Biography and History

Joseph Andrew Robinson, born on August 27, 1909, the son of David B. Robinson, a businessman, and Elizabeth Robinson, grew up in West Collingswood, New Jersey, and attended Camden High School. He graduated from Princeton University in 1931 with a degree in history. In 1937 Robinson earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1941 Robinson served in a series of increasingly responsible positions, rising to Editor in the Office of Coordinator of Information, which was part of the Executive Office of the President. “This propaganda arm of the government…is truly America's most formidable secret weapon,” he wrote at the time. By the end of the year he had complete charge of all contacts with the Intelligence branches of the Army and Navy for the OCI. From 1942-45 Robinson was Chief War Correspondent for the United Nations News Service in the Mediterranean theatre.

After the war Robinson served as an army information specialist and Foreign Service officer. In late 1945 Robinson was appointed chief press officer, Indonesia, within the Office of Information and Cultural Affairs. Between 1945-47 Robinson lived in Italy, India, Singapore, and French Indochina. In the 1948 class directory, Robinson described himself as the assistant public affairs officer for the Office of Information and Cultural Affairs in the Department of State at the American Embassy in Manila. Between 1949 and 1952 Robinson lived in Poland, and then in Korea in 1952, where he became Secretary of Embassy and Director of Information in Pusan. It was there on October 30, 1952 that Robinson married Madeline Law, a graduate of Radcliffe College and also a member of the U.S. Foreign Service.

Robinson returned to the United States in 1953, retired from the Foreign Service, and served as the secretary-treasurer of the Joseph W. Graham Company, a family-owned industrial coal business in Camden, New Jersey.

He retired from his business career in 1962. He and Madeline moved from Moorestown, New Jersey, to St. Michaels, Maryland, where they lived on the San Domingo Creek. He pursued his lifelong hobby of sailing, and the Robinsons maintained a waterfowl refuge. “We are all refugees together from an uncertain civilization,” he wrote in his 40th Reunion book. The Robinsons became Trustees of the Maryland Ornithological Society. Robinson wrote “British Invade the Chesapeake, 1777,” which was part of Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution, edited by Rear Admiral E. M. Eller, and published in 1980 by Tidewater Press.

Robinson passed away on April 4, 1998 in Easton, Maryland at the age of 87.

Source: From the finding aid for MC194

  • Joseph A. Robinson Papers. 1941-1953 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC194

    The papers of Joseph A. Robinson, Princeton Class of 1931, are comprised almost entirely of Robinson's letters to his family during the years 1941-1952, when Robinson worked in the Office of War Information and the Foreign Service. The collection includes some drafts and copies of his work, radio scripts and newspaper clippings, as well as photographs, currency, invitations and postcards. Some of the later letters cover portions of his term in the Foreign Service, though with significant gaps. The most fully documented year is 1946. Robinson was involved in the establishment of informational and cultural affairs agencies in Saigon and Warsaw, and describes the internal politics and external challenges of creating an American news presence overseas.