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Charles E. Merrill (AC 1908) Trust Collection

Identifier: MA.00304

Scope and Contents

The Charles E. Merrill Trust Collection consists of 5 linear feet of material documenting the decision-making activities of the charitable organization's trustees. The bulk of the collection dates from 1959 to 1980 and consists of bound volumes of grant recommendations compiled by the Charles E. Merrill Trust administrator, David A. Thomas, and sent to the Board of Trustees prior to their meetings. These copies have "Mrs. Robert A. Magowan" (Doris Merrill Magowan) typed on the front, indicating that they were originally her copies. Each bound volume begins with an introductory letter from Mr. Thomas, including an update on funds available for distribution, a summary of the grants approved at the previous meeting, and a summary of the recommendations for the coming meeting. The grant applications are then included in the report that follows. Many volumes include handwritten notes, and some include photographs, architect-tural plans, or other supplementary material for the grant proposals. As the granting responsibili-ties were divided more in later years between the Trustees, this is reflected in the reports, with recommended grants listed under each Trustee's name.

Also included in the collection are two copies of a report commissioned by Charles E. Merrill in 1954 entitled The Philanthropy of Charles E. Merrill, Book I, and written by David A. Thomas. This report examined Merrill's past giving and provided recommendations in establishing a trust.

The collection also includes three published books by Charles E. Merrill, Jr., which are not directly related to operations of the Charles E. Merrill Trust, as well as correspondence between Charles Merrill, Jr. and Mary J. Oates. This correspondence details the transfer of the rest of the Merrill Trust Collection to Oates, as well as providing more background on the Trust and about Charles Merrill, Jr.'s continuing philanthropic and political activities. There is also a small amount of correspondence between Oates and the administrator of a university in Czechoslovakia regarding book donations Oates made to the university library on behalf of Regis College, at the recommendation of Charles Merrill, Jr.


  • Creation: 1954-2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1959-1980


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Charles E. Merrill Trust Collection for research use. Particularly fragile items are restricted for preservation purposes. This collection is housed in off-site storage and requires advance notice before use. Please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Charles E. Merrill Trust Collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

The Charles E. Merrill Trust was established after the death in 1956 of Charles Edward Merrill (AC 1908), founder of Merrill Lynch & Co. Merrill laid out instructions for the Trust in his will, including naming the administrator and five original trustees, and instructing that the Trust's activities be concluded within twenty years. The Trust's money multiplied considerably after Merrill Lynch & Co. went public in 1972, and the Trust received a judge's approval to extend the timeframe by three years.

Over its twenty-three year existence the trustees distributed over $114 million to 5,000 projects, and by the end they were receiving approximately 12,000 funding requests per year. Twenty percent of the Trust's income went to Amherst College, twenty percent to seven other named beneficiaries (schools and hospitals), and the remaining sixty percent was divided equally in three categories: education, religion (ten percent Protestant, five percent each to Catholic and Jewish), and established charitable, scientific, or religious institutions.

At the time it was established, funds for the Charles E. Merrill Trust were taxable because the Trust owned a large amount of Merrill Lynch and Co. Because of this, various parties interested in the Charles E. Merrill Trust lobbied Congress and were instrumental in passing H.R. 8265 (Public Law 85-367) on April 7, 1958. This very limited law gave the Trust's funds tax-exempt status.

There were only five trustees at a given time during the life of the Trust, and the grants reflected the particular interest of those trustees. The original trustees appointed in Charles E. Merrill's will were: Winthrop Smith, Sam Marks, Robert A. Magowan, Charles Cole, and Charles Merrill Jr. Marks was replaced by Doris Magowan in 1960, Smith was replaced in 1961 by Donald Regan, Peter Magowan replaced Cole after Cole's death in 1978, and Mary Merrill replaced Donald Regan as a trustee for the Trust's final meeting. The administrator for the life of the Trust was Dr. David A. Thomas, Dean of the Cornell University School of Business and Public Administration.


5.2 Linear feet (5 record storage boxes, 1 half archives box)

Language of Materials





The Charles E. Merrill Trust Collection documents the granting activities over the lifetime of this charitable trust, which was established after the death of Charles E. Merrill (AC 1908) according to instructions laid out in his will. The bulk of the collection consists of bound volumes of financial updates and funding recommendations that were sent to trustees prior to their meetings


  1. Series 1: Charles E. Merrill Trust Documents, 1959-1980
  2. Series 2: Correspondence and Books, 1987-2013

Custodial History

Donor Mary J. Oates is the author of The Catholic Philanthropic Tradition in America. The collection had been given to her on November 21, 1989 by Charles E. Merrill, Jr. while she was researching American philanthropy.

Processing Information

Processed by Claire Lobdell, Merrill Project Archivist, July-August 2013.

Claire Lobdell, Merrill Project Archivist
Language of description
Script of description
Merrill Family

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