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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Life’s Networks and the American Art World

June 17, 2022

Life magazine's vast networks and the connections and collaborations between its editors and museum trustees, collectors, curators, critics, and artists at a wide range of institutions led to some of the most fascinating and innovative exhibitions, magazine articles, and programs in the mid-century American art world.

Art; Journalism; Mass Communications; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family

Siegfried Kracauer’s New York Networks

April 20, 2022

When Siegfried Kracauer arrived in the United States in May 1941 aboard the Nyassa, he was one of countless German émigrés to have narrowly escaped the Nazi conquest of Europe. By the time of his death a quarter century later, Kracauer had found his footing in the American scene, having published significant contributions to the emerging discipline of film studies (From Caligari to Hitler, 1947; Theory of Film, 1960). He had been hard at work on a monograph about the craft of the historian, which would be published posthumously as History: The Last Things Before the Last (1969). How did this exile gain his bearings upon disembarking in New York Harbor? What were the waystations? Who provided the helping hands? Where did Kracauer turn? 

Film; Humanities; Mass Communications; Political Science; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

A History of Diabetes at the Rockefeller Archive Center: The Development of Oral Hypoglycaemic Drugs and the UGDP Debate

December 3, 2021

With very generous research funding provided by the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I was able to travel from Scotland in early August 2018.  This was my first trip to the RAC, as well as my first time in the United States.  Having just finished up at a three-month internship at the Scottish government, I was thrilled to be granted time and financial support for archival research.  This report presents a summary of my time at the RAC and how the material I accessed there has supported my thesis.  For those interested in the history of pharmacy in the second half of the twentieth century, or specifically the history of diabetes, this report provides an overview of the history of the development of the first oral anti-diabetic agents. It highlights the debate that followed one of the most contentious medical trials in the history of medicine, the University Group Diabetes Program.

Biology and Medical Research; Mass Communications; Medicine and Healthcare; The Medical Letter

Modernization and Documentary Film in  the Americas

June 29, 2020

Historians and other scholars have recognized the centrality of visuality and images to the modernization theory that drove US policy in the Global South during the Cold War. However, these scholars have so far failed to take into account the process of creating and consuming images and how that process shaped popular and expert ideas of what modernization would look like. Focusing primarily on efforts in Latin America, my book will trace the complex interplay between documentary filmmaking and international development institutions and agencies formed during and in the decades after World War II. This report traces the convergence of economic development and documentary film by examining some of the 1940s productions of Nelson Rockefeller's Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA), as well as some Rockefeller Foundation agricultural films of the early 1960s. In particular, it looks at a few films made by director Willard Van Dyke, who was trained in the New Deal documentary tradition and went on to make films for both the OCIAA and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Agriculture; Film; International Relations; Mass Communications; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Political Science; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

Cross-Cultural Communication Theory: Basic English and Machine Translation at the Rockefeller Foundation

December 19, 2019

My goal in conducting research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was to identify the ways in which both the Rockefeller (RF) and Ford Foundations (FF) conceived of the relationship between literature and computing in their programs at mid-century. This research is central to my book project, Machine Talk: Literature, Computers and Conversation. In what follows, I lay out the background of this project and a research context that has often highlighted the intertwined emergence of computing and communication theory—and ignored the contributions made by the humanities to the development of this concept. I turn specifically to the RF Humanities Division, outlining its role in supporting early research into theories of communication—particularly cross-cultural communication—which would prove vital to the post-World War Two development of communication theory in the sciences.

Computers and Information Technology; David H. Stevens Papers; Humanities; John Marshall Papers; Mass Communications; Rockefeller Foundation; Technology; Warren Weaver Papers

Broadcasting the Gospel of Tolerance: Media, Capitalism, and Religion in Twentieth-Century America

September 5, 2019

Most histories of religion, media, and capitalism have focused on televangelists or on conservative religious leaders who built their own broadcasting networks. But this is not the entire story. Religious insiders—frequently centrist liberals—did not need to create their own broadcasting networks because their connections with media networks and philanthropists gave them a privileged place in the American mediascape. In this report, I investigate the relationship between the Rockefeller family and religious media. I focus especially on John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his funding of Riverside Church's Harry Emerson Fosdick and his National Vespers radio program. This report demonstrates the prominence of liberal religious media during the "Golden Age" of radio, and it helps explain how religious liberals navigated the financial dilemmas of producing sustaining programs.

Mass Communications; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Radio; Rockefeller Family; Television

The Women of Communication Studies and Foundation Funding

October 18, 2018

The Bureau of Applied Social Research (BASR) at Columbia University was an important location where Paul F. Lazarsfeld and his researchers developed methods for the statistical analysis of audience interpretation of mass media messages. Although several studies exist of Lazarsfeld and the BASR, no attention has been paid to the numerous women who worked there. In fact, the very history of Communication Studies, with a few exceptions, overlooks the important role women's work played in the development of lasting theories of mediated communication, as well as methods for audience research. By 1949, seven women were listed as members of the BASR on the bureau's letterhead: Jeanette Green, Marie Jahoda, Babette Kass, Patricia L. Kendall, Rose Kohn, Louise Moses, and Patricia J. Salter. The work histories of these women show that, during the 1940s and 1950s, female social scientists negotiated the pursuit of careers as social scientists with several important pressures. These pressures included gendered expectations regarding female employment, foreclosure of entrance into tenured academic positions, anti-communism of the early Cold War, and foundation-based funding opportunities for research. This research report outlines some of the work histories of the women conducting audience research in the 1940s vis-a-vis foundation-based funding opportunities.

Mass Communications; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences; Women

Radio Research and Refugee Scholars: American Philanthropies Respond to the European Crisis before the War, 1933-39

July 19, 2018

University presidents and foundation administrators in the United States viewed the global refugee crisis precipitated by Hitler's rise to power in Germany in 1933 as a serious humanitarian disaster in need of immediate attention.  It was also, in their view, a historic opportunity to salvage the great minds of Central Europe.  For the officers of the Rockefeller Foundation, the crisis coincided with an increasing interest in sponsoring studies on radio and mass communications, public opinion, and the vulnerabilities of Western democracies to fascism.  Many European social scientists, with their background in empirical research, were ideally suited to study these problems.  The sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, for example, chose to remain in the U.S. as a Rockefeller fellow when fascism took hold in his native Austria in 1934, and he went on to become the head of a major research institute at Columbia University.This paper considers the efforts of American citizens, academic elites, and foundation officers to aid refugee scholars and researchers by placing them at American institutions and supporting their work through grants and other forms of aid.  Officers in the Humanities and Social Sciences divisions of the Rockefeller Foundation, working in concert with the leaders of organizations like the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, were instrumental in supporting these émigrés and their work in the United States.  The Emergency Committee, with the financial assistance of the Rockefeller Foundation, assisted more than six-hundred refugee scholars with securing university appointments and grants over its twelve years of existence.

Academic Research and Education; Alfred E. Cohn Papers; Education; General Education Board; Institute of International Education; Mass Communications; Radio; Refugee Scholars; Rockefeller Foundation; Rockefeller University; Social Sciences

The Ford Foundation and Communication Studies: The University of Toronto Program (1953-1955)

June 19, 2018

In March of 1953, the University of Toronto forwarded the following three applications to an interdisciplinary competition as part of the Ford Foundation's Behavioral Sciences Program: "Changing Patterns of Language and Behavior and the New Media of Communication," "Study of Problems of Social Learning and Co-operation in an Industrial Society," and  "Radical and Conservative Behaviour." All were associated in varying degrees with the legacy of Harold Adams Innis, a prominent economic historian and political economist at the University of Toronto, who had died in November of the previous year. "Changing Patterns" was the one that was accepted: its group of sponsors, spearheaded by Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Carpenter, was awarded a grant of $44,250 over two years. This came as a surprise to many, as the other two applications featured not only renowned established figures but also younger scholars who were quickly coming into prominence. Moreover, while the other two applications were grounded in Innis's highly respected work in political economy and economic history, that of the McLuhan/Carpenter group used Innis's less well-known work in communication as a point of reference. 

Academic Research and Education; Ford Foundation; Mass Communications; Social Sciences

The Cultural Project of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) in Latin America, 1940-1950

June 6, 2018

In August 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, concerned with the defense of the Western Hemisphere and, with Nazi infiltration in the Americas, created the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) and appointed Nelson Rockefeller as coordinator. Rockefeller´s particular interest in other American republics "arose from visits and through the activities of enterprises in which he was concerned" particularly in Venezuela (1935), around his interest in modern art, and his familiarity with the health work conducted by the International Division of the Rockefeller Foundation in Latin America. Also, in 1937, he traveled to ten countries to attend to matters connected with the affairs of the Standard Oil Company. After those trips, he became "further impressed with the social and economic problems of the area."

International Relations; Mass Communications; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; World War II

The Inverted "Red Triangle" and Communicating the Small Family Norm in the Developing World

September 22, 2017

In December 1968, Frank Wilder presented a paper in a Carolina-USAID Workshop on 'Mass Communications in Family Planning.' This was, perhaps, the first time he presented the inverted "Red Triangle" to the developing world. As a consultant to the Ford Foundation's India Office focused on Mass Communications for Family Planning, he had been working on the symbol for the past three years. In his paper, he added a note that the symbol was now ready for circulation across the 'developing countries' or what we know as the Global South.

Ford Foundation; Mass Communications; Population and Reproductive Sciences

Visualizing the American Economy: from Social Science to Mass-Communication and Beyond, 1920s-1960s

January 1, 2014

From the 1910s to the end of World War II, visual representations have been increasingly used in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and official reports in the United States as a way to convey aspects of economic and social facts to a wider audience. A number of historians have shown that this movement toward visualization, which originated in various projects within social science departments and among social reformists, culminated during the years of the Great Depression when the Roosevelt administration used extensively photographs as a way to promote its economic policies. The most studied of these projects within the Roosevelt administration is the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration, which hired photographs such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein and sent them to the field to document the living conditions in rural America. Indeed, previous works on visualization have mostly focused on photographic representations of economic and social facts, as opposed to other types of visualization such as pictorial statistics, maps and drawings, which were equally important in the period. In addition, while these accounts focused on the artistic and communicational values of the resulting images, they did not investigate in depth the origins of this movement toward visualization in the works of economists and social scientists. Historians of social sciences -- especially economics -- have not paid attention to the visualization of social facts either because their work most often deal with the scientific and academic aspects of the discipline they study, therefore neglecting issues of communication and popularization. Indeed, contemporary social scientists tend to undermine the role of visual representation in their discipline because they do not consider visualization as constitutive of scientific knowledge, hence limiting its use to pedagogical purposes.

Economics; Mass Communications; Rockefeller Foundation; Russell Sage Foundation; Social Sciences

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