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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Observations on John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Involvement with Colorado’s Work-Relief Program

October 21, 2020

With the formal conclusion of the coal miners' strike at the Colorado Fuel and Iron pits in December 1914 and the suspension of the United Mine Workers' strike benefits in February 1915, former strikers and their families were once again solely dependent on wage labor. Yet demand for coal had plummeted due to mild winter weather and a deep economic recession. The lack of work quickly left many families destitute. In response to this dire situation, local officials turned to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (JDR, Jr.) and the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) to create a work-relief program for unemployed miners in the form of local road-building projects. The RF supplied $100,000 for the work-relief program that employed 4,250 men. (They were paid in vouchers that could only be used for clothes or food.) The program lasted from April through June 1915 in seven Colorado counties. W.L. Mackenzie King represented the Rockefeller Foundation in negotiations with Colorado officials to hammer out an agreement to access RF funds. During these talks, King not only made sure to protect RF funds from misuse, fraud, and waste by incorporating multiple oversights into the final agreement, but he also had to convince JDR, Jr. that the relief effort was a worthy endeavor. King clearly oversold aspects of Colorado's work-relief program. He exaggerated the degree of private/public partnership as neither sector contributed meaningful dollars to the endeavor. In the end, the entire work-relief project rested solely on the Rockefeller Foundation's funding.

Rockefeller Foundation

The Population Council in the Decolonizing Caribbean

January 1, 2017

In the post-WWII world, a growing consensus emerged among demographers, philanthropists, activists, and world leaders that populations were increasing too quickly in the "developing world" of Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. Pointing to stable/rising birth rates and declining death rates across a number of countries, commentators warned that population growth would, at best, slow the process of economic development, and at worst, fuel poverty, conflict, and/or a turn to communism. This panic over population growth became the central focus of newly created population think tanks and university courses, while also fuelling a wave of state-run family planning programs supported by an expanding international aid apparatus. By the mid-1960s, the study and control of population had become a billion dollar, transnational endeavour.

For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries and the American Culture of Inequality, 1964- 2014

January 1, 2016

According to the Pew Research Center, 50% of Americans have bought a lottery ticket in their lifetime and 25% do so at least once a week, amounting to over $70 billion spent on lotteries in 2014 alone. My dissertation traces the rise of state lotteries in the political, cultural, religious, and economic context of the late twentieth century. Unlike previous studies that assume a timeless popularity of gambling, I argue that lotteries illustrate how individuals as well as state governments responded to economic uncertainty. As the economy increasingly failed to provide middle- and working-class Americans with financial stability through traditional means, many turned to lotteries as alternative avenues of social advancement. With similar hopes for a financial windfall in an era of tax rebellion, government officials turned to lotteries in this period to address increasingly imbalanced state and municipal budgets.

Private Money and the Public Good: Nonprofit Organizations in Two Eras of Boston's Urban Development, 1960-1990

January 1, 2013

Throughout the history of the United States, private associations and charity have supplemented -- and at times surpassed -- the government in caring for the most economically vulnerable citizens, improving the social and physical infrastructure of neighborhoods, and supporting cultural institutions. The American welfare state exists today, as it has for centuries, as a project of both public and private aid. Such interaction (indeed, cooperation) between the public and private sectors is not a new phenomenon, but the specific configuration of the interaction that has evolved and shifted over time. Factors such as economic growth, governance structures, and political ideology have defined and altered the relationship between both the public and private sectors and between the sectors and the citizens. For example, private settlement houses emerged as the dominant form of charitable urban-aid at the end of the nineteenth century, but in the 1930s the New Deal model of public aid and benefits replaced the settlement house model. In the 1960s the welfare state entered yet another phase when the government began granting public monies to private nonprofit organizations. The entry of direct public subsidy for private nonprofit activities, I argue, marks a significant turning point in the history of charity in the United States and of the American welfare state that had profound consequences for American cities.

Rockefeller Support and the Growth of Public Welfare Programs in North Carolina in the 1920s

January 1, 2011

In the 1920s, North Carolina earned the moniker the "Wisconsin of the South" for its progressive social programs. At the heart of its progress was a network of devoted reformers. These reformers could not have been effective without numerous public-private partnerships, which fostered the growth of North Carolina's public welfare system. Rockefeller funds underwrote the cooperative efforts of university leaders and state officials, as well as each group's unilateral efforts to transform the state. In the course of Rockefeller interactions with North Carolina, moreover, Rockefeller officials' decisions shaped the boundaries and future direction of public welfare, social work, and social science research in the state and region. The records at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) -- in particular, the records of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM) -- describe the evolution of the state's welfare programs, and establish links between North Carolina's welfare programs and national philanthropic efforts.

Shaping the Debate and Setting Standards: Foundation Philanthropy and Reforming Child Welfare, 1909-1940

January 1, 2011

The American approach to children and families in crises is decentralized, disorganized, and difficult to navigate. It involves complex interactions between federal agencies, state governments, which interpret federal mandates, administrative agencies, like state and county departments of Children and Family Services, the juvenile and criminal courts, and numerous nonprofit service providers. All of these actors influence the system in different ways, but from the viewpoint of the child, the system is most commonly represented by the individuals providing direct services to him or her from a contracted child welfare agency.

Human Rights, Women's Rights, States' Rights: The Politics of Federal Family Planning Programs, 1965-1988

January 1, 2010

In 1965 the United States federal government announced that grants were available through the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to establish birth control clinics in poor neighborhoods. For the first time, the federal government would openly support family planning programs in America. The OEO was responsible for carrying out President Lyndon B. Johnson's "war on poverty," so federal support for family planning began as an anti-poverty strategy. It has remained entangled with welfare policy ever since. However, scholars have not examined the history of federally-funded birth control programs in the U.S., and have therefore overlooked an important way that reproductive rights and the welfare state have been connected since the 1960s. My dissertation, "Human Rights, Women's Rights, States' Rights: The Politics of Federal Family Planning Programs, 1965-1988," examines the history of federal funding for birth control in order to shed new light on the relationship between family planning policy and welfare policy. In so doing, it will contribute to our understanding of the histories of birth control, welfare, and the U.S. government's influence on its citizens' sexual and reproductive lives.

Private Philathropy and the Public Sector

January 1, 2009

Although private charity and voluntarism are often understood as alternatives to state programs, in the United States government often acts through these formally private channels. In the face of national crisis and war, popular mobilization has been organized through membership in private, voluntary organizations. The practices of charity and voluntary donation have generated substantial financial and material support for state activities from foreign wars to the relief of domestic disasters. This pervasive entanglement of public agencies and voluntary practices is the central puzzle for my current book project, Civic Nation: Voluntarism and the Governing of the United States.

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