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 resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Thomas Whittemore, Fundraiser for Russian Refugees

June 8, 2022

Thomas Whittemore (1871-1950) was an intriguing person whose interests spanned various fields of endeavor, including teaching art history, conducting archaeological excavations, carrying out humanitarian relief, educating refugees, collecting art, and uncovering the mosaics of the church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Various writers have explored discrete aspects of Whittemore's life, but the one part of his work that made his enterprises possible has yet to be studied: how Whittemore succeeded, over more than thirty years, in raising the funds he needed to carry out his projects. This research explores Thomas Whittemore as a fundraiser, particularly for Russian refugees, by examining his relationship with the Rockefeller family and its associates. Materials in the Rockefeller Archive Center help to sketch a preliminary picture of Whittemore's fundraising work in that domain after the First World War. His success was built first and foremost on his ability to immerse himself in the culture of the localities where he worked and thereby earn the trust of those whom he met. He built networks of supporters who advocated for him and introduced him to ever wider circles of people with wealth and influence. Whittemore's mix of cultural competence, personal appeal, and organizational efficiency led to long-standing relationships that served him and his work well for decades.

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief; Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Shadow Diplomats: American Humanitarianism in the Era of the World Wars, 1900-1948

October 25, 2018

This project examines the development of American humanitarianism in the era of the world wars. It explores how, in the absence of state power, private citizens often filled the void. Their activities expand the common definition of diplomacy by noting myriad ways private organizations and individuals, including the Rockefeller Foundation and its partners, attempted to influence the direction of American foreign relations. The primary argument here is to demonstrate that American citizens, who grew frustrated at the lack of government involvement in world affairs during the first-half of the twentieth century, sought to insert themselves into positions of power and influence. This project shows that, in the absence of the state, many American individuals and NGOs formed partnerships and coordinated their humanitarian activities on a global scale. In specific ways, they undertook the roles and strategies of foreign policy professionals: stationing professionals in foreign offices, raising and appropriating large sums of money, providing food and medicine, coordinating the mass migration of refugees, and negotiating with foreign governments. By doing so, they acted as "shadow diplomats" – working as a shadow government in opposition to the recognized state authority, but also working in the shadows, away from most public attention and scrutiny, because they reasoned that quiet actions would produce the desired results.

Alfred E. Cohn Papers; Humanitarian and Disaster Relief; Institute of International Education; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Refugee Scholars; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller University

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