Scope and arrangement
The General files are a record group of the archives of The New York Times Company, described by a former Times archivist as comprising "material that stems from diverse sources and does not pertain to a specific individual's or department's record group, or to a special collection." These files document the activities of the Times Company and many of its subsidiaries (most significantly and extensively The New York Times newspaper) in a broad sense, and their contents often complement the editorial and desk files also now held by the Manuscripts and Archives Division of The New York Public Library.
These files are divided into three series: I. People files, II. Subject files, and III. Historical materials. The scope and content of each series is described in greater detail at the series level in the following container list. People files and Subject files were designations created and maintained by Times archivists; the Historical materials series was created by the processing archivist at The New York Public Library to encompass uncategorized records of historic significance.
The General files include correspondence, memoranda, legal documents, reports, scrapbooks, photographs and slides, audiovisual material, charts, architectural drawings and blueprints, engineering drawings, court records, financial records (including ledgers, journals and bank books), financial reports and analyses, printed graphic material (posters and brochures), press releases, excerpts from in-house counsel's legal diaries pertinent to a given subject, clippings, scripts for slide presentations and public talks, meeting minutes, transcripts of interviews, some corrected typescripts of articles, records related to Times-owned buildings, and a range of other material. Some folders include Times archivists' correspondence with researchers about a given subject.
It should be noted that prints of photographs are handled like documents, i.e. they are filed in the appropriate folders according to subject. The Times Archive maintained a separate Photograph File for film negatives, contact sheets, and duplicate prints. This record group is also held by the Manuscripts and Archives Division, but is currently closed to research, pending processing.
Seven boxes of restricted material from the General files will become available in 2018, 2028, 2033 and 2035. The titles of restricted folders are included in this finding aid.
Material germane to two or more people or subjects is rarely duplicated in the both relevant folders. Instead, it has been kept in the one deemed most important by The New York Times archivists and cross-referenced with other relevant names or subjects. Files dealing with specific subjects are generally stored in subject folders rather than the people folders of those involved. Cross-references from The Times' own card index are included in this finding aid, but they are not exhaustive. The processing archivist has also added notes and cross-references when appropriate. Some names in the finding aid do not represent folders, but exist only as cross references.
Researchers should note that the General files also contain extensive published material, including so-called "important issues" of The New York Times and other newspapers, as well as reprints of select issues. These issues and reprints are not listed in this finding aid and are currently unavailable for research. They include copies of The Times' predecessors, International Editions, German and Russian language editions, educational reprints of past issues for school-age audiences, The New York Times Magazine, the Book Review, the Chattanooga Times, and facsimile editions of The New York Times.
The New York Times Company records. General files are arranged in three series:
- 1857-200025 boxes
The People files are comprised of folders identified by personal names, filed alphabetically. The people to whom these files pertain are newsmakers, Times staff members and principals, and members of the Ochs and Sulzberger families. Most of the files pertain to individuals employed by The Times and contain documents created by and/or about that person.
Documents in the People files include: correspondence and memoranda, photographs, biographical information sheets, press releases, clippings about the individual (often from trade journals), resumes, obituaries, legal documents, printed material, notes, cards listing awards the individual received, typescripts of speeches and lectures, and occasionally papers of a more personal nature. Some folders include Times archivists' correspondence concerning research queries about the person. Files for those not employed by The Times often relate to stories or editorials printed in the paper about that individual, and the aftermath of what was written.
Several of the People files hold particular interest because of what they reveal about individual American politicians at distinct moments in time. The files for Curtis LeMay, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, and George C. Wallace contain typescripts of interviews of these men conducted by The Times at important points in their political careers, and the files for Spiro Agnew provide in-depth information about his broad attack on the news media in 1969 and The Times' adamant rebuttal of his allegations. The Agnew files also include letters from readers, providing a window into the public's varied perception of the dispute.
Letterbooks from two significant early Times employees are in this series: that of Charles Ransom Miller, who came to the paper in 1875 and served as its editor-in-chief for almost 40 years, and that of George Spinney, who arrived in 1879 as a correspondent and later became managing editor, then publisher and business manager, of The Times. Both letterbooks span the years 1893 to 1896, so while they do not represent either man's full career at the paper, they do illustrate the day-to-day concerns facing these leaders in the years leading up to Adolph S. Ochs' acquisition of The Times in 1896.
The file for Times reporter John Sibley contains notes he took during the John Henry Faulk trial, an important legal victory against the practice of blacklisting in the entertainment industry during the red scare following World War II. Files for Walter Mattson, president and chief operating officer of The Times, include transcripts of speeches he made about The Times and The New York Times Company over the course of almost twenty years. These contain valuable information about the Company's history and provide insight into the rationale behind pivotal business decisions made during times of economic distress and technological change.
Some names in the following container list do not represent folders, but exist only as cross references. Many of these were derived from The Times' own card index, while others were added by the processing archivist at The New York Public Library to facilitate the location of material related to a given topic. "See also" notes are included when materials about a given person or subject can be found in more than one location.
While these People files are a useful source for biographical information about many of The Times' more prominent staff members, researchers should note that the "Staff: Miscellaneous" folders in the subject files series include similar sorts of information about a broader range of Times staff.
- 1836-2000317 boxes
The Subject files are arranged alphabetically and contain materials related to a broad range of topics, covering many aspects of The New York Times Company, the newspapers it publishes (most significantly The New York Times but also The Chattanooga Times and other regional and international newspapers), its subsidiary holdings, and its financial management and daily operations. The files primarily pertain to The New York Times and are rich in information about Times staff and their roles and responsibilities; the intellectual and physical production of the newspaper; the impact of historical events on its form and content; and myriad decisions made in the course of daily operations. The bulk of the material in these files dates from the twentieth century, though there are also significant nineteenth century records which predate Adolph S. Ochs' 1896 acquisition of The Times.
The files contain correspondence, memoranda, photographs and slides, court records, contracts and other legal documents, financial records (including ledgers, journals and bank books), financial reports and analyses, printed graphic material (posters and brochures), press releases, excerpts from in-house counsel's legal diaries pertinent to a given subject, clippings, scrapbooks, scripts for slide presentations and public talks, meeting minutes, transcripts of interviews, some corrected typescripts of articles, records related to Times-owned buildings, and a range of other material. Some folders include Times archivists' correspondence with researchers about a given subject. This series includes a small amount of audio-visual material, which is closed to research pending the creation of preservation copies.
The New York Times owned and occupied various buildings in New York and New Jersey during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as its growth required expanded office space and evolving production technologies demanded updated facilities. The subject files contain extensive documentation related to Times buildings, including office buildings at 41 Park Row, the Times Tower (1 Times Square), and 229 West 43rd Street, and to production facilities on West End Avenue in Manhattan; in Carlstadt and Edison, New Jersey; and in College Point, Queens. These building files contain deeds, titles and abstracts of titles, bonds, mortgages, contracts, photographs, illustrations, insurance policies, indentures, credit reports, agreements, certificates of inspection, architects' specifications, correspondence, valuations, construction costs, architectural drawings, blueprints, and documents related to the construction, alteration, and renovation of the buildings. Files for the West Side plant's North Building include information about spaces The Times leased out to third parties, as well as records of its eventual sale to Harry Helmsley and Irving Schneider.
Many files concern The Times' involvement in innovative technological advancements during the twentieth century, most notably its role in the evolution of facsimile transmission and computerization. The decades of research and development which resulted in the modern fax machine were spearheaded by Times employee Austin G. Cooley, who held positions in various subsidiaries of The New York Times Company, including Press Wireless, Inc.; Wide World News Photo Service, Inc.; and Times Facsimile Corporation. These organizations' records are found in the subject files, and they often include the patents Cooley secured for his innovations. From the first facsimile transmission of news photographs in 1935 to the development of means to send weather maps by radio wave and telephone line during World War II, Cooley was instrumental in the evolution of facsimile technology and its extensive practical applications for The Times.
The advent of computerization also had, predictably, a dramatic effect on Times operations. From the origins of the computerized Information Bank in the 1960s to the increasingly complex computer systems used to store information and compose the daily newspaper in subsequent decades, the subject files document all aspects of the implementation of computerization at The Times. In December 1974, computers were installed in the newsroom and reporters and editors began using video terminals, described as a "television screen attached to an electric typewriter keyboard." Materials in these files range from technical specifications submitted by consultants at IBM and Arthur D. Little in the 1960s and 1970s to documentation of planning for the creation of The Times' first website.
Technological innovation also dramatically altered the means by which newspapers were composed and printed in the twentieth century, and the replacement in the 1970s of "hot type" with "cold type" was one of the most dramatic shifts in printing practice since Gutenberg's invention of movable type. The subject files contain extensive documentation of The Times' implementation of cold type and its broad effect on the organization as a whole, such as labor unrest and the threat of strike by workers whose skills were rendered obsolete by the new technologies. Since its origins in the nineteenth century, The Times had been printed using hot metal type, and in 1978 this was abandoned in favor of cold type, set on computers. New processes were also implemented to carry page images from the composing room to the printing plant, including facsimile transmission and laser scanning, and the speed and flexibility of printing was remarkably enhanced. In addition to extensive material concerning the implications of these changes and the technical aspects of implementing them, the files include a documentary film, "Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu," about the transition, and the stereotype mat for the front page of the last issue of The Times set by linotype.
In addition to changes in how the newspaper was printed, the design and layout of The Times also shifted dramatically over the course of the twentieth century. Beginning in the 1950s, Louis Silverstein was increasingly influential in the reconception of the relationship between form and content in The Times. He presided over the monumental change from an eight to a six-column format (thus widening the columns) and eventually designed - and sometimes redesigned - practically every section of the newspaper. The subject files document this, as well as his pioneering early work on the "I Got My Job Through The New York Times" ad campaigns to his later role as assistant managing editor of the paper. The 1976 implementation of a four-section daily newspaper, with its addition of a business section as well as subject-specific sections including Sports on Monday, Science on Tuesday, Living on Wednesday, Home on Thursday, and Weekend on Friday, is also documented here. These changes expanded readership, and thus revenue, as each section offered a new environment for specialized advertising.
Files show the planning that led to these changes and others in the paper's format, as well as planning for publications which never actually came into existence (including the afternoon newspaper project), or which folded (including the Western Edition of The New York Times, published from 1962 to 1964), and the experiments which were ultimately successful, most notably the National and International editions of The Times. There are also files related to now legendary advertising campaigns for The Times itself, including posters and other printed material from the "I Got My Job" campaign of the 1950s; a copy of then unknown photographer Robert Frank's "New York Is" book for The Times in 1959; and posters from whimsical advertising campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s.
Advertising acceptability files shed light on the Times' policies concerning the sale of advertising space in the paper to third parties. In addition to financial records which provide information about how many ads ran at a given time and what was paid to run them, the subject files contain significant documentation of the rationale behind decisions to run some genres of ads while refusing others. These not only reflect the norms of American culture during a given era (the acceptability of advertisements for pornographic films or cigarettes, for example) but also the effect of international relations and anti-discrimination legislation on which advertisements were accepted. There are files concerning whether or not to run ads from Iran, Rhodesia, or South Africa, and others addressing potential discrimination in employment and real estate ads.
Relations between Times management and its labor unions are particularly well documented in the subject files. Between 1908 and 1982, multiple large-scale strikes occurred at The Times, including a photo-engravers' strike in 1953, a printers' union strike from 1962 to 1963, and a pressman strike in 1978. Relevant files elucidate the strikers' grievances, Times management's response to the grievances, the effects of the strikes on newspaper production, and the resolution of the strikes. Other related files include official transcripts of National Labor Relations Board proceedings in 1938 to 1940 concerning complaints of unfair labor practices at The Times, as well as extensive documentation of planning and preparation undertaken by Times management when strikes seemed imminent. Such planning included the "Temporary Experimental Project" of 1947-1948 and "Project 100" of the 1970s, both plans for producing and printing the newspaper in the event of prolonged strikes by pressroom workers. These materials illuminate the challenges faced by managers and staff alike as they adapted to new technologies and the efficiencies they brought.
In addition to internal concerns, The Times was involved in significant litigation with outside parties on several occasions. Records in this series provide insight into several of the paper's more significant legal battles. They include a printed copy of the secret study United States-Vietnam Relations 1945-1967 with annotations in the hand of in-house counsel James Goodale. The contents of this study were published by The Times in 1971 as what would come to be known as the Pentagon Papers. The files also contain extensive records related to libel and slander suits filed against Times reporters in Alabama during the Civil Rights era. One of these lawsuits, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, ended in a landmark First Amendment decision by the United States Supreme Court which reversed a libel award to a Montgomery, Alabama official who had sued The Times and won, ruling that no damages can be awarded for criticism of official conduct unless the official proves "actual malice," i.e. reckless or knowing falsehood. This ruling effectively shields journalists against many libel suits by public officials. In a similar suit, former Birmingham, Alabama police commissioner T. Eugene O'Connor sued The Times for libel following articles written about him by journalist Harrison Salisbury. O'Connor initially won the case, but a Federal appeals court reversed the decision in 1966. In addition to files concerning specific litigation, many other files in this series also include correspondence with legal counsel about a range of day-to-day concerns which arose at The Times.
"Staff: Senate Investigation" files contain extensive material related to the Second Red Scare and its effect on The Times, specifically Senator James O. Eastland's subpoena of twenty-three Times employees in his role as chair of the Internal Security Subcommittee's investigation of communism in the press (1955-1956). These files contain correspondence, memoranda detailing interviews with accused staff, legal briefs, transcripts of the hearings, clippings about the trial, and letters from readers concerning Charles Merz's editorial, "The Voice of a Free Press" (published January 5, 1956), which criticized the trial. While some readers supported The Times' resistance to Eastland, others wrote to denounce the Communist vehicle they believed The Times had become.
Other letters from readers can be found under "Editorial Policy: Rape Victims--Readers' Reaction," which contains many angry letters concerning the Times' 1991 revelation of the name of the alleged rape victim in the William Kennedy Smith case in Florida, and under "Litigation: Libel and Slander--Alabama Cases," which contain letters about the Times' coverage of civil rights issues in Alabama. The views expressed in these letters vary widely, ranging from Southerners angry at what they perceived as a misrepresentation of their culture in The Times to frightened African Americans who expressed gratitude to The Times for raising public awareness of the violent threats and insults they faced.
Although the subject files primarily concern operations of The New York Times, they also include records related to the expansion and diversification of its parent company, The New York Times Company. In the 1970s and 1980s - in the midst of a financial crisis provoked by the Arab oil embargo, Canadian and American newsprint paper shortage and the resulting inflation, and the dire financial straits of New York City itself - The New York Times Company accelerated its acquisition of compatible businesses in an attempt to diversify its sources of income and remain financially viable. These acquisitions included regional newspapers, an interest in the International Herald Tribune, consumer and trade magazines (including McCall's, Family Circle and Golf Digest), five television stations, a news service, other information services, and an interest in three paper mills, in addition to existing holdings in radio (including WQXR). Records related to these subsidiary businesses and their acquisition can be found throughout the subject files, along with materials from long-range planning meetings at which future expansion was discussed.
This series also contains significant material compiled internally about the history of The New York Times and The Chattanooga Times, including numerous scrapbooks and published anniversary supplements commemorating milestones in the history of the papers; articles and books about The New York Times; records of awards won by staff and the paper, for writing, photography, and design; evidence of The Times' sponsorship of myriad aviators and explorers in the first half of the twentieth century; records of Times subsidiaries and offices in France, the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, most notably records concerning the closing and liquidation of the Berlin office in the wake of the National Socialist government's rise to power; records concerning the Times International News Service and its subscribers; and information about Times stock and stockholders. It includes printed material, including some of The Times' so-called "house organs," printed internally for communicating news among and about staff. Also of note are group photographs of staff dinners held in the 1920s and 1930s, some of which include men dressed in drag and blackface.
Note that some subjects listed in the finding aid do not represent folders, but exist only as cross references. Most of these were derived from The Times' own card index, while others were added by the processing archivist at The New York Public Library to facilitate the location of material related to a given topic.
- 1851-19022 boxes
This series was created by the processing archivist at The New York Public Library to encompass documents of historical value which were maintained in the Times Archive separately from the people and subject files. These materials include the original minute book of the newspaper (1851-1877) and a later minute book (1893-1896); articles of association; agreements and other legal documents; receipts; and early stock certificates and transfers. With two exceptions, these materials predate Adolph S. Ochs' ownership of The New York Times. They are arranged in chronological order.