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MS Am 2302

Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). Nation records, 1879-1974 (MS Am 2302): Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: MS Am 2302
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865).
Title: Nation records
Date(s): 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk).
Quantity: 42.5 linear feet (34 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Records of the weekly magazine, The Nation, primarily during the editorship of Freda Kirchwey.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

*48M-141. Gift of Howard Mumford Jones; received: 1944 10 Jan.
*62M-355. Gift of George G. Kirstein; received: 1962 Nov.
*75M-120. Gift of Carey McWilliams, 333 6th Ave., New York, NY 10014; received: 1976 19 Jan.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Melanie Wisner; with assistance from Vicki Denby, Nivedita Chatterjee, and Andrew Whitacre.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.
This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository, except for oversize items. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine retrieval policies and times.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Nation Records, 1879-1974 (MS Am 2302). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

Closely related collections are held at Harvard and elsewhere. Papers of the Nation 1865-1893, (bMS Am 1083.1); the Papers of Oswald Garrison Villard 1856-1949, (bMS Am 1323); Papers of Edwin Lawrence Godkin 1845-1927, (bMS Am 1083); and Papers of Edwin Lawrence Godkin 1857-1888, (bMS Am 1083.2) are held by the Houghton Library. Freda Kirchwey's papers, 1871-1972, are held by the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Papers of the Nation, 1873-1906, are held by the New York Public Library.

Biographical / Historical

The Nation has been published continuously as a liberal weekly magazine of politics and culture since its founding in 1865 by Edwin Lawrence Godkin. A number of theses and books have explored the history of the magazine and its political and social impact; the most useful to date in the context of this collection is: Alpern, Sara, 1942- . Freda Kirchwey, a woman of the Nation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987.
Freda Kirchwey's editorship at the Nation is the focus of the bulk of this collection. She brought a "militant liberalism" to the magazine, inevitably experiencing a bumpy ride, nonetheless keeping the magazine afloat under dire financial circumstances while expanding activities associated with the magazine. The dates of the bulk of this collection encompass the effects of the Great Depression and New Deal, the rise of fascism, growing comprehension of the Holocaust, the domestic and international crises of World War II, the dawning of the atomic age, and the roots of the Cold War and McCarthyism, all topics documented in this collection. Kirchwey was also personally representative of a new social order, a woman possessing power, in public, with family, surviving personal tragedy and the stress inherent in producing a weekly magazine. During the 1930s and 1940s the magazine was perpetually fund raising and reorganizing, trying to survive one financial hardship after another, and then came the banning of the magazine from New York public schools and the attendant legal and social battles of the early 1950s.
Freda Kirchwey was born Mary Frederika Kirchwey in 1893 in Lake Placid, New York, and attended Barnard College. She married Princeton instructor Evans Clark (1888-1970) in 1915. The couple had three sons, the first two, Brewster and Jeffrey, dying in their first and seventh years respectively; son Michael served in the war and was an occasional contributor to the Nation. In 1928 Evans Clark became director of the Twentieth Century Fund, a liberal philanthropic and research organization from which he retired in 1953. Clark and the Twentieth Century Fund worked closely with the Nation in various ways, Clark's personal finances becoming entwined when Freda Kirchwey purchased the magazine in 1937.
Kirchwey joined the staff of the Nation's international relations section in 1918 at the age of 25. By 1922 she was managing editor and in 1928 became literary editor. Oswald Garrison Villard (1872-1949) was editor and owner of the Nation from 1918-1932. Kirchwey was absent from the magazine during 1930-1932, a time that included the death of her son. She returned and was made executive editor in 1933 following Oswald Garrison Villard's retirement as editor; he continued as contributing editor and publisher, finally severing all ties in 1940. In 1935 Villard sold the magazine to banker Maurice Wertheim, stipulating that Kirchwey would remain as editor. Kirchwey purchased the magazine in 1937 from publisher Wertheim. After a decade of struggle and fatigue keeping the magazine alive, Freda Kirchwey handed over the editorship to Carey McWilliams in 1955; McWilliams had secured labor expert George G. Kirstein as his new publisher. Kirchwey initially intended to continue writing for the Nation but contributed only a few pieces until her death in 1976.
The Nation Associates (New York, N.Y.) was created in 1943 as a non-profit membership corporation "to provide the media for free discussion of the large issues which it regards as basic to the preservation and the extension of the democratic way of life." It acquired the stock of the magazine and became its publisher, in part to distinguish between the magazine's welfare and Freda Kirchwey's personal finances. Its membership activities included an annual forum, public policy conferences, special issue-focused committees, and radio broadcasts, many of which were also fund raisers. Its director, Lillie Shultz, hired in 1944, became chief staff fund raiser.


The main collection was received from the donor arranged in one alphabetic A-Z file sequence; the bulk of this sequence has become Series I, and the files found in that sequence with the heading "Nation" now constitute Series II-X. Over the years the repository began a detailed listing of the A-Z correspondence which was abandoned; the resulting lists are found at the end of this collection. In the present cataloging, the two additional, smaller donations of material have been incorporated into Series II-X. The collection is organized in 10 series:

Scope and Contents

There is significant overlap in the content of most series in this collection; issues and people can be found in multiple files. The predominant types of material present are correspondence, memoranda, notes, articles, printed material, clippings, photographs, and scrapbooks.
Series I, General correspondence, represents over half of this collection; it documents the magazine's routine communications with subscribers, supporters, writers, agents, and others.
Series II, Legal correspondence, includes letters and documents exchanged by Nation and Nation Associates staff members with legal firms representing the Nation.
Series III, Office files, contains files combined as representing routine business and publishing functions, with some subject files; excludes material for specific published issues or parts of the magazine.
Series IV, Planning and reorganization, documents strategic changes made by the Nation in its programs, internal organization, and funding, often spurred by threats to its survival.
Series V, Production files, contains records of the planning and publishing of specific issues or parts of the magazine, as well as the only concentration of manuscript articles found in the collection.
Series VI, The Nation Associates (New York, N.Y.), contains operational and subject files for sponsored activities and functions of the magazine's parent organization.
Series VII, Bans on the Nation, documents the magazine's legal and public battles against its banning in New York public schools and elsewhere following publication of a series on Catholicism.
Series VIII, Subject files, contain files focused on a single issue, activity, or person.
Series IX, Spain special file, is a reference collection on the Spanish Civil War, Catalonia (Spain), Spain under General Francisco Franco, and the Carabanchel Ten (ten Spanish labor leaders imprisoned in the 1960s and 1970s for labor organizing).
Series X, Miscellaneous, contains older collection lists and items not obviously belonging to other series.
Materials not found in this collection include the bulk of Freda Kirchwey's personal and professional papers (held by the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America). There are small files for other individual editors and staff members, but their personal papers, too, are largely absent. There is little concerning the layout and typesetting of the magazine, with the exception of scattered page and galley proofs and one drawing. Material published in the magazine is, in general, not present as submitted manuscript,with the exception of scattered items and one concentration of accepted and rejected articles.


This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

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