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   James H. Sheldon Papers, 1945-1971 [Bulk Dates: 1958-1964].

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Preferred Citation

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

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

Summary Information

Abstract

The James H. Sheldon Papers document a lengthy portion of the author’s career, though its bulk corresponds with the years between 1958 and 1964. While Sheldon was involved in a number of diverse pursuits, his papers emphasize his professional activity in the Nationalities Division of the Democratic National Committee, the American Association of United Nations, and the now-defunct newspaper, the American Examiner The collection is comprised of an array of materials such as: correspondence, drafts of press releases and speeches, handwritten notes, reports, programs, pamphlets, clippings, and scrapbooks. Sheldon’s papers are arranged in eight series and six subseries.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1617
Bib ID:6913793 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Sheldon, James H.
Title:James H. Sheldon Papers, 1945-1971 [Bulk Dates: 1958-1964].
Physical description:8.85 linear ft. (13 boxes)
Language(s): Materials are 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 is arranged in six series

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Description

Scope and Content

By and large, the collection is comprised of materials relating to Sheldon's activities in the Democratic National Committee, the American Association of the United Nations, and the American Examiner . The material is diverse and includes, but is not limited to, correspondence, drafts of press releases and speeches, handwritten notes, reports, programs, pamphlets, clippings, and scrapbooks. The collection spans between 1945 and 1971, but its bulk is concentrated between 1958 and 1964. Series I and II are arranged thematically, while Series III, IV, V, and VI are arranged chronologically.

Series I: Democratic National Conventions

This series is comprised of various materials relating to the 1960 and 1964 Democratic National Conventions.

Subseries I.1: 1960 Democratic National Convention, 1960

Held in Los Angeles, CA in July 1960, this subseries contains papers relating the convention. It includes, but is not limited to: programs, pamphlets, correspondence, speeches, and press releases. While much of the material pertains to the event itself, a sizable portion relates to potential political issues to highlight in the upcoming 1960 Democratic Party platform.

Subseries I.2: 1964 Democratic National Convention, 1964

Held in Atlantic City, NJ in August 1964, this subseries contains papers relating to the convention. Unlike I.1, however, I.2 is comprised primarily of publicity-related papers, especially press releases.

Series II: Campaigns, 1958-1964

A majority of the papers relating to the Democratic National Committee document Sheldon’s work with various campaigns. Although he worked for additional campaigns not documented by this collection, this series contains materials concerning JFK’s 1960 presidential campaign, RFK’s 1964 senatorial campaign, Averell Harriman’s 1958 campaign for New York State governor, and Robert Wagner’s 1961 campaign for mayor of New York City.

Subseries II.1: JFK Presidential Campaign, 1960 August -November

The bulk of this subseries is constituted by press releases and speeches, many of which Sheldon wrote to explicitly address various ethnic groups such as Germans, Italians, Poles, and Chinese. In addition, the subseries also contains handwritten notes, correspondence, and pamphlets pertaining to JFK’s presidential campaign between the months of August and November, 1960. Of all the campaigns documented by this collection, the material relating to JFK’s is the most voluminous.

Subseries II.2: RFK Senatorial Campaign, 1964 September -November

Similar to II.1, II.2 is comprised mainly of press releases and speeches, but also features some handwritten notes and correspondence. In addition, the subseries contains a rather lengthy booklet entitled “The Myth of Keating’s Liberalism,” which refers to RFK’s opponent, Senator Kenneth Barnard Keating. Serving as Senator of New York between 1959 and 1965, he ran for re-election against RFK in 1964. Considered a moderate Republican, the aforementioned booklet challenges his self-proclaimed liberalism, and was likely used by Sheldon for reference in drafting publicity statements on behalf of RFK’s campaign.

Subseries II.3: Harriman campaign, 1958

Like II.1 and II.2, II.3 also contains speeches and press releases relating to Harriman’s 1958 campaign; however, this subseries is comprised more heavily by campaign-related ephemera, mainly in the form of pamphlets. There is also some campaign material generated by Harriman’s Republican opponents.

Subseries II.4: Wagner campaign, 1961

The least voluminous of the four documented campaigns, this subseries is comprised mostly of publicity-related material and some ephemera relating to Wagner’s 1961 campaign.

Series III: Democratic National Committee-Nationalities Division, General files, 1952-1960

While the majority of material pertaining to the Democratic National Committee is directly associated with conventions and campaigns, the collection also contains material related to the general business of the Nationalities Division between 1952 and 1961, the bulk of which spans between January and December 1958. This series is comprised mostly of publicity-related material, correspondence, handwritten notes, clippings, meeting agendas, and newsletters.

Series IV: American Association of United Nations, 1956-1965

A considerable portion of the collection pertains to Sheldon’s work with the American Association of the United Nations, and documents his activities within the organization between 1956 and 1965, with heavy emphasis on the years 1963 and 1964. This series is comprised of papers relating to the AAUN, most of which are correspondence, handwritten notes, meeting agendas, and membership lists. The series also features a booklet entitled “Manhattan Ethnic Group Distribution Statistics and Data,” which is a detailed account of the ethnic demographics of Manhattan in 1960. While Sheldon may have consulted this booklet during JFK’s campaign, it was found amongst his AAUN papers and has thus been included in this series.

Series V: General files, 1948-1971

In addition to material relating directly to specific organizations, there is a very small series of general files which are unrelated and span between 1945 and 1971. It includes papers relating the Metropolitan Council on Fair Employment Practice, the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League, and a biographical letter written upon request to the president of Morris Brown College, among others.

Series VI: Scrapbooks, 1951-1970

The collection includes 5 bound scrapbooks and 20 loose pages containing clippings of Sheldon’s twice-monthly column in the American Examiner between December 1951 and October 1970. It should be noted that that the newspaper was formally known as the American Hebrew until 1956, the year it was changed to the American Examiner ; thus, the scrapbooks pertain to the same publication.

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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. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

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

Selected Related Material-- at Columbia

Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League Records

Reminiscences of James H. Sheldon : oral history, 1972.

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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

Papers processed 5/15/2012 Megan Darlington, University of Michigan, School of Information 2013

Finding aid written 5/15/2012 Megan Darlington

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion July 17, 2012 Finding aid written in English. Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard
    2012-07-17 xml document instance created by Megan Darlington.

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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.

Genre/Form

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
newspaper clippings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
pamphlets.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
scrapbooks.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Subjects

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Democratic National Committee (U.S.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Democratic National Convention (1960 :--Los Angeles, Calif.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Democratic National Convention (1964 :--Atlantic City, N.J.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Democratic Party (U.S.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Human rights.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Immigrants--United States--History--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Keating, Kenneth B. (Kenneth Barnard), 1900-1975.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Presidents--United States--Election--1960.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sheldon, James H.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United Nations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States--Politics and government--1945-1989.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wagner, Robert F. (Robert Ferdinand), 1910-1991.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

James H. Sheldon was born on May 15, 1907 in Marietta, Ohio to his father, an attorney, and his mother, a schoolteacher. Due to chronic illness, he was home-schooled for much of his life before receiving a scholarship to attend Marietta College. Graduating in 1927, he went on to earn a Master degree in Political Science from Harvard University in 1928, followed by a stint as an assistant professor at Boston University. There, Sheldon taught international law, constitutional law, and general American government courses until the Great Depression turned his attention to public service.

Working on the administrative staff of the Emergency Relief Administration, he left in 1938 to run for Congress in Massachusetts. Though defeated, he gained respect within the Democratic Party, and returned to the Emergency Relief Administration in 1939 as coordinator of the statistics department. In 1941, Sheldon moved to New York to begin work as Director of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League, of which he previously served as Administrative Chairman.

The mission of the Anti-Nazi League was to counter Nazi, anti-ethnic propaganda. For example, the organization operated radio programs in both Italian and German to challenge fascist propaganda targeted at the Italian- and German-American communities. Sheldon’s experience directing the Anti-Nazi League reinforced his concern for ethnic groups, and he became an authority on political views within American ethnic groups. This led to his involvement with the Nationalities Division of the Democratic National Committee, in which he was active between 1948 and 1968.

Formally established in 1952, the Nationalities Division canvassed ethnic and racial groups of American voters to determine their individual political interests. This information was used to develop campaign strategies for appealing to an increasingly diverse voter population. From its inception, Sheldon served as the Public Relations Director, a role that entailed the drafting of press releases, radio programs, speeches, and other publicized information on behalf of various campaigns. Ultimately, he was responsible for those sections of the Democratic platform which related to ethnic and minority affairs as well as civil rights. As Public Relations Director of the Nationalities Division, Sheldon worked for Adlai Stevenson’s 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, and Robert F. Kennedy’s senatorial campaign, among others.

In addition to his position as Public Relations Director of the Nationalities Division, Sheldon was an active journalist who wrote mostly on foreign affairs, serving as a foreign correspondent as well as an officer of the Overseas Press Club of America. Beginning in 1950 and for about twenty years thereafter, he contributed a twice-monthly column on inter-group relations to the American Examiner , a newspaper with an approximate circulation of 200,000 at the time.

Sheldon was also actively involved with the American Association of United Nations, serving two terms as Chairman of its Manhattan Chapter. Other organizations with which Sheldon was affiliated include the United Church of Christ Committee on International Affairs, the Christian Social Action Department of the New York Conference, and the Protestant Council of the City of New York.

Sheldon died in 1975 at the age of 68. His legacy is in his enduring commitment to human rights, both at home and abroad.

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