Scope and arrangement
The Vincent Astor Foundation records are arranged in nine series:
The grants files are arranged chronologically from 1960 to 1997 and alphabetically (within the year) by title of organization receiving grant funds. The correspondence is both incoming and outgoing. Through the spring of 1974 the correspondence is that of Allan W. Betts as vice president, and Robert C. Bickford, as director. From the spring of 1974 onwards the correspondence is that of Linda Gillies as director of the Foundation. The correspondence is with executive directors, educators, religious leaders, corporate executives, city government officials, financiers, the Foundation's legal counsel, and persons prominent in public life, relating to the awarding and administration of financial grants to charitable and non-profit institutions mainly in New York City. (Correspondence regarding grants extending over several years is frequently filed in the folder containing the initial grant year). Correspondence addressed to Mrs. Astor as president of the Foundation was routinely answered by the director although Mrs. Astor in some instances responded personally. Included are letters to Mrs. Astor from medical students and other recipients of Vincent Astor scholarships thanking her for her generosity. Many of the letters report on academic progress and mention personal matters (especially those from students at Cornell University Medical College).
Included in the files are numerous internal administrative documents including grant applications, grant authorization letters outlining the grant's terms and conditions, grant summary sheets, past grants profile sheets, and payment vouchers. There is also an abundance of documents relating to the grantee organizations, including grant proposals, progress reports, interim and final reports, financial statements, audit reports, annual reports, newsletters, informational brochures, architectural plans, blueprints, and occasional photographs of persons and events. Most files also contain photocopies of IRS Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax).
Correspondence with prominent persons is scattered throughout the grant files series. The Astor Home for Children files during the 1960's contain letters from Francis Cardinal Spellman, and later, from Terence Cardinal Cooke. The Riis Park file (in Box #8) contains letters to Mrs. Astor from Mrs. August Belmont, Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John L. Loeb. and Ira S. Robbins (the file also contains an original letter by Robert Lowell dated July 4, 1887, to "My Dear Cousin Mary Clare"). The Buchanan School Playground file (Box #10) contains a letter (October 4, 1967) by Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The Bedford-Stuyvesant Development Corp. file (in Box 11) contains a copy of a letter (April 17, 1967) from Mrs. Astor to the editor of the Washington Post in which she vigorously objects to an allegation published in the Post that the Foundation was motivated by political considerations in its awarding of grant funds.
The board of trustees met in the spring and fall (or winter) of each year and more frequently as business required. The records are arranged into trustee meetings; minutes books; and October reports to the board of trustees.
This series consists of printed annual reports issued by the Foundation arranged chronologically in the period 1949-1996. The reports include the names of the Foundation's trustees and officers; lists of recent recipients of grants and amounts awarded; auditors' statements of assets and fund balances; income collected; expenses disbursed; and grants and income fund balances. Some reports include a detailed statement of the Foundation's portfolio of stock and bond holdings and other assets. Many reports also include a statement by Mrs. Astor. A copy of her history of the Foundation, 25 Years of Giving in New York is filed at the end of this series.
This series consists of general correspondence, arranged partially in chronological and partially in topical order, of Mrs. Astor and Linda Gillies with officers of various organizations relating to civic, cultural, community and urban affairs in New York City, including the development of the South Bronx, the proposal to create a Museum of the Holocaust in the Customs House Building in Lower Manhattan, the establishment of an environmental simulation center at the New School for Social Research and other matters of public interest. There is also correspondence with grantee organizations on matters not directly related to grants including the Astor Home for Children, Boys Brotherhood Republic, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The New York Public Library. There is also correspondence received after the Foundation's closing from organizations requesting financial support. Some of the correspondence is routine and ceremonial in nature, relating to invitations to conferences and social events, requests for information, thank-yours, and acknowledgements. There is also correspondence from cranks and disturbed persons (in "Crazy Files" folder).
This series consists of a topical file of miscellaneous records relating to the Foundation and to its administrative procedures and practices; followed by financial records including financial statements, general journal, general ledgers, and records of cash receipts and disbursements.
The topical file contains correspondence of the director (and the president) with the Foundation's trustees; and correspondence of the director with auditors, legal counsel (Carter, Ledyard & Milburn); and with banks, investment advisors, and portfolio managers including Citibank, Chancellor Capital Management, and Morgan, Stanley & Co., Inc. There are also files relating to various administrative matters including personnel and filing procedures, explanations of grant and program area codes, procedures for preparing for board meetings, office lease, and office renovation. The correspondence with banks relates in part to the disposition of the foreign assets of the Estate of Vincent Astor (especially the Estate's Finnish bonds). There is also a file of acknowledgements of the Foundation's anniversary report Twenty-Five Years of Giving in New York..
The financial records include financial statements (1955-1996); projected portfolio balances (1987-1993); trial balances (1990-1997); a general journal (1960-1981); general ledgers (1949-1996); and records of cash receipt and disbursements.
This series consists of general correspondence of Mrs. Astor arranged chronologically in the period 1985-1998; followed by a file of correspondence and papers arranged topically. The bulk of the chronological file consists of letters addressed to Mrs. Astor from well-wishers, admirers, readers of her books, and other members of the public; and from officers of charitable, civic and community organizations. Included is correspondence relating to invitations to receptions, dinners and other social events, invitations to serve on boards of directors, requests for personal interviews and for biographical information relating to Mrs. Astor and the Astor family. Included are a few requests from persons proposing to write an official biography of Mrs. Astor. Almost all of the outgoing correspondence is answered by Linda Gillies. Included is a transcript of an interview with Mrs. Astor conducted by Kathleen D. McCarthy of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy (Container #297); and a write-up by Eileen Simpson of her interview with Mrs. Astor (in folder 4 of Container #297).
The topical file includes correspondence of Mrs. Astor with officers of civic, non-profit and other organizations (including grant recipients) and with friends, associates and others relating to interviews, receptions, gala dinners, awards, tributes, Mrs. Astor's 90th birthday anniversary, Astor family history and other matters. The bulk of the outgoing correspondence in this file is answered by Mrs. Astor. Highlights of this series include the following:
The Vincent Astor file contains a photocopy of handwritten notes made by Mrs. Astor following her husband's death.
The Barbara Bush file contains a photocopy of a letter by Barbara Bush dated December 30, 1988 in reply to Mrs. Astor's recommendation to her that black couples be invited to attend her first inaugural dinner at the White House.
The Columbia University and Cornell University files contain letters to Mrs. Astor from Astor Presidential Scholars and Vincent Astor Scholars, respectively; as well as reports and biographical sketches relating to the scholarship recipients.
The Essay on Foundations file contains a handwritten essay (undated) by Mrs. Astor on the philosophy of foundation work with reference to the Vincent Astor Foundation.
The David Grafton file includes a copy of an interview containing Mrs. Astor's reminiscences of her friend Cole Porter.
The Interview file contains a transcript of a conversation between Mrs. Astor and the Reverend Jesse Jackson; and also responses from the public to Mrs. Astor's appearance on Barbara Walter's television show Nightline.
The New York Public Library file contains Mrs. Astor's correspondence and papers as member of the Library's board of trustees. Included is correspondence with trustees relating to fundraising, plans for Library development and improvement, the Brooke Astor Award ceremonies, and other matters.
The New York Times file contains Mrs. Astor's correspondence with readers responding to articles about her and the Vincent Astor Foundation published in the New York Times.
The Party file contains papers relating to "A Birthday for Brooke" in celebration of Mrs. Astor's ninetieth birthday.
The Poems file contains copies of miscellaneous poems written by Mrs. Astor.
The Press Info file contains correspondence with the printed and broadcast media relating to requests for personal interviews with Mrs. Astor and for photographs, and biographical information relating to her.
The 60 Minutes file contains correspondence from individuals and organizations seeking financial assistance in response to Mrs. Astor's appearance on the CBS television show 60 Minutes.
The Speeches file contains the texts of a few speeches by Mrs. Astor.
This series consists of twenty-eight VHS video cassettes recording Mrs. Astor's appearances on network television shows including ABC's 60 Minutes, CBS's This Morning, NBC's Today Show, Adam Smith's Giving Away Millions, and other events including a 90th birthday tribute to Mrs. Astor. The titles of the cassettes are briefly listed on the container list.
This series consists of records removed from folders in Boxes #134, #142, #179, and #181 of the Grants Files series; and from Boxes #272 and #275 of the General Files series.