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Guide to the Rand School of Social Science Records TAM.007

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
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Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Tamiment Staff

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 23, 2019
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Updated by Amy C. Vo to prepare materials for offsite storage  , August 2019.

Historical Note

The Rand School of Social Science was undoubtedly one of the most important schools for workers and socialists in modern American history. Established in 1906 with funds from the will of Mrs. Carrie Rand and with the able leadership of George D. Herron, the Rand School provided working men and women with an opportunity to continue their education. Its governing body was the American Socialist Society (ASS), incorporated in 1901, whose purposes were " and discuss social and political science and to expound the theories of modern socialism by lectures and publication." Board members of the ASS included Charles Beard, Morris Hillquit, Harry Laidler, Algernon Lee, John Spargo, and secretary W.J. Ghent. Over the next 50 years, a variety of Rand School courses on many contemporary topics, traditional subjects, and socialist theory were taught by intellectual leaders of the socialist movement, distinguished academicians, and trade union leaders.

During its early years from 1906 to 1922, the Rand School was supported by funds from the Socialist Party, the People's Educational Camp Society (Camp Tamiment), trade unions, the Workmen's Circle, the Jewish Forward Association, and the Rand School Bookstore. Most of the courses offered during this period pertained to socialist theory, economics, economic history, American history, literature, and other traditional subjects. Among the members of the Rand School faculty at this time were such luminaries as Scott Nearing, Charles Beard, James Harvey Robinson, Algernon Lee, and Bertha Howell Mailly.

By 1917 the Rand School had outgrown its original offices and classrooms in New York City's Greenwich Village and, in the fall of that year, purchased a six story building at 7 East 15th Street that had been vacated by the Young Women's Christian Association. This new building, named the "People's House" after a socialist center in Brussels, Belgium, had an auditorium, a library, spacious classrooms, and office space which was utilized by several socialist organizations as well as the Rand School staff. This building served as the headquarters of the Rand School until it closed in 1956.

The growth of the Rand School and the increased strength of the socialist movement contributed to the climate of anti-radical hysteria that prevailed in New York and other parts of the country following World War I. In 1919, the New York State Assembly appointed a special Committee investigate radical activities in the state, including the Rand School. Under the chairmanship of State Senator Clayton R. Lusk, this committee engaged in a campaign of harassment against the Rand School and its administrative board, the American Socialist Society. During the course of three years, the Lusk Committee conducted a raid on the Rand School offices, confiscated Rand School property, and attempted to close the school by court ordered injunction. Through a series of court cases in 1920 and 1922 (United States of America vs. American Socialist Society and Scott Nearing; The People of the State of New York vs. American Socialist Society), the Rand School was able to successfully counteract the Lusk Committee and retain control over its operations.

Following the debacle with the Lusk Committee, the Rand School entered into a period of expanded course offerings, special educational programs, and increased student enrollment. One of the most prevalent areas of expansion in the Rand School from the early 1920s until the mid-1940s was course offerings. During this period, the Rand School curriculum shifted from its parochial attachment to socialist instruction to a wide range of courses in the areas of child development, trade union policies, education, home economics, music, art, Russian studies, juvenile delinquency, race relations, peace education, propaganda and public opinion, psychology, public speaking, social work, supervision, and youth leadership. Some of the more notable instructors for these courses were Charles Beard, Franz Boas, Marc Connolly, Stephen Vincent Benet, Bertrand Russell, and August Claessens.

In addition to these expanded course offerings, the Rand School also provided many special educational programs. One of the most popular programs implemented by the Rand School was the correspondence courses. First organized prior to World War I, the correspondence course program was refined and expanded during the 1920s. Most of the course offerings pertained to socialist theory, but there were also courses in trade unionism, economics, social problems, and government. Another well attended special program was the Trade Union Institute. This program was first offered in the mid 1920s as the Workers' Training Course and later revised at the Trade Union Institute during the 1936-1937 academic year. The Institute offered courses in union organizing, contemporary labor problems, labor management relations, labor history, parliamentary procedure, and public speaking. During the 1940s and early 1950s, the Trade Union Institute was one of the most vital components of the Rand School curriculum.

When the Rand School was re-organized in the late 1930s, special education programs were offered for the first time in select professional areas of study. Some of these programs included review courses for the certified public accountant's examination, teacher in service credit courses and coaching courses, and courses for social workers and employment counselors. During this same period, the Rand School administration also established the following programs: (1) a Rand High School division which was designed to supplement the regular studies of high school students (1935-1936); (2) a political training course for members of the Social Democratic Federation and the American Labor Party (1937-1939); (3) the Newark School of Social Science which featured socialist, trade union, and contemporary issue courses and lectures for workers living in New Jersey (1937-1940); and (4) the Rand School in Northern New Jersey which superseded the Newark School and offered similar courses (1947-1949).

Besides its special education programs, the Rand School also sponsored numerous lectures, forums, and conferences on a variety of socialist and labor subjects. Some of the most interesting events of this nature were the 1931 forum on current events with Charles Edward Russell and Norman Thomas among the quest speakers; the 1932 United Youth Conference Against War; the 1941 symposium on America's role in World War II with Alfred Baker Lewis, August Claessens, and Gerhart Seger among the guest speakers; the 1941 conference on war aims and the postwar world with Alexander Kerensky, Matthew Woll, and Bertrand Russell among the guest speakers; the 1943 panel discussion on the validity of socialism with Sidney Hook, Max Eastman, and John Chamberlain among the guest speakers; and the 1944 lecture series on contemporary "prophets" with Max Ascoli, Mark Starr, Raphael Abramovitch, and Sidney Hook among the guest lecturers. As a means of helping to raise funds for the perpetually debt ridden institution, the Rand School staff also sponsored annual benefits at the metropolitan Opera House and produced occasional plays through the Rand Playhouse in the 1930s and the Labor Theatre in the early 1950s.

During its most active period, the Rand School operated a book store which contained many traditional and contemporary works on socialism, American and European labor, politics, sociology, and economics. The Rand School also maintained several research operations, including the Labor Research Department, the American Labor Archive and Research Institute, and the Institute of Social Studies. These research and information services published such works as The American Labor Year Book (1916-1932),  The American Labor Who's Who (1925), the  American Labor Press Directory (1925), and the  Index to Labor Articles (1926-1953).

Another important adjunct of the activities of the Rand School was the library. Initially begun with gifts from students, teachers, alumni, and many socialist and labor supporters, the Meyer London Memorial Library (later known as the Tamiment Library), named after the famous New York City congressman, became well known for its manuscript collections, books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers pertaining to socialism, communism, and organized labor.

Shortly after World War II, the Rand School suffered a sharp decrease in both enrollment and course offerings. Recurring financial problems, the decline of American socialism in general, and the haunting specter of McCarthyism contributed significantly to this predicament. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Rand School offered only a few courses in addition to its relatively successful labor management relations program. Finally, in January 1956, the Board of Directors of the American Socialist Society closed the Rand School and transferred the title of the "People's House" to the People's Educational Camp Society (PECS), the governing body of Camp Tamiment, which had provided the bulk of the funding for the Rand School for many years. PECS reopened the library in 1958 as the Tamiment Institute Library, under the auspices of the Tamiment Institute, the educational arm of Camp Tamiment. In 1963, Camp Tamiment, now a successful resort, lost its tax-exempt status as an educational institution, and the Library was donated to New York University as part of the settlement between PECS and the Internal Revenue Service.