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Guide to the Records of Town Hall RG.37.25

New York University Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2641
university-archives@nyu.edu


New York University Archives

Collection processed by Katie Ehrlich.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 19, 2017
Description is in English.

 Portraits of founders added to Series VI by John Zarrillo  , July 2017

Descriptive Summary

Creator: League for Political Education (U.S.)
Creator: Town Hall, Inc
Title: Records of Town Hall
Dates [inclusive]: circa 1846-1985
Dates [bulk]: 1930-1978
Abstract: The Town Hall, a musical venue in New York City, has its roots in late 19th century political activism. Founded as the League for Political Education, the Town Hall served primarily as a forum for political speakers in the early 20th century before shifting focus to performance midcentury. It merged with NYU in 1958 and remained under the university's control until 1978. Its records contain administrative and legal files, photographs, event programs and publications including newsletters and volumes dedicated to prominent individuals. Outside publications related to the League for Political Education's founders are included as are documents relating to the merger with NYU.
Quantity: 21 boxes
Call Phrase: RG.37.25

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Historical Note

The Town Hall Inc. was organized as the League for Political Education in 1894 by six prominent New York women after a suffrage measure was defeated in the New York State Legislature. The purpose of the league was to educate the public about the issue by holding educational programs and lectures. The events were held at small rented venues. The League for Political Education gave birth to offshoot groups such as the Economic Club and Civic Forum. In 1904 the League became incorporated and changed its name to the Board of Trustees of the League for Political Education.

The building of an auditorium for the League for Political Education began in 1919 as the organization outgrew its small venues and sought a permanent home. The structure, which also included office space, was designed by architecture firm McKim, Mead and White. It opened January 1921 at 123 W. 43rd Street. It was dubbed the Town Meeting Hall.

Soon after the doors opened to lecturers and audiences, it was realized the auditorium had exceptional acoustics. And so the Town Meeting Hall became a venue for musical performance as well as political expression. Independent groups such as the New York University Club also rented space from the organization.

In 1930 the League for Political Education purchased the adjacent the building at 125 W. 43rd Street for its Town Hall Annex for more space. It subsequently sold the building in 1959. The league began hosting and broadcasting its "America's Town Meeting of the Air" radio lecture series in 1935. The series ran until 1956 and provided a forum for political and cultural experts to discuss current events issues.

The organization changed its name to The Town Hall, Inc. in 1937 to reflect its expanding programming. In the late 1950s Town Hall experienced a decline. It merged with New York University in 1958 and came under the jurisdiction of the Division of General Education (now the School of Continuing Education) until 1978 when the university divested itself from the organization.

Town Hall remains primarily a musical venue focusing on jazz and arts education.

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Scope and Contents note

The administrative series in this collection contains files on Town Hall's buildings as well as some budget and fundraising material. The collection includes legal correspondence and papers such certificates of occupancy, trademark, mortgage and tax documents. A variety of programs from more than 70 years of lectures and performances held at Town Hall are included in this collection. It also contains photographs of Town Hall performers and early members, and clippings and internally produced materials related to the history of the organization. The Town Hall disseminated several publications including a newsletter, The Town Crier;  Enduring Names, biographies of notable individuals who had endowed lecture series at Town Hall; and other promotional publications. Issues of these publications can be found in the collection. Correspondence from Town Hall Director Lawrence Zucker from 1981 to 1985, audio reels of lectures, and bound biographies of League of Political Education founders are included in the papers as well.

The collection also includes four scrapbooks. Two contain materials related to the production of "America's Town Meeting of the Air," a political forum broadcasted from Town Hall for more than 20 years, the third is comprised of membership materials and the fourth contains League of Political Education material from the beginning of the 20th century.

Some materials relate to events, such as "America's Town Meeting of the Air." They also address topics including Town Hall's 1958 merger with NYU, the purchase of 123 West 43rd Street and the purchase and sale of the adjacent Town Hall Annex and construction projects.

Notes related to a 1978 survey of the collection that were found among the Town Hall papers have been included in this collection. They are in Series VIII - Related Materials.

Arrangement

This collection has been arranged into nine series: Administrative files; Legal files; Publications; Programs; Clippings; Portraits/photographs; Audiovisual; Related materials; Oversize material. The Programs series has been divided into three subseries: Town Hall Opening; Lectures/courses; Performance.

Original order was maintained in the Administrative files and Legal files series. These series were extant when the University Archives received the collection and were largely kept intact. Materials belonging in the other series were removed and placed within the appropriate series. The order of the files in these series was preserved from a previous arrangement. The seven other series were culled from the entirety of the collection and were derived from a reorganization of the material.

Programs and Clippings are arranged chronologically. Portraits/photographs are arranged alphabetically.

Original order was maintained in the Administrative files and Legal files series. These series were extant when the University Archives received the collection and were largely kept intact. Materials belonging in the other series were removed and placed within the appropriate series. The order of the files in these series was preserved from a previous arrangement. The seven other series were culled from the entirety of the collection and were derived from a reorganization of the material.

Programs and clippings are arranged chronologically. Portraits/photographs are arranged alphabetically.

This collection has been arranged into nine series:

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Administrative Files
  2. Series II: Legal Files
  3. Series III: Publications
  4. Series IV: Programs
  5. Series V: Clippings
  6. Series VI: Portraits/Photographs
  7. Series VII: Audiovisual
  8. Series VIII: Related Materials
  9. Series IX: Oversize Materials

The Programs series has been divided into three subseries: Town Hall Opening; Lectures/courses; Performance.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Baldwin, James, 1924-1987
  • Fielde, Adele M. (Adele Marion)
  • Gregory, Dick
  • Hatfield, Mark O., 1922-
  • Jacobi, Mary Putnam, 1842-1906
  • Nader, Ralph
  • Voznesenskii, Andrei, 1933-2010

Document Type

  • Architectural drawings (visual works)
  • Audiotapes.
  • Awards
  • Books.
  • Brochures.
  • Bylaws.
  • Certificates of occupancy.
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence.
  • Legal documents.
  • Newsletters.
  • Pamphlets.
  • Registers (lists).
  • Scrapbooks.
  • Stats (copies).
  • Photographs
  • Budgets.

Subject Organizations

  • League for Political Education (U.S.)
  • New York University. Division of General Education
  • New York University. School of Continuing Education
  • Town Hall, Inc

Subject Topics

  • Adult education.
  • America's town meeting of the air (Radio program).
  • Auditoriums.
  • Entertainers.
  • Lectures and lecturing.
  • Music-halls.
  • Musical performance.
  • Political activists.
  • Radio addresses, debates, etc.
  • Women political activists.

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Certain items in this collection are fragile and may require special handling or intervention from archives staff.

Contact the University Archives for specific access restrictions.

Institutional records of New York University are closed for a period of 20 years from the date of their creation (the date on which each document was written). Board of Trustees records are similarly closed for 35 years from the date of creation. The opening date for files spanning several years will be 20 years from the most recent date. Access will be given to material already 20 years old contained within a collection that is not yet open when such material can be isolated from the rest of the collection.

Materials related to personnel, faculty grievances, job searches and all files with information that falls under the University's Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) policy are permanently restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the:

New York University Archives

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library

70 Washington Square South

New York, NY 10012

Phone: (212) 998-2646

Fax: (212) 995-4225

E-mail: university-archives@nyu.edu

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Records of Town Hall, 1900-1985; RG 37.25; box number; folder number; New York University Archives , New York University Libraries.

Related Material at the New York University Archives

Archival material about Town Hall can also be found in Administrative Files of the Dean of the School of Education, Daniel E. Griffiths, RG 26.0.1.

Separated Materials note

Photographs of Town Hall have been removed to New York University Archives' photo collection under Non-NYU Subjects.

 

Provenance

This collection was transferred by Dorothy Swanson, Head of Special Collections at Elmer Holmes Bobst Library.

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Container List

Series I - Administrative Files, 1913-1985 bulk

Scope and Contents note

The folders in this series are in keeping with the original order established by a prior arrangement. Their contents were left largely intact as well. Items were removed and placed in other series once the other series were established.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Annex, Purchase and Administration of
1929-59
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Appraisal
1951-1957
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Board of Trustees
1951-1967
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Budget and Expense Reports
1956-1978
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Building Files: Building plans and proposed renovations
1913-1964
Box: 1 File : 6 Corporations and Business - Prospect Evaluation List of Prospects
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Correspondence: Director Larry Zucker - Fireguard
1981-1982
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Correspondence: Director Larry Zucker - Pieper New York-Multistate Bar Review, Ltd.
1981-1983
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Correspondence: Director Larry Zucker - International Paper Company
1984-1985
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Correspondence: Director Larry Zucker - Misc.
1982-1985
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Fundraising reports and promotional material
1924-1977
Box: 1 Folder : 12 History of Town Hall
1919-1975
Box: 1 Folder : 13 New York Public Library (Disposition of Records)
1957-1961
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Survey, Analysis and Plan of Fund-Raising for the League for Political Education
1937
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Events: America's Town Meeting of the Air
1943-1976
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Events: Preview at Town Hall
1963
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Events: The University Awards
1956-1961
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Events: Misc.
1971, 1977, undated

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Series II - Legal Files, 1904-1964

Scope and Contents note

The folders in this series were maintained from a previous arrangement.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Sale of Town Hall Annex
1956-1957
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Cadwater, Wickersham & Taft (attorneys)
1949
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws of League for Political Education
1904
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws of Town Hall
1955
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Nordlinger, Riegelman, Benetar & Charney (attorneys)
1950-1953
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Mortgage (2nd)
1930-1939
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Ownership of Town Hall (Certificate of Occupancy)
1925
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Consolidation and Merger with NYU
1956-1964
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Tax Situation
1943-1958
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Trademarks
1946-1948

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Series III - Publications, 1922-1954, undated

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 1 America's Town Meeting of the Air
1950
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Town Meeting: Bulletin of America's Town Meeting of the Air - Vol. IV nos. 1-13, 14-26
1938, 1939
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Town Meeting: Bulletin of America's Town Meeting of the Air - Vol. V nos. 1-13, Vol. VI nos. 1-13,
1939, 1941
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Town Meeting: Bulletin of America's Town Meeting of the Air - Vol. IX nos. 26-51, Vol. XV nos. 1-26
1943, 1949
Box: 4 Folder : 1 The Town Crier (various issues)
1930-1936
Box: 4 Folder : 2 The Town Hall (various publications)
1922, 1930, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Miscellaneous
1940, 1946, 1953, 1954, undated

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Series IV - Programs, 1912-1986

Subseries A. Town Hall Opening, 1920-1924

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Programs related to opening of Town Hall
1920-1924

Subseries B. Lectures/Courses, 1914-1974

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Lectures/Courses
1912-1974
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Undated programs
undated

Subseries C. Performance, 1938-1986

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 4 Performance programs
1938-1986
Box: 5 Folder : 5 Undated programs
undated

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Series V - Clippings, circa 1920-1976

Scope and Contents note

This series consists of two folders with clippings about news events in 1963 in which Town Hall played a role: a riot outside Town Hall after students who traveled to Cuba spoke to an audience at the hall; the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that killed four African-American girls, in response to which Town Hall held a fundraiser featuring James Baldwin. The third folder is comprised of clippings that were located all over the collection.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 6 Anti-Castro protest outside Town Hall
1963 September
Box: 5 Folder : 7 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing
1963 September
Box: 5 Folder : 8 Miscellaneous
circa 1920-1977, undated

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Series VI - Portraits/Photographs, circa 1846-1978

Scope and Contents note

Photographic portraits were gathered from among the entire collection. This series contains autographed portraits of singers, musicians and dancers who performed at Town Hall. It also includes portraits of the founders and early members of The League for Political Education, which would become The Town Hall in 1938. These include Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi, Eleanor Butler Sanders, Lee Wood Haggin, Catherine A. B. Abbe, Lucia Gilbert Runkle, and Adele M. Fielde.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Framed portraits
1940, undated
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Portraits A-E
approximately 1846, approximately 1856, 1969, 1978
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Portraits F-M
1911-1914, undated
Box: 6 Folder : 4 Portraits N-Z
1971-1972, undated
Box: 6 Folder : 5 Unidentified portraits
undated
Box: 6 Folder : 6 Founders portraits
circa 1900s

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Series VII - Audiovisual, 1971

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Reel : 1 Dick Gregory - 1 of 3
1971 April 22
Box: 7 Reel : 2 Dick Gregory - 2 of 3
1971 April 22
Box: 7 Reel : 3 Dick Gregory - 3 of 3
1971 April 22
Box: 7 Reel : 4 Ralph Nader - 1 of 1
1971 March 4
Box: 7 Reel : 5 Andrei Voznesenskii, Soviet Poet - 1 of 4
1971 November 10
Box: 7 Reel : 6 Andrei Voznesenskii, Soviet Poet - 2 of 4
1971 November 10
Box: 7 Reel : 7 Andrei Voznesenskii, Soviet Poet - 3 of 4
1971 November 10
Box: 7 Reel : 8 Andrei Voznesenskii, Soviet Poet - 4 of 4
1971 November 10
Box: 7 Reel : 9 Sen. Mark O. Hatfield
1971 May 11

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Series VIII - Related Materials, 1916-1978

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 8 Folder : 1 Preliminary inventory of collection
1978
Box: 8 Folder : 2 Radio Guide award
1938
Box: 8 Folder : 3 Elgin R. L. Gould: A Memorial
1916
Box: 8 Folder : 4 Memorial Biography of Adele M. Fielde (3 copies)

General note

The third copy of this book is in folder 5.

1918
Box: 8 Folder : 5 Life and Letters of Mary Putnam Jacobi
1925

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Series IX - Oversize Materials, 1900-1904, 1931-1969, undated

Scope and Contents note

This series contains 14 large bound books and scrapbooks. It includes seven volumes of Enduring Names, one of which is unnumbered.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 9 Folder : 1 Enduring Names
undated
Box: 10 Folder : 1 Enduring Names Volume 1
undated
Box: 11 Folder : 1 Enduring Names Volume 2
undated
Box: 12 Folder : 1 Enduring Names Volume 3
undated
Box: 13 Folder : 1 Enduring Names Volume 4
undated
Box: 14 Folder : 1 Enduring Names Volume 5
undated
Box: 15 Folder : 1 Enduring Names Volume 6
undated
Box: 16 Folder : 1 New York University Club Visitors Register
1958-1969
Box: 17 Folder : 1 Membership scrapbook
circa 1945-1946
Box: 18 Folder : 1 America's Town Meeting of the Air scrapbook
circa 1937-1939
Box: 19 Folder : 1 America's Town Meeting of the Air scrapbook
circa 1945
Box: 20 Folder : 1 League for Political Education scrapbook
circa 1900-1904
Box: 21 Folder : 1 Crane Starkey and Allied Family Histories (2 copies)
1931

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