planned for their publication in some form as he wrote them. He certainly used them as source material for his memoirs, however, as well as for other writings requiring him to look retrospectively at events in his own lifetime.
The journal entries are sometimes supplemented with copies of letters, memoranda, speeches, invitations, meeting minutes, and other related material. Of note, in this regard, are the letters to and from John Kennedy during the 1960 campaign. Some earlier entries, in the 1950s, consist of actual meeting minutes and notes rather than conscious journal entries.
The journals are typed, though there are some handwritten annotations and additions. Several entries appear to have been typed from notes (by Schlesinger or his secretary, Gretchen Stewart); others were written directly on the typewriter. It is not possible to determine when or who typed the entries, except when Schlesinger refers explicitly to the action of typing himself. (See, for instance, January 26, 1974 when his son Robert comes in and taps on a few keys in mid-sentence.) During the 1950s, a variety of paper and typewriters were used. Sometimes copies were made of pages or pages were retyped later from carbons or copies. Multiple copies of the same entries have been retained when there appears to be some possible variation.
Entries in the journal are dated the day Schlesinger wrote them rather than with the date of the events described. Depending on the regularity with which he was keeping the journal at the time, entries could cover a single day or take a more retrospective view of a preceding month or even months.
The years of Adlai Stevenson's unsuccessful campaigns for president, 1952 especially, are well represented; otherwise entries are sporadic in the 1950s. Schlesinger began keeping his journal more regularly during Kennedy's presidential campaign. It is only in 1961 that the journal takes on regularity and uniformity in presentation, and he begins to use continuous page numbers. Schlesinger's White House years, 1961-1963, are the best documented in the journals, averaging over 400 pages per year. The journals for most other years consist of 60-100 pages, the exceptions being 1968, 1971, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1982, and 1983 which are each 150 pages or longer. Schlesinger tended to write in his journal more often during important political years, notably those with presidential elections.
- 1946-200564 boxes
This series includes Schlesinger's unpublished work or early drafts of published material. Additional drafts, many of articles written for academic and popular periodicals, can be found attached to correspondence in Series I.E.
- 142 boxes
Some of Schlesinger's research files consisted of material gathered on subjects in which he took an interest, or which might have provided the basis for a book, article, or lecture, while his other research files were directly connected to the history books he wrote. The files contain published material, transcripts, notes, and annotations.
- 1922-200728 boxes
This series consists primarily of the files Schlesinger maintained on personal matters, including his finances, his legal affairs, and his family. Also included are photographs, scrapbooks and other personal items retained in the course of Schlesinger's lifetime.
The earliest material in this series dates to the 1920s, and includes elementary school work and summer camp items from Schlesinger's own childhood. His high school work at Exeter and college days at Harvard are also represented, as are his years of World War II service in the O.S.S. and O.W.I. Other personal files in this series relate to Schlesinger's parents, wives and children. Some highlights of the series include essays by the young Schlesinger, including his "History of Cambridge," commemoratives of his milestone birthday parties, and material he kept from his children's formative and young adult years. A published chronology of all Schlesinger's writings through 1984, compiled with his cooperation, is included in this series (see Box 518, Folder 1). Researchers seeking titles or dates of Schlesinger's publications should find the chronology quite useful. Most historically noteworthy of all may be the copies of Schlesinger's own file obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The file contains the F.B.I. reports on Schlesinger's background checks by the Bureau before his government appointment in 1961, as well as other memoranda about him from the Bureau's files.
Among the photographic highlights in this series are the pictures Schlesinger included in his autobiography; photos of Schlesinger with notable figures from Adlai Stevenson to Bill Clinton; autographed pictures of Lauren Bacall and Carol Channing; photos documenting Schlesinger's single performance in xxThe Will Rogers Folliesxx; and Schlesinger's photographs of the "Kennedy years," featuring portraits and candid shots from his time in the White House, including pictures of Schlesinger with President Kennedy.
- 1951-200419 boxes
This series is primarily comprised of Schlesinger's annual appointment books and books of phone messages from his office. The appointment books contain daily entries detailing Schlesinger's personal and professional meetings. In later years, birthdays of family members and friends (including their years of birth) are noted on the appropriate day's entry. Schlesinger appears to have maintained the appointment books himself, and they serve as a means of reconstructing Schlesinger's days and evenings as he met with the important cultural, intellectual and political figures of his time. Most years have more than one corresponding appointment book. The phone message books were maintained by Schlesinger's secretary from 1966-1983. Entries list the caller, the time and date of the call, and any message left. In addition, the series contains a book detailing Schlesinger's periodical subscriptions in the 1970s and 1980s, and a book detailing Schlesinger's organizational memberships in the same era.