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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Frederick Gates and Philanthropic Timeliness

April 8, 2024

An embrace of perpetuity is often assumed to be one of the founding principles of modern American philanthropy. Yet while some of the pioneering figures in the field, such as Andrew Carnegie, explicitly and unreservedly championed the cause of perpetuity, the views of many others toward time-based considerations in philanthropy were more fluid and complex. This was certainly the case with Frederick Gates, the Baptist minister who served as John D. Rockefeller's chief philanthropic advisor, holding leadership positions in many of the Rockefeller foundations in their early, formative years. He can arguably claim to be more responsible than any other individual for crafting the animating theories that came to define 20th century American philanthropy.

Frederick T. Gates Papers; John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Papers; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Listening to Each Other? – Opportunities and Challenges in Music Exchanges between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in the Late Twentieth Century

March 4, 2024

Cultural exchanges between the United States and the People's Republic of China were formalized in the 1970s. With the ever-increasing interest in understanding each other's culture, American and Chinese governments and cultural institutions organized exchange trips in different fields. Music was among the first professions that was used to establish rapport. This essay introduces some of the early efforts to facilitate the musical exchanges, including by the Asian Cultural Program of the JDR 3rd Fund and the Center for United-States Arts Exchange founded by Chou Wen-Chung. It highlights how the American non-profit sector shaped the cultural dialogue through grantmaking from the 1970s to the 1990s. Despite the legacy of fostering interests in learning the cultural differences between the two countries, archival materials show a Euro-American-centric sentiment by expecting Chinese visitors to bring American knowledge back to their home, and that Americans have the expertise and knowledge to assist Asians to better understand their own cultural heritage. With mostly white Americans in control of the visitors they could bring in, who tended to be talented performers and artists of ancient or traditional art forms, they avoided more politicized contemporary works and discourses. Chinese immigrants in America were also limited in terms of their ability to participate in these cultural exchanges. Such a narrow approach to cultural exchange also limited Americans' understanding of China (and Asia, at-large) in the contemporary context.

Asia Society; Asian Cultural Council; Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; International Relations; JDR 3rd Fund; Music; National Committee on United States-China Relations; Rockefeller Family

The Unusable Zoning Override Threat: Analyzing the State Urban Development Corporation’s Westchester Plans

February 15, 2024

This research report aims to explicate the tactics underpinning the State Urban Development Corporation's ill-fated efforts, between February 18, 1970 and 1973, to construct affordable housing in generally affluent, suburban Westchester County.  Designed to cut through federal and local municipal red tape that disincentivized private industry from entering the affordable housing field, Governor Nelson Rockefeller hoped that the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) could play a pivotal role in solving the state's housing crisis.  The UDC bore the unique power to override local zoning codes. It thus became immediately controversial, inducing the corporation's first president, the (in)famous Bostonian urban planner Edward Logue, to emphasize the UDC's ability to work with local municipal officials to construct much-needed housing, often through a locally-managed subsidiary corporation.  When the UDC entered Westchester County on February 18, 1970, hoping to expand its operations to the state's suburbs, these tactics proved ineffective in the face of the county's traditionally decentralized politics, municipal and county officials' long history of support for restrictive zoning and single-family residential construction, and the weakening political position of the county's once-powerful Republican Party.  Additionally, widespread protests against state-led public works projects in the late 1960s sapped local support for Governor Rockefeller's administration just before the UDC entered the county.  Combined, these factors conspired to enable affluent, white Westchester residents and officials to stall out the UDC until they could form a coalition of state legislators to pass a bill eliminating the UDC's zoning override powers, effectively ending state-level efforts to construct affordable housing.

Cary Reich Papers; Nelson A. Rockefeller Gubernatorial Records; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; Urban and Suburban; Warren T. Lindquist Papers

Private Funders and Private Wildlife Conservancies in Neoliberal Kenya (1980-2010)

February 7, 2024

This report examines the rise of nongovernmental organizations and private game reserves in Kenya's conservation and tourist sector in the last two decades of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century. Because these institutions are private and not required to be transparent, it can be difficult to study their histories. The archival holdings of funders, such as the Ford Foundation, or individual philanthropists, such as Laurance S. Rockefeller, can thus provide insights into the histories of these organizations. These records provide particular information on two private conservancies started in the 1980s in Laikipia, Kenya: the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Ari Nyiro (at times referred to as Laikipia Ranching). Attention to these conservancies demonstrates a shift in the practice of conservation during the late twentieth century, as the Kenyan state saw its role diminished, and private funders, NGOs, and private conservancies became more central to the project of protecting Kenya's wildlife, while also benefitting from the tourists which followed.

David Rockefeller Papers; Ford Foundation; Laurance S. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family

Nelson Rockefeller’s Report and Richard Nixon’s Foreign Policy towards Latin America

October 13, 2023

This research paper is composed of four parts. The first one presents Nelson Rockefeller's mission to Latin America in 1969 and details his official report to President Richard Nixon. In the second part, I highlight the main aspects of the new foreign policy designed by the Nixon administration toward Latin America. The third part points out several primary sources related to the mission that could help academics improve their current understanding of the Latin American Cold War. Lastly, the final section of this paper evaluates the results of this new policy.

International Relations; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

Pastoral Agriculture: John B. Griffing, Agricultural Missionaries, and Transnational Agricultural Development

August 9, 2023

This report examines the life and career of John B. Griffing to understand the larger transnational project of rural development in the twentieth century. Griffing had an eclectic career that took him to various parts of the United States, China, and Brazil. While Griffing's papers are scattered across multiple institutions and countries, collections from the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) were particularly useful in tracing the evolution of Griffing's ideas about rural development over time. At least two themes emerge when studying his career. The first is his views on religion and rural development. As the son of a small-town dairy farmer and grandson of a Methodist minister, Griffing found a way to blend these two influences by working as an "agricultural missionary" where he promoted agricultural improvement as a tool for spreading Christianity in China. His later work in Brazil focused less on proselytizing but he continued to champion the rural church as an effective center for agricultural change. The second theme is Griffing's emphasis on extension work and the importance of reaching rural youth through programs such as 4-H clubs. For Griffing, club work (which focused mostly on boys) was an effective way to cultivate a form of rugged masculinity, while also spreading new agricultural crops and practices to their parents. 

Agrarian and Rural; Agriculture; American International Association for Economic and Social Development; Religion; Rockefeller Family

Towards the Asian Cultural Council: Blanchette Rockefeller and Her Engagement with Asia, 1951-1986

July 20, 2023

On April 6, 1971, Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller delivered a formal talk to New York's Colony Club titled, "Amateur Collecting at Home and Abroad." Mrs. Rockefeller had visited Japan for the first time in 1951, where she spent six weeks in Tokyo with her husband, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, who served as an unofficial cultural attaché to Douglas MacArthur's Japan Peace Commission. Like his mentor— former High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations, and first US Ambassador to Israel— Dr. James G. McDonald, Mr. Rockefeller spent most of his time as part of the commission interviewing political, economic, and cultural authorities to find ways of improving cultural relations between the two countries. As a result, John devised a model based on bilateral cultural exchange—a two-way street . Toward that end, he later planned and built a conference center, the International House of Japan, where scholars and public officials from Europe and the United States exchanged ideas with their Japanese counterparts. These luminaries included the likes of Arnold Toynbee and Eleanor Roosevelt. Rockefeller's  Japanese collaborator in that venture was an internationally minded journalist, Shigeharu Matsumoto. The Rockefellers and Matsumotos formed their own two-way relationship spanning the rest of their respective lives, as well as those of their children.While this study emphasizes the evolution of Blanchette Rockefeller's interest in Asia and the subsequent founding of the Asian Cultural Council, it bears understanding how such a study fits within the field of Asian cultural exchange during the twentieth century. 

Art; Asian Cultural Council; Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

America's Global Civil Religion: Making the UN Sacred in the Postwar US

June 21, 2023

The founding of the United Nations represented not only a new venue for international cooperation, but also an opportunity for re-thinking the place of America in the world. This report attends to the religious dimensions of that re-calibration, highlighting especially the role of the Rockefeller family in crafting a civil religion of the United Nations in the late 1940s. Drawing on long-standing aspects of American civic culture that placed the nation in sacred history, the religion of global community, presented to the American people in hymns, prayers, and community celebrations, was both deeply familiar and altogether new. Letters to the Rockefeller family from ordinary Americans, and the family's own administrative records, reveal both the popular appeal of this reformulated civil religion and the tremendous efforts exerted to bring it to life. In the end, it never quite became fully realized; "the flickering flame of the United Nations burn(ed) too low," in the words of Robert Bellah. But UN civil religion mattered all the same, as both a tool of Cold War nationalism and a springboard for new modes of spiritualized global consciousness.

Global; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Religion; Rockefeller Family

Creative Capitalism: Nelson Rockefeller’s Development Vision for Latin America and the World

May 30, 2023

This study of the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) and its associated corporations, including the commercial International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC), illuminates an understudied chapter in the history of the public-private aid regime that grew in the mid-twentieth century to become the major industry it is today. As development aid became an American strategic priority in the decades after World War II, Nelson Rockefeller embarked on his own experiment for improving agricultural production and standards of living in poor areas of the world. His laboratory would be Latin America, the region he knew well from his wartime work at the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA). Rockefeller's vision of "creative capitalism" meshed development work into a complex system of nonprofit and for-profit corporations engaged in trial-and-error projects to figure out how to develop perceived underdeveloped societies. With the announcement of President Truman's Point IV policy to deploy American development aid globally, Rockefeller advised the US government to make creative and robust use of American nonprofit and commercial expertise to implement this new strategic objective. This project illustrates just how overlapping and porous the boundaries of nonprofit and commercial development work were and the extent to which they intertwined with the state and other entities. It also shows the difficulties of agricultural and economic development abroad when conducted by small nonprofit corporations and commercial capital—even with the backing of Rockefeller wealth. These limitations meant that AIA increasingly turned to support from the burgeoning US and international public-private aid industry.

AIA-IBEC; Agrarian and Rural; American International Association for Economic and Social Development; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

The AIA and Public-Private Collaborations in Response to the 1950 Cusco Earthquake

March 27, 2023

This report provides an overview of my research at the Rockefeller Archive Center on the role of the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) in the aftermath of the 1950 earthquake in Cusco, Peru. More specifically, the United Nations contracted AIA director Robert "Pete" Hudgens to lead a mission to evaluate Cusco and make recommendations about its reconstruction and long-term development. The report was extensive and included detailed recommendations about the broader rural area, in addition to the city of Cusco. I hoped to learn more about that collaboration and how it fit into the AIA's mission. Archival materials from Nelson A. Rockefeller's personal papers and the Rockefeller Family Public Relations Department papers revealed a complex web of public-private negotiations over who would fund and administer Cusco's development plan. And yet, many of the plans never came to fruition, raising questions about the extent to which these collaborations benefited most Peruvians.

AIA-IBEC; Humanitarian and Disaster Relief; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Debating the Ethics of Population Control during the Cold War

February 6, 2023

Inspired by a Brazilian critique of overpopulation concerns emanating from the United States during the early 1950s, this project examines debates about the ethics of population control among staff of the Rockefeller Foundation and Population Council, from the late 1940s through the mid-1970s. The historical episodes highlighted include John D. Rockefeller, 3rd's establishment of the Population Council in 1952; the council's formation of an "ad hoc committee on policy" in the mid-1950s; reaction among population control advocates to the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, after JDR 3rd and Population Council staff had worked to cultivate alliances with Catholic clergy, particularly Jesuits; and discussions surrounding the United Nations population conference and the simultaneous "population tribune" for representatives of non-governmental organizations, both held in Bucharest in 1974. There is brief discussion of the expansion of family planning initiatives within Latin America—often sponsored by the Population Council, the UN, and the Ford Foundation—during these decades. Among the figures discussed most frequently are John D. Rockefeller, 3rd, demographer Frank Notestein, and Population Council President Bernard Berelson. By the mid-1970s, there was a pronounced ideological split regarding population control between Population Council staff and the Vatican, as well as between advocates of population control measures in the industrialized world and representatives of developing nations who reframed concerns about poverty and resource scarcity to highlight other causes of global inequality. Feminist perspectives are largely absent or ignored early in the period analyzed but become much more evident by the 1970s.

Joan Dunlop Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Six Roles of Philanthropy in John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s Response to the 1913-14 Colorado Coal Strike

January 20, 2023

John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s understanding of labor issues prior to 1914 was shaped largely through his philanthropic and civic activities, including contributions to five liberal, Progressive-era organizations concerned with improving industrial conditions. Simply put, philanthropy provided his education.Following the tragic events in Colorado, especially the so-called Ludlow Massacre, JDR Jr. employed philanthropic giving, in combination with a variety of other strategies, to address the problems at the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I), while also restoring the Rockefeller family's good name:  He used philanthropy to:Improve social and economic conditions in Colorado immediately following the strike;Involve the YMCA's industrial department as part of the company's expanded employee welfare programs;Express gratitude and demonstrate camaraderie with CF&I employees following his historic 1915 visit to Colorado;Promote the ideas of employee representation and personal relations in business; andEncourage research in the emerging fields of industrial relations and organizational behavior.    This research report highlights philanthropic aspects of JDR Jr.'s response to the strike and are based on a larger investigation that examined JDR Jr.'s efforts as milestone events in modern public relations and industrial relations as well as JDR Jr.'s emergence as a 20th century icon. Observations about his philanthropic strategy are discussed.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Papers; John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Papers; Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Rockefeller University

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