Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

American civil liberties union
American Civil Liberties Union Washington, D.C. Office Records
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
35 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-35


This collection consists of the papers received and generated by the staff of the Washington, D.C. Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) during the 1950s and 1960s. The ACLU is a leading defender of civil liberties in the United States. Founded in 1920, it has been the recipient of sharp criticism for its willingness to defend unpopular causes and has participated in a majority of the landmark cases to come before the Supreme Court in the twentieth century. The Washington Office's primary responsibility is to monitor legislative issues. In the 1950s the office worked against abuses caused by McCarthyism, including loyalty oath requirements, powers of legislative investigating committees, and censorship of free speech and expression. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the office focused on civil rights issues and the defense of alternative means of self expression. The Washington Office was also deeply involved with defending the civil liberties of those associated with the federal government and its agencies.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Material in the two series includes correspondence, memoranda, telegrams, reports, legal briefs and pleadings, testimony, press releases, publications, and magazine and newspaper clippings. Series 1, Irving Ferman Records, contains more administrative documents than does Series 2, Lawrence Speiser Records, which consists largely of case files. Speiser's records also contain files that pre-date his position as director of the Washington, D.C. Office.

Both series contain similar headings and subheadings. For example, in each series the censorship heading has subheadings for "Books" (which includes books, magazines, journals and newspapers), "Radio/TV" (including licensing as well as programming restrictions), and "Post Office," while in each series the "Federal Agencies" heading is subdivided by executive office department, and the "Court Proceedings" headings document due process issues and are broken down by case name.

Throughout both series there is correspondence to and from members of Congress and their staffs and with various federal agencies.


Organized into the following series:

These series represent the work of the two directors of the Washington, D.C. Office in the 1950s and 1960s. They are arranged alphabetically by subject or format, and items are generally arranged chronologically within folders. For the most part the subject headings represent civil liberties issues, however the Ferman Series contains a large "Correspondence" heading which encompasses general correspondence, and both series contain a "Miscellaneous" heading.

Collection Creator Biography:

American civil liberties union

The ACLU is the preeminent civil liberties organization in the United States. The ACLU describes itself as "our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country." Since its inception in 1920, the ACLU has played a part in nearly every significant American social or political issue in the 20th century. This includes important work in the areas of civil rights, children and women's rights, freedom of speech (and all First Amendment questions), and due process, among many others.

For a more detailed history of the ACLU, please see the history in the finding aid for the processed portion of the ACLU Records.

Collection History


These records were generated by the staff of the Washington, D.C. Office of the ACLU in 1974 . They were transferred to the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, with small additions in subsequent years.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Tom Rosko in Spring 1995. Finding aid written by Tom Rosko in Spring 1995.

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:

American Civil Liberties Union Washington, D.C. Office Records; 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 1-35

Find More

Related Materials

American Civil Liberties Union Records, MC-001

Roger N. Baldwin Papers, MC-005

Arthur Garfield Hayes Papers, MC-072

Peggy Lamson Collection on Roger Baldwin, MC-082

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, MC-185

Subject Terms:
Anti-Communist movements -- United States -- 20th century.
Assembly, Right of -- United States -- 20th century.
Capital punishment -- United States -- 20th century.
Censorship -- United States -- 20th century.
Citizen suits (Civil procedure) -- United States -- 20th century.
Civil rights -- United States -- 20th century.
Civil rights -- United States -- California -- 20th century.
Conscientious objectors -- United States -- 20th century.
Draft resisters -- United States -- 20th century.
Due process of law -- United States -- 20th century.
Freedom of association -- United States -- 20th century.
Freedom of movement -- United States -- 20th century.
Freedom of religion -- United States -- 20th century.
Freedom of speech -- United States -- 20th century.
Freedom of speech -- United States -- Officials and employees -- 20th century.
Law -- United States -- Cases -- 20th century.
Loyalty oaths -- United States -- 20th century.
Mentally ill -- United States -- 20th century.
Monopolies -- United States -- 20th century.
Noncitizens -- United States -- Civil rights -- 20th century.
Police power -- United States -- 20th century.
Political rights -- United States -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Legal correspondence, American -- 20th century.
Legal documents -- United States -- 20th century.
Press releases.
American broadcasting company
International telephone and telegraph corporation
Baldwin, Roger N. (Roger Nash), 1884-1981 (1884-1981)
Bricker, John W. (John William), 1893-1936
Dulles, John Foster (1888-1959)
Ferman, Irving
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.
Lattimore, Owen, 1900-1989
Levy, Herbert Monte, 1923-
Miller, Henry, 1891-1980.
Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972.
Reitman, Alan
Speiser, Lawrence, 1923-1991