Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Rafael Steinberg Papers, 1903-2014, bulk 1944-1980

Summary Information


Personal and professional papers of the foreign correspondent. The collection includes telexes from the Korean War and from assignments across Southeast Asia, letters to and from Steinberg, annotated copy and clips of published work, fiction by Steinberg, various items Steinberg collected in his work and travels, and photographs. Items from the Steinberg family collection include illustrations and book covers by Isador N. Steinberg.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1802
Bib ID 12364441 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Steinberg, Rafael, 1927-
Title Rafael Steinberg Papers, 1903-2014, bulk 1944-1980
Physical Description 19.25 linear feet (15 record cartons, 7.5 document boxes, 1 flat box)
Language(s) English , Japanese .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



The collection is organized into seven series and several subseries.



The collection contains personal and professional papers of the foreign correspondent, mostly ranging from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. The materials are from different times and places in Steinberg's career: the Korean War, reporting across Southeast Asia, years as correspondent in London and Japan, and writing and reporting in the United States.

This is a diverse collection that includes telexes, letters, news copy, fiction, poetry, clips, notes, photographs, pocket planners, phone books, manuals and directories for journalists from around the world, and other memorabilia. Items from the Steinberg family collection include illustrations and book jackets by Rafael's father, Isador N. Steinberg, a celebrated designer and artist in his day. Isador N. Steinberg and Rafael's mother, Polly N. Steinberg, were both politically engaged designers and visual artists, and the collection provides insight on their involvement with the Commercial Artists' Union in the 1930s. Also included are items from Steinberg's early years (childhood to college) and documentations of the family's real estate ventures in New York and New Jersey, dating back to 1903.

Those studying the dynamics of news work will find interest in various testimonials on the internal culture of some of the most lucrative news outlets of the midcentury, among them a plethora of raw material by Steinberg and other reporters (telexes, telegrams, letters and annotated copy), manuals, directories, memos and internal publications, and letters and telegrams exchanged with editors, colleagues and agents.

Among the most valuable sections of this collection is a body of correspondence between Steinberg and his parents while stationed abroad. Steinberg exchanged hundreds of long letters with his parents during his time in Korea, London and Japan, detailing with sincerity and emotion his life as a correspondent, professional dilemmas and frustrations, and occasionally some gossip on colleagues.

  • Series I: Journalism, 1951-2014, bulk 1951-1980

  • Series II: Nonfiction, 1965-1985, bulk 1965-1967, 1978-1980

  • Series III: Fiction, 1958-2010, undated, bulk 1958-1971

    A collection of Steinberg's works in prose and poetry, most of which were never published. Among others, the subseries includes fragments from Steinberg's years in Korea; drafts for a play about the Korean War, The Ring of Truth; versions of "Day of Good Fortune," a short story published by Playboy in 1967; stories on the Okamoto family; and poems written by Steinberg between 1969-1996.

  • Series IV: Letters (professional and personal), 1938-2006, bulk 1946-1989

    This subseries includes personal and professional letters, sent to and from Steinberg over the course of seven decades. Professional letters include correspondence with colleagues, editors, publishers, agents and sources. Personal letters were primarily exchanged between Steinberg and his parents during his stays in Korea, London and Japan, compiling a valuable and revealing account of Steinberg's work life as a foreign correspondent. Also included are several letters in Japanese and a collection of Christmas cards and lists.

    Additional letters can be found in Series I, II, III, V, VI, and VII

  • Series V: Personal and professional items, 1944-2002, bulk 1944-1975

    Items in this subseries include Steinberg's phone books, passports and press cards, pocket books, pocket planners, business cards and miscellaneous notes; currency Steinberg saved from his time in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, as well as US Military currency; diplomatic phone books and directories used by Steinberg in his work; and materials on the classes Steinberg taught at New York University. Also included are research for unfinished projects on religion and cognition; materials on Steinberg's small business, RMS Word Processing; and materials on Steinberg's sailing hobby.

  • Series VI: Early years, 1936-2010, bulk 1936-1950

  • Series VII: Steinberg Family, 1903-1994

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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); Rafael Steinberg Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- Other Repositories

Rafael Steinberg Collection, Stonybrook University, State University of New York.


Additions are expected

Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2013-2014-M164: Source of acquisition--Purchase. Date of acquisition--03/24/2014.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed by Efrat Nechushtai (Graduate School of Journalism) January 2017.

Finding aid written by Efrat Nechushtai (Graduate School of Journalism) January 2017.

Revision Description

2017-02-01 File created.

2017-02-01 xml document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

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.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Articles Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bibliographies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Drafts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Drawings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Essays Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lectures Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Maps (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Notes (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Reviews (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Cold War Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Communism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Emmanuel, Pierre Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Erskine, Albert, 1911-1993 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Foisie, Philip Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Friedrich, Otto, 1929-1995 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Friendly, Alfred, Captain Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Harvard University -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Japan -- Description and travel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Japan -- Social life and customs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Javits, Jacob K. (Jacob Koppel), 1904-1986 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Journalism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Korea Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Korean War, 1950-1953 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lansner, Kermit Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Newspaper publishing Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Overseas Press Club of America Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Peabody, Samuel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Prior, Roberta Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishing Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Reischauer, Edwin O (Edwin Oldfather), 1910-1990 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Roberts, Chalmers M (Chalmers McGeagh), 1910-2005 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rockefeller, David, Jr., 1941- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Schanche, Don A. (Donald Arthur), 1926-1994 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Schreuders, Piet Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Socialism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stead, Christina, 1902-1983 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Steinberg, Isador N., 1900- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Steinberg, Rafael, 1927- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sully, François Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Time-Life Books Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States -- Foreign relations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States -- Foreign relations -- Japan Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 -- Japan -- Hiroshima-shi Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World politics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Rafael ("Ray") Mark Steinberg (1927-) was born and raised in New Jersey. His parents, Polly N. Steinberg (née Rifkind) and Isador N. Steinberg, were visual artists who worked in advertising and publishing in Manhattan. Rafael attended the progressive Little Red School House, graduated in 1945 from Elizabeth Irwin High School, and joined the Navy. After he was discharged from the military he enrolled in Harvard College, where he graduated in the class of 1950.

Steinberg started his career in journalism during his time at Harvard. He wrote for the Harvard Crimson (and later the Harvard Alumni Bulletin), most notably covering the United States government's refusal to grant a visa to French author Pierre Emmanuel (Noël Mathieu), who was suspected to be a communist. In the summers of 1949-1950, he edited and published The Fire Island Reporter, a weekly newspaper covering the resort where his family spent the summer.

Steinberg hoped that one day, after years of reporting, he might be sent abroad as a foreign correspondent. The ongoing war in Korea shortened this path. After several correspondents had died while covering this war, young reporters willing to relocate to Korea for $10 a day were in demand, and Steinberg was sent there as a war correspondent in March 1951. He covered the Korean War for the International News Service and later Time magazine until 1953; his work in Korea was twice nominated for the Overseas Press Club Award. "This was what we wanted to do, to write about war and horror so that they would go away. To reveal to the comfortable at home what the rest of the world was like," Steinberg said in a Korean War Correspondents reunion in 2002. "Some of us experienced first-hand the horror and cruelty that we all discovered would not go away no matter how finely we tuned our phrases, no matter how honest and balanced our reporting. 'The forgotten war,' they called it. But we remembered the opportunity that we had grasped, and that had shaped all of our lives."

Like other correspondents, during his time in Korea, Steinberg had regularly taken short vacations in Japan. In one of these excursions he met Tamiko Okamoto, daughter of a cosmopolitan Japanese physician, who worked for a Japanese television station. In 1953, months after the Korean war ended, the two married in San Francisco and returned together to New York, where Steinberg continued to write for Time.

In 1955, Steinberg was stationed in Time magazine's London Bureau. Although Steinberg was sent to the Middle East to report on the Suez invasion, the position was essentially administrative. This was not a perfect fit. "My enthusiasm waned. Perhaps I had been spoiled for humdrum reporting by the experience of Korea… Perhaps journalism was not my dish after all," Steinberg wrote in 1958 to Norman A. Hall, then editor of the Harvard Bulletin. "Certainly, I had always wanted to write, about my own subjects, and in my own way."

Steinberg left London and Time in 1958, and in 1959 the family relocated to Tokyo — where he served as the Tokyo Bureau Chief and Far Eastern Correspondent for Newsweek, covering Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. Steinberg resigned in 1963 and remained in Japan as a freelance writer, producing stories on the region for the Washington Post, Saturday Evening Post, Fortune and other publications. He also broadcasted on CBS and appeared often on Japanese television.

In 1967 Rafael, wife Tamiko and daughters Summer and Joy moved back to New Jersey. Steinberg continued to work for Newsweek as general editor, senior editor, and managing editor of the international edition (1970-1973). For a brief period he was editor-in-chief of Cue magazine (1975-1976). From 1967 until the early 1980s, Steinberg produced a large body of freelance reporting for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Saturday Review, Cosmopolitan, Columbia Journalism Review, and others. He continued to follow stories related to Japan and Asia, covering the Japanese Emperor's visit to the United States (1975) and occasionally traveling to report from Japan.

Steinberg authored several nonfiction books: Postscript from Hiroshima (1966), Japan (1969) and Javits: The Autobiography of a Public Man (1981) (with Jacob K. Javits). He coauthored numerous books with the editors of Time-Life Books, primarily on World War II, among them Return to the Philippines (1980), Island Fighting (1981), Prisoners of War (1981) and The Aftermath: Asia (1983). Steinberg co-authored general interest Time-Life books, such as Language (1975) and Man and the Organization (1978), and two books on food, The Cooking of Japan (1974) and Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking (1979). He also worked as ghost writer for biographies. Steinberg made several attempts at publishing fiction, and his short story, "Day of Good Fortune" was printed in Playboy in 1967. Steinberg also taught writing at New York University in 1981-1982.

Seeking financial stability, Steinberg started a small business, RMS, providing computer and design services for businesses. In 1999 he sold his shop and officially retired. Steinberg continues to write and research, as well as pursue his long-time hobby of sailing. "He tries to crawl, my grandson… 'He'll be crawling in a month,' says his mother. / 'In a week,' say I, remembering how quickly it happens, / how quickly the child absorbs the infant, / how quickly trapped in the adult, / —still stretching for some bright, fragrant prize" (Observing Logan, 1996).