Scope and arrangement
The A.M. Rosenthal papers consist of Rosenthal's personal files, spanning his editorial tenure and his subsequent career as a columnist and commentator. The personal series contains those papers kept separately from The New York Times office files. Maintained in Rosenthal's New York home, these files add dimension to the picture of Rosenthal's years as an editor, and also provide a look at his later career as a columnist, finally free to express his own views to the public. They include notes for speeches given by Rosenthal from the 1960s through the early 2000s; subject files for his columns from 1987 through the early 2000s; and some additional correspondence, primarily from 1987 onward, but some earlier letters, as well. Highlights of this series include seventeen journals spanning 1971-1986, containing appointment data and attached correspondence, creating almost a scrapbook for each year; transcripts of an oral history recorded at The New York Times in 1983 and 1985, containing very frank and specific discussions of the events and people at the paper during Rosenthal's career; and some of Rosenthal's own writings, most notably, drafts of various chapters of an unpublished memoir.
While some of the correspondence in these papers dates from the era of Rosenthal's editorship, including some internal New York Times memoranda, the majority comes from the years 1987-2004, when Rosenthal was a columnist for The Times and other publications. There are a few individual correspondent files, most notably one with Richard Nixon, in which the columnist and the former president discuss world affairs of the early 1990s. There are folders designated by Rosenthal as "special letters," some of which come from famous people, whereas others seem to be letters he considered personally significant. Correspondents in this section include statesmen, such as Hubert Humphrey and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, journalists, such as Dan Rather and Barbara Walters, and business leaders, such as Steve Forbes and Donald Trump. Perhaps the most revealing correspondence in the series, however, dates from 1999, when Rosenthal was forcibly retired from The New York Times at the publisher's request. There are hundreds of letters from friends, acquaintances, and readers sent to Rosenthal directly, as well as to The Times, expressing their sorrow and outrage at the decision. There are copies of some of Rosenthal's replies included also, providing a candid view of his own feelings at the time.
Not journals in the conventional sense, Rosenthal's journals are a combination of scrapbooks and diaries. Detailing the years 1971-1986, they illustrate the highlights of most of his tenure as the leading decision maker of The New York Times. They list major appointments and excursions, with related letters and other papers attached where appropriate. The journals provide researchers with a sense not only of how Rosenthal spent his time, but of what he thought was important. There are, in addition, two actual scrapbooks included in the series. Both date from 1959-1960, focusing on Rosenthal's time as a correspondent in Poland. One scrapbook centers on his expulsion by the government as a reaction to the reports he filed, and the other centers on the Pulitzer Prize he won for those same reports.
Rosenthal's years at The Times are reviewed and relived via his official oral history, included in this collection. Times Vice Chairman Sydney Gruson met with Rosenthal for four sessions in 1983 and 1985, and their discussion was transcribed for posterity. Rosenthal shares his memories and views on colleagues and controversies, predecessors and policies. The history seems to have been intended to continue, but the fourth session is the last one included. Researchers interested in Rosenthal's personal history and thoughts will find his memoir drafts worthwhile also. Never published, Rosenthal's memoir exists as various sections and chapters, compiled over many years. He began in the early 1960s, writing about his experiences as a student and a correspondent, and then returned to the project many times throughout the years. There is no complete version of the memoir, but readers can piece together most of Rosenthal's early life and career from the chapters included.
Other writings include a complete list of Rosenthal's columns from 1987-2000, arranged by both subject and date, drafts of news and magazine pieces on Moscow, China, and the Philippines, and a notebook containing some ideas, in Rosenthal's own handwriting, for columns and stories. A typescript of his last column for The New York Times is included, signed by nineteen Times staff members, including Howell Raines and Rosenthal's son, Andrew. Two versions of Rosenthal's will are also found in this series.
Notes and drafts of speeches are arranged chronologically, with venues ranging from clubs, sales conferences, and graduations to private parties, memorial services, and even the U.S. House of Representatives. The speeches span the 1960s through the early 2000s, most of Rosenthal's life as an influential figure in public discourse.
Subject files for columns are arranged alphabetically, containing some correspondence, research notes, and printed matter not necessarily available to the general public. All of the material in the subject files was generated and obtained during Rosenthal's career as a columnist at The New York Times and for other publications.
Rosenthal's life and career before becoming Assistant Managing Editor of The Times are not well-represented in the collection, with only two scrapbooks and part of his memoir touching on those early years.
The A.M. Rosenthal papers are arranged in seven series:
- 1970-20043 boxes
- 1971-19869 boxes
- 1978-1985, undated1 box
- 1959-19601 box
- 1968-20007 boxes
- 1987-200215 boxes
- 1961-20004 boxes