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   Frank Altschul Papers, 1884-1986 [Bulk: 1925-1980].

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Preferred Citation

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

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

Summary Information


This collection documents the life of Frank Altschul--investment banker, publisher, and philanthropist--through his correspondence, writing, and research.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#0022
Bib ID:4078512 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Altschul, Frank, 1887-1981.
Title:Frank Altschul Papers, 1884-1986 [Bulk: 1925-1980].
Physical description:84.2 linear ft. ( 200 document boxes, 1 oversize box)
Language(s):In English and French
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 »



This collection has been arranged into eight series:

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Scope and Content

The collection documents Altschul's personal life and his ventures into publishing, politics, and international affairs. It contains little material directly related to his banking career. The bulk of the files contain correspondence, drafts and discussions of Altschul's writings; administrative files from his positions in various organizations; and pamphlets, articles and brochures on subjects which interested him. It also holds smaller amounts of photographs and memorabilia, as well as writings and notes by his father, Charles Altschul, and other family members and associates.

Series I: Correspondence, 1884-1986

This series is divided into two subseries, Cataloged Correspondence and General Correspondence.

Subseries I.1: Cataloged Correspondence, 1884-1979

This subseries is composed of correspondence between Altschul and prominent businessmen, artists, and political figures, including Alfred Knopf, Henry Kissinger, and Herbert H. Lehman. The files were originally part of General Correspondence, but have been removed and cataloged separately. They are arranged alphabetically by correspondent name.

Subseries I.2: General Correspondence, 1906-1986

This series contains extensive files of correspondence relating to Altschul's personal life and the many activities he pursued outside of his banking career. It includes discussions with scientists, historians, and others about political events and theories, conversations with editors about article drafts and reviews, congratulatory notes and holiday cards, and intimate letters between friends and family members. Files include both incoming correspondence and copies of outgoing letters by Altschul and his secretary. They are arranged alphabetically, with some further division by document type.

Series II: Charles and Camilla Altschul, 1863-1932

This series contains the papers of Frank Altschul's parents, Charles and Camilla Altschul. Though his family was American, Charles was born in England and studied Germany, and he retained a strong interest in European politics and history throughout his life. His papers contain research notes, annotated subject files and correspondence on many topics, including European economics, social issues such as health care and birth control, and research on foreign language publications in the United States. Several files hold correspondence and articles written in response to his writings, including his monograph "The American Revolution in Our School Textbooks" and articles on war debt and war guilt after World War I. The series also holds correspondence between Charles Altschul and his cousin, Dr. Paul Hammerschlag of Vienna. The series contains smaller amounts of information on other members of the Altschul family, such a family tree, a marriage scrapbook for Frank Altschul's uncle and aunt, William and Rosita Altschul, Rosita's diary, and an art history notebook kept by Maria Altschul. Information on Camilla is limited to condolences upon her death in 1952.

Series III: Writings by Frank Altschul and Others, 1910-1974

This series contains material relating to Frank Altschul's many speeches, letters to editors, editorials, book reviews, essays, and articles. Most files contain a draft or copy of the finished piece, as well as notes and related correspondence and articles. There are also several files concerning the publication of "A Catalogue of the Altschul Collection of George Meredith in the Yale University Library" and biographical articles about Altschul. Files have been divided by document type and further arranged alphabetically by title. The series also holds a small number of speech drafts by Altschul's acquaintances, including Raymond Buell, Arther L. Goodhart, and playwright Clare Boothe Luce, which can be found under the heading "Writings by Others."

Series IV: Subject and Political Files, 1919-1986

This series is comprised of two subseries, Subject Files and Political Files

Subseries IV.1: Subject Files, 1919-1986

This eclectic subseries contains files on a wide range of subjects that were of interest to Altschul, ranging from chess and stamps to disarmament and Judaism. Some files contain clippings and general information on a subject, while others relate more directly to Altschul's personal activity; under "books," for example, there is information about Altschul's private collection, including correspondence regarding book purchases, collection lists, and invitations to book club events and author luncheons. The series also contains Altschul's address books and biographical information collected for his entry in Who's Who in Commerce and Industry . Files are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries IV.2: Political, 1932-1978

This subseries documents Altschul's political activity. Correspondence files contain his letters to U.S. senators, representatives, and other political figures, as well as their responses. Campaign files consist primarily of correspondence between Altschul and other supporters and discuss the progress of his favored candidates and the distribution of pamphlets and articles on their behalf. Both correspondence and campaign files are arranged alphabetically by politician name. The subseries also holds smaller groups of files relating to Altschul's campaign contributions, his participation in several Republican campaign drives, and subject files on voting issues, particularly black voter turnout in the 1930s and 1940s.

Series V: Printed Materials, 1909-1984

This series contains a collection of article reprints, fliers, brochures, and ephemera relating to Altschul's many interests, particularly social and political issues such as patriotism, Communism, human rights, and education. Some represent the views of individuals, while others were printed by organizations such as the Friends of Democracy and the Foreign Policy Association. Documents are filed alphabetically by author or organization name and occasionally by subject. This series also holds one box of sampled clippings from Altschul's clipping file, representing the type of material he collected from major newspapers.

Series VI: Photographs, circa 1920-1960

This series holds photographs of Frank Altschul, his wife Helen, and his parents Charles and Camilla Altschul. It also contains images of Altschul's estate, Overbrook Farm, in Stamford, Connecticut, the Altschul Auditorium at Columbia University, and buildings at the New School for Social Research, which Altschul helped fund.

Series VII: Memorabilia, 1914-1916

This small series contains Altschul's attorney certificates.

Series VIII: Organizations, 1908-1980

This series documents Altschul's involvement in social clubs and advocacy groups, including the American Jewish Committee, the Council for Foreign Relations, the National Committee for a Free Europe, and various committees at Yale University, among many others. Files for the Council for Foreign Relations are particularly extensive, containing correspondence, administrative records, budget information, and discussion notes and minutes from the organization's study groups. Files are arranged alphabetically by organization name and further organized by topic or document type.

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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. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

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

Finding Aid available in repository and online; folder level control.

Related Material

Overbrook Press Records, 1929-1978 Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Herbert H. Lehman Papers, 1858-1963 Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction Records, 1914-1999 Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

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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

Correspondence, manuscripts, documents, memoranda, reports, printed material, photographs Surveyed 05/--/87 Julie Miller

Papers reprocessed in 2009 by Tracy Thai, Barnard 2012

Finding aid written in March 2010 by Carolyn Smith

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion August 28, 2010 Finding aid written in English.
    2010-08-28 File created.

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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:


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Altschul, Camilla.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Altschul, Charles, 1857-1927.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Altschul, Frank, 1887-1981.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
American Jewish Committee.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Book collecting.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Book collectors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Cold War.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Council on Foreign Relations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Herbert H. Lehman Collections (Columbia University)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
International relations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lehman, Herbert H. (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lehman, Herbert H., Mrs.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Luce, Clare Boothe, 1903-1987.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Luce, Henry Robinson, 1898-1967.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
National Planning Association.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Political campaigns.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States--Politics and government--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Woodrow Wilson Foundation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1914-1918.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Yale University.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Frank Altschul was born in San Francisco on April 21, 1887 to Charles and Camilla Mandlebaum Altschul. Charles, a partner in the investment firm Lazard Frares, brought his family to New York City in 1901 to work at the company's New York office. Frank Altschul studied at Yale University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1908. Following commencement, he traveled for two years, studying banking in London, Paris, Berlin, and Mexico City. During World War I, he served as an Army captain in France and was awarded the Legion of Honor. He married Helen Lehman Goodhart in 1913, and the couple would have four children.

Altschul proved to be a highly successful financier and became a senior partner at Lazard Freres in 1943. In 1948, he became chairman of the board of the General American Investors Corporation, where he remained until his retirement in 1961. During the 1930's, Altschul also served on the governing committee of the New York Stock Exchange and was director of the Chase National Bank.

Altschul applied his skill in running large organizations to a variety of causes, particularly political and advocacy organizations. He served as Director of the English-Speaking Union and vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and was heavily involved in the Council on Foreign Relations for almost four decades, serving as secretary and later as vice president from 1951 to 1971. Altschul's interest in interntional affairs was also present in his writing. A prolific writer of essays, articles, and book reviews, as well as a book, Let No Wave Engulf Us (1944). He frequently wrote letters to the editors of major newspapers, particularly the New York Times. Altschul was invited to speak before groups ranging from political and business committees to high school classes, and gave talks on psychological warfare, US relations with Israel, and many other subjects.

A self-described bibliophile, Altschul was an avid collector of books and possessed a lifelong fascination with printing. He was the co-founder and first chairman of the Yale Library Associates, which oversees the Yale Library System the Beineke Library. He established an endowment and donated much of his own collection to the Bienecke, including an extensive collection of the works and papers of George Meredith. In 1933, Altschul founded Overbrook Press on his estate in Stamford, Connecticut and began producing a wide variety of books, pamphlets, and ephemera. The press was highly regarded for its craftsmanship and innovative design work, and Overbrook volumes were consistently included in the ''Fifty Books of the Year'' show of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Overbrook Press was dissolved in 1969.

Altschul was a philanthropist and supporter of education and the arts, endowing chairs and fellowships at Yale, Williams College, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the New School for Social Research. He also gave generously to hospitals and charities. His wife Helen shared his interest in education, serving on the board of trustees Barnard College and funding a chair in English.

Frank Altschul died on May 29, 1981.

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