Scope and arrangement
The Lester Markel papers contain letters, internal memoranda, reports, photographs, article drafts, and speeches that Markel created while Sunday editor and associate editor at The New York Times. Also present are many speeches and essays that Markel wrote in conjunction with outside journalist and research organizations, and a small amount of personal correspondence and documents.
The collection is divided into two series: I: People and II: Subjects; these series are each arranged alphabetically by folder title. The People files consist of records pertaining to individuals, while the Subjects files contain items on specific topics. Items germane to two or more people or subjects are often cross-referenced in the finding aid; documents related to specific issues are generally located in subject files rather than the people folders of those involved. The Times archivists imposed this arrangement on Markel's files. These papers do not make up the entirety of Markel's files; The Times archives staff discarded many items, and in 1977 Markel sent a collection of professional Times-related files to the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The bulk of the records relate to Markel's management of the Sunday Department between 1952 and 1964. Included are communications with the publishers and senior editors regarding editorial decisions, sensitive news topics, and specific Sunday edition stories; memoranda with staff reporters and freelance journalists concerning assignments and the development of stories; notes about published articles and the design of the sections; administrative memoranda concerning staffing and production schedules and costs; and notes on interviews that Markel conducted with prominent politicians. Also present are letters from many of his principal associates, notably Editor of the Review of the Week John G. Desmond and Assistant Sunday Editor Daniel Schwarz. Other contributors include Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Adolph Ochs Sulzberger, Orvil Dryfoos, and E. Clifton Daniel. The collection contains very little material from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s; items from the late 1960s and early 1970s are largely critiques of articles, sections, or general editorial decisions made by The Times that Markel submitted to various editors.
Another significant portion of the collection relates to Markel's activities outside of The Times. These include extensive files of correspondence, planning documents, and committee reports regarding his involvement with several journalist and public policy organizations, most notably the International Press Institute, American Society of Newspaper Editors, and the United Nations Public Opinion Survey. Markel was an active committee member, and served as chairman and board member for the International Press Institute. These files reveal his advisory, leadership, and agenda setting roles for these organizations and his strong opinions on the press' duties to inform and educate the public. Other outside activities represented in the collection include speeches from Markel's many public speaking engagements, and scripts and correspondence related to his television and radio appearances.
This collection contains a small amount of personal papers, including correspondence, such as invitations from friends to social events; financial records (records of car sales and car insurance); and legal documents, primarily items concerning the settlement of estates of various family members.
The New York Times Company records. Lester Markel papers are arranged in two series:
- 1931-19737 boxes
This series is made up of files that contain items to, from, or concerning various individuals, such as The New York Times staff members, freelance reporters, politicians, other newsmakers, and Markel's friends and acquaintances. Files for Times employees typically contain discussions of specific articles or detail conflicts between departments related to editorial or staff decisions; items to or from Markel's close editorial associates, notably John G. Desmond and Daniel Schwarz, are filed throughout the collection. Records from the late 1960s and early 1970s are largely critiques of The Times that Markel submitted to various editors. Also present are letters from friends, many consisting of invitations to social events. Particularly sizable People files include those for Hannah Arendt, Irwin Edman, Eva Herrmann, Dr. Leo Szilard, and Barbara Ward.
Files are arranged alphabetically by name. Entries without box and folder numbers cross-reference related material in other files. These files do not necessarily collect every letter, memorandum, or document related to the individual; subject files should also be consulted.
- 1930-199714 boxes
This series is made up of alphabetical subject files that are organized (and titled) by topical keywords, events, geographic location, or company, organization, institution, or department. The bulk of the files consist of correspondence and memoranda between Times staff members concerning the production and improvement of the Sunday edition. This series also contains many letters and memoranda between Markel and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger concerning Sunday edition editorial and content matters. The series includes large files on advertising, articles and books by Markel, editorial and style policies, and Markel's domestic and international travel. Also notable are the files on outside organizations, such as the American Society of Newspaper Editors, International Press Institute, the United Nations Public Opinion Survey, which contain communications with officers and members concerning the mission, activities, and administration of the organizations. Many of the institutional files (universities and associations) contain invitations to Markel to give speeches, to attend luncheons, or soliciting memberships.
Files are arranged alphabetically by file title. Entries without box and folder numbers cross-reference related material in other files.