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Collection Overview

Brown, J. Douglas (James Douglas), 1898-1986
J. Douglas Brown Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1910-1978 (mostly 1930-1970)
90 boxes
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-90


J. Douglas Brown (1898-1986) was an economist and Princeton University administrator who was an expert in the field of industrial relations, especially on the subjects of Social Security and personnel and manpower issues. He was one of the leaders in the development of the Social Security program and also served in the War Department during World War II on manpower issues. Brown's papers document his career as a government consultant, as a scholar, and as a university administrator and include his correspondence and writings, reports, meeting minutes, notes, and publications.

Collection Description & Creator Information


Brown's papers document his career as a government consultant, as a scholar, and as a university administrator and include his correspondence and writings, reports, meeting minutes, notes, and publications. The papers particularly document Brown's work with the development and revision of the Social Security program, with the War Department during World War II, and with Princeton University as a professor and administrator, as well as his involvement with various government agencies and organizations.

Please see the series descriptions in the contents list for additional information about individual series.


The Papers have been arranged in five series:

Collection Creator Biography:

Brown, J. Douglas (James Douglas), 1898-1986

J. Douglas Brown (1898-1986) was an economist and Princeton University administrator who was an expert in the field of industrial relations, especially on the topics of Social Security and personnel and manpower issues. He was one of the leaders in the development of the Social Security program and also served in the War Department during World War II on manpower issues.

James Douglas Brown was born on August 11, 1898 in Somerville, New Jersey to James and Ella M. (Lane) Brown. He began his undergraduate education at Princeton University in 1915, with a focus on pre-med training, but left in 1917 to join the Army. He was a private in the Army Medical Corps in France from 1917 to 1919. Brown then returned to Princeton University and changed his studies from medicine to the field of industrial relations, having acquired an interest in human organization while in the Army. Brown received his A.B. in 1920, although he maintained his membership in the Class of 1919. Brown received his A.M. from Princeton University in 1921. It was during his master's studies that he developed his interest in economics.

Brown taught as an instructor of economics at Princeton University from 1921 to 1923 and at New York University from 1923 to 1925. He then returned to Princeton University for further graduate work, earning his Ph.D. in 1928. Brown married Dorothy Andrews on June 18, 1923. They had three daughters, Martha Jane (Spencer), Doris Andrews (Miller), and Elizabeth Andrews Brown, and a son, James Douglas Brown, Jr.

Brown's academic career was spent at Princeton University. He was an instructor from 1926 to 1927, assistant professor of economics from 1927 to 1934, and professor of economics from 1934 to 1966. Brown served as director of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton from 1926 to 1955, as Dean of the Faculty from 1946 to 1966, and as Princeton University's first provost from 1966 until his retirement in 1967. Brown also served as President of the University Store, as a member of the Editorial Board, the Board of Trustees and as Vice President of the Princeton University Press, and as a member of numerous faculty committees. During his career, Brown wrote thirteen books and numerous articles in the field of industrial relations, and on social insurance, labor economics, and education. His works include The Liberal University; An Institutional Analysis (1969), An American Philosophy of Social Security (1973), The Human Nature of Organizations (1974), and Essays in Social Security (1977).

While he was the Dean of the Faculty, Brown was one of Princeton University's chief spokesmen to the academic community and a staunch defender of traditional liberal education. He was also instrumental in strengthening the University's faculty and personnel administration. As the second director of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University, Brown was a pioneer in the development of the field of personnel and industrial relations. The Industrial Relations Section was established as part of the Economics Department in 1922 to enhance and extend the knowledge of industrial relations, the first section of its kind. The section serves as a library of documentary materials, a research organization, and an adjunct in undergraduate and graduate instruction. During his tenure, Brown justified establishing the section on a permanent basis for its value to education and industry, expanded the purpose of the section to serve industry and other outside groups in addition to Princeton University faculty and students, led an increase in research, and was instrumental in building an endowment for the section to over $1 million.

Brown's academic career was interspersed with service to the government at the federal and state levels. His first appointment was as a member of President Herbert Hoover's Emergency Committee for Employment from 1930 to 1931, which was formed to help fight the spread of the Depression.

Brown's long involvement with Social Security began in 1934. He served on President Roosevelt's Committee on Economic Security from 1934 to 1935, which drafted the original Social Security legislation of 1935. Brown was a leader in the reform and expansion of the Social Security program for the remainder of his career. He was the chairman of the first Federal Advisory Council on Social Security from 1937 to 1938 and served on four subsequent Advisory Councils: 1947 to 1948, 1957 to 1958 as chairman of the drafting committee, 1963 to 1964, and 1969 to 1971. Brown also served as special advisor on Social Security to the Secretary of the Treasury in 1939, and as a consulting economist to the Social Security Board from 1936 to 1950. Brown is often referred to as the "Father of Social Security" for his long and influential role in the original development and continued reform of the Social Security program.

During World War II, Brown became increasingly involved in government service. He conducted a special study for President Roosevelt in 1940 on the manpower issues the aircraft, machine tool, and steel industries would face if the United States entered the war. Brown was Chief of the Priorities Branch of the Labor Division in the Office of Production Management and the War Production Board from 1941 to 1942, playing a key role in converting the American economy from civilian to wartime production. From 1942 to 1945, he served as a principle consultant on manpower to the Secretary of War and as alternate member for the War Department on the War Manpower Commission. He was also a member of the Advisory Council on Personnel to the General Staff, War Department, from 1946 to 1949.

After World War II, and throughout the remainder of his career, Brown continued to serve as a consulting economist to various Federal and New Jersey government agencies influencing policies on unemployment relief, Social Security, and manpower planning. He was a member of advisory boards and committees or served as a consultant to a wide variety of agencies, including the Social Security Administration, the Air Force, the Office of Defense Mobilization, the Department of Labor, the National Security Resources Board, the Federal Advisory Council for Employment Security, the New Jersey state government, and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

In addition to his work at Princeton University and with the government, Brown was active in numerous professional organizations. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Association of American Colleges, the American Management Association, the American Economic Association, the American Statistical Association, and the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities. Brown was a founder and president of the Industrial Relations Research Association, and from 1940 to 1942 was an elected member of the Executive Committee of the American Economic Association. He served as a member of executive or advisory committees for the American Association for Labor Legislation, the American Association for Social Security, the Committee for Economic Development, the Institute of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the American Council on Education, and the Institute of College and University Administrators. Brown was also a director of McGraw-Hill Publishing Company and a trustee of the University of Rochester and the Princeton Theological Seminary. Brown received honorary degrees from Rutgers University (1947), Kenyon College (1954), Union College (1966), Franklin and Marshall College (1966), and Princeton University (1973). In 1971, he received the Arthur J. Altmeyer Award, the highest award given by the Social Security Administration, for his contributions to the program's success. Brown died on January 19, 1986, at the age of 87.

Collection History


This collection was donated by J. Douglas Brown in February 1987 . An additional accession came from the Industrial Relations Section Library in 2010 .

Archival Appraisal Information:

Materials separated from this collection include duplicate materials, student grades and attendance records, and personal financial papers. A publication was removed from the collection to be cataloged separately.


These papers were processed with the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Adriane Hanson and Jessie Thompson in 2006. Finding aid written by Adriane Hanson in January 2007.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.

Special Requirements for Access:

One 7" reel of 1/4" recording tape and one digital audio tape are located in the Biographical series, Box 1. Access to this material follows the Mudd Manuscript Library policy for preservation and access to audiovisual materials.

Credit this material:

J. Douglas Brown 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

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Related Material:

This collection is part of a group of 28 Mudd Manuscript Library collections related to 20th century economic thought and development which were processed as part of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission funded project. Researchers wishing to access these collections should search for the subject "Economics--20th century" or related terms in the Princeton University Library Main Catalog. Collections at the Mudd Manuscript Library of particular relevance to the J. Douglas Brown Papers are the papers of two other individuals who served in the United States War Department during World War II, Howard C. Petersen and Edward S. Greenbaum, and the records of the Princeton University offices of the Dean of the Faculty and the Provost.

Publication Note:

The following sources were consulted during the preparation of the biographical note: "Dr. J. Douglas Brown, a Dean and Social Security Architect," by Thomas W. Ennis. The New York Times, January 21, 1986. J(ames) Douglas Brown Profile, Marquis Who's Who on the Web. Accessed August 1, 2006. Materials from Series 1: Biographical; J. Douglas Brown Papers; Public Policy Papers, Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Princeton University Class of 1919: Forty Years After, edited by W. E. Studdiford. Progress Publishing Company, Caldwell, New Jersey, 1959.

Subject Terms:
Economics -- 20th century.
Economists -- United States.
Education, Higher.
Government consultants -- United States.
Industrial relations -- United States.
Insurance, Health -- United States.
Social security -- Law and legislation -- United States.
Social security -- United States -- Evaluation.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Manpower.
Genre Terms:
United States. War Department
Princeton University
Princeton University. Industrial Relations Section
Princeton University. Office of the Dean of Faculty
Princeton University. Office of the Provost
Brown, J. Douglas (James Douglas), 1898-1986
United States -- Economic conditions.