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Boyden, Frank L. - Deerfield Academy, 1945-1960

 unspecified — Box: 8, Folder: 66

Scope and Contents

From the Sub-Series:

Subseries A, General Correspondence, ranges as broadly as Commager's roles, interests, and activities as historian, public intellectual, teacher, and engaged citizen. The correspondence is a rich resource both for its topical content as well as the interests of the more than 5,000 correspondents. Commager corresponded with a range of people including historians, congressmen, educators, higher education administrators, academics, journalists, jurists, librarians and archivists, as well as former students, school children and the general public.

Commager's method of public engagement proved a stimulant to private and public figures who responded in letter to his observations of and commentary on current events reflected in his speeches and writings. The incoming letters offer individuals' responses to Commager's statements about American society's concerns in matters such as: the interventionist role in Europe; civil liberties; the loyalty oath; nationalism and education; changing attitudes towards foreign policy; American military in Vietnam; expansion of executive power; Watergate; student unrest; and the purpose and role of education in society. Additionally, there are responses to Commager's newly published books and articles, as well as his public talks and the reporting related to all of them.

Correspondence with Commager's colleagues ranges broadly in its content and includes the theme of academic freedom and, in the 1950s, the loyalty oath. Additionally there is correspondence with colleagues about their publications as well as his own; these include Commager and Richard Morris' "New American Nation" book series; teacher training programs such as Project OPEN Southampton; the development of American Studies as an academic field in the United States and in England; American intellectual, cultural, and constitutional history as fields of study; and international education. There is also correspondence reflecting the more administrative concerns of academic life: requests for potential candidates to be appointed to academic posts; recommendations; requests for Commager to give an academic lecture or be a visiting professor.

Other more tightly focused topics are documented in the correspondence including: Frederick Bancroft's gift of his books to Columbia University Library; the creation of the Robert Marshall Civil Liberties Trust at Columbia University; assessment of the Nazi military for the Army Air Force; Danish Lutheran Pastor Adam Dan, Commager's great-grandfather; Commager's efforts to develop a summer education program for labor leaders on the Amherst College campus; his 1975 Declaration of INTERdependence; programming for the Aspen Institute and Salzberg Seminar. Additionally, there are letters from former Amherst and Columbia students that reflect Commager's continuing interest in their lives, careers, and intellectual development. A portion of the correspondence is from the general public commenting on Commager's appearances in the media and in person, often expressing strongly held views in support or disagreement of Commager's viewpoints.

Some of the incoming letters document Commager's activities with advisory boards and committees including the American Scandinavian Foundation; the American Academy of Arts & Letters; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Library Association; Americans for Democratic Action; the Aspen Institute; Clergy &Laity Concerned about Vietnam; the English Speaking Union; the Foreign Policy Association; the Guggenheim Foundation; the Harry Truman Library; the National Committee for an Effective Congress; the Papers of Thomas Jefferson; the Papers of Woodrow Wilson; the Pulitzer Prize Advisory Board; the Institute for International Education; PEN; the Rockefeller Foundation; the Salzberg Seminar; the Sidney Hillman Foundation; United Auto Workers Public Review Board; the United States War Department's Historical Advisory Committee; and the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

Significant correspondents include: Herbert Agar, Charles Anderson, Eugene C. Barker, Jacques Barzun, Milton Cantor, Frank Church, G. Kitson Clark, Charles W. Cole, Clement Eaton, Sam Ervin, J. William Fulbright, Harold Hyman, Jacob Javits, William Leuchtenberg, Leonard Levy, Arthur Link, Archibald MacLeish, Herbert Mitgang, Samuel Eliot Morison, Richard Morris, Allan Nevins, Calvin H. Plimpton (AC 1939), Maurice Rosenblatt, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

There is extended correspondence with: Thomas B. Adams, Charles Anderson, Wayne Andrews, Leland Baldwin, Joseph Barnes, James Phinney Baxter, Howard K. Beale, Charles A. Beard, Ernest Benians, Saul Benison, Isaiah Berlin, Richard Bernstein (AC 1977), Hugo Black, Arthur Bestor, Donald W. Bigelow (AC 1939), George Billias, Ray Billington, J. Seelye Bixler (AC 1916), Theodore Blegin, Catherine Drinker Bowen, Chester Bowles, Julian Boyd, Carl Bridenbaugh, Denis Brogan, John L. Brown, Geoffrey Bruun, J. P. T. Bury, J. R. M. Butler, Herbert Butterfield, R. Freeman Butts, Harry Carman, Guy (Cunnel) Chapman, Thomas Cochrane, Elmer Davis, Benjamin DeMott, Irving Dillard, J. Frank Dobie, William E. Dodd, David Hebert Donald, Paul H. Douglas, Foster Rhea Dulles, Hans C. Duus, Luther Evans, Robert Ferrell, Louis Filler, Felix Frankfurther, John Hope Franklin, Douglas Southall Freeman, Percy Cyrill Claude Garnham, Jack Garraty, Walter Gellhorn (AC 1927), Herbert Gleason, Louis Gottschalk, Dana McLean Greeley, Kent Roberts Greenfield, Harold E. Hammond, Grove Haines, Oscar Handlin, Wyatt Haskell (AC 1961), Fred Harvey Harrington, Robert W. Hawkins (AC 1971), Carlton J. H. Hayes, Pendleton Herring, John D. Hicks, Ross Hoffman, Richard Hofstadter, Paul Horgan, Mark de Wolf Howe, Francis Hsu, Paul Horgan, Storm Jameson, Merrill Jensen, Walter Johnson, Michael Kammen, Alfred Kazin, George F. Kennan, Edward M. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Harry Kingman, Grayson Kirk, John Krout, Thomas Lamont, Roy Lamson, Charles Larsen, Christopher Lasch, Robert Lasch, Salvador Lauria, Russell Lynes, Denis Mack-Smith, Patrick Malin, Dumas Malone, Lester Markel, Allen Matusow, Mary McCarthy, August Meier, Agnes Meyer, George Fort Milton, Frank Monaghan, Louis Morton, Bill Moyers, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, John Nason, Russel Nye, William C. Olsen, Dexter Perkins, David Potter, Henry F. Pringle, James Reston, David Reisman, Alfred B. Rollins, Clinton Rossiter, Joseph Slater, Frank Thistlewaite, Frank E. Vandiver, George Wald, John William (Bill) Ward, Dixon Wector, and Victor Weybright.

The letters in sub-series A are organized alphabetically by correspondent's name or occasionally by organization's name. Most of the letters are from the correspondent; copies of letters from Commager are interfiled. Unidentified and incompletely identified correspondents follow the alphabetical sequence. Although a rich resource, the existent correspondence is only a portion of Commager's correspondence through the years and there are gaps in the letters.


  • 1945-1960


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Henry Steele Commager Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes. The majority of this collection is housed in off-site storage and requires a minimum of 48 hours notice before use. Please contact Archives and Special Collections.


From the Sub-Series: 33.5 Linear feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299