Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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John D. Rockefeller and the Golf House in Lakewood, New Jersey

January 1, 2008

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to be with you tonight to talk about John D. Rockefeller, and to finally have the opportunity to visit Lakewood. As someone whose job is to help other researchers learn about our collections and to figure out how the archives might be helpful for their research, I rarely get an opportunity for any concentrated study of the materials themselves, so I am doubly pleased to have been able to use this occasion not only to get out of the archives and see where Rockefeller history happened, but also to have a chance to examine in some detail certain aspects of John D. Rockefeller's life in Lakewood. Tonight I hope to give you a better sense of who John D. Rockefeller was, where his life in Lakewood fits in the larger picture of his life and career, and to review some of the particular details that the archives reveal about the history of the Rockefeller estate in Lakewood, which he always called Golf House.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Forest Hill Housing Development in Cleveland, Ohio

January 1, 2008

I am pleased to be back in Cleveland and to have the opportunity to talk about the two subjects that have been at the center of my career as a professional historian -- Cleveland and the Rockefellers. I was very fortunate to have been able to move from working on the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History in 1987 to the Rockefeller Archive Center, where my knowledge of Cleveland history has come in handy. I always appreciate receiving requests from and about Cleveland, especially from people working on aspects of Cleveland history that intersect with the Rockefellers.

Partners in Housing Reform: The Apartment Developments of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Charles O. Heydt, and Andrew J. Thomas

January 1, 2008

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. is known for many accomplishments -- for developing Rockefeller Center, for example; for restoring Colonial Williamsburg, and for his support of conservation and the national parks across America. He is not well known as a housing reformer. Yet in the 1920s, Rockefeller and his real estate advisor, Charles O. Heydt, formed an unusual partnership with the architect Andrew J. Thomas, built around Thomas's pioneering ideas about the "garden apartment." Heydt brought together Rockefeller money and Thomas's ideas about tenement reform to build experimental model housing projects in Bayonne, New Jersey, in the Bronx, in Harlem, and in North Tarrytown (now Sleepy Hollow), the small town near the Rockefeller estate in Westchester County.

The Problematic Legacy of Judge John Handley: R. Gray Williams, The General Education Board, and Progressive Education in Winchester, Virginia, 1895-1924

January 1, 2008

When the John Handley School opened in Winchester, Virginia in the fall of 1923, the impressive structure and its carefully landscaped grounds were the culmination of a process that began in 1895 with the death of Judge John Handley of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a man who had never lived in the city that was to benefit from his fortune. For reasons known only to himself, Handley left the city of Winchester funds to erect a library and, somewhat more vaguely, to build schools for the education of its poor children. His bequest set in motion a long process of institution building that involved law suits, wrangling over the terms of the bequest, and public controversy that involved the executors of Handley's estate in Pennsylvania; Winchester's mayor and city council; the city council's independent agent, the Handley Board of Trustees; the Winchester School Board; residents of the city; and the General Education Board, a philanthropic organization based in New York City, to whom the Handley trustees turned for advice and assistance in making its vision of education for Winchester's children a reality.

The Rockefeller Foundation's Fellowship Program in Turkey, 1925-1983

January 1, 2008

I am pleased to be here this morning to participate in this discussion of Turkish immigration and visitation to the United States and the growth of mutual understanding between the two peoples that have resulted. In particular I want to invite Turkish scholars to make use of a unique set of records at the Rockefeller Archive Center that document cultural, scientific and intellectual exchanges between the United States and Turkey throughout much of the twentieth century.

John D. Rockefeller, The American Baptist Education Society and the Growth of Baptist Higher Education in the Midwest

January 1, 1998

As anyone who has graduated from or worked for one knows, colleges and universities are in constant need of money, and fund-raising for these institutions has become a growing industry in and of itself, as the creative titles for fund-raising positions advertised in the Chronicle of Philanthropy attest. College and university administrators have always been scrambling for money, and the papers, pledge books, and office files of John D. Rockefeller document the find-raising efforts of many school administrators in the late nineteenth century. Rockefeller, a devout Baptist, was interested in the educational work of his denomination, including the growth and maintenance of missions, academies, and colleges; and in the 1880s he was especially interested in the campaign by the denomination's leaders to create a great Baptist university.

Rockefeller, Religion, and Philanthropy in Gilded Age Cleveland

January 1, 1998

Religion is a well-compartmentalized element of modern American history, referred to and recognized as an aspect of culture, and even of politics, but today usually ranked below what Thomas Bender has called the "holy trinity of race, class and gender" when historians discuss the character of American society. Scholarship in the history of philanthropy, ranging from the narrative of Robert Bremner to the critiques of Peter Dobkin Hall, have identified religion as a fundamental motivational force, yet "quite clearly," as Hall himself has noted, "the scholarship of philanthropy has given religion remarkably short shrift." Such scholars have "assumed disinterested benevolence on the part of donors," Barry Karl and Stan Katz have argued, "but did not feel required to demonstrate it." This has been especially true of the religious context of the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller, arguably the greatest philanthropist in American history. Even Ron Chernow's recent block-buster biography of Rockefeller does not identify a specific connection between Rockefeller's religious impulses and his particular philanthropic acts.

Why a University for Chicago and Not Cleveland? Religion and John D. Rockefeller's Early Philanthropy, 1855-1900

January 1, 1995

Clevelanders sometimes seem to have a "What have you done for me lately?" attitude with regard to John D. Rockefeller. As if the creation on the Cuyahoga's shores of one of the country's most powerful and influential corporations is not enough, some Clevelanders look to Rockefeller's enormous charitable giving and wonder why he built no major institution in Cleveland to provide jobs and world renown under the Rockefeller banner. Most people who express such opinions often point, with a hint of jealousy, to the University of Chicago as an example of Cleveland's missing Rockefeller landmark.

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