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   James G. McDonald Papers, 1838-1972 [ Bulk Dates: 1914-1962].

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); James G. McDonald Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information

Abstract

This collection documents the professional and personal life of James Grover McDonald, a diplomat who worked extensively with refugee issues and served as the first U.S. ambassador to Israel.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#0818
Bib ID:4078520 View CLIO record
Creator(s):McDonald, James G. (James Grover), 1886-1964.
Title:James G. McDonald Papers, 1838-1972 [ Bulk Dates: 1914-1962].
Physical description: 10 linear feet (38 document boxes; 1 oversize box)
Language(s): Material is in English.
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least twenty-four (24) hours in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection has been arranged into nine series:

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Description

Scope and Content

This collection documents the professional and personal life of James Grover McDonald, a diplomat who worked extensively on refugee issues and served as the first U.S. ambassador to Israel. Much of the material relates to McDonald's positions on the High Commission for Refugees (Jewish and Other) Coming from Germany and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Political Refugees. These files document international efforts to help minorities, primarily Jews, escape Germany prior to World War II. There is also a fair amount of information on McDonald's experience as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Materials include correspondence, speech and book drafts, pamphlets, photographs, and newspaper clippings.

Series I: Special Files, 1922-1972

This series contains correspondence with prominent public figures, primarily politicians and government officials such as Dean Acheson, Henry Stimpson, and Harry Truman. The files were originally part of the general correspondence found in Series II, but were removed and housed separately. They are arranged alphabetically by correspondent name.

Series II: General Correspondence, 1914-1962

The correspondence in this series spans most of McDonald's life, but much of the material dates from after World War II and relates to McDonald's involvement with the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, the formation of Israel, and his experience as U.S. ambassador to Israel. There is also considerable material relating to refugees, as well as some personal correspondence with family and friends. Files are arranged alphabetically by correspondent or institution name.

Series III: Manuscripts and Speeches, 1914-1960

This series holds drafts of two of McDonald's books, Palestine and the Middle East and My Mission to Israel, as well as drafts and transcripts of his speeches on current events and international policy. It includes many of the speeches McDonald broadcast over radio while working for the Foreign Policy Association, drafts for a 1943 NBC radio show, and many other speeches given before a variety organizations. Materials are arranged chronologically.

Series IV: High Commissioner for Refugees, 1933-1936

This series contains material relating to League's effort to help refugees attempting to leave Germany prior to World War II. It includes reports from meetings with Nazi officials and extensive letters and reports discussing the insurance and property rights of refugees. Several files document McDonald's trip to South America with S.G. Inman to assess potential locations for refugee settlements. Documents are arranged chronologically.

Series V: Presidential Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, 1936-1945

Series V is comprised of a wide range of documents on refugee issues, including discussions of visa requirements; letters from groups seeking to help particular groups of refugees (such as children or Spanish refugees); and correspondence on technical problems, such as transportation issues. Files are arranged alphabetically by name or topic.

Series VI: Photographs, 1937-1961

This series holds a small number of photographs of McDonald, primarily formal portraits.

Series VII: Development Corporation For Israel, 1951-1961

This small series contains business documents from McDonald's position as chairman of the Advisory Council. It includes correspondence, meeting information, speaking schedules, and expense reports.

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Using the Collection

Offsite

Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least twenty-four (24) hours in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

      offsite requestMore information and link to off-site request form

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); James G. McDonald Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding Aid available in repository and online; folder level control.

Related Material

James G. McDonalds's diaries are held at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Correspondence, memoranda, documents, clippings Surveyed 05/--/87 Julie Miller

Papers processed 2009 Tracy Thai, Barnard 2012

Finding aid written July 2009 Carolyn Smith

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion December 2, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2009-12-02 File created.

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Subjects

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Ambassadors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Bentwich, Norman De Mattos, 1883-1971.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Development Corporation for Israel.--Advisory Council.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Foreign Policy Association.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Herbert H. Lehman Collections (Columbia University).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
High Commission for Refugees (Jewish and Other) Coming from Germany.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Holocaust.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Immigration policy and research.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Inman, Samuel Guy, 1877-1965.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
International relations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Israel--Politics and government.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Israel.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kotschnig, Walter Maria, 1901-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
League of Nations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McDonald, James G. (James Grover), 1886-1964.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
National Broadcasting Company, inc.--Blue Network.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York Times Company.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Palestine--Politics and government.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Refugees, Political.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Refugees--Germany.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States--Diplomatic and consular service--Israel.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States--Foreign relations--Israel.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States.--President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wurfbain, AndreĢ L.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

James Grover McDonald was born on November 29, 1886 in Coldwater, Ohio. His parents, Kenneth and Anna Dietrich McDonald, operated a hotel, and the family's five children worked alongside their parents. The family later moved to Albany, Indiana, to operate a second hotel, and there McDonald met Ruth Stafford, whom he would marry in 1915. The couple would have two daughters, Barbara Ann and Janet.

McDonald studied at Indiana University, earning an A.B. degree in 1909 and a master's in History, Political Science, and International Relations in 1910. He won a teaching fellowship in history at Harvard Graduate School and then returned to Indiana University in 1914 as assistant professor of history. He taught until 1918, with a break in 1915-1916 to visit Spain as a Harvard University traveling fellow. He also taught summer sessions in international affairs at the University of Georgia in 1916 and 1917.

At the recommendation of his Harvard advisors, McDonald moved to New York City and took a position with the Civil Service Reform Association, which was committed to ending government corruption. From 1919 to 1933, McDonald served as chairman of the Foreign Policy Association, an organization dedicated to educating the public about foreign affairs. McDonald presided over Foreign Policy Association Luncheons, which were broadcast over WEAF and NBC. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, he gave weekly talks on international relations over the same radio stations, speaking on current world events. McDonald traveled extensively and made trips to Germany nearly every year, experiencing Hitler's rise to power firsthand.

In 1933, McDonald became League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and was faced with the task of negotiating refugee possibilities with Germany prior to World War II. In a meeting with Hitler in 1933, he became aware of Nazi goals to exterminate the Jewish population. McDonald struggled to help Jews and other persecuted individuals leave Germany, but found that his ability was restrained by League policies. He was respected and admired for his efforts and was awarded the American Hebrew Medal for Promotion of Better Understanding between Christian and Jew in America.

In 1935, McDonald resigned from the position. In his resignation letter, he detailed the mistreatment of minorities in Germany and urged the League of Nations to take proactive measures not only to help refugees, but to recognize and address the problems in Germany that forced them to leave in the first place. The letter was widely circulated and was one of the first denouncements of the Nazi government by an international diplomat.

McDonald returned to New York, and from 1936 to1938 he worked on the editorial staff of the New York Times , specializing in editorials on international relations. In 1938 he returned to the problems of the refugees, serving as chairman of the President's Advisory Commission on Political Refugees. The Commission was involved mainly in working with the State Department to adapt immigration laws to the crisis in Germany. McDonald served on the Commission until 1945.

In 1946, McDonald served with the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, a British and American committee charged with forming a policy on the admission of Jews into Palestine. McDonald traveled throughout the reason to hear the testimony of Jews and Palestinians, and became a strong supporter of unlimited immigration into Palestine by European refugees, and of the eventual creation of the state of Israel.

In 1948, President Truman asked McDonald to serve as a U.S. representative to Israel, and McDonald moved to the newly formed country along with his daughter, Barbara. The following year, he became the first U.S. ambassador to Israel and served for two years, working to forge a strong connection between the two countries during a period of upheaval. McDonald resigned as ambassador in 1951 and returned to the US, where he became chairman of the Advisory Council of the Development Corporation for Israel.

McDonald wrote about his personal experience as an ambassador in his book My Mission to Israel, published in 1951. His extensive diaries, now held by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, have also been published in an annotated, multi-volume collection, The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald.

In addition to his long career in international affairs, McDonald was also a member of the Board of Education of the City of New York (1940-1942); president of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (1938-1942); and a member of the Harvard Club of New York.

James G. McDonald died in 1964.

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