Robert Price papers
Language of Materials
Papers of attorney, businessman, and political strategist Robert Price (1932–2016), who successfully managed John V. Lindsay's election to U.S. Congress as the representative from New York's 17th district (1958), and subsequent reelections to the same seat (1960, 1962, 1964), as well as Lindsay's first run for mayor of New York City (1965). Under Lindsay, Price served as the youngest deputy mayor in New York history. Price also engineered the sole victory of Nelson A. Rockefeller's otherwise unsuccessful bids for the presidency—the Republican nomination of the 1964 Oregon primary. The collection contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, posters, flyers, ephemera, lapel pins and buttons, and other paraphernalia from each of the campaigns above, and includes material documenting Price's personal and business interests.
Biographical / Historical
Robert Price was born in the Bronx, New York, on August 27, 1932, to Eastern European Jewish immigrants Solomon and Frances (Berger) Price. Robert graduated from Bronx High School of Science in 1950 and later attended New York University (A.B., 1953). After serving as corporal in the U.S. Army (1953–1955), Price married Margery Beth Weiner on December 18, 1955. They would have two children: Eileen Marcia Price (later Farbman), born 1960, and Steven Price, born 1962.
After marrying, Price worked as an assistant in the legal department of R. H. Macy & Company while attending Columbia University's School of Law. He took an LL.B. from Columbia in 1958 and passed the New York State bar that same year. He worked briefly (1958–1959) as a law clerk to Judge Archie Owen Dawson of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, and as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (1959–1960), before forming a law partnership with Theodore R. Kupferman in 1960.
By then Price had entered the world of political strategy. In 1958 John V. Lindsay, who sought election to Congress as the representative from New York's 17th district (on Manhattan's Upper East Side, so-called the "Silk Stocking District" for its affluence), recruited Price from the New York Young Republican Club to manage his campaign. Lindsay won the election and three subsequent reelections to the same seat in 1960, 1962, and 1964.
In 1964 Lindsay "lent" Robert Price to New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to manage the latter's bid for the Republican nomination for president. Through Price's skill, Rockefeller, who had been running fourth in the Oregon polls, won that state's May 15 primary, eliminating Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. from the race and suddenly becoming a threat to rival Barry Goldwater in the upcoming California primary. Rockefeller wished to retain Price for the duration, but Lindsay needed him for his own reelection to Congress in November 1964, and so refused Price's services to Rockefeller.
John Lindsay decided to run for Mayor of New York City in 1965, and once again tapped Robert Price to get him elected. This he did, and Lindsay became the City's 103rd mayor on January 1, 1966. In reward Lindsay appointed Price his deputy, making him, at thirty-three, the youngest deputy mayor in New York history. Although his tenure was brief—from January to November 1966—Price negotiated an end to the 13-day transit strike that met the Lindsay administration on its first day. Price also killed Robert Moses's ill-met proposal to build an 8-lane highway, the Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX) through Little Italy and Soho to connect the Holland Tunnel with the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges.
Robert Price effectively left politics in 1966, beginning work that year as Executive Vice President, then Director, of the Dreyfus Corporation, and Investment Officer for the Dreyfus Fund. Between 1969 and 1972 he was President then Chairman of the Board of Price Capital Corporation (later called Highland Capital Corporation). Next he served as Vice President and General Partner of Lazard Frères & Co., Investment Bankers, from 1972 through 1978. The following year he founded Price Communications Corporation, which, by 1985, owned and operated three television and eleven radio stations, and had purchased New York Law Journal. In 1992, with his son, Steven, Price founded PriCellular Corp., a rural cellular carrier. The company went public in 1994 and in 1998 was acquired by American Cellular Corp. for $1.4 billion.
Robert Price died in Manhattan on April 15, 2016, aged eighty-three. His son, the philanthropist Steven Price, is executive chairman of Townsquare Media, an American radio network and media company, and a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team.
See Sam Roberts, "Robert Price, Strategist for Lindsay and Rockefeller, Dies at 83," New York Times, April 22, 2016.
The collection is organized in five series:
Series I. John V. Lindsay political campaigns, 1958–1971
Series II. Nelson A. Rockefeller political campaigns, 1961–1974
Series III. Other political activities & material, 1930s–2012
Series IV. Price professional, 1958–1990
Series V. Price personal, 1953–2003
Scope and Contents
The strength of the Robert Price Papers lies in the correspondence, newspaper clippings, posters, flyers, ephemera, lapel pins and buttons, and other paraphernalia from each of the political campaigns Price managed for John V. Lindsay: his initial run for Congress, as Representative from New York's 17th district in 1958, and reelections to the same seat in 1960, 1962, and 1964; and Lindsay's run for Mayor of New York City in 1965. (Price had effectively left politics for the business sphere by the time of Lindsay's bid for reelection in 1969, so he did not manage that campaign.) See Series I.
In 1964 Price engineered the sole victory of Nelson A. Rockefeller's otherwise unsuccessful bids for the presidency—the Republican nomination of the 1964 Oregon primary. The collection includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, flyers, ephemera, and other paraphernalia centered on Rockefeller's Oregon win, as well as his later service to Richard M. Nixon during Nixon's campaign for reelection in 1972. See Series II.
Robert Price's brief time as deputy mayor of New York City—from January to November, 1966—is represented by biographical press releases, some correspondence, and a few speeches. See Series III, which includes a wealth of campaign samples—e.g., ephemera, buttons, lapel pins, nail files, bumper stickers, and other paraphernalia—produced by public candidates other than John V. Lindsay or Nelson A. Rockefeller, from New York and elsewhere (see Box 4, Folders 2–17, and Box 8c). Of note is the program (with accompanying admission ticket) for the Democratic Party's 1962 fundraising gala at Madison Square Garden, where Marilyn Monroe infamously sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy (see Box 4, Folder 13). Also in Series III is a portable, mechanical Shoup Voting Machine Corporation sample of the type of lever voting machine common at New York polling places before their replacement by electronic scanners (see Box 8d).
The collection provides spotty coverage of Robert Price's evolving professional career outside the political sphere, from his days as a law clerk serving Judge Archie Owen Dawson of United States District Court, Southern District of New York, to his law partnership with Theodore R. Kupferman, through his days with the Dreyfus Fund (investment firm) and Lazard Frères & Co. (investment bankers), and his own Price Capital Corporation and Price Communications Corporation. See Series IV.
Personal material--e.g., correspondence, tax and financial records, résumés, and newspaper compositions--of Robert Price and his wife, Margery, their daughter Eileen (Price) Farbman, and son, Steven Price, rounds out the collection. See Series V.
Open to qualified researchers.
This collection is owned by the New-York Historical Society. The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder. Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 20 exposures of stable, unbound material per day.
The collection should be cited as: "Robert Price Papers, MS 3130, New-York Historical Society."
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Steven Price, June 2018.
About this Guide
Archivist Joseph Ditta arranged and described this collection in April-May 2019.