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   Rafael Steinberg papers 1903-2014 [Bulk Dates: 1944-1980]

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Preferred Citation

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

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

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 Dates: 1944-1980]
Physical description:19.25 linear ft. (15 record cartons, 7.5 document boxes, 1 flat box)
Language(s):English and Japanese
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »



The collection is organized into seven series and several subseries:

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Scope and Content

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 into 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 1: Journalism, 1951-2014 [Bulk Dates: 1951-1980]

Subseries I.1: Journalism from the Korean War, 1951-1993 [Bulk Dates: 1951-1953]

Among the most interesting parts of the collection, Subseries I.1 includes materials on Steinberg’s coverage of the Korean War — a formative experience professionally and personally. The collection includes reports by Steinberg from Korea and about the Korean War for the International News Service and Time magazine; drafts, cables, notebooks, clips, photos, memos; material on Korean War Correspondents reunions, including a speech delivered by Steinberg in 2002; and comments on and reviews of Steinberg’s work.

See Also: Series III and Series IV

Subseries I.2: Journalism from Korea, 1962-2002 [Bulk Dates: 1962-1980]

Subseries I.2 includes materials on Steinberg’s professional sojourns to Korea during these years: drafts, cables, copy and clips from the country; formal letters regarding Steinberg’s work in Korea; photos for a Saturday Evening Post story in 1963; and various resources on Korea, collected by Steinberg.

Subseries I.3: Journalism from Japan, 1951-1975 [Bulk Dates: 1951-1952 1959-1967]

Original reports from Japan, mostly from 1951-1952 and 1961-1963, to Newsweek, Saturday Evening Post, Washington Post, and Washington Post Japan, as well as materials on Steinberg’s reports on Japan for CBS, Radio Liberty and MBS radio. There are extensive materials on some of Steinberg’s landmark stories, among them Okinawa, Soka Gakkai, Japan’s pearl industry, the Burakumin, Takamori Saigo, and the Japanese Emperor’s visit to the United States (1975). This subseries includes notes, clips, research materials, drafts, photos, pitches to other outlets, correspondence, hand-drawn maps, expenses reports and receipts.

Also available are letters and memos from Newsweek regarding Steinberg’s employment terms and his work, including correspondence with colleagues and executives and information on the activities of Newsweek Tokyo bureau in these years; correspondence with editors and colleagues at the Saturday Evening Post, Washington Post, Harper’s, and The Reporter ; materials on the Tokyo visits of Washington Post editor Alfred Friendly (1962) and Washington Post correspondent Chalmers M. Roberts (1963), including correspondence with Roberts; documents on Steinberg’s fight for accreditation by the Department of Defense (1961); materials on Newsweek correspondent Francois Sully, who died while covering the Vietnam War; The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan book from 1965 (containing an article by Steinberg); and other miscellaneous items.

Subseries I.4: Journalism from the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, 1962-2003 [Bulk Dates: 1965-1979]

Subseries I.4 includes materials on Steinberg’s reporting in these countries: drafts, copy, clips, notepads, notes and letters.

Subseries I.5: Journalism from the United States and England, 1956-2014 [Bulk Dates: 1965-1979]

Materials on Steinberg’s work in London and the United States, regarding stories for Newsweek, Saturday Review, The New York Times, Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, and Cosmopolitan. Available items include drafts, copy, clips, correspondence, notes, research, expenses reports, invoices, fragments, book reviews and op-ed attempts. The records document Steinberg’s work on landmark stories including Hiroo Onoda, Saigo Takamori, Roy Matz Goodman, Isaac Asimov (including interview and correspondence), Asians in the United States, East Harlem schools and Japan travel (with reflection on years there).

This subseries also includes Time-Life News Service letters, manuals and directories; Time-Life Alumni Society newsletter and directory of members; Newsweek letters, memos and a telephone directory; Cue Magazine letters, memos and telephone lists, contracts, clips, and correspondence; Esquire memos, letters and invoices; and correspondence with literary agent Roberta Pryor (includes contracts for Steinberg’s projects); The Association of American Correspondents in London directory; materials on The Overseas Press Club of America; and references to Steinberg’s work.

Series II: Nonfiction, 1965-1985 [Bulk Dates: 1965-1967 1978-1980]

Subseries II.1: Postscript from Hiroshima (1966), 1965-1980 [Bulk Dates: 1965-1967)]

This subseries includes drafts and a manuscript of Postscript from Hiroshima, as well as research, notes and ephemera from Steinberg’s work on the book. Also included are letters to and from Steinberg regarding the book, Steinberg’s contract with Random House and pay slips, and reviews of the book.

Subseries II.2: Javits: The Autobiography of a Public Man (1981), 1977-1984 [Bulk Dates: 1978-1980]

This subseries includes a wealth of materials on Steinberg’s co-authored biography of the New York Senator. They include transcripts of conversations with Javits, research, notes, drafts for several chapters, and letters regarding the book—many with Javits and his staffers. Also included are notes for a fiction project on Javits’ marriage which was not completed.

Subseries II.3: Other Nonfiction, 1969-1983 [Bulk Dates: 1969-1979]

This subseries includes materials on other nonfiction projects, among them Return to the Philippines and Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking: copy, notes, letters and memos, contracts, invoices, expense reports and business cards.

Subseries II.4: Published Books by Steinberg, 1966-1985

Copies of 13 books authored or co-authored by Steinberg: Postscript from Hiroshima (1966), Japan (1969), The Cooking of Japan (1974), Language (1975), Man and the Organization (1978), Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking (1979), Return to the Philippines (1980), Religion at the Crossroads: Byzantium, The Turks (1980), Javits: The Autobiography of a Public Man (1981), Island Fighting (1981), Prisoners of War (1981), The Aftermath: Asia (1983), Japan (1985).

Series III: Fiction, 1958-2010 undated [Bulk Dates: 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 Dates: 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 Dates: 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 Dates: 1936-1950]

Subseries VI.1: Childhood to Navy, 1936-1990 [Bulk Dates: 1936-1945]

Items in this subseries include childhood letters to parents, childhood diary and pocket diary, school notebooks, a paper on Steinberg’s family history, report cards and an autograph book. Also included are materials on Steinberg’s 45th high school reunion. From Steinberg’s year in the navy, the collection includes letters to parents and brother; documents and IDs from navy service, Citizens Defense Corps and selective service; notes on Steinberg’s studies and fiction written during this period; and a greeting card illustrated by Isador N. Steinberg.

Subseries VI.2: Harvard College, 1946-2010 [Bulk Dates: 1946-1950]

Materials from Steinberg’s college years include letters to parents from Harvard, notes, diary and pocket diary, notebooks, papers, exams, report cards, honors thesis, B.A. diploma, and various Harvard ephemera. Steinberg’s work at the Harvard Crimson is documented, as well as letters later exchanged with editors at the Harvard Bulletin (some deeply personal). This subseries includes copies of the newspaper Steinberg edited and published upon his graduation (1949-1950), The Fire Island Reporter, and materials on Steinberg’s 25th, 50th and 60th Harvard reunions.

Series VII: Steinberg Family, 1903-1994

Subseries VII.1: Steinberg Family, 1909-1990 undated

Materials from the Steinberg family collection include “A Special Couple,” a story by Rafael Steinberg about his parents (1981); invitations to Rafael Steinberg and Tamiko Okamoto’s wedding (1953); a family photo published in Forward (circa 1930); Steinberg’s parents’ Ketubah (1923); and greeting cards and family illustrations by Isador N. Steinberg. Other materials shed light on Isador N. Steinberg’s career, among them pocket books whose covers Steinberg illustrated throughout several decades and materials on his work for the U.S. Army during World War II and after (including correspondence with military officials), as well as on the parents’ involvement with the Commercial Artists’ Union in the 1930s. Also included are unpublished short stories by Polly N. Steinberg and correspondence with editors; the parents’ copies of socialist magazine The Liberator (1918-1920); phonebooks and diaries from 1911 to 1990 (intermittent); letters, passports, diplomas, report cards, and other memorabilia from their school years.

Subseries VII.2: Family Estate, 1903-1994 [Bulk Dates: 1935-1994]

Materials on the Steinberg family finances and real estate holdings, including a New Jersey farm (Stonehill Farm) and a Manhattan apartment.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

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

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

Finding aid is available online.

Selected Related Material-- Other Repositories

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

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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 by Efrat Nechushtai (Graduate School of Journalism) January 2017

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

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion February 1, 2017 Finding aid written in English.
    2017-02-01 File created.
    2017-02-01 xml document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Drafts (documents)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Drawings (visual works)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Maps (documents)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Reviews (documents)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Cold WarPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Emmanuel, PierrePortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Erskine, Albert, 1911-1993PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Foisie, PhilipPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Friedrich, OttoPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Friendly, Alfred,--CaptainPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Harvard University--StudentsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hiroshima-shi (Japan)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Japan--Description and travelPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Japan--Social life and customsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Javits, Jacob K. (Jacob Koppel), 1904-1986PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Korean War, 1950-1953PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lansner, KermitPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Newspaper publishingPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Overseas Press Club of AmericaPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Peabody, SamuelPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Prior, RobertaPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishingPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Reischauer, Edwin O. (Edwin Oldfather), 1910-1990PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Roberts, Chalmers M. (Chalmers McGeagh), 1910-2005PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Rockefeller, David, Jr., 1941-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Schanche, Donald A.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Schreuders, PietPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Stead, Christina, 1902-1983PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Steinberg, Isador N., 1900-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Steinberg, Rafael, 1927-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sully, FrançoisPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Time-Life BooksPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States--Foreign relationsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States--Foreign relations--JapanPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Vietnam War, 1961-1975PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945--Japan--Hiroshima-shiPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World politicsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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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).

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