Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Frederick L. Hoffman Papers, 1881-1989

Summary Information


Personal and professional correspondence, publications, poetry manuscripts and diaries, and scrapbooks belonging to Prudential Insurance Company statistician, cancer researcher, and eugenicist Frederick Ludwig Hoffman (1865-1946). These items document Hoffman's career, family life, and his extensive travels.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0601
Bib ID 4079536 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Hoffman, Frederick L. (Frederick Ludwig), 1865-1946
Title Frederick L. Hoffman Papers, 1881-1989
Physical Description 16 linear feet (39 boxes, 5 volumes)
Language(s) English , German .

Boxes 2-38 of this collection are 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.



This collection in arranged in four series and several subseries. Selected materials cataloged; remainder arranged.


Scope and Contents

Personal and professional correspondence, publications, poetry manuscripts and diaries, and scrapbooks belonging to Prudential Insurance Company statistician, cancer researcher, and eugenicist Frederick Ludwig Hoffman (1865-1946). These items document Hoffman's career, family life, and his extensive travels. The collection also contains a small amount of material belonging to Hoffman's family members, as well as genealogical materials on the Hoffman, Hay, and Rigney families.

  • Series I: Correspondence, circa 1884-1946, undated

    Much of Hoffman's correspondence is composed of letters to three consecutive presidents of the Prudential Insurance Company reporting on his professional activities, which date from 1892 through 1926. Other correspondents include Hoffman's colleagues in public health and industrial safety research, as well as several other prominent eugenicists. Three boxes of correspondence with his wife, Ella Hay Hoffman, and a folder of letters from his mother are also included in this series. Additional correspondence belonging to Ella Hay Hoffman and other family members is located in Series IV.

  • Series II: Manuscripts and documents, 1881-1945, undated

    Series II contains Hoffman's diaries, an unpublished autobiographical manuscript, poetry manuscripts, travel itineraries, photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia. The texts of lectures given by Hoffman at Yale University in February 1916 and at Babson Institute between 1922 and 1925 are also included. Finally, there are three annual reports Hoffman submitted to the president of Prudential Insurance Company, dating from 1907, 1913, and 1917.

  • Series III: Publications, 1890-1968, undated

    Series III is primarily composed of publications by Hoffman. Hoffman published extensively in outlets ranging from medical and scientific journals, to insurance trade publications, to popular magazines and newspapers. The subjects of his publications were similarly varied. The majority deal with industrial safety and public health topics, especially the prevalence and mortality of cancer. Hoffman also used public health statistics to advocate for his belief in white supremacist racial hierarchy and eugenics; these themes appear frequently in his published work. Subseries III.2 contains clippings and publications about Hoffman, including his gifts to the libraries of Tulane University and the University of Pennsylvania. Subseries III.3 includes a small group of published materials neither by nor about Hoffman. Many are likely related to his interests in scientific racism and eugenics.

  • Series IV: Hoffman and Rigney family, 1885-1986, undated

    Series IV contains materials from the Hoffman, Hay, and Rigney families. Subseries IV.1 contains correspondence, notes, manuscripts, and printed matter of Ella Hoffman Rigney, daughter of Frederick L. Hoffman and founding director of the Raphael House, a shelter for single mothers experiencing homelessness, in San Francisco. Subseries IV.2 contains materials belonging to other family members, especially Hoffman's wife, Ella Hay Hoffman. Most of these items are of a personal nature, but there is substantial information about her involvement with the United Daughters of the Confederacy. There are also several genealogical charts and family histories documenting the lineage of the Hoffman and Hay families.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

Boxes 2-38 of this collection are 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); Frederick L. Hoffman papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Frederick L. Hoffman Papers: A small group of Hoffman's personal papers, at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Medical and statistical data on American Indians: A collection of data collected by Hoffman in 1920. At the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.

General manuscripts, 1789-2013: A small group of Hoffman and Rigney family materials given to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library between 2000 and 2020 were added to Boxes 76 and 81 of the General manuscripts collection.


Gift of Francis J. Rigney, 1983, 1995, 2000.

Gift of Ella Hoffman Rigney, 1984-1986.

Gift of Bert Hansen, 2020.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Rigney, F.J. & P.H. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1972. Accession number--M-1972.

1916 talks by FLH, etc: Source of acquisition--Rigney, Francis J. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--01/06/1995. Accession number--M-95-01-06.

Gift of Francis J. Rigney (Columbia A.B. 1944, M.D. 1949) and Peter Hoffman Rigney (A.B. 1950) via Ella Hoffman Rigney, 1972.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Processed ELJ 05/15/1972.

1916 talks by FLH, etc Processed HR 07/08/2000.

The collection's creator was a prominent advocate of scientific racism and eugenics, and that was not mentioned in the original description. During remediation in June 2020, the front matter was revised significantly to provide a fuller account of his belief and activities. In addition, "Negro" was replaced with with "African American" everywhere except in titles, and subject headings added for eugenics, racism in the social sciences, and racism in medicine. Note that despite the absence of slurs, the finding aid includes original titles that reflect Hoffman's racist and eugenicist beliefs.

Materials were intellectually arranged into series at the same time the finding aid was converted to EAD. Related materials notes were also added. The box numbering scheme was revised to incorporate a previously un-numbered box at the beginning of the collection. Nothing in the collection was physically rearranged.

Several boxes in the collection were found to be overstuffed in June 2021. Some items in boxes 4-18 were rearranged to resolve this problem. White paper folders in boxes 11-20 were also replaced with sturdier acid free folders to better support their unbound manuscript and printed contents. Intellectual arrangement, materials maintenance, and front matter revision by Celeste Brewer, June 2020 and June 2021.

Separated Materials

Box 31 is missing.

Two reprints from the New England Journal of Medicine, both in Box 20, were discarded due to mold contamination. The items were "Cancer of the Prostate and Prostatic Diseases," Address before Tulane University; Reprinted in New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 210, no. 10, pp. 507-551, and "Cancer of the Male Generative Organs," New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 209, no. 22, 1933 November 30.

Revision Description

2020-06-12 PDF finding aid converted to EAD and front matter expanded by CLB.

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:"
Addresses Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Annual reports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Articles Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Autobiographies (literary works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Biographies (literary works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Essays Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Genealogies (histories) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Inventories Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Itineraries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lectures Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Notebooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pedigrees Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Reports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Reviews (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Statistics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Surveys (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
indexes (reference sources) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Auslander, Joseph, 1897-1965 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bradford, Gamaliel, 1863-1932 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cancer -- Research Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Creel, George, 1876-1953 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Economists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Eugenics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hoffman, Ella Hay Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Insurance -- Statistics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Leprosy -- Research Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Prudential Insurance Company of America Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Racism in medicine Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Racism in the social sciences Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Raphael House (San Francisco, Ca.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rigney, Ella Hoffman Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rigney, Francis J (Francis Joseph), 1923- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scrapbooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social workers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Statisticians Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Taft, William H (William Howard), 1857-1930 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Tarbell, Ida M (Ida Minerva), 1857-1944 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United Daughters of the Confederacy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical note

Frederick L. Hoffman (1865-1946) was a statistician and third vice president of the Prudential Insurance Company, and an early investigator into the prevalence and causes of cancer. He was the first researcher to identify the relationships between diet, tobacco usage, and cancer. Hoffman's interest in mining and industrial safety also helped to improve working conditions in a variety of industries. However, the accuracy and value of his work were diminished by his staunch belief in scientific racism and eugenics.

Frederick Ludwig Hoffmann was born on May 2, 1865 in Varel, Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, living first in Cleveland, Ohio, before moving to New Orleans, Louisiana, and then to Boston, Massachusetts, and Norfolk, Virginia. He changed the spelling of his last name, dropping the second N, in approximately 1890. He married Ella Hay, whom he had met in New Orleans, in 1891. They had seven children.

Hoffman's work was informed by and further promoted the ideologies of scientific racism and eugenics. He was hired by Prudential after publishing an article titled "Vital Statistics of the Negro" in the Boston magazine The Arena in April 1892. Hoffman expanded this piece into a book-length work called Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro, which was published by MacMillan in 1896. The book's claims--among which were that African Americans were especially susceptible to disease--were debunked the next year by W. E. B. DuBois and Kelly Miller, a mathematician and sociologist at Howard University. However, Prudential continued to use Hoffman's work to justify its practice of charging Black customers higher premiums. Hoffman likewise continued to publish and lecture on racist and eugenicist topics throughout his life.

Hoffman traveled extensively, collecting statistical data on health and safety-related issues, in addition to more unusual items. After he shipped 2000 pounds of the Rock of Gibraltar back to the United States in 1901, Prudential Insurance adopted the rock as its logo. Hoffman officially retired from Prudential in 1922, though he worked with the company as a consultant until 1935. He lectured at Yale University in 1916 and at the Babson Institute (now Babson College) in the 1920s. He was also a founding board member of the American Tuberculosis Association and a trustee of the American Cancer Society. Tulane University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1911, and the American Cancer Society awarded him its Clement Cleveland medal in 1943.

Hoffman died in San Diego, California on February 23, 1946.