Rare Book & Manuscript Library

John Bates Clark papers, 1848-1955, bulk 1874-1938

Summary Information


This collection consists of the papers of John Bates Clark, a prominent United States economist, educator, and activist for international peace.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS# 1419
Bib ID 4078613 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Clark, John Bates, 1847-1938
Title John Bates Clark papers, 1848-1955, bulk 1874-1938
Physical Description 7 linear feet (14 boxes)
Language(s) English .
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. Please consult the Rare Book and Manuscript Library for further information.

This collection has no restrictions.



Arranged in five series.


Scope and Content

John Bates Clark is best-known as an economist and teacher, and these aspects of his career account for the majority of the material in this collection. Student notes, research notes, newspaper clippings, manuscript drafts, published articles, and correspondence between Clark and his colleagues document an academic career that covered more than sixty years and gained Clark world-wide prominence. In addition, a large assortment of lecture notes illustrates Clark's development as an educator during these years. Most of the notes (both research and lecture) and the correspondence are hand-written on loose pages. The drafts are a mix of hand-written and typed manuscripts, while the published articles appear most frequently as individual pamphlets which were arranged together in scrapbooks.

In the meantime, personal documents, correspondence, obituaries, and memorials demonstrate not only Clark's life outside of academia but also the effect he had on the lives of his family and friends. Clark's personal documents vary widely in nature, but a representative sample includes Clark's 1872 passport, two US patents which he shared, a memorial pamphlet for his colleague George Huntington, several diaries (including an 1857 one belonging to Clark's father) and account books, and the manuscript for a children's story. There is also hand-written and typed material related to Clark family history and genealogy, including family trees and several drafts of a written history. The personal correspondence in the collection represents many friends and family. Finally, there are a number of obituaries for John Bates Clark, clipped from newspapers and journals throughout the United States.

Please note that comments written by John Maurice Clark (one of John Bates Clark's sons) appear occasionally throughout the collection. Also note that all newspaper clippings appearing in the collection are facsimiles made due to the fragile conditions of the originals. Although their material remained together, scrapbooks were deconstructed for preservation purposes. Material which had previously been part of a scrapbook is indicated both in the arrangement notes below and the folder titles.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1875-1955

    Series I consists primarily of letters written to John Bates Clark over the course of his professional life, and is generally arranged in alphabetical order by sender. The major exception to this pattern is that letters of condolence sent to John Bates Clark's wife, Myra Almeda Smith Clark, and sons, John Maurice and Alden Hyde Clark upon John Bates Clark's death are arranged at the end of the series. Further correspondence of this nature can be found in the John Bates Clark Memorial Scrapbook, which is located in Series IV, Subseries 2. Please note that in addition to letters written to John Bates and Myra Clark, Series I also includes a substantial number of letters written by them to others.

    Befitting a public academic of Clark's stature, the correspondents represented in Series I embody a litany of prominent academics and public figures. These include Henry Carter Adams, Edward Bellamy, Nicholas Murray Butler, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Joseph Dorfman, Richard T. Ely, Robert Erskine Ely, Franklin H. Giddings, Alvin S. Johnson, Henry L. Moore, Robert Henry Inglis Palgrave, Simon N. Patten, Baron Yoshiro Sakatani, Joseph Schumpeter, Edwin R.A. Seligman, James T. Shotwell, Ida Tarbell, Frank Taussig, Francis Amasa Walker, and Woodrow Wilson, among others. In addition, there is a large volume of correspondence between John Bates Clark and various family members, including Myra Clark, his daughter Helen Converse Clark Lancaster, and his sister Elizabeth "Lillie" Huntington Clark Lyman.

  • Series II: Unpublished Scholarly Materials, circa 1865-1936

    Series II provides a view into the life of John Bates Clark as a student, teacher, theorist, and public figure. Consisting in overwhelming proportion of hand-written notes from Clark's college years to his death, this series represents more than sixty years of academic production from Clark. It ranges from written lectures prepared for formal courses to notes and thoughts which Clark literally scribbled on the backs of envelopes.

  • Series III: Published Scholarly Materials, circa 1880-1936

    Series III comprises material related to the extensive bibliography of published work produced by John Bates Clark. It includes drafts of articles and book chapters, a selection of published material, and a number of newspaper clippings concerning John Bates Clark and his work.

  • Series IV: Biographical Materials, 1848-1957, bulk 1868-1939

    Series IV consists of material related to John Bates Clark's personal life, his death and legacy, and Clark family history and genealogy.

  • Series V: Photographs, 1920-1938

    Series V is composed of three picture-postcards sent by Myra Almeda Smith Clark to John Bates Clark and two matted photographs of John Bates Clark's interment service.

  • List of Correspondents

    This set of correspondents lists all people that appear in Series I: Correspondence. Note that some of these people only appear the grouped folders in Box 3, Folders 13-17.

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. Please consult the Rare Book and Manuscript Library for further information.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts, 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); John Bates Clark papers; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Records at Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, contain voluminous documents pertaining to John Bates Clark, including correspondence and administrative records dating from his time as Director of the CEIP's Division of Economics and History.


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

Ownership and Custodial History

Gift of John Maurice Clark, 1954.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Clark, John Maurice. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1954. Accession number--M-54.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Processed Nicholas Patrick Osborne (GSAS 2012). Finding aid written by Nicholas Patrick Osborne in August 2007 2007.

Finding aid Written by Nicholas Patrick Osborne (GSAS 2012) August 2007.

Collection is processed to folder level.

Revision Description

2008-12-02 File created.

2009/01/15 xml document instance created by Catherine N. Carson

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
Essays Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lecture notes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von, 1851-1914 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Division of Economics and History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clark, John Bates, 1847-1938 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clark, John Maurice, 1884-1963 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
College teachers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Faculty Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Economics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Economics -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Economists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ely, Richard T (Richard Theodore), 1854-1943 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ely, Robert Erskine, 1861- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Giddings, Franklin Henry, 1855-1931 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Johnson, Alvin Saunders, 1874-1971 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Marshall, Alfred, 1842-1924 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Moore, Henry Ludwell, 1869-1958 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sakatani, Yoshio, 1863-1941 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Schumpeter, Joseph A., 1883-1950 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scrapbooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States -- Social conditions Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Walker, Francis Amasa, 1840-1897 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
War -- Economic aspects Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wealth Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Professor of Economics, Columbia University, 1895-1923, and Director of the Division of Economics and History, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1911-1923. When John Bates Clark turned eighty years old in 1927, the occasion was marked with extraordinary aplomb. Eighty guests from Clark's professional and personal life were invited to a celebratory dinner, including such notables as Nicholas Murray Butler, Irving Fisher, Franklin H. Giddings, Jacob H. Hollander, Dwight W. Morrow, Edwin R.A. Seligman, and Rexford Tugwell. A festschrift was published to mark the occasion, featuring essays by prominent economists such as Hollander, Seligman, Richard T. Ely, and Joseph Schumpeter. The American Economic Review published a special supplementary issue devoted to the celebration. At 80, John Bates Clark was a living legend in the world of economics. The path he had taken to that point was one filled with notable achievements.

Born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Clark entered Brown University in 1865, ultimately transferring to Amherst College in 1867. Clark quickly left the school, however, to attend to his family's business when his father began to suffer the severe effects of tuberculosis. It was only upon returning to Amherst in 1871 after his father's death that Clark took a course on mental and moral philosophy taught by Julius Seelye which he wrote of as the spark that lit a fire to his interest in the formal study of political economy. Due in part to Seelye's encouragement, Clark decided to pursue this field as a graduate student in Europe where he studied political economy at the University of Heidelberg under the eminent German economist Karl Knies from 1874-76. During this period, Clark also found time to marry Vassar graduate Myra Almeda Smith in 1875 (they went on to have four children--Alden Hyde, Frederick Huntington, Helen Clark Lancaster, and John Maurice) and to attend a summer term in Zurich in 1876. He received his PhD from Heidelberg in 1877.

Upon returning home to Minnesota (the Clark family had relocated there during the illness of Clark's father), Clark became part of what would become known as "the first faculty" of Carleton College, at which he had briefly lectured in 1875. During his tenure there as Professor of History and Political Economy from 1877-1882, Clark taught Thorstein Veblen (among others) and began to publish the essays in the Yale Review which would form the basis of his first book, The Philosophy of Wealth (1885). Clark then went on to teach at Smith College as Professor of Political Science from 1882-1893. From 1892-1895 he was both Professor of Political Economy at Amherst and a visiting lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University. In the fall of 1895, he finally settled at Columbia University, where he served as Professor of Political Economy in the Faculty of Political Science until he became a Professor Emeritus in 1923.

By electing to pursue graduate study in Germany in the 1870s and then return to the United States to teach, Clark placed himself at the leading edge of a movement of American academics who pursued similar courses of study and employment and in the process revolutionized the state of American academics. For Clark and those like him, this revolution consisted of both the reorganization of the American university system (including the introduction of rigorous distinctions between fields of study, creating permanent faculty, and incorporating primary research into curricula) and the professionalization of academic disciplines. In pursuit of these goals, Clark was a driving force and founding member (along with several other economists of similar professional weight, such as Henry Carter Adams, Richard T. Ely, Francis Amasa Walker, and Charles F. Dunbar) of the American Economics Association. Formed in 1885, Clark eventually served as the AEA's third president from 1894-1895. From 1895-1911 he was the editor of the Political Science Quarterly.

Clark owed much of his success as a leader in the fields of economics and political economy to the reception of his early works. In 1885's The Philosophy of Wealth, Clark strongly defended the place of theoretical discussions in political economy at a time when abstract work was frowned upon, declaring that "if obscurity still hangs overprinciples. . . the removal of it, besides having an incalculable value in itself, will afford a welcome supplement to directly practical work" [emphasis added]. This insistence on a theoretical grounding for economics was intimately connected to the static-dynamic model which Clark based nearly all of his work on, the premise of which was that a national or international economy was so complicated that it was desirable to first establish relationships between various factors in an ideal frozen or "static" state, and only then to attempt to derive the economic laws governing a more realistic "dynamic" state which recognized change over time as a factor.

In The Philosophy of Wealth, Clark also began to develop the idea that "wealth"--in an economic sense--could only be measured by material goods of whose value all could more or less agree and which could be transferred from one person to another. Clark continued to develop his conception of the relationship between social value and material wealth in later groundbreaking works, such as his 1888 extended essay "Capital and Its Earnings." In this piece, Clark demonstrated that interest earned on capital bore a direct relationship to the amount of wealth that capital was able to produce. In writings like "Capital" as well as later works such as 1899's The Distribution of Wealth and 1907's The Essentials of Economic Theory, Clark developed a theoretical model that for the first time identified capital, wages, and land as economic factors which were essentially similar because their values were defined in direct proportion to their overall productivity. Along the way, he also helped lay the foundation for what would become known as the Neo-Classical school of economists by insisting that the world economy contained a fixed supply of capital. This last point was became the crux of a long-running debated between Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk and the so-called Austrian School.

A fundamental idea inherent in Clark's studies of wealth and value was that the pursuit of wealth might lead not only to the transfer of wealth from one individual to another, but also its appropriation or perversion by artificial means. This idea clearly troubled the religious Clark, who rooted a free-market economic theory in an ethics oriented around altruism, cooperation and mutual benefit, themes which were developed as early as The Philosophy of Wealth but continued to mark his career. Not long after World War I, Clark wrote in this vein that "the greatest problem for the world to solve, concerns itself not with national boundaries nor even with national debts, but with this deeply rooted policy of restricting production in the hope that the men who practice it may thrive at the expense of others."

This insistence that an essentially free market would thrive and benefit all if everyone agreed to play by certain rules resulted in a series of works such as 1901's The Control of Trusts by the Natural Method and 1914's Social Justice Without Socialism, in which Clark clearly identified the problems of unethical business practices plaguing the industrializing world yet was hamstrung by his insistence on free-market liberalism to offer any solutions more concrete than an insistence on the observance of his ethical standards. But while these works did little to advance any original economic theory or policy, they nevertheless provided Clark with further rhetorical ammunition in pursuit of his other great passion: the advent of world-wide peace.

In this pursuit, Clark was active throughout much of his life. He was a member of the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration and a frequent speaker at its annual meetings from 1895-1916. He was also an active leader of the New York Peace Society in the 1910s and 1920s, and he served as a Vice President of the League of Nations Union. Perhaps the influential position Clark held in his pursuit of international peace was as the first Director of the Division of Economics and History at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Clark's successor, James T. Shotwell, described the division's job as "study[ing] the nature and the consequences of war and the interplay of the forces of war and peace in modern civilization," and Clark pursued this study in the same way that he pursued his economic interests: with a morally-guided pursuit of a theoretical understanding that might pave the way for practical policy. The crowning achievement of Clark's tenure from 1911-1923 at the Carnegie Endowment was his conception and original organization of the group of international scholars whose inter-disciplinary studies eventually became the multi-volume and multi-decade Economic and Social History of the World War. The urgent nature of this and similar work in Clark's mind was evident in his last book, A Tender of Peace (1935). Published when Clark was 88 years old and just three years before his death, it continued his record of insisting that international cooperation was the only chance that nations had to avoid impending world war.

Throughout his long career, Clark was granted a plethora of honors, including honorary memberships in both the Austrian Economic Society and the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. He received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Amherst, Princeton, Columbia, and Christiana (now Oslo) University in Norway, an honorary PhD from Amherst, and an honorary Doctor of Political Science degree from the University of Tubingen in Germany. In 1947, the American Economics Association named one of its highest honors--awarded to "that American economist under the age of forty who is adjudged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge"--the John Bates Clark Medal. These honors and many more bear witness to the high regard in which Clark was held by his colleagues in the United States and internationally.