Title Reviewed:
A National Program for the Publication of the Papers of American Leaders: A Preliminary Report to the President of the United States

Author Reviewed:
National Historical Publications Commission

Doris M. Reed


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 393-394

Article Type:
Book Review

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A National Program for the Publication of the Papers of American Leaders: A Preliminary Report to the President of the United States. By the National Historical Publications Commission. (Washington: National Historical Publications Commission, General Services Administration, 1951, pp. x, 47.)

This preliminary report has been submitted in answer to a request from President Truman that the Commission send him a statement on "what can be done—and should be done—to make available to our people the public and private writings of men whose contributions to our history are now inadequately represented by published works." The Commission bases its report on the results of consultations with scholars in many fields of American history. From their recommendations a list of 66 persons of national stature, at or near the top in their respective fields, has been compiled and presented here as a tentative list of those persons, the publication of whose papers would be of particular value. In the selection of names a broad interpretation of the word "history" has been adopted. As a result, along with the names of those who have been important in political history, will be found captains of industry and labor, inventors, scientists, educators, religious leaders, editors, writers, and architects. Names of many persons of national stature have been omitted. For some of these papers are not known to exist in sufficient quantities to justify publication. For others the papers have already been adequately published or are now in process of publication. For each person listed years of birth and death, occupation, a brief summary of his or her career, information on the location of the main bodies of papers, and a statement on the extent to which papers have or have not been systematically published, are given.

The Commission believes that the work of editing and publishing of papers should be carried out principally by private agencies, such as universities and historical societies. It sees its own role as that of serving as a central body to assist in planning, promoting, and giving direction to the program, and that of the federal government as one of assistance, perhaps by sharing printing costs.

In addition to the publication of papers of individuals two other projects to which the Commission is applying itself are of considerable interest. One is the establishment in cooperation with other interested organizations of a central register to serve as a union list of manuscript collections in depositories or private hands in the United States. The other is a survey of documentary publications in the United States at the national level for the purpose of determining major gaps in the published documentation of the Government's activities in order to recommend a program for filling the gaps.

This report is presented as a basis for further discussion, and comments and suggestions are requested.

Indiana University Doris M. Reed

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.