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 Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction and the Ford Foundation

November 6, 2020

The Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction (MPATI) was a major investment by the Ford Foundation and other philanthropies in the 1950s and 1960s.  Project administrators used broadcast antennae on airplanes to provide educational programs to schools across a six-state region, with the goal of closing the gap between wealthy, higher-performing schools in the region, and poorer school systems in cities and rural areas.  Furthermore, MPATI was envisioned as a potential model for other disadvantaged regions, such as Appalachia, as well as for other nations.  This report draws primarily from correspondence between Ford Foundation officials and MPATI administrators.

Education; Ford Foundation; Technology; Television

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.

The Potentials of Performance: the Role of the Rockefeller Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund in the Development of Regional Professional Theater

January 1, 2010

My dissertation examines live theatrical performance in Minneapolis and St. Paul in the 1950s and 1960s, focusing on the development of a new era of cultural professionalism and its impact on the urban community of the region. In conducting research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) I was therefore most interested in the activities of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) in Minnesota, and their support of the regional theater movement there. While the material at the RAC did provide insight into activities in the Twin Cities area, especially in connection to the University of Minnesota, the collection also illuminated the role of the RF and the RBF more generally in developing arts organizations, the work of individual artists, and the infrastructure of nonprofit art across the United States.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Forest Hill Housing Development in Cleveland, Ohio

January 1, 2008

I am pleased to be back in Cleveland and to have the opportunity to talk about the two subjects that have been at the center of my career as a professional historian -- Cleveland and the Rockefellers. I was very fortunate to have been able to move from working on the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History in 1987 to the Rockefeller Archive Center, where my knowledge of Cleveland history has come in handy. I always appreciate receiving requests from and about Cleveland, especially from people working on aspects of Cleveland history that intersect with the Rockefellers.

John D. Rockefeller, The American Baptist Education Society and the Growth of Baptist Higher Education in the Midwest

January 1, 1998

As anyone who has graduated from or worked for one knows, colleges and universities are in constant need of money, and fund-raising for these institutions has become a growing industry in and of itself, as the creative titles for fund-raising positions advertised in the Chronicle of Philanthropy attest. College and university administrators have always been scrambling for money, and the papers, pledge books, and office files of John D. Rockefeller document the find-raising efforts of many school administrators in the late nineteenth century. Rockefeller, a devout Baptist, was interested in the educational work of his denomination, including the growth and maintenance of missions, academies, and colleges; and in the 1880s he was especially interested in the campaign by the denomination's leaders to create a great Baptist university.

Rockefeller, Religion, and Philanthropy in Gilded Age Cleveland

January 1, 1998

Religion is a well-compartmentalized element of modern American history, referred to and recognized as an aspect of culture, and even of politics, but today usually ranked below what Thomas Bender has called the "holy trinity of race, class and gender" when historians discuss the character of American society. Scholarship in the history of philanthropy, ranging from the narrative of Robert Bremner to the critiques of Peter Dobkin Hall, have identified religion as a fundamental motivational force, yet "quite clearly," as Hall himself has noted, "the scholarship of philanthropy has given religion remarkably short shrift." Such scholars have "assumed disinterested benevolence on the part of donors," Barry Karl and Stan Katz have argued, "but did not feel required to demonstrate it." This has been especially true of the religious context of the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller, arguably the greatest philanthropist in American history. Even Ron Chernow's recent block-buster biography of Rockefeller does not identify a specific connection between Rockefeller's religious impulses and his particular philanthropic acts.

Why a University for Chicago and Not Cleveland? Religion and John D. Rockefeller's Early Philanthropy, 1855-1900

January 1, 1995

Clevelanders sometimes seem to have a "What have you done for me lately?" attitude with regard to John D. Rockefeller. As if the creation on the Cuyahoga's shores of one of the country's most powerful and influential corporations is not enough, some Clevelanders look to Rockefeller's enormous charitable giving and wonder why he built no major institution in Cleveland to provide jobs and world renown under the Rockefeller banner. Most people who express such opinions often point, with a hint of jealousy, to the University of Chicago as an example of Cleveland's missing Rockefeller landmark.

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