Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Lee, Ivy L. (Ivy Ledbetter), 1877-1934
Ivy Ledbetter Lee Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1881-2003 (mostly 1915-1946)
159 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-158


The Ivy L. Lee Papers consist of personal papers and material from the public relations firm of Ivy Lee and Associates, documenting Ivy Lee's public relations theories and practice. Included are correspondence, diaries, articles, writings, public relations material, newsreels, and photographs reflecting Lee's interest in public relations, transportation (especially railroads), financial markets, and foreign relations, among others. Digital images of the Interborough Rapid Transit posters in Series 9 are available at Digital PUL.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of assorted material by and about Lee and his involvement in the history, development and practice of public relations work in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. The material includes correspondence, writings, and personal material on both Ivy Lee and his immediate family.

In addition, the corporate records of the public relations firm Ivy Lee & Associates are also included in the papers. The records cover the period 1916 through 1946. These records consist of materials used in various public relations campaigns. Some of the larger clients represented are John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Jr., the Pennsylvania Railroad, Armour Inc., Bethlehem Steel and Chrysler Corporation.

Collection Creator Biography:

Lee, Ivy L. (Ivy Ledbetter), 1877-1934

Ivy L. Lee was born in Cedartown, Georgia on July 16, 1877 of Emma Eufaula Ledbetter Lee and the Reverend Dr. James Wideman Lee, a well known Methodist clergyman in the South. Ivy Lee's childhood was spent in Atlanta, Georgia, except for his senior year in high school, spent in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Emory College in Atlanta for two years and then transferred to Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1898. While at Princeton, Lee was active on the college newspaper and won the Lynde debate prize.

Lee did post-graduate work at Harvard and Columbia Universities, but due to lack of funds, he entered newspaper work. He was a journalist at the New York American, the New York Times, and the New York World. He preferred to write about business and financial affairs. His first work in public relations came in 1903 as publicity manager for the Citizens' Union. He authored the textbook The Best Administration New York City Ever Had, used in Seth Low's unsuccessful mayoral campaign. Lee then took a press job with the Democratic National Committee.

Lee and George Parker, press agent for the Democratic National Committee, opened the pioneering public relations firm of Parker and Lee in 1905. Parker provided the connections and Lee the creativity in this venture. In an era of muckraking journalism, Lee saw the benefit public relations work could have for big business, believing that if people were presented with all the facts on both sides of an issue, they would not come down so harshly on business interests. Lee saw his role as interpreting the public to the industrialists and the industrialist to the people. To achieve this end, Lee believed in supplying the newspapers with as much information as possible. His "Declaration of Principles," drafted during the anthracite coal strike in the spring of 1906, explained the guiding precepts of his public relations theory. The main points of the Declaration were to guarantee the accuracy of facts and leave to the discretion of the newspaper editor whether an item was worth printing as news. The aim was to provide news, not advertising.

Another opportunity to practice Lee's principles came with work for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906. The railroad had a policy of refusing reporters access to all accident sites and refusing to grant interviews. This policy led to reporters' mistrust of the railroad and in turn mistrust on the part of the general public. Lee immediately opened the lines of communication with frequent updates and arranged for reporters to travel to accident sites. In 1908 Lee joined the Pennsylvania Railroad full time, in charge of their publicity bureau.

In 1910 Lee and his young family sailed to Europe, where he arranged to open European offices for the investment firm of Harris, Winthrop, and Company. While in London, Lee delivered a series of lectures at the London School of Economics on railroads. On December 1, 1912 he became executive assistant to the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This position gave Lee the opportunity to help influence policy, not just react to incidents at the railroad. Much of Lee's energy was spent in fighting the public clamor to lower freight rates. In 1914 the president of the railroad lent Lee to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to help counter negative press during strikes at the Colorado Fuel and Oil Company mines.

Lee's work for Rockefeller led to the acceptance of a position on the personal advisory staff of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. beginning January 1, 1915. About a year later, he ended his employ with the Rockefellers, determined to open an independent publicity firm (see below). During World War I, Lee served as publicity director and later as Assistant to the Chairman of the American Red Cross.

As the firm prospered, with T. J. Ross taking on more duties as day to day manager during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lee turned his attention to international concerns. He turned his lifelong interest in Russia into a one-man campaign for recognition of the Soviet Union, believing that commerce and a free flow of ideas with the United States would "kill bolshevism." In 1926 he wrote a letter to the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce arguing for recognition of the Soviet Union. Lee's letter eventually made front page headlines. Lee continued through the 1920s to push for United States recognition of the Soviet Union, leading to many false accusations that Lee was in the employ of the Soviet government as a propagandist. Present Day Russia (1928) outlined his observations of the Soviet Union made during a trip in 1927. At the time of Lee's death, he was again embroiled in controversy surrounding his consulting work for I. G. Farben Industries of Germany. Many individuals claimed he was in the employ of the Nazi government. No proof was ever found that this allegation was correct.

Lee married Cornelia Bartlett Bigelow in 1901. The couple had three children: Alice Lee (Cudlipp) in 1902, James Wideman Lee II in 1906, and Ivy Lee, Jr. in 1909. Ivy Lee died of a brain tumor on November 9, 1934; he was 57 years old.

Organizational History of Ivy Lee & Associates

The firm was opened on April 1, 1916 by Ivy Lee. Partners in the firm included W. W. Harris, a newspaper man, and James W. Lee, Jr, Ivy's brother, who had also done publicity work for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The firm was originally known as Lee, Harris and Lee. Later the name was changed to Ivy Lee and Associates. The firm took on many prominent clients, among them the Pennsylvania Railroad, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and Jr., various investment houses, industrial organizations, and philanthropic institutions. T. J. Ross joined the firm in 1919.

In 1933 the name of the firm was changed to Ivy L. Lee and T. J. Ross. T. J. Ross became a senior partner and the other members of the staff junior partners. The junior partners in 1933 were Burnham Carter, Harcourt Parrish, Joseph Ripley, James W. Lee II, and Ivy L. Lee, Jr. At Ivy Lee's death, T J. Ross became the senior partner. In 1944 Ivy Lee, Jr. withdrew from the firm and opened his own office in San Francisco. In 1961, at James W. Lee II's retirement from the firm, its name was changed to T. J. Ross and Associates, Inc.

Collection History


The papers were given to the Princeton University in the late 1950s by the Lee family. Subsequently, public relations material (Matter Sent Out volumes) from Ivy Lee and Associates, was a gift of T. J. Ross and Associates in 1978 . Over the last thirty years Ivy Lee's sons and daughter have on occasion donated additional papers to the Library.


No information about appraisal is available for this collection.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Paula Jabloner with the assistance of Katherine Couch and Shawn O'Neill in September 1992 to June 1993. Finding aid written by Paula Jabloner in September 1992 to June 1993.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Ivy Ledbetter Lee Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-158

Find More

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital images of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company "Subway Sun" and "Elevated Express" posters from 1918 to 1932 are available via the Digital PUL website.

Related Materials

Related Archival Material at Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library

Princeton University Scrapbooks

Princeton University Class of 1898

Princeton University Senior Theses on Ivy Lee

Atwater, Edward Sanford, IV, Practice or Principle: A Study of Ivy Lee (1967: History, 124 pp.)

Beckwith, Stephen Ross, Counsellor to Big Business: Ivy Lee and Business Reform, 1900-1930 (1964: Woodrow Wilson School, 143 pp.)

Berlin, Arnold Mark, Ivy Lee (1946: Woodrow Wilson School, 149 pp.)

Halsey, MacDonald Brooke, Ivy Lee and Russia (1966: History, 102 pp.)

Lyon, Peter Baker, Ivy L. Lee: Public Relations Theory and Practice (1968: History, 78 pp.)

Pendray, G. Edward, Papers

McAneny, George C., Papers (material on Interborough Rapid Transit)

Related Archival Material at Other Institutions

The Rockefeller Archives Center, Tarrytown, NY

Harcourt Parrish Papers, University of Virginia

Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE (Pennsylvania Railroad Collection)

Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA (Pennsylvania Railroad Collection)

Related Publications

Hiebert, Ray Eldon, Courtier to the Crowd: The Story of Ivy Lee and the Development of Public Relations (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1966)

Lee, Ivy Ledbetter, The City for the People: The Best Administration New York Ever Had (New York: Citizens Union, 1903)

Lee, Ivy Ledbetter, Human Nature and Railroads (Philadelphia: E. S. Nash & Co., 1915)

Lee, Ivy Ledbetter, Memories of Uncle Remus: Joel Chandler Harris as Seen and Remembered by a Few of His Friends (New York: privately printed, 1908)

Lee, Ivy Ledbetter, Present-Day Russia (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1928)

Lee, Ivy Ledbetter, U.S.S.R.: A World Enigma (New York: privately printed, 1927)

Subject Terms:
Advertising -- United States -- 20th century.
Anthracite coal industry -- Public relations.
Fathers and sons -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Industrial publicity.
Public relations -- United States -- 20th century.
Public relations -- United States -- Banks and banking -- 20th century.
Public relations -- United States -- Industry -- 20th century.
Public relations -- United States -- Petroleum industry -- 20th century.
Public relations -- United States -- Railroads -- 20th century.
Public relations and politics -- United States -- 20th century.
Public relations consultants -- United States -- 20th century -- Records and correspondence.
Railroads -- United States -- Management -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Chrysler corporation
Columbia Broadcasting System, inc.
Copper & Brass Research Association (U.S.)
Cotton-Textile Institute.
Bankers Trust Company (New York, N.Y.)
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics
Dominick & Dominick
Allied Liquor Industries
American Red Cross
American Tobacco Company
Western Union Telegraph Company
T. J. Ross and Associates, Inc
Socony Mobil oil company
Standard Oil Company
Interborough Rapid Transit Company of New York
National Board of Fire Underwriters
New York Trust Company
Pennsylvania railroad
Princeton University
Princeton University. Class of 1898.
Kahn, Otto H., 1867-1934
Lee, Ivy L. (Ivy Ledbetter), 1877-1934
Lee, James W. (James Wideman), 1849-1919
Rockefeller, John D. (John Davison), 1839-1937
Rockefeller, John D. (John Davison), 1839-1937
Rockefeller, John D., Jr. (John Davison), 1874-1960
New York (N.Y.) -- Politics and government -- 1898-1951.