Steelman, John R. Papers

Dates: 1905-1996

Special Assistant to the President, 1945-1946; Director, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, 1946; Chairman, President's Scientific Research Board, 1946-1947; The Assistant to the President, 1946-1953; Acting Chairman, National Security Resources Board, 1948-1950; Acting Director, Office of Defense Mobilization, 1952

The papers of John R. Steelman contain information about his career as a labor-management conciliator and government official. Most of his papers relate to his service as Assistant to the President and in several other important posts during the Truman administration. The collection includes correspondence, memoranda, and appointment calendars documenting Steelman's government service during the Truman years, along with scrapbooks, printed material, and other items. Reflecting Steelman's background as a mediator of labor disputes, his papers are especially informative concerning strikes and other labor-management issues. Also included is material relating to a wide variety of matters that crossed the desk of Steelman in his capacity as President Truman's chief assistant in the White House, and during his temporary assignments as head of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, the President's Scientific Research Board, the National Security Resources Board, and the Office of Defense Mobilization.

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


Size: 32 linear feet, 5 linear inches (about 59,000 pages).
Access: Open, except for a small amount of material that is closed because of donor restrictions or security classification.
Copyright: The donor has given to the United States all of his copyrights in this collection, and all of his copyrights in the writings of John R. Steelman that may be in other collections of papers in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. Documents created by U.S. government officials in the course of their duties are in the public domain. Copyrights in other documents not covered by the forgoing provisions are assumed to remain with the authors of the documents, or their heirs.
Processed by: Dennis E. Bilger, Raymond H. Geselbracht, Sam Rushay, Sharie K. Simon, and Randy Sowell (2002); Jan Davis and David Clark (2014).

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1900 (June 23)   Born, Thornton, Arkansas
1922   A.B., Henderson Brown College, Arkadelphia, Arkansas
1924   M.A., Vanderbilt University
1928   Ph.D., University of North Carolina
1928-1934   Professor of Sociology and Economics, Alabama College, Montevallo, Alabama
1934-1936   Commissioner of Conciliation, U.S. Conciliation Service, Department of Labor
1936-1937   Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labor
1937-1944   Director, U.S. Conciliation Service, Department of Labor
1944-1945   Public Relations Consultant, New York City
1945-1946   Special Assistant to the President
1946   Director, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion
1946-1953   The Assistant to the President
1946-1947   Chairman, President's Scientific Research Board
1948-1950   Acting Chairman, National Security Resources Board
1952   Acting Director, Office of Defense Mobilization
1953   Served briefly as Special Assistant to the President, helping the Eisenhower administration get underway
1953-c.1968   Industrial Relations Consultant, Washington, D.C.
1955-1969   Served at various times as president of the Montgomery Publishing Company and chairman of the board of the Record Publishing Company, and as publisher of newspapers in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Rockville, Maryland
1999 (July 14)   Died, Naples, Florida
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The papers of John R. Steelman document his entire career as a scholar, college professor, labor-management conciliator, government official, consultant, and publisher. They mostly consist of materials that Steelman accumulated during his years of service with the federal government, beginning in 1934 and ending in 1953.

The papers of John R. Steelman are comprised of ten series. The first series, the Harry S. Truman File, contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material, memoranda, and other items relating to President Truman. Included in this series are copies of many congratulatory letters (apparently drafted by Steelman and his staff) from the President to labor unions that were holding conventions or celebrating anniversaries, and copies of some post-presidential letters from Steelman to Truman. The series also contains information about such topics as the renovation of the White House during the Truman administration and the activities of the Truman Centennial Committee in 1984.

The second series, the Appointment File, contains Steelman's daily appointment schedules, both typed and handwritten, for the period from 1944 to 1987 (although there are only a few intermittent schedules for the years after 1953). Included are desk calendars, appointment diaries, and notes regarding telephone calls, business to be transacted, and requests for appointments, as well as drafts of some related letters and memoranda. The material in the Appointment File is especially informative concerning Steelman's activities during the Truman administration; his meetings with labor and business leaders as well as reporters and government officials; and his involvement in the major strikes of the period. However, the schedules usually do not provide detailed information about what went on at Steelman's meetings.>/p>

The third series, Christmas Gifts, contains lists of Christmas presents given and received by Steelman, along with lists of names and addresses, and related correspondence. Included in this series is information about Steelman's gifts to various staff members and other employees at the White House.

The next series, the Chronological Copies File, is the largest series in the collection. It contains copies of Steelman's outgoing correspondence from October 1945 (when he became a Special Assistant in the Truman White House) to June 1952. Also included are some letters from others, memoranda, and copies of speeches and public statements. Beginning in 1947, the series is divided into official and personal correspondence. Although most of the official correspondence relates to Steelman's work as Assistant to the President, there are separate subject headings for material pertaining to his temporary assignments as acting head of the National Security Resources Board and the Office of Defense Mobilization, and as coordinator of federal efforts to relieve unemployment during the 1949 recession. Not surprisingly, the series contains a great deal of information about strikes and labor-management mediation. It also includes a small amount of material documenting Steelman's post-Truman administration activities, from 1954 to 1964.

The fifth series, Coal and Railroad Strikes, contains teletyped news reports on developments in the coal and railroad strikes of 1946. The sixth series, Congratulatory Letters on Retirement from the Department of Labor, consists of letters Steelman received, upon his resignation as Director of the U.S. Conciliation Service in 1944, from acquaintances and admirers in business, labor, government, and academia.

The seventh series, the Scrapbook File, is the second largest in the collection. It contains documentation of Steelman's activities from 1933 to 1985 (although most of the material dates from 1945 to 1953). Included are newspaper clippings, other printed material, correspondence, memoranda, speeches, programs, news teletypes, and other items. The material in this series provides considerable information concerning Steelman's career as a labor-management mediator, from his early years with the U.S. Conciliation Service during the New Deal to his involvement in the major strikes that disrupted the coal, railroad, and steel industries during the Truman administration. Included are many articles written by Steelman on labor and economic issues. Also included are scripts for "Battle Report-Washington," a televised news program on which Steelman frequently appeared during the early 1950s. The contents of the Scrapbook File were assembled for preservation in numerically arranged scrapbooks; it appears, however, that the materials were never actually placed in scrapbooks.

The Subject File, the eighth series in the collection, contains a variety of materials documenting Steelman's life and career, ranging from school papers that he wrote in the early 1920s to the transcript of a 1990 oral history interview with Steelman. The series includes declassified letters and memoranda from his years in the White House, congratulatory letters received after the 1948 campaign, notes on a few Cabinet meetings, published articles by and about Steelman, and an outline of a book that he planned to write about his public career. Also included are photographs, newspaper clippings on a variety of topics, and Christmas cards that Steelman received from such prominent persons as Averell Harriman, Hubert Humphrey, and Bob Hope.

The ninth series, the Speech and Press Release File, contains copies of speeches made by Steelman from 1938 to 1963. For Steelman's White House years, the speeches are in the form of press releases as well as typed reading copies. Many of the speeches were delivered to labor unions and business groups. Also included in the series are lists of Steelman's speaking engagements and materials that Steelman apparently accumulated while preparing his speeches: notes, outlines, published items, and assorted quotes, quips, and anecdotes. The series also contains White House press releases on a variety of topics, and copies of speeches delivered by President Truman and other public figures.

The Personal File is the tenth series in the collection, and includes material relating to many aspects of Steelman's life, including his early academic career and his work as a consultant and newspaper publisher after he left the White House. The items of interest in this series include a thesis submitted by Steelman to satisfy the requirements for a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University in 1925; the 1934 Alabama College yearbook; congratulatory letters received by Steelman when he established his consulting business in Washington in 1953; transcripts of several oral history interviews with Steelman; and a long article by Steelman entitled, "So You Want To Be President." Also included are Steelman's letters of resignation from various government posts, and some information on his family history.

More information about Dr. John R. Steelman can be found at the Truman Library in the Staff Member and Office Files of the Harry S. Truman Papers, specifically in the files of John R. Steelman and his assistants, Fleur Fenton, James V. Fitzgerald, John T. Gibson, Dallas C. Halverstadt, Charles W. Jackson, and Spencer R. Quick. The Library also has two transcribed oral history interviews with Steelman. Other relevant manuscript collections include the papers of George Elsey, Charles Murphy, and James Webb.

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Container Nos.   Series
1   HARRY S. TRUMAN FILE, 1943-1991
Correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material, memoranda, and other items