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Collection Overview

Beam, Jacob D. (Jacob Dyneley), 1908-1993
Jacob D. Beam Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
5 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-5


Jacob D. Beam, class of 1929, was a career diplomat, serving as United States ambassador to Poland (1957-1961), Czechoslovakia (1966-1969), and the Soviet Union (1969-1973). The collection contains correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, photographs and assorted memorabilia, documenting sixty years of Ambassador Beam's life and service.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The correspondence, filed chronologically and separated by decade, ranges from Beam's Foreign Service exam results to a letter from Nixon commending his book. Many of the letters are in appreciation of his service, hospitality and friendship sent by State Department figures and visiting dignitaries. (One typical note, addressed to Mrs. Beam, sends thanks for efforts and gifts bestowed, reading: "Our first American hose and toilet articles were especially appreciated.") Other correspondence includes official certifications and instructions. The later letters are denser, as Beam responds to researchers' queries with memories and analysis of Nazi Germany, the arms race, Communism, and other issues.

The Ambassador saved scores of newspaper clippings about himself, which trace his global movements; most express praise for his efforts and approval of his assignments. There is a separate file for clippings from Czech, Russian and German language papers, also pertaining to Beam's work.

The collection contains several reports written by Beam, plus related drafts, notes and correspondence. One study submitted to the League of Nations delegation discusses the "question of the Saar," a former French territory which France demanded from Germany as war reparation. Beam's research into the internal policies of the Nazis in prewar Germany, as well as later articles and speeches, are preserved in the collection.

Two boxes of photographs show Beam conducting the formalities of his office: plane disembarkments; embassy functions; conferences in Germany, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Poland; State Department gatherings, and presidential visits. There are several shots of Beam meeting with Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office, and others of Beam with the Nixons and Johnsons in less exclusive settings. The collection contains a few pictures of Beam in Cambridge and of his father at Princeton. Most were taken by official photographers, though some seem to be snapshots taken by Beam, including one of a Nazi rally in prewar Berlin. There is also a film of his arrival in Warsaw.

The "Invitations and Ids" file contains the dozens of souvenir receipts Beam kept from important dinner parties, receptions and conferences, as well as his passports and photo passes. Many of the paper slips are from the League of Nations, the International Military Tribunal, and the United Nations. Others are from events in prewar Germany. In addition to these ticket stubs, Beam collected Nazi memorabilia, such as Hitler postcards and stamps, swastika medallions, and Hitler's signature, as well as articles from other foreign posts and the United States, including an encased Nixon signature paperweight, a dog's certificate in Czech, papers from the London Zoo acknowledging his temporary adoption of the zoo's "Social Vulture," and a silver certificate inscribed, "Short Snorter Jake."


The collection contains correspondence, reports and articles by Beam, newspaper clippings, invitations and ticket stubs, photographs, a film, and assorted memorabilia, arranged in that order.

Collection Creator Biography:

Beam, Jacob D. (Jacob Dyneley), 1908-1993

Jacob Beam was born in Princeton, N.J. in 1908. As a young man he traveled to Europe with his father, a German language professor at Princeton, and visited his uncle who was an American minister to Yugoslavia. He attended the Kent School, and in 1929, received his B.A. from Princeton University. He studied languages in England for a year before joining the U.S. Foreign Service in 1931.

As his first assignment, Beam helped monitor the League of Nations in Geneva and was subsequently made vice-consul to the U.S. embassy there (1931-1934). From 1934 to 1940 he served as third secretary to the embassy in Berlin, and collected the embassy's first data on the Nazi movement.

An expert in European affairs and languages (he could speak Russian, French, German, Serbian and Polish), Beam was promoted to second secretary of the embassy in London (1941-1945), and was transferred back to Germany after the war to act as political advisor to the occupation forces (1945-1947). He was counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia (1949-1951) when it gained its independence from the Netherlands and served on a United Nations commission for the country. He was counselor also to Yugoslavia (1951-1952).

Though an important post, Beam's assignment as acting head of the Moscow embassy (1952-1953) offered little in the way of public glory. Because presidents and their advisors regularly bypassed the State Department during the Cold War, Beam was not given the authority that he might have had in another era. Furthermore, Soviet officials proved difficult to access and negotiate with. Thus, Beam's bemused, self-assured style was compatible with his position. He wrote humorously in his 40th Reunion book of how he helped bury Stalin in 1953: "For that event was named Special Ambassador for four hours so that the United States would not be at the end of the funeral procession. All other countries did the same, so ended up last in line." A supervisor once commended Beam on the willingness with which he had covered "more than one annoying assignment."

But Beam's easy-going appearance and ironic humor belied an often stubborn character, which was, according to the New York Times, "toughened in arguments and negotiations with Hitler's Nazis, Stalin's Russians and Marshal Tito's Yugoslavs, not to mention President Sukarno's Indonesians, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's Germans and General de Gaulle's Frenchmen." Named to Communist countries by such cold warriors as Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon, Beam gained the reputation of a tough-minded, "cool career diplomat," able to take the place of a generation of Sovietologists retiring from the State Department in the 1960s.

Beam earned his first ambassadorship in 1957, when Eisenhower sent him to the U.S. embassy in Poland. During the period of his assignment (1957-1961), Poland was the only official channel of communication between the United States and Communist China. He was also ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1966-1968) during the time of the Soviet invasion, and to the Soviet Union (1969-1973) during the Nixon-era rapprochement.

In addition to these assignments, Beam held a number of titles at the State Department in Washington, including head of the Central European Division and director of the policy planning staff (1953-1957).

Beam retired after fifty years of service, though he continued to give talks and write articles about the Soviet Union and arms control, and to supply researchers with anecdotes from his experiences. He also served as a director of Radio Free Europe (1974-1977). In 1978 Beam published his memoirs of Moscow, entitled Multiple Exposure: An American Ambassador's Unique Perspective on East-West Issues. The book, which one reviewer claimed was "well written despite the author's lifelong service in the bureaucracy," covered Communism and U.S.-Soviet politics from 1947 to 1973.

Beam died in 1993 at the age of 85.

Collection History


Margaret Beam, wife of Jacob D. Beam, donated the papers in 1994 . (Accession number ML-1994-7)


No information about appraisal is available for this collection.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Laura E. Burt in 1994. Finding aid written by Laura E. Burt in 1994.

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:

Jacob D. Beam 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 1-5