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Guide to the Irving S. Olds Papers
 MS 325

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Alec Ferretti

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 03, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical / Historical

Irving Sands Olds (1887-1963) was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, the only child of Clark and Livia Elizabeth Olds. Clark was an attorney, and Irving grew up in a wealthy household. Irving attended Yale University for his undergraduate degree, and graduated with a B.A. in 1907. He then continued on to receive a law degree from Harvard in 1910. Upon his graduation, Olds took a position as a law clerk for then Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes. In 1911, he joined the law firm, White & Case, which today, is one of the largest law firms in the world. In 1917, Olds became a partner, and remained as such until his death. He married Evelyn Foster in that same year, and the two never had children.

Olds was an important player in building White & Case's banking and corporate clientele through the 1910s and into the 1920s, including Bankers Trust, J.P. Morgan & Co., and the Foundation Company. After a stint in France after the First World War opening White & Case's Paris Office, Olds returned to the U.S. and became involved in the relationship between his firm and the United States Steel Corporation. In 1936, Olds was elected to the corporation's Board of Directors, and in 1940, upon the departure of Edward Stettinius, he was made Chairman and C.E.O. He ran U.S. Steel for twelve years, through the rest of the Second World War, and into the Atomic Age.

Olds was a noted philanthropist and lover of the arts. He urged the foundation of, and eventually led, the "Council for Financial Aid to Education," an organization which directed corporate donations to universities. From 1962 until his death in 1963, he served as President of the New-York Historical Society, and was a benefactor and board member of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He studied naval history and had published two works about the topic, "U.S. Naval History, 1776-1815" and "Bits and Pieces of American History." He collected Revolutionary War and Naval prints, and amassed a collection of over 1,000 items, many of which were donated upon his death to White & Case and the New-York Historical Society. In his limited free time, he took on a number of speaking engagements at universities, and he was honored with many accolades and honorary degrees.

After a period of declining health, Olds passed away in March 1963, and was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.