University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Report on the Papers of Thomas E. Dewey

Volume XIII · Autumn 1957 · Number 1
Report on the Papers of Thomas E. Dewey

In his commencement address to the University last June, Governor Dewey intimated that he was about to present us with another eighty thousand items to be added to the estimated one million which comprised his original gift in 1955. The additional papers were forwarded to us early in September, and a preliminary examination has revealed their worth as research material for the student of contemporary affairs.

This latest acquisition (the Governor has added smaller groups of papers and memorabilia from time to time during the past two years) falls into two large groups. The larger and more important of the two is an extensive file of Governor Dewey's personal correspondence covering the period from the early nineteen-thirties to the summer of 1957. It is a voluminous file, and arises not so much from his official capacity as District Attorney of New York County and Governor of New York State, as from his position as leader in the Republican Party and a public figure of national and international importance. There are letters from men of prominence throughout the United States, from heads of governments, cabinet officers, and other leaders from Great Britain to Viet Nam, from Pakistan, Australia, and Japan.

An extensive file of letters exchanged between John Foster Dulles and Governor Dewey is of unusual interest. So also are the folders of letters bearing labels: Dwight D. Eisenhower; James C. Hagerty; Herbert Hoover; Earl Warren; Joseph W. Martin, Jr.; Herbert Brownell; Robert A. Taft; Arthur H. Vandenberg; Arthur T. Vanderbilt; Francis, Cardinal Spellman; Harry S. Truman; The Honorable Winston Churchill; Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.; and a host of others. The historic value of these documents is self-evident. Future scholars will be grateful for their availability.

The second group of material in this recent acquisition comprises a large file of speech material, particularly for the period of the late nineteen-thirties and early nineteen-forties. It fills seven folio transfer cases, and is of special value because it supplements and completes the larger files of speech material which we received from Governor Dewey in 1955. Special mention should be made of copies of transcripts of extemporaneous speeches—the sort of material so difficult for the historian to locate. Included also is additional source material on the political campaigns of 1937, 1938, 1940, and 1944.

The great mass of manuscripts which comprise the "Thomas E. Dewey Collection" has been organized in such a way that it can be consulted by research workers at any time. The original gift was described in the issue of theLibrary Bulletin published in the spring of 1955. The correspondence has been left in the large groupings listed therein, and since there are innumerable cross references, it is possible to gather together the entire correspondence of any one individual. An inventory of the original gift is available for reference.

The speech material has been more highly organized and cataloged. Arranged in chronological order, the files contain one or more folders for each speech in which may be found all the available drafts, press releases, reading copies, and all other pertinent material. For this file we have prepared a card index or catalog, also arranged chronologically, which shows the contents of each folder and indicates the availability of phonograph records, tape recordings, or kinescopes of the speech. At this writing the speech file contains folders for 740 speeches made by Governor Dewey, and folders for 118 speeches made by others.

The folio scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings now number 257. With the help of student assistants, we have completed thirty volumes since the spring of 1955 when the work was begun. The personal correspondence received this fall has been arranged in document cases and is being provided with a detailed inventory of the individual names or subjects which it includes.

There have been many inquiries about the availability of the collection for research. It is, of course, open to the use of properly qualified scholars who have secured from Governor Dewey his written permission to consult the papers. They are available now; there is no indefinite waiting period while they are being sorted, arranged, and indexed or cataloged. One of our Ph. D. candidates has already made extensive use of the collection in the preparation of a doctoral dissertation on the techniques of political leadership as exemplified in the public career of Governor Dewey. Another scholar has consulted the clipping files for material for an article on Republican revival, 1936-1938. A third research worker is planning to do extensive work in the collection on the development of state aid to local government units during the period of Governor Dewey's three terms of office. It is unlikely that access to the papers would be denied to any person engaged in serious research and they are available at the present time to those who are qualified to use them.