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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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

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

Personalities at Work: Psychological Testing and the Work Ethic in America, 1940-1980

August 2, 2019

I conducted research at the Rockefeller Archive Center for my dissertation and current book project on the history of psychological testing in American business. My work has examined the network of psychologists and management experts who developed and implemented personality tests, such as the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The Rockefeller Archive Center was a crucial site to understand the origins, spread, and influence of personality tests. As a historian of science and business, I sought to understand the translations and circulations of research between psychologists and business. I focused particularly on the way that research into personality and work refracted existing social inequalities and biases of race and gender, at the same time that researchers sought to counter inequality through psychological testing. Both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations funded research in personality psychology and in management that studied the psychological capacities associated with creative and managerial work. In particular, these two foundations both provided direct grants to four key organizations discussed in this report: Berkeley's Institute for Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR), Educational Testing Service (ETS), the Opportunities Industrialization Commission (OIC), and the Public Agenda Foundation (PAF). IPAR and ETS were especially important as early sites for research and publications on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality test whose history I examine in my project. OIC and PAF both conducted research and implemented training programs that linked motivational psychology to the work ethic. All four organizations were important sites for studying the personality traits associated with work in 20th-century America.

Ford Foundation; Psychology; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

Improving Health and Labor Conditions for Coffee Workers: The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Campaigns Against Hookworm in Colombia, 1919 – 1938

February 27, 2018

Hookworm disease received later attention from the Colombian government than it received in other Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica or Brazil. In those countries, the campaigns to combat hookworm were framed within a large national project and had broad support of the government before the arrival of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). Although in Colombia doctors began to study the disease in the first decade of the twentieth century, and warned early on about the risks to coffee and sugarcane plantation workers, the government did not take such warnings seriously until the 1920s.  At that time, it signed a cooperation agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation to start the fight against tropical anemia.

Agrarian and Rural; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Making Manpower: The Ford Foundation's Building of Postcolonial Political Economy in India and Indonesia

December 20, 2017

My dissertation analyzes the International Labor Organization's (ILO) postcolonial development activities in India and Indonesia based around productivity and its relationship to economic inequality. Accordingly, I zoomed in on the Ford Foundation's collections that were connected to the ILO, India, and Indonesia. Neither the Ford nor the Rockefeller Foundation had a sustained connection to sponsoring the ILO, and the documents were scant. Thankfully, Ford granted considerable funds and expert guidance to both India and Indonesia. This researcher's report will begin with an introduction to the climate of political economy and development that infused Ford's notions of manpower and political economy. It then transitions to a description of my findings for India and Indonesia. Indonesia's fractured history is well displayed by the timing of the Ford Foundation's technical assistance, in spite of the limited archival material for my dissertation. It closes with a meditation on the meaning of development, capitalism, and shifts in international political economy at the end of the twentieth century.

Ford Foundation

The US and the International Professionalization of the Top-Manager, 1945-1980s

January 1, 2017

In the scholarly literature on the subject, the history of business education in the twentieth century has primarily been told as a story about the development of universities and business schools as degree-granting institutions. According to this narrative, business education at the university level came under strong pressure starting in the 1950s to become more academic and to transform itself from a practical to a scientific approach, in line with most other academic disciplines. A transformation did indeed take place in the United States as well as in many European countries. The Ford Foundation played a major role in pushing this change forward by initiating academic studies that legitimized the transformation, as well as by funding several projects in order to strengthen disciplines like mathematics, statistics, and organizational behavior in many of the best American business schools.

The Ever-Shrinking Middle Ground: Nelson Rockefeller in the Face of Reaganism

January 1, 2011

The chants of "We Want Barry" echoed throughout San Francisco's Cow Palace arena on the afternoon of July 14, 1964, searing the evident shift among the delegates of the National Republican Convention as much as the hopes of the New York governor who stood before them. Just a few years earlier, Nelson A. Rockefeller (NAR) was considered the unquestionable frontrunner for the 1964 GOP nomination. By that July afternoon, however, he resided in the crosshairs of the conservative Right, attempting to issue a formal repudiation of extremist elements that were "wholly alien to the broad middle course" of "mainstream" Republicanism. The rightward drift of the party could not have been clearer to Rockefeller. For amid the interrupting chants of "We Want Barry," he undoubtedly realized that the moderate Republicanism he had championed in his public career now stood as isolated as the podium he clung to. Barry Goldwater's defeat at the hands of Lyndon Johnson four months later offered little vindication for the New York governor. Within a year, new political chants would arise in California that further propelled the wave of polarization in the GOP. Such chants were neither from the Right nor directly associated with the heated issues of civil rights, Vietnam, or student protests. Rather they were the chants of "Huelga" (strike) led by Cesar Chavez and 2 encompassing a new political issue that would ultimately split the business-labor coalition of Rockefeller's middle-ground: grapes.

Northern Hunting Plantations in the Red Hills Region, 1870-1930

January 1, 2010

In 1919, Walter C. Teagle had already served two years as president of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. This was also the year that Walter E. Edge, a friend, and then governor of New Jersey, introduced Teagle to the Red Hills Region of southwest Georgia and northern Florida, an area already renowned by wealthy sportsmen for its winter hunting colony. Teagle liked the area shooting enough to purchase land in Leon County, Florida, for a collective hunting preserve that he and eight other hunters named Norias. The group proceeded to buy adjoining lands and eventually increased their holdings to 19,000 acres. Several years into the venture, Teagle bought all interest in the land and turned the hunting club into his private estate. The business ethos that Teagle cultivated as a mover in the oil refining industry permeated his leisure activities; his biographers note that his "drive for efficiency and perfection applied at Norias in the same manner as it did everywhere else." According to the biographers, Teagle's relationship with his estate workers indicated his efficient, yet progressive business sensibilities.

Democracy or Seduction? The Demonization of Scientific Management and the Deification of Human Relations

January 1, 2009

The emergence of the Human Relations "School" of management (HRS, hereafter) in interwar America was less a distinct break with Taylorism or Scientific Management (SM, hereafter) than it was a right wing and decidedly undemocratic outgrowth. That many of Taylor's disciples preceded Elton Mayo in analysing "the human factor in industry' is well established in the history of management thought. Likewise, that the Taylorists actively sought to promote greater worker participation in the management process and a greater rapprochement with organised labour in the interwar period is also well documented. Yet the conventional wisdom in the organization studies is that HRS was the intellectual progeny of Mayo and his associates in the Hawthorne Studies and that their concern with human problems in industry was both a reaction against, and solution for the shortcomings of SM. The fundamental question this paper seeks to answer is why the history has been written in this way and how it could be that the participatory nature of Taylorist movement came to be written out of typical accounts. We seek to understand how and why the meta-narrative regarding SM and HRS became the received wisdom and who stood to gain from this establishment of managerial orthodoxy. We seek to understand why it was that Mayo and HRS were deified, whereas Taylor and SM were demonized in the 1930s and beyond. Our central argument is that HRS presented conservative business leaders such as John D. Rockefeller Jr. with a more subtle yet powerful means of resolving conflict and exercising authority in the workplace, one that focused on individuals, their productivity, and on firm performance rather than on collective dealing with employees and so, was more attractive to business leaders of the time than the more democratic approach of progressive figures in the SM movement.

Enrique Sanchez de Lozada, the Andean Indian Program, and the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC): A Report on Research at the Archives

January 1, 2009

From the ashes of the First World War, the International Labor Organization (ILO) emerged to address the plight of industrial workers. Yet, by 1952, the ILO had embarked upon an ambitious multilateral enterprise aimed at peasants in the Andes Mountains, known as the Andean Indian Program or AIP. Confronting the paradox of the ILO's postwar turn toward rural and community development, my dissertation traces the formation of a global network of reformers and experts who became the principal foot soldiers of the AIP (1952-1972) and propelled it toward the center of postwar discussions of social and economic modernization. In short, my project reconstructs the networks of people, ideas, and institutions that merged to carry out the ILO's broader development agenda and examines the encounters that resulted from the implementation of the Andean Indian Program.

Geography, Nationalism and Mining Development in the Emergence of High Altitude Pathologies

January 1, 2008

Despite the hostile geographic and climatic conditions, millions of people live, work and reproduce at great altitudes in the mountainous regions of the Andes, the Himalayas, the Ethiopian highlands, the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps. High altitude areas, defined as over 2,500 meters above sea level, are characterized by numerous atmospheric challenges, such as low temperatures, aridity, high levels of ultraviolet radiation, and, most important, decreased partial pressure of oxygen. In the high Andes it is possible to find permanent settlements located at more than 5,000 meters above sea level, where local populations live with half the atmospheric oxygen pressure than at sea level. How have entire populations managed to adapt to high altitude environments? What are the bodily mechanisms of adaptation to hypoxia? What are the physical and mental effects of prolonged exposure to low oxygen environments? How are disease and epidemiological patterns, mortality and morbidity rates affected by hypoxia? These are some questions medical practitioners and respiratory physiologists have been systematically trying to answer since the early twentieth century.

Business Support for Prohibition and Its Repeal

January 1, 2004

My project examines the economic history of alcohol prohibition, focusing on the role of business interests in helping to enact and then repeal Prohibition. The project grew out of a hunch that business played a more important role in Prohibition than is commonly realized, with much of that support stemming from self-interest. While Prohibition may have had its roots in rural temperance movements and likely benefited from a perceived need for wartime efficiency and from anti-immigrant sentiment at the time, business interests and their considerable clout may still have been critical to passage of the Prohibition amendment. Industrialists, although relative latecomers in the crusade, seem to have viewed alcohol prohibition as a welcome complement to their own efforts to raise productivity and reduce labor strife. By the early 1930s, the rampant flouting of Prohibition and the apparent rise in crime seem to have convinced business leaders that enforcing Prohibition was futile and that keeping it on the books would be detrimental to their interests.

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