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Leon Fraser Papers, 1897-1945 [Bulk Dates: 1924-1943]

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Leon Fraser Papers, 1897-1945 [Bulk Dates: 1924-1943]
Physical description:28 linear feet (7 document boxes, 21 record containers, 2 flat boxes)
Language(s): Material is in English.


Material is arranged into three series:


Scope and Content

The Leon Fraser Papers consists of business correspondence, materials related to his professional activities, and small selection of personal papers. The correspondence is organized chronologically, with the bulk being from the years 1938-1943. Additionally, selected correspondence is arranged alphabetically. Notable correspondees include Charles A. Beard, Nicholas Murray Butler, Fiorello Laguardia, and John and Nelson A. Rockefeller amongst others. The series on professional activities outlines the many organizations that Fraser worked with over the course of his career. The material consists of correspondence, annual reports, by-laws, printed materials, and financial and legal documents. Lastly, the series of personal papers contains materials related to Fraser's personal finances and properties he owned. There is correspondence with his foster mother, Susan D. Bonar. There are clippings and photographs related to the lauching of the steamship freighter "Leon Fraser" in 1942. Included here is a copy of Fraser's suicide note addressed to his son from 1945.

Series I: Correspondence, 1918-1944

Series I contains business correspondence. It is arranged chronologically by year and divided by letter of last name. The bulk is from 1938-1943. Additionally, selected correspondents have been listed alphabetically. Notable correspondents include: Charles A. Beard, Nicholas Murray Butler, Fiorello LaGuardia, and John and Nelson A. Rockefeller amongst others.

Series II: Professional Activities, 1918-1945

Series II consists of materials related to the professional activities of Leon Fraser from 1918-1943. Contained within this series are annual reports, by-laws, correspondence, legal and financial documents, and other printed material. Documented here is Fraser's work with the Bank for International Settlements, the United States Steel Corporation, Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, the American National Red Cross, and Columbia University. Please note that box 27 contains material related to material found in earlier boxes, researchers should consult both instances of an organization.

Series III: Personal Papers, 1897-1945

Series III contains the personal papers of Leon Fraser. Included here is financial material related to various properties owned by Fraser as well as investments. There is a sizable amount of correspondence between Fraser and his foster mother Susan D. Bonar. Some speeches and writings of Fraser's can be found in this series as well. Additionally, there are clippings, photographs, and a scrapbook documenting the launching of the steamship freighter "Leon Fraser" in 1942. Lastly, there is a copy of the suicide note that Fraser left for his son in 1945.

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); Leon Fraser Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding aid online and in repository folder level control

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 2012-2013 Manuel A. Bautista Gonzalez PhD candidate Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Finding Aid written 06/2013 Adrien Hilton

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion July 9, 2013

Finding aid written in English.

    2013-07-09 xml document created by Adrien Hilton

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:
American National Red Cross.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Bank for International Settlements.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Banks and banking.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Fraser, Leon, 1889-1945.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States Steel Corporation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Leon Fraser was a PhD graduate of Columbia University (he later added a law degree to his resume) who worked as a reporter for the New York World, was admitted to the New York bar (even though he did not yet hold a law degree), and returned to Columbia to teach public law at his alma mater. Fraser's support of pacifist causes in the years before America's entry into World War I caused Columbia to drop him as an instructor, but when America declared war on Germany, Fraser enlisted in the Army as a private. He rose to the rank of major by the end of the war and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts; after the war he held a variety of administrative positions in both government and private industry, and he served as a director, trustee, chairman, and treasurer for a number of businesses and charitable organizations. Fraser and another American, Gates McGarrah, served as the first two presidents of BIS, the Bank for International Settlements. (Fraser is another anachronism in this piece: the BIS was not founded until 1930 and Fraser did not become its president until 1935, so he could not accurately have been described as "president of the Bank for International Settlements" in 1923.) In 1945, while the 55-year-old Fraser was president of First National Bank of New York, he committed suicide at his summer home in North Granville, NY. He left behind a suicide note stating that he had been "depressed mentally and [had] suffered from melancholia that gets steadily worse." Obituaries noted that he had been in "low spirits" since the death of his wife two years earlier.