Contents and Arrangement

Subseries 1A: Office Correspondence, 1913-1977

92 boxes

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The correspondence provides rich documentation for Stevenson's political activities during the 1950s and his involvement in international affairs in the 1950s and first half of the 1960s. Stevenson's enormous popularity with people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds is evidenced in his letters. He was generally quite candid in his correspondence and sometimes embarrassingly honest and self-effacing.

Stevenson corresponded sporadically with a legion of individuals, including former Princeton classmates, friends and business associates from Bloomington and Chicago, people he met on his travels, distant relatives, individuals who worked on his political campaigns, Democratic politicians, and many others. They discussed a wide variety of topics, including national and local politics, international relations, and fellow acquaintances. The correspondence reveals the ebb and flow of many of his personal relationships. He may have corresponded on a weekly basis with an individual for a year or so, then only annually thereafter. Many leading lights of the Democratic Party are represented in the correspondence, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Jacob Arvey, the Kennedys, J. William Fulbright, Stephen Mitchell, Edmund G. Brown, and many others. Their correspondence reveals Stevenson's role as the titular head of the Democratic Party for most of the 1950s, as well as his tireless support and interest in Democratic officeholders and candidates throughout the country.

By the same token, some of this correspondence is not particularly enlightening. For example, Stevenson's correspondence with Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy is very formal, revealing little of the disagreements he had with both Presidents during his tenure as ambassador to the United Nations. In contrast, Stevenson's correspondence with his political advisors is often very insightful, particularly that with Agnes Meyer, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Barbara Ward. The Agnes Meyer correspondence is particularly significant because it includes Stevenson's handwritten letters to her, making this correspondence more revealing than his correspondence with others.

Correspondence with certain individuals, most notably Stephen Mitchell, Barry Bingham, and William McC. Blair, Jr., is largely related to his political campaigns. This correspondence includes not only Stevenson's correspondence with each, but also their correspondence with others involved with the campaigns. Because Stevenson was drafted for the 1952 Democratic presidential nomination, correspondence pertaining to the 1952 campaign dates only from late July, while later correspondence shows that Stevenson began preparing for the 1956 campaign in 1955, if not almost immediately after his defeat in 1952.

Included among those individuals with whom Stevenson corresponded frequently are George Ball, William Benton, Barry Bingham, William McC. Blair, Jr., Chester Bowles, John Brademas, Stuart Gerry Brown, Harlan Cleveland, Ewing Cockrell, Norman Cousins, Richard J. Daley, J. Edward Day, Jane Warner Dick, Ruth Field, Thomas K. Finletter, Clayton Fritchey, J. William Fulbright, Lloyd Garrison, Deborah Glassford, Seymour E. Harris, Hubert Humphrey, Elizabeth Stevenson Ives, Gerald Johnson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Estes Kefauver, John F. Kennedy, Mary Lasker, Agnes Meyer, Newton Minow, Stephen Mitchell, Richard L. Neuberger, Alicia Patterson, Sam Rayburn, Eleanor Roosevelt, James Roosevelt, W. W. Rostow, Dean Rusk, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Albert Schweitzer, Lady Mary Spears, John Steinbeck, Adlai E. Stevenson III, Ellen Borden Stevenson, John Fell Stevenson, Nancy Anderson Stevenson, Benjamin H. Swig, Maurice Tempelsman, Harry S. Truman, James P. Warburg, Barbara Ward, Conrad Wrzos, Wilson Wyatt, Jean Wylie, and Robert Yoakum.

Much of the correspondence is routine and includes congratulatory letters on Stevenson's two presidential nominations and appointment as United States ambassador to the United Nations, letters of regret following his two defeats, commentaries on contemporary political issues, and general social correspondence. Because of the large volume of correspondence that Stevenson received, his responses are often quite brief, almost cursory, while the incoming correspondence is generally more loquacious. During Stevenson's frequent absences from his office and during periods of especially heavy correspondence, replies were often written by Stevenson's aides, law partners, and secretaries, particularly his executive assistant William McC. Blair, Jr., and long-time secretaries Carol Evans and Roxane Eberlein. These replies were sometimes acknowledged to have been written on Stevenson's behalf by others, but were often signed over Stevenson's name.

Although most of the correspondence pertains to Stevenson's political career, some personal correspondence is also included. Stevenson's correspondence with his three sons, Adlai III, Borden, and John Fell, shows his close relationship and involvement in their lives. Stevenson's correspondence with his ex-wife, Ellen Borden Stevenson, includes letters she wrote to him while he served in his various government posts in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as considerable correspondence and documentation pertaining to the court appointment of a conservator to look after her financial affairs in 1961. Clearly devoted to his family, Stevenson demonstrated remarkable patience in dealing with his ex-wife's erratic behavior and helping his sons cope with her financial demands, as shown through the correspondence. Stevenson also remained very close to his ex-wife's family after their divorce and continued his affectionate correspondence with his mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and others.

Stevenson accumulated many friends and acquaintances through the years who were not afraid to ask him for favors, jobs, and introductions to foreign dignitaries, and Stevenson generally cheerfully complied. Nor was Stevenson shy about asking his friends for favors, and this sort of exchange also is documented in the correspondence. His tireless socializing is illustrated in the correspondence, which contains countless exchanges setting up meetings and parties, thank you letters, and references to past social engagements. While he was serving at the United Nations, Stevenson opened his apartment at the Waldorf Towers to all friends and acquaintances visiting New York. The correspondence also reveals the high regard and affection many held for Stevenson.

In addition, Stevenson's flirtatious personality and his genuine kindness are evident in the correspondence. Stevenson developed close relationships with many of his friends' children, particularly Adele Dunlap Smith, Elizabeth Graham Weymouth, and Frances FitzGerald, and provided guidance and advice to them as they grew into adulthood. He also scrupulously kept in touch with his older relatives, and corresponded with a number of "pen pals", most notably Jean Wylie and Edith Gifford, with whom he established close friendships, despite infrequent meetings. Stevenson's public image as an intellectual, charming gentleman attracted many women, some of whom imagined relationships with Stevenson that did not exist. Several file folders, labelled "Eccentrics", contain love letters, gifts, and nuisance letters that Stevenson received.


Subseries 1A: Office Correspondence, is arranged alphabetically by the last name of correspondent and chronologically within each folder.

Collection History


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:

Subseries 1A: Office Correspondence; Adlai E. Stevenson Papers, MC124, Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Boxes 1-91; 631

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