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Willard L. (AC 1920) and Clarice Brows Thorp Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MA.00220

Scope and Contents

The collection includes papers and artifacts gathered by Willard L. and Clarice Brows Thorp in the course of their personal, professional, and social activities from circa 1900 until their deaths in 1992 and 2003, respectively. The collection is a rich source of information about U.S. domestic and international economic policy-making in the politically and economically turbulent decades of the 1930s and 1940s. It also provides insights into the economic dimensions of U.S. foreign policy during the Truman administration. It documents in considerable detail Thorp's perspective on and involvement in large scale international programs of economic and technical assistance undertaken by the U.S., the United Nations, and other organizations from the post-war period through the 1960s. It provides detailed information about the activities of the Merrill Center for Economics between 1953 and 1961, which drew scholars, researchers, businessmen, and policymakers from around the world for wide-ranging discussions of economic issues and problems. The collection also provides insights into how an intelligent, ambitious husband-wife team negotiated the gendered power structures of Washington, D.C. and United Nations organizations from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Willard Long Thorp's papers include biographical materials, photographs, transcripts of testimony, writings, publications, conference proceedings, and scrapbooks and newsclippings documenting his many professional activities. Thorp's collection includes correspondence and numerous reports and speeches on a wide variety of economic topics produced in the course of his work as a statesman, economist, statistician, and international development specialist. The Thorps' social engagements and travels, particularly during their years in Europe, are also documented in the collection. The collection includes legal documents generated in the course of Thorp's work as an economic consultant and corporate board member. The activities of the Merrill Center for Economics, which Thorp directed, are documented by correspondence, curriculum vitae, financial records, memoranda, and bound summaries of the Center's summer sessions. Teaching materials, reports, and memoranda document Thorp's career in the Economics Department at Amherst College.

Clarice Brows Thorp's papers consist largely of materials collected before her marriage to Thorp in 1947. These materials include professional and personal correspondence, typescripts, newsclippings, and financial records, biographical materials, memorabilia, and photographs. Pamphlets, legal briefs, typescripts, printed materials and correspondence document Brows Thorp's work in the 1930s for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Democratic National Committee Women's Division and Speakers Bureau, the New York Young Democratic Club, the Women's City Club of New York, and other Democratic and women's organizations. Professional and personal correspondence and printed material document Brows Thorp's continued involvement in advocacy of civil liberties; women's, minority, and voters rights; and her interest in insurance and labor law. Writings in the collection also reveal her political passions: a project proposal for a political radio program for women, several speech drafts, and note cards from a speech on civil liberties written in the wake of the 1940 passing of the Alien Registration Act. The collection also contains some records and correspondence from her private legal practice. The work of Willard Thorp after their marriage is also revealed in later records, notably in her collection of correspondence, visiting cards, pamphlets and other descriptive material from the couple's trip to Europe in 1948 for the Third General Assembly of the United Nations, as well as in materials from later travels.

The collection also includes a small amount of material (manuscripts, correspondence, genealogical information, clippings) created or collected by Willard Thorp's father, Charles N. Thorp.


  • 1857-1994
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1967


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Willard L. Clarice Brows Thorp Papers for research use with the exception of restrictions to protect the privacy of third parties. Particularly fragile items may also be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Willard L. and Clarice Brows Thorp Papers should be directed to Amherst College Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Willard Thorp was born in Oswego, New York in 1899. He was the son of Charles Nicholas Thorp (a Congregational minister) and Susan Long Thorp. Thorp spent his early life in Oswego, Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Duluth, Minnesota. He entered Amherst College in 1916. After an interruption to serve as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1918 (in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), he graduated from Amherst in 1920. Thorp then taught economics at the University of Michigan while obtaining his master's degree in that field. Upon completion of his degree (1921), he became an instructor at Amherst College, noting later that he ended up teaching men who had been his fellow students in 1920. Between 1922 and 1924 he completed the doctoral program in economics at Columbia University and then joined the research staff at the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 1927, he became one of the youngest-perhaps the youngest-tenured professor in the United States when he rejoined the Economics Department at Amherst College.

In 1933, Thorp began his long and varied career as a government servant. Appointed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in August, 1933, as Director of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Thorp served in this capacity until May, 1934, when his nomination to that post was blocked in the Senate for political reasons. In spite of this disappointment, Thorp continued to play a role in the Roosevelt administration's program of economic recovery from the Great Depression. Between 1933 and 1938, he served with and was consultant to a number of federal agencies and boards, including the Federal Alcohol Control Administration, the National Recovery Administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Emergency Council. In 1935, he also became Director of Economic Research at Dunn and Bradstreet and was the founding editor of Dunn's Review. While at Dunn and Bradstreet, he became an advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Harry Hopkins, and represented the Commerce Department on the Temporary National Economic Committee. From 1940-1945, he was tapped by the Federal court to help oversee the reorganization of the bankrupt Associated Gas Electric System. Federal authorities were anxious to avoid a complete breakdown of the sprawling, 26,000-employee system. In 1945, Thorp was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. In 1946, while still serving as the Chairman of the Board of the newly-reorganized General Public Utilities (formerly Associated Gas and Electric), Thorp was promoted to Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and became deeply involved in negotiating U.S. economic policy in postwar Europe. He served in this post until 1952. Thorp was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Treaty Conference (1946) and an advisor at the New York meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers the same year. He represented the U.S. on the United Nations Economic and Social Council (1947-1950) and at negotiations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (1950-1952). A primary focus of his work was the development, promotion, and implementation of the Marshall Plan, a massive program of economic assistance initiated by the U.S. State Department in 1947 to facilitate the economic recovery of Western Europe and to strengthen European capitalist democracies. In 1949, Thorp also became responsible for development of the Point IV program of technical assistance to industrially underdeveloped countries.

Thorp appears to have performed his very public duties with aplomb. His appearance was so relaxed that he was sometimes perceived as approaching critical issues "too casually." A 1949 sketch of Thorp in the United Nations World countered this impression by summarizing the view of an unnamed Thorp colleague: Thorp's "air of seeming relaxation is deceptive,… he has a mind of steel-spring tension which makes him one of the most brilliant and effective performers in public life, here and abroad" (May 1949: 54).

Thorp left government service in 1952 and returned to the Economics Department at Amherst College. Although involved in teaching, Thorp almost immediately embraced a new role as Director of the Merrill Center for Economics. Sponsored by Amherst College and located at the former estate of Charles Edward Merrill (AC 1908) in Southampton, New York, the Merrill Center's summer sessions brought economists, policy-makers, and business executives from the U.S. and abroad to discuss economic issues in a relaxed setting. During this time, Thorp was also serving on the Amherst College Board of Trustees (1942-1955) and in 1957 he served for a number of weeks as interim president of the college. In addition, he served on the Board of Trustees of Brandeis University from 1956-1962.

In 1960, Thorp was asked by the United Nations to conduct an economic survey of the newly-independent Republic of Cyprus, and, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked him to head the President's Special Study Mission to Bolivia. The Merrill Center had in the meantime ceased operations. Following on these assignments, Kennedy appointed Thorp Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). After repeatedly requesting relief from his teaching duties at Amherst, he retired from teaching in 1965 and continued his work as Chair of the Development Assistance Committee for another two years. He continued to pursue numerous professional and policy-related activities into the 1970s. During his career, Thorp also authored a number of books and articles on economic topics.

From 1956 to the early 1960s, Thorp's experience with anti-trust law led to his work as an expert consultant on several high-profile cases involving price-fixing and price gouging by oil companies and electrical equipment manufacturers. During his retirement, Thorp served for several years on the Pelham (Mass.) Finance Committee and as Town Treasurer. In 1947, Thorp married Clarice F. Brows, who had been a staff attorney with Associated Gas and Electric. After their marriage, Clarice Brows Thorp became his assistant and accompanied him on most of his foreign assignments. Thorp was previously married to Hildegarde Ellen Churchill, with whom he raised three children. Willard Thorp died in 1992.

Clarice Brows Thorp was born Clarice Florence Brows in 1912 in New York City. Graduating from Washington Square College in 1933 and New York University School of Law in 1935, she was admitted to the New York State bar in 1936. While working as a law clerk and later at the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Brows Thorp found most of her professional satisfaction in her vibrant political and legal activities. A strong proponent of civil liberties, alien rights, women's engagement, and the Democratic Party, she was an active organizer, speaker, and supporter on behalf of many organizations throughout her life. She worked for several years with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Democratic National Committee. Her resume relates that she delivered hundreds of speeches in support of President Roosevelt. While working as legal staff at Associated Gas and Electric, Brows Thorp met and later married Willard L. Thorp. She accompanied and supported Thorp in his political trips and work, attending U.N. sessions and other official functions whenever permitted. She also assisted in management of the Merrill Center for Economics. Brows Thorp remained active in national and local affairs throughout her life, especially in women's organizations, in defense of civil liberties, and in the Thorps' eventual hometown of Pelham, Massachusetts She was widowed in 1992, and died in 2003.


80 Linear feet (64 records storage boxes, 8 archives boxes, 3 small flat boxes, 6 file boxes, 5 oversize boxes, 4 framed items)

Language of Materials



Willard Long Thorp (1899-1992; AC 1920) was a pioneer statistician, economist, domestic and foreign policy advisor, international development expert, and private business consultant. Thorp's papers document the role of a key U.S. government figure during periods marked by political and economic turbulence. As Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs from 1946-1952, he played a critical role in the design and implementation of the Marshall Plan and of the Truman administration's Point IV program of international aid. He also held a number of United Nations appointments and was Director of the Merrill Center for Economics. Thorp also taught Economics at Amherst College. The collection documents all of these activities and many more. It also partially documents his partnership with Clarice Brows Thorp (1912-2003) and her career as a lawyer and civil rights advocate prior to their marriage in 1947.


This collection is organized into five series:

  1. Series 1: Willard L. Thorp (1857-1992, bulk 1920-1967)
  2. Series 2: Clarice Brows Thorp (1925-1994, undated; bulk 1934-1959)
  3. Series 3: Charles N. Thorp (1882-1962, undated)
  4. Series 4: Merrill Center for Economics (1952-1961)
  5. Series 5: Printed Material (1850-1992)

Separated Materials

  • 1956-1962 Correspondence of Willard L. Thorp with the President and Trustees of Brandeis University regarding his service on the Brandeis Board of Trustees from 1957 to 1962. Three folders of correspondence and reports were transmitted to the Brandeis University Archives. At Brandeis, they are located in the Board of Trustees: Individual Members Collection.
  • Zippo brand cigarette lighters. Removed from the collection for safety reasons. Digital images of these items were retained.

Processing Information

Processed September 2011 - January 2012 by Eileen Crosby, Project Archivist.

Eileen M. Crosby
Language of description
Script of description
National Historic Publications and Records Commission, 2010-2011

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