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B MS c66

Moreno, J. L. (Jacob Levy), 1889-1974. Papers, 1906, 1911-1977: Finding Aid

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)


Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

The organization of the J.L. Moreno Collection was supported in part by the Moreno Fund of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Boston, 1989.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: B MS c66
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Creator: Moreno, J. L. (Jacob Levy), 1889-1974.
Title: Jacob L. Moreno papers,
Date(s): 1906, 1911-1977 (inclusive).
Quantity: 158 boxes
Language of materials: The bulk of the records are in English. A small amount of material is in German.
Abstract: Contains correspondence, patient records, financial and other related material from Beacon Hill (Moreno) Sanitarium, Moreno Research and Training Institutes, and several sociometric and psychodramatic professional societies and international associations and congresses. Also includes correspondence and manuscripts of journal articles edited by Moreno for Beacon Publishing House (which published most of his books) and for the three major journals he founded: Sociometry, Sociatry/Group Psychotherapy, and International Journal of Sociometry. There are also manuscripts and revisions, reprints, and correspondence relating to books authored by Moreno, and others he edited on psychotherapy and sociometry. Other papers include personal correspondence, audio-tapes of sessions and workshops, clippings and scrapbooks, sociometric charts, certificates, and printed material.

Processing Information:

Processed by Jennifer Pelose and SPI , August 2007.
This finding aid has been posted as a product of converting a heritage finding aid to an electronic format for the purpose of facilitating collection access. Researchers should be aware that this finding aid has not been revised to meet current Center for the History of Medicine descriptive practices, nor nationally promulgated content standards. Please report any difficulties using this guide to Public Services.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I, Subseries B. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.
The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services for more information concerning retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use:

The Boston Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

Preferred Citation:

Jacob L. Moreno papers, 1906, 1911-1977 (inclusive). B MS c66. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

Biographical Notes

The J.L. Moreno Collection in the Countway Library of Medicine spans most of Dr. Moreno's career, with the bulk of materials covering the last twenty-five years of his life. The papers, which are contained in a total of 2002 manuscript folders, consist largely of correspondence and manuscript materials (including typescripts and handwritten notes); but also to be found here are announcements and programs, registration forms and questionnaires, monographs and reprints, business and financial data, diaries and notebooks, records and documents, transcripts, mailing lists, printed matter, protocols, and patient records.* Added to all of these are more than 35 items and cartons with oversize and bulk materials--scrapbooks and newspaper clippings, tapes and films, personal effects, conference proceedings, journals and books, and archivists' files (the last includes bibliographical materials as well as a list of the books and journals from JLM's library that were donated with the collection).
Materials related to patients are confidential and may have restrictions placed upon their use.
Jacob Levy Moreno, known for his seminal contributions to the fields of psychodrama, group psychotherapy, and sociometry, was born in Rumania and grew up in Austria and Germany. As a young man he developed a marked interest in philosophy and psychology and attended the University of Vienna, where he earned a medical degree in 1917. A practicing psychiatrist trained in the Vienna of Sigmund Freud, Moreno came to believe that "orthodox psychoanalysis only makes a patient feel more self-conscious and lonely." Seeking new opportunities, he immigrated to the United States in 1925 and eventually acquired an estate in Beacon, New York, a community in Dutchess County. There he founded in 1936 the Beacon Hill Sanitarium and the Therapeutic Theatre for Psychodrama and established within a few years training institutes for workers interested in learning the techniques of psychodrama and sociometry. Both the sanitarium and the institutes that he directed later come to bear his name. In 1957, after the Moreno Institute had become accredited to provide postgraduate training, an Academy of Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy was added to the enterprise.
Dr. Moreno was a prolific writer and editor. He directed the operation of Beacon House, Inc., the firm he established to publish journals and monographs devoted to the subjects of sociometry, group psychotherapy, and psychodrama, and served as its chief editor. In addition, he was an editor of such large-scale works as Progress in Psychotherapy, Vols. I-V (1956-1960), The Sociometry Reader (1961), and The International Handbook of Group Psychotherapy (1966). Among the many articles and monographs that he authored are his books, Who Shall Survive? (1934), Words of the Father (1941), The Theatre of Spontaneity (1947), and Psychodrama, Vols. I–III (1946-1969). He also left behind him a number of unpublished manuscripts, mostly autobiographical in nature.
JLM served as adjunct professor of sociology at New York University in the 1950s and ′60s and was active in such professional organizations as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry, the American and New York Medical Associations, and the American Sociological Association. He founded and held prominent positions in the American Sociometric Association, the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP), and the International Association of Group Psychotherapy. Perhaps his greatest satisfaction came through the international congresses of group psychotherapy, psychodrama, and sociometry over which he presided during the last two decades of his life.
The nucleus of the Moreno Collection came to the Countway Library in 1978 as a gift from Dr. Moreno's widow, Zerka, and his son, Jonathan, and was afterwards supplemented by further materials. A few years later the ASGPP established a fund for processing the archive, and in 1984 the materials finally embarked on their slow but inexorable transition from chaotic, crusty boxes to a marked, ordered, and preserved system. Initially, the collection was processed under the direction of Christopher Kraus, a graduate student at Harvard with an interest in psychodrama. Because he finished his studies and left the Boston area before the project could be put in final form, an archivist already on the staff was assigned to tackle the problems that remained to be solved. These concerned preservation of materials, organizing and describing the collection for ease of use, and preparation of a selected name index accurately keyed to the final box and folder numbers.
The introduction prepared by the previous archivist and his assistant no longer describes the arrangement of materials; but their view of JLM as a larger-than-life figure, as well as their comments on his more provocative pronouncements and on some of the unique materials in the collection, is of interest and appears in the front matter to this inventory. Also here will be found a chronology giving highlights of Moreno's life and work and an outline of how the archive is arranged. Following the inventory itself is an index to most of the correspondents and authors of papers who interacted with Moreno and his areas of interest.
It should be noted that the record of the last quarter century of the life of Jacob Levy Moreno reveals an interwoven professional and personal venture shared by his wife and collaborator, Zerka Toeman Moreno. Since Mrs. Moreno frequently acted or wrote in behalf of her husband, no attempt has been made either to differentiate her files or to include her name in the index, other than in obvious instances or for personal materials. This policy has been extended to others who acted and wrote in behalf of Dr. Moreno and his enterprise (albeit on a lesser scale)--for example, Ann Manzoeillo or any of the other secretaries at Beacon--especially when dealing with routine administrative matters.

Chronology of Jacob L. Moreno

Resources on Jacob L. Moreno

Series and Subseries in the Collection

Scope and Content

"I am a prophet with a sense of humor." The "I" is Jacob Levy Moreno, and the passage is located in some unpublished autobiographical sketches in the J.L. Moreno Collection in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard University, Boston. The collection contains segments of daily correspondence and records from the late 1930s to the 1970s regarding Moreno's vast and diverse personal enterprise at Beacon, New York, and New York City. The enterprise included Moreno Sanitarium,Therapeutic Motion Picture Inc., Beacon Publishing House, the Moreno Institute for psychodramatic and sociometric research, training, and public demonstrations, the World Center of Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy for the sponsoring of numerous international congresses and lecture tours, and the Moreno Consultation Center for psychiatric treatment. The collection also includes personal correspondence, protocols of public and private psychodrama sessions, manuscripts of unpublished material, early German publications, scrapbooks, audio-tapes, films, and impromptu phonograph records. The earliest materials in the collection date back to when Moreno was a teen-age student in Vienna. There is also such paraphernalia as the "Dr.'s" bow ties and his honorary academic hood from the University of Barcelona.
Some of the most interesting items are fragments of handwritten notes scribbled on the backs of programs, folders, and correspondence. Hidden literally between the lines are autobiographical notes on the origins of J.L. Moreno's name, the significance of his Jewish heritage, and his early encounters in Vienna with Freud and a struggling Viennese painter allegedly named Shickelgruber (later known as Adolf Hitler).
The introductory autobiographical quotation evokes the image of a grandiose comedian destined to drift into anonymity. The first published psychodramatic protocol in J.L. Moreno's anonymously authored series of "Invitations to an Encounter" (Einladung zu einer begegnung) introduces this image the title, "The Godhead as Actor" or Die Gottheit als komödiant in German (1911). Fusing the roles of actor, comedian, and divinely inspired prophet, Moreno set out and subsequently claimed to have founded a science of human relations that encompassed the individual, social, and cosmic psyche. Within the rubrics of psychodrama, sociometry, and spontaneity, he respectively relegated Freud, Marx, and Jesus of Nazareth to the archive of primitive prototypes.
The collection presents a portrait that poses several unanswered biographical questions that are central to the theory and practice of psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy. Who is this komödiant who proclaimed quizzically, "I am God," and who used to "teach the people to play God," (Moreno, 1946, p. 6)? What was the significance of his personal dilemma of anonymity and the "paternity syndrome," (Moreno, 1953, pp. xxxvii-xxxix)? Should he receive universal recognition as the author of group psychotherapy, the encounter movement, and the use of role playing as a method of professional therapy and training?
In sifting through the collection, it sometimes appears as though Moreno as a young man purposely mapped out his life and then meticulously followed each planned path so that his biographers would be struck by the creative continuity of his long, multi-faceted life. Moreno considered himself a genius of though and action, and he intended to be remembered as one. In an unpublished manuscript, Moreno wrote that his autobiography is written on the premise that its author is a genius; it is an effort to make him look like one, and an earnest effort not to prove that he is one, but to believe it.
The collection challenges the objective observer to measure this ingenuity by the foundations, associations, publications, and channels of communication that J.L. Moreno created. The test of his genius lies as much in what he has done as in what he has said.
In another unpublished manuscript about genius, he wrote in characteristically grandiose style, implicating himself: "Genius is the individual who gives in his life or work expression to his collective aspirations of the entire human species, or a substantial part of it. The better he does this, the more he is a genius. There are many dimensions of expression in every culture and many degrees of representation, therefore there are degrees of genius, minor and major geneiusses [sic]. Absolute genius results from absolute universality." J.L. Moreno's theoretical ingenuity and actual productivity present in the collection a remarkable portrait of a private intellectual and a public activist; a thinker and a doer. These are two roles rarely discovered so thoroughly in one person.
The collection at the Countway Library is a testament to J.L. Moreno's relentless commitment to putting the principles of spontaneity and creativity into action. It reveals how Moreno led his own family into his psychodramatic kingdom. The collection contains a significant amount of correspondence with Zerka T. Moreno, his wife and professional colleague. Their son, Jonathan, reared in the psychodramatic household, and later trained as a psychodramatist, is also represented in the collection. The large number of J.L. Moreno's correspondents reveals a sociometric network and a social atom acquaintance volume that criss-cross the globe and extend well beyond 2000 contacts. His books, published in over fifteen languages, represent the intercultural exchange of information that is necessary for a worldwide social theory. The number of films, audio-tapes, and phonograph records indicates his willingness to use any means of communication available to spread his gospel. The patient records and protocols from Beacon Hill and Moreno Sanitarium document the testing of his theories in therapeutic practice. His expansiveness and truly global aspirations are realized and fully recorded in the detailed organizational correspondence of several international congresses of group psychotherapy and psychodrama. Finally, the collection clearly shows how Moreno constructed a self-perpetuating organism by establishing workshops and training opportunities at the Moreno Institute, throughout the United States and the world.
Ironically, the J.L. Moreno Collection unavoidably tempts that habit of human nature Moreno found most ludicrous and dangerous: worship of the finished product, or worse yet, worship of a single, isolated creator. Did Moreno really want to be idolized as a one-time genius and prophet, ultimately judged, either positively or negatively, by his accomplishments? Above all, he sought those who would encounter and analyze a creative process that encompassed even the creator. The preservation of this collection serves as yet another movement in the self-perpetuating creative process which Moreno felt was the fundamental element to happy, healthy and cooperative social interaction. The conserved papers attend the spontaneous breath of new life.
Christopher Kraus
Joni Clouse

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