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Guide to the James G. Harbord Papers
1902-1949
 MS 1493

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by CUNY fellows Lauren Bailey, Karen Hammer, Jenny LeRoy, and Sophia Natasha Sunseri

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on January 15, 2019
Description is in English

Scope and Contents Note

The bulk of this collection consists of the personal correspondence, both sent and received, of Lieutenant General James Guthrie Harbord, primarily known for both his military career and position as President and Chairman of the Board of Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

The papers range in date from 1923 to 1947, which roughly spans from the time Harbord accepted his position at RCA to the time he died. The collection was organized and maintained by his secretary, Mary Millea, who worked by his side for nearly 25 years. Though the records were housed in Harbord's office at RCA, the collection does not specifically relate to the business practices or Harbord's employment at RCA.

Instead, the bulk of this collection is comprised of mail sent to Harbord from either his close companions, often politically active former military men themselves, or solicitations for Harbord's support, endorsement, or participation in various capacities related to his military and RCA careers. Frequent correspondents include General Malin Craig, Colonel John Alexander Cocke, Captain Hamilton F. Corbett, Captain John H. Craige, General Charles G. Dawes, Colonel John Bankhead Magruder, Frank E. Mason, Captain Charles Matthews, General George S. Patton, General Philippe Petain, and General John J. Pershing. Harbord's responses mostly appear via carbon copy, though there are many handwritten notes meant to be transcribed at a later point, and generally appearing in tagalog. Also included are several typewritten drafts of articles, manuscripts, speeches, funding and financial reports, project proposals, and testimonials written on behalf of individuals and/or causes advocated for by Harbord.

Among the miscellaneous personal contents among the papers are lawsuits against Harbord in his capacity as investor, chairman, or board member of various associations, and an additional lawsuit filed by a former employee of the Harbords who was injured in their home after a fall downstairs in the dimly-lit servant quarters. Other legal and institutional documents include blueprints; university curricula, initiatives, and degree planning, including that of Trinity College, University of Virginia, and West Point among many others; and legislative bill proposals.

Additionally, a large portion of this correspondence is dedicated to Harbord's extensive involvement in philanthropy, political associations, and extracurricular clubs. His wide ranging areas of interest and commitment are spread across committees as varied as the Senior Golfers Association and the Adventure Society, which sponsored leisure trips and dinners abroad, to the Leprosy Eradication Fund and Moro Educational Foundation, which fundraised for boy schools in the Philippines, as well as the National Republican Club and Sentinels of the Republic, which both sought the incorporation of conservative politico-economic values into U.S. education, government, and military.

Some of the largest categories of correspondence, in fact, are grouped by subject rather than by correspondent. These sections are banks, bank deposits, congratulations, dinner, expense accounts, memberships, miscellaneous, publicity, Republican campaign, and photographs. "Memberships" is the largest category among them with multiple subsections organized by association, but several of the other categories are also subdivided by topic, occasion, or correspondent. "Memberships" in this collection refers to any association, event, fund, committee, or group which Harbord was directly a member, officer, donor, or contributor of some sort, as well as those that solicited his participation.

The sheer volume of correspondence in this collection reflects Harbord's status and fame. In nearly every box are requests for Harbord's autograph, photograph, appearance at an event, or input on political, economic, and social issues, specifically related to the Republican campaign and counter-New Deal. Many solicited his advice on the state of U.S. fiscal and military issues. Clearly a well-known and popular figure, Harbord is referenced regularly in newspapers and journals of the time, which appear in this collection through the many different clippings sent to Harbord.

The correspondence files also contain an array of ephemera from the era including but not limited to poetry; chain letters; dinner menus; hotel, club, gym, and resort brochure; car and travel catalogs; advertisements; postcards; radiograms; Western Unions; photographs; birthday and holiday cards; event invitations; birth announcements; postcards; brochures; political and economic pamphlets often related to war, finance, patriotism, and philanthropy; newspapers; and magazines.

Letters from several significant correspondents, including General Pershing, Brigadier General Charles Dawes, Dwight Morrow and Theodore Roosevelt, are foldered separately.

In addition to general correspondence, the collection includes some military papers (cablegrams, diaries, and materials from the Philippines), copies of Harbord's speeches and addresses, and correspondence and other papers relating to Harbord's book "The American Army in France." There is also a diary Harbord kept during WWI and several travel diaries.

Areas of interest to researchers might include interwar and WWII social milieu; American socialism, nationalism, and imperialism; New York upper class; history of Republican party; development of institutions and philanthropic associations; military culture; and corporate culture and the development of capitalism. There are often frank discussions of cross-class relations, and ethnographic understandings of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and age which might also be of value to those researching the period.

Arrangement Note

This collection is organized into the following five series:

Series I: General correspondence
Series II: Military papers
Series III: Speeches and addresses
Series IV: Publications: "The American Army in France"
Series V: Certificates and drawings