Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Dan Carpenter papers, 1880-1993

Summary Information


The Herschel Daniel "Dan" Carpenter Papers document Carpenter's life and career from his boyhood and education in rural Ohio, to his leadership role in the New York City settlement house movement. The collection also documents Hudson Guild, a West Side settlement house from its origins in the 1890s, when it organized clubs for Chelsea boys, to its work a century later, when it provided a wide range of social services to West Side residents.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1467
Bib ID 6933410 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Carpenter, Dan ; Moske, James ; LaGuardia Community College. LaGuardia and Wagner Archives
Title Dan Carpenter papers, 1880-1993
Physical Description 6.5 linear feet (6.5 linear feet 2 flat boxes)
Language(s) English .

Series I Folder 24 is closed until 2030.

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 is arranged in six series: Series I: Alphabetical File, 1931-1993; Series II: Correspondence, 1933-1974; Series III: Papers and Speeches, 1934-1972; Series IV: Photographs, 1910-1972; Series V: Scrapbooks and Calendars, 1908-1972; Series VI: Elliott Family Papers, 1880-1962.



The Dan Carpenter Papers document Carpenter's life and career from his boyhood and education in rural Ohio, to his leadership role in the New York City settlement house movement. They offer a unique view of the full career of a professional social worker and influential figure in the Chelsea community, as well as documenting social conditions, demographic change and political activity in New York. In addition, they provide important insight into the life and work of Carpenter's mentor John Lovejoy Elliott.

Carpenter's childhood and early education are best documented by photographs and scrapbooks contained in Series 4 and 5, and by records of his public schooling and attendance at Denison University in Series 1. Correspondence contained in Series 2 provides the most comprehensive view of Carpenter's long career as a social worker and settlement house leader. The impact of Hudson Guild programs on the Chelsea community is documented in Series 1 files on "Chelsea Community Council"Housing and Urban Renewal" and "Puerto Rican Migration." Papers and speeches in Series 3 demonstrate Carpenter's energetic participation in his professional community, as well as his involvement in numerous Chelsea neighborhood organizations.

Correspondence contained in Series 6 sheds light on the origins of Hudson Guild, and the philosophy and motivation of its founder. Letters by John Lovejoy Elliott to his mother describe his first years in Chelsea, and his early successes and frustrations in establishing Hudson Guild. The series also contains correspondence and biographical information on other members of the Elliott family.

Additional archival materials related to the Dan Carpenter Papers are included in the Hudson Guild Records, as well as in the archival collections of the Ethical Culture Society.

  • Series I: Alphabetical File

    Includes correspondence and memos, community organization files, diplomas, news clippings, papers and speeches. Folders arranged alphabetically. Documents arranged chronologically. Folder 24 contains confidential group work case notes and is closed until 2030.

  • Series II: Correspondence

    Incoming and outgoing letters, memos and attachments. Arranged chronologically. Folders 1 and 2 contain confidential information and are closed until 2015.

  • Series III: Papers and Speeches

    Includes drafts and final copies of articles written by Dan carpenter and published by such organizations as the Ethical Culture Society and National Federation of Settlements; also notes, drafts and texts of speeches delivered before Hudson Guild staff meetings, Chelsea community organizations, and professional gatherings. Folders and documents arranged chronologically.

  • Series IV: Photographs

  • Series V: Scrapbooks and Calendars

    Scrapbooks contain birthday cards, black and white photoprints, award information, and "This Is Your Life" timeline. Desk and pocket calendars note meetings and appointments. Arranged chronologically.

  • Series VI: Elliott Family Papers

    Addresses and writings, correspondence, genealogical information, legal documents, news clippings, publications, and obituaries of Dr. John Lovejoy Elliott and other members of the Elliott family. Folders arranged alphabetically. Documents arranged chronologically.

  • Name and Subject Index

General Note

Finding aid prepared by James Moske of LaGuardia and Wagner Archives of LaGuardia Community College, the City University of New York for Special Collections, Milbank Memorial Library, Teachers College, Columbia University

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

Series I Folder 24 is closed until 2030.

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.

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); Dan Carpenetr papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material

Additional archival materials related to the Dan Carpenter Papers are included in the Hudson Guild Records, as well as in the archival collections of the Ethical Culture Society.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Records processed, James Moske of LaGuardia and Wagner Archives December 1996.

Revision Description

2009-03-05 File created.

2008-11-14 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor

2009-05-22 xml document instance edited by Carrie Hintz

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:"
Announcements Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Annual reports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Articles of incorporation Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brochures Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Budgets Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bylaws (administrative records) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Calendars Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Certificates Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Financial records Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Fliers (printed matter) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Memorandums Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Reports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
minutes (administrative records) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Administrative records Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Carpenter, Dan Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Child welfare workers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Community centers -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Community-based social services Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hudson Guild (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Human services -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Legal documents Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Public welfare -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social advocacy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social service -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social settlements -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social workers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Vocational education Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Herschel Daniel "Dan" Carpenter was born March 28, 1908 in the farm community of Attica, Ohio. He attended local public schools and then matriculated at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1931. Later that year he moved to New York City and took ajob as a boys' group counselor at Hudson Guild, a West Side settlement house established in 1895 by Ethical Culture Society leader John Lovejoy Elliott. Elliott viewed Hudson Guild's mission as an effort "to get the people of the district themselves to be the social workers and the regenerators of their own neighborhood.. The purpose of the Guild is to bring about active co-operation between different individuals and different classes for a single aim -- that aim being an attempt to learn how to live in a city." Towards this end the settlement sponsored such activities as social clubs, health clinics, summer camping, arts education and vocational training. Hudson Guild promoted the democratic participation of its members in running the settlement through a "Clubs Council" that determined many institutional policies and programs, and also provided a forum for public debate of political issues. Carpenter worked enthusiastically at Hudson Guild and developed a strong professional relationship with Elliott. This bond was strengthened when in 1932 he married Elliott's niece, Marjorie Elliott.

In London, a similar increase in social problems led reformers in 1884 to establish the first settlement house, Toynbee Hall. The settlement model, originally distinguished by a commitment on the part of its college-educated volunteers to "settle" in working class communities in order to confront their problems first-hand and to contribute to the moral uplift of their neighbors, was quickly imported to the United States. In 1886 Stanton Coit, a devotee of Felix Adler's Ethical Culture movement and early observer of the experiment at Toynbee Hall, founded The Neighborhood Guild (later renamed University Settlement) on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Over the next several decades settlement houses were established in cities across the country, staffed largely by recent college graduates, many of them young women eager to take an active role in public life. American settlements sponsored such programs as kindergartens, day care, social clubs, health clinics, visiting nurses, summer camps, arts education and vocational training. They served as observation posts for sociologists, journalists, and other researchers of urban conditions. Many settlements provided forums for public debate of political issues, and galvanized popular opinion in support of progressive social legislation.

Carpenter complemented his work experience with graduate and professional training, receiving a certificate from the National Recreation School in 1932, and a Master of Arts degree from the New York University School of Education the following year. His responsibilities at Hudson Guild increased steadily as the hard times of the 1930s depression continued. He took primary responsibility for the settlement's participation in the Chelsea Recreation Committee, a community organization which pressured city government for the construction and upkeep of parks, playgrounds and athletic facilities. Carpenter closely observed Elliott's success in organizing the Chelsea Association for Planning and Action, which galvanized community support for public housing construction on the West Side. Work on what would eventually be called "Elliott Houses" was begun just prior to Elliott's death in 1943. Soon after, Dan Carpenter was appointed the second Head Worker (the title was later changed to Executive Director) of Hudson Guild. Under his leadership during the war years Hudson Guild hosted USO activities, sponsored social programs for Coast Guard men encamped in the open field created by the temporarily halted public housing construction, cultivated food in "Victory Gardens" at its New Jersey camp facility, and initiated a veterans consultation service to help returning servicemen adjust to life at home. With the opening of Elliott Houses in 1947, Hudson Guild sharpened its focus to meet the needs of a changing Chelsea population. New programs for senior citizens were created, as well as a child care center and a mental health clinic. During the 1950s New York's Puerto Rican population increased dramatically, and many thousands of these new immigrants settled on the west side. Carpenter traveled to Puerto Rico to learn about the culture of the settlement's new neighbors. He added Spanish speakers to the settlement staff, and instituted English language instruction.

One frustrating episode in this period was a collaboration with the controversial, pugnacious community organizer Saul Alinsky. The Chelsea Citizen Participation Project, co-sponsored by Hudson Guild and Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation, succeeded in convening a "Chelsea Community Council" comprised of representatives from dozens of local organizations eager to participate in the planning of additional urban renewal and social service activities for the neighborhood. Unfortunately, disagreements arose among members regarding the Council's internal organization and policies, and an acrimonious public debate culminated in the dissolution of the Council in 1960. Despite this setback, Hudson Guild continued to work for low and middle-income housing in Chelsea, supporting the International Ladies Garment Workers Union-sponsored Penn Station South Cooperatives, and collaborating with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in the development of community centers at its Fulton Houses and Chelsea Houses projects. This collaboration led to the replacement of the old Hudson Guild building with a facility in the bottom floors of NYCHA's Chelsea Houses Extension. Opened in 1968, the new Hudson Guild included a gymnasium, theater, and art gallery.

Dan Carpenter retired from Hudson Guild in 1973. He later served as President and Executive of PACT (Provide Addict Care Today), a coalition of labor and business organizations advocating job placement for recovered drug addicts. He continued to live in Chelsea into the 1990s.