Biography and History

Edward S. Greenbaum (1890-1970) was a lawyer in New York City in the legal firm of Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst who was involved in court reform efforts throughout his career. He also served in the War Department during World War II as executive officer to Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson, negotiating contracts with the private sector for munitions and supplies.

Edward Samuel Greenbaum was born in New York City on April 13, 1890. He was the second son of Samuel Greenbaum, who became a New York State Supreme Court Justice in 1900. Greenbaum studied at the Horace Mann School and then attended Williams College, where he received his A.B. in 1910. He earned his law degree (LL.B.) from Columbia University in 1913. Edward Greenbaum married Dorothea Schwarcz, a sculptor, in October 1920 and they had two sons: Daniel and David.

Greenbaum began to practice law in 1913 in New York City with his older brother Lawrence and Herbert A. Wolff, a classmate. In 1915, they were joined by Morris L. Ernst and founded the firm of Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst. Lawrence Greenbaum died in 1951 and the other three men continued the firm. Greenbaum choose not to specialize, instead staying involved with many areas of the law. He tried cases, argued appeals, conducted family counseling, worked for corporations, and administered estates. Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst became one of New York's most prominent law firms and was well-respected in literary and civil-liberties legal circles.

Greenbaum interrupted his practice of law to serve the United States when America entered World War I. He was unable to qualify for officers' training at the citizens' training camp in Plattsburgh, N.Y. because of color blindness, so he enlisted as a private. During training at Camp Upton, he created and ran a program to teach English to immigrant soldiers. On February 6, 1918, he was promoted to the rank of captain. Greenbaum was later made a major in the Judge Advocate's Department and served in Germany for several months. He served in the military from 1917 to 1919 and then returned to his law practice.

In the 1920s, Greenbaum became increasingly involved in public affairs. He joined a group at the John's Hopkins Institute for the Study of Law that was studying the civil litigation system in the fall of 1928. He became chairman of the committee of nine lawyers working with the institute on the study in 1929. This work was the beginning of his life-long pursuit for court reform.

Greenbaum was called into active service in World War II, commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in 1940 and rising to the rank of brigadier general in March 1943. He served as executive officer to Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson from 1941 to 1946. Greenbaum worked as a lawyer for the War Department, negotiating contracts with private industry, and was instrumental in ensuring that there were sufficient munitions and supplies for the war. Because of his work, he became known for his ability to work out satisfactory compromises between groups of conflicting people. Greenbaum also shaped the War Department's labor policies. He received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.

Following his service in the War Department, Greenbaum again returned to his law practice at Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst. He also continued his efforts to improve the organization of the court system, serving as chairman for many professional groups studying court reform and helping to establish the Citizens Committee for Modern Courts in 1955. He played a major role in establishing an Adolescent Court in New York as head of a New York Law Society study, and in the 1950s was part of the efforts that culminated in the first major New York state and local court reforms in 115 years, instituted in 1960 and 1961.

During the course of his career, Greenbaum worked on many prominent cases. He served as trustee for the American estate of Ivar Kreuger when his company, Kreuger & Toll, declared bankruptcy in the 1930s, and also served as special assistant to the United States Attorney General from 1934 to 1938. While he served the Attorney General, Greenbaum prosecuted banker Charles E. Mitchell for income tax evasion. Governor Thomas E. Dewey appointed Greenbaum to serve as chief counsel for the commission to reorganize the Long Island Rail Road after a series of accidents in 1950, and Greenbaum represented Harper & Row Publishers when Jacqueline Kennedy withdrew her support for the publication of The Death of a President by William Manchester in 1966. Greenbaum's most famous case is generally considered to be serving as legal counsel to Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's daughter, when she published her book Twenty Letters to a Friend and subsequently serving as her mentor when she came to the United States in 1967.

In addition to his career as a lawyer, Greenbaum was active in his community. He was a founder of the Jewish Big Brothers, which aids troubled youth, and served as trustee of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Greenbaum also continued to serve the government. In 1933, he was appointed chairman of the Alcohol Control Commission, created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to establish Federal codes to control liquor after the repeal of the Prohibition Amendment, and in 1958 he was a member of the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies Study Commission. Greenbaum also served as the alternate United States delegate at the 1956-1957 United Nations General Assembly, where he presented the United States call for Korean unity.

Additionally, Greenbaum was a very active member in the American, City of New York, and New York State bar associations. He was co-author of The King's Bench Masters with Leslie I. Reade, published in 1932. Greenbaum's autobiography, A Lawyer's Job, was published in 1967. He received an honorary Doctor of Letters in 1946, and the Rogerson Cup and Medal in 1957, from Williams College. The Cup and Medal is given to an alumnus or senior for service and loyalty to the college and for distinction in any field. It was given to Greenbaum for his ability to negotiate acceptable compromises in difficult situations between conflicting parties. Greenbaum died on June 12, 1970.

Source: From the finding aid for MC069

  • Edward S. Greenbaum Papers. 1888-1969 (inclusive), 1930-1960 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC069

    Edward S. Greenbaum (1890-1970) was a lawyer in New York City in the legal firm of Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst who was involved in court reform efforts throughout his career. He also served in the War Department during World War II as executive officer to Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson, negotiating contracts with the private sector for munitions and supplies. Greenbaum's papers document his career as a lawyer, as well as his government service, and include correspondence, legal documents, reports, and publications.

  • Edward S. Greenbaum Papers. 1888-1969 (inclusive), 1930-1960 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC069

    Edward S. Greenbaum (1890-1970) was a lawyer in New York City in the legal firm of Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst who was involved in court reform efforts throughout his career. He also served in the War Department during World War II as executive officer to Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson, negotiating contracts with the private sector for munitions and supplies. Greenbaum's papers document his career as a lawyer, as well as his government service, and include correspondence, legal documents, reports, and publications.

  • Kreuger & Toll Company Records. 1911-1952 (inclusive), 1930-1939 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC078

    The Kreuger & Toll Company, founded by Ivar Kreuger, was the holding company of an international match trust based in Sweden whose securities were popular during the 1920s. The company was organized as a giant pyramid scheme and went bankrupt in 1932. The Kreuger & Toll Company Records document the company's bankruptcy and include court and legal documents and accountants' reports.