Ayers, Eben A. Papers

Dates: 1898-1987; Bulk Date Span: 1945-1953

Assistant Press Secretary to the President, 1945-1950; Special Assistant in the White House Office, 1950-1953

The papers of Eben A. Ayers mostly relate to his career of government service in the White House, and particularly his work as Assistant Press Secretary to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman from 1945 to 1950. They include correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material, transcripts of press conferences, scrapbooks, and a diary that Ayers kept from 1941 to 1953, along with other items. The collection also contains some material documenting Ayers's career as a journalist and other aspects of his life.

See also Eben A. Ayers Files and Oral History.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: About 14 linear feet, 5 linear inches (approximately 26,400 pages).
Access: Open, with the exception of a few documents that are closed in accordance with provisions of the donor's deed of gift.
Copyright: Eben A. Ayers donated his literary property rights in any of his unpublished writings in this collection to the United States government. Documents created by U.S. government officials in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in other writings in this collection is assumed to remain with the authors of the documents or their heirs.
Processed by: Harry Clark, Jr., C. Warren Ohrvall, and Erwin J. Mueller (1968-1976); Randy Sowell, Sharie Simon, and Janice Davis (2000); Lucia Flaim and David Clark (2008).

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

1890 (October 4)

 

Born, Watertown, New York

1908-1918

 

Journalist, Watertown, New York and Elizabeth, New Jersey

1918-1919

 

Field Clerk, U.S. Army

1920-1936

 

Journalist with the Associated Press in New York City, and Associated Press bureau chief in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Boston, Massachusetts

1936-1939

 

News Editor, Providence Journal, Providence, Rhode Island

1941-1945

 

White House liaison, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs

1945-1950

 

Assistant Press Secretary to the President

1950-1953

 

Special Assistant in the White House Office

1977 (February 17)

 

Died, Washington, D.C.

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The Eben A. Ayers Papers relate for the most part to Ayers's career of government service in the White House during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. Particularly well documented is his service as Assistant Press Secretary to the President from 1945 to 1950 and as Special Assistant in the White House Office from 1950 to 1953. In addition, the collection contains information about Ayers's career as a journalist and other aspects of his life. The papers include correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material, transcripts of press conferences, press releases, appointment schedules, scrapbooks, and a diary that Ayers kept from 1941 to 1953, along with other items.

The Ayers Papers are divided into eleven series and subseries. The first series, Appointment Lists of President and Mrs. Harry S. Truman, contains President Truman's daily appointment schedules from 1945 to 1953, with guest lists, memoranda concerning upcoming appointments and activities, and other items. This series provides especially detailed information about President Truman's daily activities up to December, 1950, when Ayers left his post as Assistant Press Secretary following the death of Press Secretary Charles G. Ross. The series contains less information about the President's activities after December, 1950, and relatively little information about Mrs. Truman's appointments and activities. The appointment schedules in this series are mostly copies of documents that are also in the President's Secretary's Files, Harry S. Truman Papers.

The next series, Korean War Chronology, contains monthly State Department reports summarizing the major military, diplomatic, and political events that occurred on each day of the Korean conflict from March, 1951 through May, 1952 (except that the reports for January and March of 1952 are missing from the series.) Another set of the same State Department reports, complete for the period from June, 1950 to May, 1952, is located in the Korean War File, Harry S. Truman Papers.

The Subject File, the largest series in the collection, contains summaries and chronologies of major events and issues of the Truman Presidency. These were apparently prepared by Ayers, who was assigned to organize an historical record of the Truman administration while he was serving as Special Assistant in the White House Office from 1950 to 1953. Accompanying the summaries and chronologies for each topic are press releases, mostly consisting of presidential speeches, messages, statements, and executive orders pertinent to that topic, along with related newspaper clippings, printed material, and other items. Among the Truman-era topics documented here are the atomic bomb decision and various aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Many of the historical summaries and press releases in this series are duplicated in the President's Secretary's Files, Harry S. Truman Papers. The series also includes some information about Truman's activities before and after his Presidency, and about press coverage of other Presidents. Also included is some documentation of Ayers's work in the White House, such as his correspondence with Jonathan Daniels, Truman's ex-Press Secretary and biographer, and a manual used by the White House staff in preparing responses to routine correspondence.

The next two series, Press and Radio Conferences-Eben A. Ayers [Transcripts] and Press and Radio Conferences-Charles G. Ross and Eben A. Ayers [Transcripts], contain transcripts of White House press conferences held by the Press Secretary or Assistant Press Secretary. At these conferences, which were usually held on weekday mornings, Ross or Ayers provided reporters with information about the President's daily schedule and other news items, and answered their questions. The transcripts indicate that the conferences were conducted very informally, with a certain amount of laughter and joking around. The first of these series contains transcripts of press conferences presided over by Ayers from February, 1945 to December, 1950; at these conferences, Ayers was substituting for the Press Secretary when he was ill or absent for some other reason. The second series contains transcripts of Ross's press conferences as well as those conducted by Ayers, from May, 1945 to December, 1950. On special occasions, other officials were brought in to speak to the reporters. For example, Dr. Wallace H. Graham, the White House physician, was questioned about the health of the President's mother on May 21, 1947, and Secret Service Chief U. E. Baughman answered questions about the attempted assassination of the President on November 1, 1950. Some transcripts appear in both series, and the transcripts of Ross's press conferences are duplicated in an equivalent series in the Charles G. Ross Papers.

The next series, Diary, contains a typewritten diary that Ayers kept from December, 1941 to October, 1953. The diary begins the same month that Ayers became White House liaison for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, and continues through his subsequent service as Assistant Press Secretary and Special Assistant in the White House Office. Ayers made diary entries on almost a daily basis, detailing the news of the day, events at the White House, and his contacts with the President. The diary reflects both Ayers's shrewdness as an observer and his sometimes prickly relations with White House correspondents and officials. Ayers occasionally inserted newspaper clippings and other items into the diary for explanatory purposes. One folder at the end of the series contains an index to Ayers's meetings with President Truman in 1951 and 1952, and copies of the diary entries describing those meetings, many of which dealt with the disposition of the President's papers and his plans for the Truman Library.

The Presidential File contains printed material, memoranda, and other items pertaining to President Truman, his administration, the history of the White House, and the Presidency as an institution. Ayers collected most of this material while serving in the White House, apparently as part of his assignment to compile historical information about the Truman administration.

The Personal File consists of two subseries. The Alphabetical Subseries contains Ayers's correspondence with friends and associates, almost all of it dating from his years in the Truman White House (1945-1953). The correspondence is both personal and official in nature, and includes communications between Ayers and such persons as Nelson Rockefeller (his one-time superior as Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs); Mary Ethel Noland (the President's cousin, regarding her collection of Truman genealogical information); and Mrs. Charles Ross (regarding the death of her husband.) The Subject Subseries contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material, and other items documenting various activities of Ayers during the course of his career. This subseries includes a considerable amount of information about Ayers's work as a correspondent and bureau chief with the Associated Press during the 1920s and 1930s; his role in covering the Sacco and Vanzetti case and other major stories during that period; and the circumstances surrounding his forced retirement as Boston bureau chief in 1936. Also included in this series is documentation of Ayers's work as Special Assistant in the White House Office during the last years of the Truman Presidency, when his duties included investigating and refuting published charges of impropriety in the President's past. In response to such allegations in the press, Ayers undertook a trip to Kansas City in 1951 to look into the settling of Truman's debts from his haberdashery partnership with Eddie Jacobson, and contacted Truman's former partner in the oil business, David H. Morgan.

The General File contains documentation of various aspects of Ayers's life, and includes printed material about Truman and the Truman Library; information concerning Ayers's papers and a copy of the oral history interview he conducted with the Truman Library; some correspondence with Truman and other notable persons; and miscellaneous items such as an invitation to the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. The Scrapbooks File contains seven bound scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings, correspondence, memorabilia, programs, invitations, photographs, and other items documenting events in Ayers's life and career from 1908 to 1953. Included in the first scrapbook are newspaper articles written by Ayers and military orders pertaining to his service in World War I. Subsequent scrapbooks deal for the most part with Ayers's government service during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

More information about Eben A. Ayers and White House press relations during the Truman administration can be found in the Truman Library's oral history interview with Ayers (Oral History Interview No. 180); in the Eben A. Ayers Files, which are part of the Staff Member and Office Files of the Harry S. Truman Papers; and in the Charles G. Ross Papers. A large portion of the diary in the Ayers Papers has been published in a book edited by Robert H. Ferrell, Truman in the White House: The Diary of Eben A. Ayers (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991).

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos.

 

Series

1-3

  APPOINTMENT LISTS OF PRESIDENT AND MRS. HARRY S. TRUMAN, 1945-1953
Appointment schedules, memoranda, guest lists, and other items mostly documenting the daily activities of President Truman. Arranged in chronological order.

4

  KOREAN WAR CHRONOLOGY, 1951-1952
Monthly reports prepared by the State Department, summarizing the major military, diplomatic, and political events of the Korean War. Arranged in chronological order.

5-14

  SUBJECT FILE, 1898-1971 (Bulk Date Span, 1945-1953)
Summaries, chronologies, press releases, newspaper clippings, printed material, correspondence, memoranda, and other items documenting the major events and policies of the Truman administration, and related subjects. Arranged in alphabetical order.

14

  PRESS AND RADIO CONFERENCES-EBEN A. AYERS [TRANSCRIPTS], 1945-1950
Transcripts of White House press and radio conferences held by Ayers, with other items. Arranged in chronological order.Transcripts of White House press and radio conferences held by Ayers, with other items. Arranged in chronological order.

15-17

  PRESS AND RADIO CONFERENCES- CHARLES G. ROSS AND EBEN A. AYERS [TRANSCRIPTS], 1945-1950
Transcripts of White House press and radio conferences held by Ross, Ayers, and others. Arranged in chronological order.

18-21

  DIARY, 1941-1953
Diary entries made by Ayers during his years of government service in the White House, detailing his daily activities and contacts with the President. Arranged in chronological order.

22-25

  PRESIDENTIAL FILE, 1929-1970
Printed material, newspaper clippings, memoranda, and other items concerning President Truman, his administration, and the history of the White House and the Presidency. Arranged in alphabetical order.

26-29

 

PERSONAL FILE
consisting of two subseries as follows:
ALPHABETICAL FILE, 1937-1960 (Bulk Date Span, 1945-1953) 1929-1970: Corres