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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The Problem of Profit in American Social Policy, 1909-1946

July 9, 2019

Can the market be trusted to provide the bundle of goods and services that society deems a basic entitlement of citizenship? The retreat from state-centered welfare institutions and the rise of policy movements emphasizing market-based alternatives over the past thirty years is said to mark a breaking point from the progressivism of the early twentieth century. Evidence from the Russell Sage Foundation Records, housed at the Rockefeller Archive Center, suggests that the trajectory from state to market or public to private is less representative than is commonly thought. Among the Foundation's most successful campaigns was its battle to reform small-sum lending between 1909 and 1946. Inspired by journalistic tales of working families held in virtual slavery by nefarious loan sharks, the Russell Sage Foundation devoted considerable resources to freeing small borrowers from the high rates of interest and criminal intimidation thought to engender poverty, crime, class agitation, and political radicalism. The Foundation's gradual pivot from promoting philanthropic solutions meant to circumvent the market in money to embracing profit and competition as a market-oriented means of achieving progressive ends stands as a key moment in the rise of the personal finance industry. It also serves as an early case study in the privatization of American social policy and an object lesson in the challenges reformers have faced when forging partnerships with the competitive marketplace.

Economics; Russell Sage Foundation; Social Welfare

The White Slavery Controversy, Women’s Bodies, and the Making of Public Space in the United States

February 26, 2019

After John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was appointed to serve on the New York White Slavery Grand Jury, he began a long commitment to the cause of prostitution and sex trafficking. This research report outlines initial conclusions based on a review of records in the Rockefeller Archive Center for the ten years after Rockefeller's service on the grand jury. The research report summarizes findings from the archives, previews arguments deriving from the archival documents, and suggests additional future directions for research.

Bureau of Social Hygiene; Crime and Criminal Justice; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Social Welfare; Women

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