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Collection Overview

Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965
Adlai E. Stevenson Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1861-2001 (mostly 1952-1965)
667 boxes and 3 folders
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-668


The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers document the public life of Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), governor of Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate, and United Nations ambassador. The collection contains correspondence, speeches, writings, campaign materials, subject files, United Nations materials, personal files, photographs, and audiovisual materials, illuminating Stevenson's career in law, politics, and diplomacy, primarily from his first presidential campaign until his death in 1965.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers contain correspondence, speeches, writings, campaign materials, United Nations materials, subject files, personal files, scrapbooks, travel materials, photographs, and audiovisual materials. The correspondence is a particularly rich resource for documenting all aspects of Stevenson's life and career. Stevenson's two presidential campaigns and service to the United Nations in both the 1940s and early 1960s are also well-documented in the appropriate series. The subject files illuminate Stevenson's career and civic activities prior to his election of governor of Illinois and also show his commitment to Chicago's benevolent institutions. The papers do not include materials from his governorship of Illinois which may be found at the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield, Illinois.


The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers are divided into eleven series and are arranged as follows.

Collection Creator Biography:

Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965

Adlai Ewing Stevenson, governor of Illinois (1949-1953), Democratic candidate for President in 1952 and 1956, and United States ambassador to the United Nations (1961-1965), was born in Los Angeles, California on February 5, 1900, the son of Lewis G. Stevenson and Helen Davis Stevenson. He grew up in Bloomington, Illinois, where his ancestors had been influential in local and national politics since the nineteenth century. Jesse Fell, his maternal great-grandfather, a prominent Republican and an early Lincoln supporter, founded the Daily Pantagraph, a Bloomington newspaper. His paternal grandfather, Adlai E. Stevenson, served as Grover Cleveland's Vice President during his second term, was nominated for the office with William Jennings Bryan in 1900, and ran unsuccessfully for Illinois governor in 1908.

Stevenson attended preparatory school at Choate and went on to Princeton University, where he served as managing editor of the Daily Princetonian and was a member of the Quadrangle Club. He graduated in 1922 and matriculated at Harvard University Law School. However, in July 1924, he returned to Bloomington to work as assistant managing editor of the Daily Pantagraph while the Illinois courts probated his grandfather's will, determining share ownership of the newspaper. While working at the newspaper, Stevenson reentered law school at Northwestern University, and in 1926, graduated and passed the Illinois State Bar examination. He obtained a position at Cutting, Moore and Sidley, an old and conservative Chicago law firm, and became a popular member of Chicago's social scene. In 1928, he married Ellen Borden, a wealthy Chicago socialite. They had three sons: Adlai E. Stevenson III (1930-); Borden Stevenson (1932-); and John Fell Stevenson (1936-). The couple divorced in 1949.

In the early 1930s, Stevenson began his involvement in government service. In July 1933, he became special attorney and assistant to Jerome Frank, general counsel of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) in Washington, D. C. In 1934, after the repeal of Prohibition, Stevenson joined the staff of the Federal Alcohol Control Administration (FACA) as chief attorney. A subsidiary of the AAA, the FACA regulated the activities of the alcohol industry. He returned to Chicago and the practice of law in 1935. During this time, Stevenson also became involved in civic activities, particularly as chairman of the Chicago branch of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (known often as the White Committee, in honor of its founder, William Allen White). The Stevenson's purchased a seventy-acre tract of land on the Des Plaines River near Libertyville, Illinois where they built a house. Although he spent comparatively little time at Libertyville, Stevenson considered the farm home.

In 1940, Colonel Frank Knox, newly appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Secretary of the Navy, offered Stevenson a position as his special assistant. In this capacity, Stevenson wrote speeches, represented Secretary Knox and the Navy on committees, toured the various theatres of war, and handled many administrative duties. From December 1943 to January 1944, he participated in a special mission to Sicily and Italy for the Foreign Economic Administration to report on the country's economy. After Knox's death in 1944, Stevenson returned to Chicago and attempted to purchase Knox's controlling interest in the Chicago Daily News, but another party outbid his syndicate.

After the war, he accepted an appointment as special assistant to the Secretary of State to work with Assistant Secretary of State Archibald MacLeish on a proposed world organization. Later that year, he went to London as Deputy United States Delegate to the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations Organization, a position he held until February 1946. In 1947, Louis A. Kohn, a Chicago attorney, suggested to Stevenson that he consider running for political office. Stevenson, who had toyed with the idea of entering politics for several years, entered the Illinois gubernatorial race and defeated incumbent Dwight H. Green in a landslide. Principal among his achievements as Illinois governor were reorganizing the state police, cracking down on illegal gambling, and improving the state highways.

Early in 1952, while Stevenson was still governor of Illinois, President Harry S. Truman proposed that he seek the Democratic nomination for president. In a fashion that was to become his trademark, Stevenson at first hesitated, arguing that he was committed to running for a second gubernatorial term. Despite his protestations, the delegates drafted him and he accepted the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago with a speech that according to contemporaries, "electrified the nation." He chose John J. Sparkman, an Alabama Senator, as his running mate. Stevenson's distinctive speaking style quickly earned him the reputation of an intellectual and endeared him to many Americans, while simultaneously alienating him from others. His Republican opponent, enormously popular World War II hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower, defeated Stevenson. Following his defeat, prior to returning to law practice, Stevenson travelled throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe, writing about his travels for Look magazine. Although he was not sent as an official emissary of the U.S. government, Stevenson's international reputation gave him entree to many foreign officials.

Back in the United States, Stevenson resumed his desultory practice of law. His national reputation, earned through his presidential campaign, made Stevenson a celebrity attorney who could pick and choose his clients. He accepted numerous speaking engagements and raised funds for the Democratic National Party, then suffering from an $800,000 deficit. Many Democratic leaders considered Stevenson the only natural choice for the presidential nomination in 1956 and his chances for victory seemed greater after Eisenhower's heart attack late in 1955. Although his candidacy was challenged by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver and New York Governor W. Averell Harriman, Stevenson campaigned more aggressively to secure the nomination, and Kefauver conceded after losing a few key primaries. To Stevenson's dismay, former president Harry S. Truman endorsed Harriman, but the blow was softened by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt's continued support. Stevenson again won the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He permitted the convention delegates to choose Estes Kefauver as his running mate, despite stiff competition from John F. Kennedy. However, Stevenson's best campaign efforts could not overcome the popularity of incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower. On November 6, 1956, Stevenson was again defeated by Eisenhower, this time by a larger margin.

Despite his two defeats, Stevenson remained enormously popular with the American people. Early in 1957, Stevenson resumed law practice with associates W. Willard Wirtz, William McC. Blair, Jr. and Newton Minow. He also accepted an appointment on the new Democratic Advisory Council, with other prominent Democrats, including Harry S. Truman, David L. Lawrence, and John F. Kennedy. He continued to serve on the board of trustees of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and to act as their legal counsel.

Prior to the 1960 Democratic National Convention, Stevenson announced that he was not seeking the Democratic nomination for president, but would accept another draft. Because he still hoped to be a candidate, Stevenson refused to give the nominating address for relative newcomer John F. Kennedy, a cause for future strained relations between the two politicians. Once Kennedy won the nomination, Stevenson – always an enormously popular public speaker – campaigned actively for him. Due to his two presidential nominations and previous United Nations experience, Stevenson perceived himself as an elder statesman and a natural choice for Secretary of State, an opinion shared by many.

In December 1960, Kennedy offered Stevenson the position of United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Stevenson refused to accept or decline the ambassadorship until Kennedy named the Secretary of State, deepening the rift between them. After Kennedy appointed Dean Rusk as Secretary of State, Stevenson accepted the U.N. ambassadorship. Although he was initially insulted by the offer, once he accepted the appointment, Stevenson devoted himself wholeheartedly to his responsibilities. He served as president of the Security Council and advocated arms control and improved relations with the new nations of Africa. He established residency in an apartment at the Waldorf Astoria, and threw himself into the busy social scene of the city.

In April 1961, Stevenson suffered the greatest humiliation of his career. After an attack against Fidel Castro's communist forces at the Bay of Pigs, Stevenson unwittingly disputed allegations that the attack was financed and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, claiming instead that the anti-Communist forces were supported by wealthy Cuban emigres. When Stevenson learned that he had been misled by the White House, and even supplied with CIA-forged photographs, he considered resigning the ambassadorship, but was convinced not to do so. During the summer of 1961, Stevenson toured Latin America, trying to convince leaders that Castro was a threat to all of Latin America as well as to the United States. Just a year later, in October 1962, Stevenson demonstrated his seasoned statesmanship during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After the United States discovered offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba, Stevenson confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin in an emergency meeting of the Security Council, challenging him to admit that the offensive weapons had been placed in Cuba and that he was prepared to wait "until Hell freezes over" for Zorin's answer.

In 1964, increasingly disillusioned with his inability to participate in the formulation of policy at the United Nations, Stevenson considered running for the U. S. Senate from New York, and was also regarded as a possible running mate for President Lyndon B. Johnson. In late 1964 and 1965, Stevenson and Secretary General U Thant began to discuss opening negotiations to end the war in Vietnam, although Stevenson publicly backed Johnson's Vietnam policies. Amid much speculation that he was considering resigning his post, Stevenson addressed the Economic and Social Council in Geneva in July 1965. During a stop in London, Stevenson died suddenly on July 14, 1965. Following memorial services in Washington, D.C. and Springfield and Bloomington, Illinois, Stevenson was interred in the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, Bloomington, Illinois.

Collection History


The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers were donated by several individuals, predominantly by Adlai E. Stevenson in 1963 and 1964. Significant additions were made in 1969 by his sons Adlai E. Stevenson III, Borden Stevenson, and John Fell Stevenson. Subsequent donations have been made by Dr. Robert G. Andrus, Jean Baker, Barry Bingham, Sr., William McC. Blair, Jr., the Estate of George J. Cooke, Jr., Vincent Davis, Francis Dummer Fisher, Edward Gold, Phyllis Gustafson, Chuck Hand, Ralph Hansen, Elizabeth Stevenson Ives, Timothy R. Ives, Sally J. Jeans, Mort R. Lewis, Archibald MacLeish, T. S. Matthews, Harry S. May, Porter McKeever, the New York State Department of Civil Service, Schlesinger Productions, Adlai E. Stevenson III, John Fell Stevenson, Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen, and Dale Warren. A sound recording of a speech delivered by Stevenson in 1950 and related press announcements were donated by Jeffrey M. Braude in 2011. The accession number associated with this gift is ML.2011.007. Andrew Schlesinger donated six betacam tapes (interviews from his documentary, "The Man from Libertyville") in 2013. The accession number for this donation is ML.2013.010. Adlai E. Stevenson III donated two letters and eleven photographs in July 2013. The accession number for this donation is ML.2013.019. In March 2014, Shelley Huff-Schultz donated speeches with handwritten notes by Stevenson, as well as correspondence and a memorial flyer dating from after Stevenson's death, which were left to Stevenson's biographer, Arlene Huff. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2014.002. Sharon Rohan donated additional personal correspondence between Stevenson and John S. Miller in December 2013. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2014.003. Andrew Schlesinger donated an additional 14 Betacam tapes in 2013. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2014.017. Adlai E. Stevenson III donated a eulogy of his father given by Carl McGowan in January 2015. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2015.004. Jennifer Bass and Ruth Rosenfeld donated twelve photographs from the Michigan campaign of Stevenson's 1960 presidential bid in June 2016. The accession number associated with this donation is ML-2016-017.


Materials separated from this collection during processing in 2010 include newspaper clippings from major newspapers on Stevenson's political career, scrapbooks that are also available on microfilm, and duplicate photographs. Approximately one inch of news clippings on Stevenson were separated from accession ML.2014.002, as were duplicative, unannotated typescripts of speeches.


These papers were processed with the generous support of Mrs. Barry Bingham, William McC. Blair, Jr., Nona Cox, Mrs. J. Edward Day, Jane Warner Dick, Phyllis Gustafson, the Estate of Elizabeth S. Ives, Timothy R. Ives, Philip M. Klutznick, Nan McEvoy, Josephine P. McGowan, Newton N. Minow, Adlai E. Stevenson III, John Fell Stevenson, Maurice Tempelsman, and Willard Wirtz. Funding for the digitization of records in this collection was provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Processing Information

Processed by Susan J. Illis in 1996-1997 with assistance from Carl D. Esche, Katherine Johnson, Sue Jean Kim, Debra Levin, Damian Long, James Macgillivray, Cei Maslen, Michelle Peart, Patrick Shorb, and Elizabeth Williamson. Materials received after the collection was processed were integrated by Adriane Hanson in 2010. Additonal donations made after 2010 were integrated into the collection by Mudd Library staff.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to research.

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.

Series 11 is composed of audiovisual materials in various formats.

Credit this material:

Adlai E. Stevenson 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 1-668

Find More

Subject Terms:
Ambassadors -- United States -- 20th century.
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.
Political Oratory.
Politicians -- United States -- 20th century.
Presidential candidates.
Statesmen -- United States -- 20th century.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975.
Genre Terms:
Audio tapes.
Campaign literature, 1952 -- Democratic.
Campaign literature, 1956 -- Democratic.
Campaign speeches, 1952 -- Democratic.
Campaign speeches, 1956 -- Democratic.
Motion pictures.
Photographs, Original.
Chicago Council on foreign relations
Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies
Field Foundation
Democratic National Committee U.S.
Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Foundation
Encyclopedia Brittanica.
United States. Agricultural Adjustment Administration
United Nations
United Nations. General Assembly. 2nd session, 1947
United Nations. Security Council
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Ball, George W.
Benton, William, 1900-1973.
Bingham, Barry, 1906-1988
Blair, William McC
Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986.
Brademas, John, 1927-2016
Brown, Edmund G. (Edmund Gerald), 1905-1996
Brown, Stuart Gerry, 1912-1991
Cleveland, Harlan
Cockrell, Ewing
Cousins, Norman
Daley, Richard J., 1902-1976.
Day, James Edward, 1914-
Dick, Jane
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Field, Ruth
Finletter, Thomas K. (Thomas Knight), 1893-1980
Fritchey, Clayton
Fulbright, J. William
Garrison, Lloyd
Glassford, Deborah
Gromyko, Andreĭ Andreevich, 1909-1989
Hammarskjøld, Dag 1905-1961
Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986
Harris, Seymour Edwin, 1897-1974
Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
Ives, Elizabeth Stevenson, 1897-1994
Johnson, Gerald W. (Gerald White), 1890-1980
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines) (1908-1973)
Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963
Kennedy, John F. John Fitzgerald 1917-1963
Krushchev, Nikita
Lasker, Mary
Meyer, Agnes Elisabeth Ernst, 1887-
Minow, Newton N., 1926-
Mitchell, Stephen A.
Neuberger, Richard L. (Richard Lewis), 1912-1960
Nixon, Richard M. Richard Milhous 1913-1994
Patterson, Alicia, 1906-1963
Raeburn, Sam, 1882-1961
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
Roosevelt, James, 1907-1991
Rostow, W. W. (Walt Whitman), 1916-2003
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. (Arthur Meier), 1917-2010
Schweitzer, Albert, 1875-1965.
Sparkman, John, 1899-1985
Spears, Mary, Lady
Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.
Stevenson, Ellen Borden
Stevenson, John Fell, 1936-
Stevenson, Nancy Anderson
Swig, Benjamin
Tempelsman, Maurice
Thant, U, 1909-1974.
Tito, Josip Broz, 1892-1980
Tree, Marietta, 1917-1991
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972.
Warburg, James P. (James Paul), 1896-1969
Ward, Barbara, 1914-1981
Wrzos, Konrad
Wyatt, Wilson W. (Wilson Watkins), 1905-1996
Wylie, Jean
Yoakum, Robert, 1922-
Cuba -- History -- Invasion, 1961.
Illinois -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.
United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.