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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The Formation of the NBER: Insights from the Rockefeller Archive Center

September 14, 2021

During several visits to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in 2017 and 2018, I viewed papers from a handful of collections which provided perspective on the early history of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). In my book project, tentatively titled Mapping the Future. A Euro-American History of Business Forecasting, 1920-1980, I investigate the history of four economic forecasting tools that have been developed, disseminated, and applied in the United States, in Europe, and beyond. One of them, leading indicators, was originally developed at the NBER in the 1930s and  remains, till today, one of the most prominent forecasting tools worldwide. In what follows, I offer an overview of my book project and outline the history of the formation of the NBER. In it, I make extensive references to the sources of the Rockefeller Archive Center, which provide the most profound insights into the early history of the NBER.

Commonwealth Fund; Economics; Interwar Years; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

“A Most Interesting and Complex Involvement”: Cold War Alignments between the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and the Central Intelligence Agency

May 25, 2021

When temperatures on the cultural Cold War front reached boiling point in the early 1950s, both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) solicited the cooperation of the private sector for funding activities aimed at refuting Communist claims about the United States and its allies—activities that would have suffered from inefficiency had they been openly funded by Washington. This report traces this symbiotic state-private relationship in the case of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), a worldwide CIA-funded forum for intellectuals of centrist persuasion, established at a time when the US Congress was reluctant to appropriate funding for counterpropaganda. From the very onset, the CIA tried to transfer "Operation Congress" to the philanthropic sector, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in particular. Records of these foundations reveal an internal balancing of risks against responsibilities, which tipped in favor of the CCF by the presence of staunch advocates such as John McCloy and Shepard Stone. By the time the Ford Foundation finally decided to commit itself substantially to the CCF, fate struck and exposed its link with its secret patron. A sense of obligation, if not guilt, on the part of Ford Foundation administrators, often combined with a sincere conviction of its continued utility in the concerted endeavor of tearing down the Iron Curtain, ensured the existence of the CCF—renamed into the International Association for Cultural Freedom (IACF)—for another decade. The incapacity of the IACF to adapt itself to the political climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, ultimately led to its demise.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; Francis X. Sutton Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Searching for Female Agency among Documents: Postwar Japanese Female Intellectuals and Their Network

May 11, 2021

Since the late 1980s and 1990s, the research field of the cultural Cold War has flourished and produced numerous works in the United States and in other countries. This development has inspired studies on Japanese culture during and after the occupation in the context of Cold War cultural policies, which, programmed and conducted by various US agencies both public and private, provided the arena of hegemonic negotiation. Representative works include: Fumiko Fujita, Amerika Bunka Gaiko to Nihon: Reisenki no Bunka to Hito no Koryu [U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Japan in the Cold War Era] (2015), Takeshi Matsuda, Soft Power and Its Perils: U.S. Cultural Policy in Early Postwar Japan and Permanent Dependency (2007), Yuka Moriguchi Tsuchiya, Military Occupation as Pedagogy: the U.S. Re-education and Reorientation Policy for Occupied Japan, 1945-1952 (2005). This scholarship has treated cultural policies as something functional and instrumental in the reconstruction of post-war Japanese subjectivity. In the field of American literary studies as well, this vantage point has been shared since the 2000s.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.

Charles B. Fahs Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Researching Human Rights at the Rockefeller Archive Center

April 23, 2021

This report details my January 2014 visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center.  My research agenda was to investigate how and why the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund supported nongovernmental organizations focused on international violations of human rights.  During my time at the Center, I explored two principal topics.  First, I searched records related to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's support for the International League for Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, and the American Civil Liberties Union, four nongovernmental organizations whose human rights activism was central to my research.  Second, my visit enabled me to explore the broader role played by the Ford Foundation in supporting human rights organizations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ford Foundation; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family

Health-Related Prison Conditions in the Progressive and Civil Rights Eras: Lessons from the Rockefeller Archive Center

September 23, 2020

During my 2019 visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I viewed papers from more than a dozen collections, which provided perspective on how health, incarceration, politics, and policy intermingled in the twentieth century. In this report, I offer an overview of my book project, Minimal Standards of Adequacy: A History of Health Care in Modern U.S. Prisons, and analyze how portions of it will be informed by two sets of documents from the RAC. I focus first on records contained in the Bureau of Social Hygiene records, which shed light on the perspectives of Progressive Era penologists who helped to shape ideals and practices related to prison health in specific institutions, as well as in state and federal correctional systems. Next, I discuss findings from the papers of Winthrop Rockefeller, who served as governor of Arkansas from 1966 to 1970, when federal courts deemed conditions within the state's prison system unconstitutional. While I continue to undertake research for the book, this report serves as a snapshot of my current reading of select sources from two different moments in the history of US prisons. It suggests the extent to which, throughout the twentieth century, carceral institutions posed tremendous health threats to the increasing numbers of people inside them, even as radical advocates urged drastic change, and as reformers, corrections professionals, and political representatives called for more rules, regulations, and bureaucracy.

Bureau of Social Hygiene; Crime and Criminal Justice; Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial; Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller University; Winthrop Rockefeller Papers

Intellectual Relief in Europe following the First World War

September 16, 2020

This project examines the phenomenon of intellectual relief in Europe following the end of the First World War. Intellectual relief is defined as aid that was specifically aimed at intellectuals and cultural institutions and constituted not only food and medicine, but also specialist reading material and equipment. My project aims to establish why intellectuals were targeted for bespoke relief and what philanthropic and humanitarian bodies, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, and Commonwealth Fund, sought to achieve by it. It also poses the question of who the "intellectuals" were and how they were identified. In a wider sense, my research will provide a new means of understanding how Europe transitioned from war to peace and how contemporaries sought to build stable democratic states.

Commonwealth Fund; Interwar Years; Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Neither Right nor Left: Grassroots Black Conservatism in Post-World War II America

August 25, 2020

Over the past two decades, the growth of scholarship on the history of modern conservatism and the rise of the New Right has moved this ideology from the margins of American society to mainstream political thought. Much of this work has foregrounded the lives, organizations, and political activity of white conservatives in the U.S. But scholars have begun to pay more serious attention to African Americans and their leadership in the Republican Party during the postwar era. Notwithstanding the significance of this emerging literature, it places a strong national and state focus on the instrumental role of black Republicans who waged an uphill battle to secure the GOP's commitment to civil rights and racial equality. My project adopts a more bottom-up approach to understanding the development of modern black conservatism and its impact on the African American struggle for racial equality, focusing on its evolution in local communities from 1950 to 1985. I contend that even though the important role of black Republicans and conservatives at the national level during this period has begun to receive more attention, the lesser well-known individuals and groups, especially black women, who helped to shape conservative ideas about crime, education, and economic advancement, require further study. In addition, there is a dearth of local studies that examine how ordinary men and women critically influenced conservative ideas about racial uprisings, Black Power, busing, welfare, police brutality, the War on Poverty, gay rights and feminism. I argue that while some African Americans ostensibly appropriated conservative ideas about family, morality, and individualism, others refashioned these ideas to address their racialized experiences.

African American Studies; Ford Foundation; Nelson A. Rockefeller Gubernatorial Records; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

Building Administrative Capacity in the National Government: The Role of Rockefeller-Funded Initiatives, 1910–1930

August 11, 2020

During the 1910s and 1920s, corporate elites and their Republican allies emerged as the leading proponents of central power and national authority in debates about the institutional structure of the federal government. This project traces the progress of their agenda and shows how it was foiled by defenders of local control and white supremacy. The primary focus is on policy debates about three general topics: budget reform, executive reorganization, and anti-lynching. On each of these topics, elite reformers sought to build central power and national authority. In each case, they faced opposition from political leaders from the South and West. Rockefeller-funded initiates—and, indeed, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., himself—played a key role in the elite reform efforts of the 1910s and 1920s. The report that follows presents evidence drawn from records held at the Rockefeller Archive Center.

Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Spelman Fund of New York

A New Dealized Grand Old Party: Labor, Civil Rights, and the Remaking of American Liberalism, 1935-1973

July 21, 2020

Drawing on the wealth of material from the Nelson A. Rockefeller papers held at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), my dissertation project examines the rise and fall of the "liberal" wing of the mid-twentieth century Republican Party. Big city Republicans from industrial states faced social movements that made mass democracy a vibrant force. Liberal Republicans emerged among the typically wellto-do men and women of older and established neighborhoods in New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. While no less an elite class than other Republican partisans, urban Republicans witnessed the upheavals and political transformation of the city firsthand. Unlike the rural and suburban right, big city Republicans simply could not imagine mounting a frontal assault against the vaunted New Deal coalition. In this setting, the reactionary bent of the party's base actually looked more like an electoral liability. Liberal Republicans insisted that winning statewide (or national) office required votes from major cities home to a diverse and organized working class that otherwise voted for Democrats. But securing any significant segment of that vote required a series of accommodations that most Republicans simply could not tolerate.

Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; Urban and Suburban

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

Embattled River:  The Hudson and Modern American Environmentalism

June 2, 2020

I spent several days in September 2015 at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) working in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers, especially the gubernatorial collection, investigating the Hudson River Valley Commission (HRVC), a largely unstudied state agency that the governor created in 1965. Thanks to considerable effort by archivist Monica Blank after my initial interview at RAC, I also worked in the documents Laurance S. Rockefeller compiled as chair of the (temporary) Hudson River Valley Commission, which are housed at the RAC. Given his longstanding interest in the Hudson River Valley, Laurance S. Rockefeller's papers include a large amount of material from the subsequent years of the "permanent" commission's existence. During the same month of my visit to RAC, I also spent considerable time working in the Hudson River Valley Commission Collection at the New York State Archives, Albany. Between these two collections, I was able to develop a thorough understanding of the commission's goals and operations.

Laurance S. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

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