Rand School of Social Science Records
Language of Materials
The Rand School of Social Science (1906-1956), a school for workers and socialists which was associated with the Socialist Party, and after 1936 with the Social Democratic Federation, offered a variety of courses on contemporary topics, traditional subjects and socialist theory taught by intellectual leaders of the socialist movement, distinguished academicians and trade union leaders. In 1917 the Rand School purchased a six story building at 7 East 15th Street, that had an auditorium, a library, classrooms, and office space which was utilized by several socialist organizations. In a climate of anti-radical feeling after World War I, the Rand School came under attack by the Lusk Committee, created to investigate radical activities in New York. After a series of court cases the Rand School retained control of its operations, and programs and enrollment increased. Shortly after World War II, courses and enrollment decreased sharply. In January 1956 the Board of Directors of the American Socialist Society closed the Rand School and transferred the title of the school and its building to the People's Educational Camp Society, the governing body of Camp Tamiment, a successful workers resort which had long provided the majority of the School's budget. The collection contains correspondence, mostly of the chief executives of the school; minutes of the school's Educational Council; student term papers; internal memoranda on reorganization plans for the school; material relating to the school's publications, including Institute of Social Science Bulletin (1951-1955), including correspondence and manuscripts from contributors; course records; reports, monographs on topical issues, and transcripts of lectures and debates; the records of the school's Labor Research Department, which published American Labor Year Book from 1916-1932; records of American Labor Archive and Research Institute, founded in 1941 to preserve documents of the European and American labor movement; and financial and bookstore records.
The Rand School of Social Science was undoubtedly one of the most important schools for workers and socialists in modern American history. Established in 1906 with funds from the will of Mrs. Carrie Rand and with the able leadership of George D. Herron, the Rand School provided working men and women with an opportunity to continue their education. Its governing body was the American Socialist Society (ASS), incorporated in 1901, whose purposes were "to...study and discuss social and political science and to expound the theories of modern socialism by lectures and publication." Board members of the ASS included Charles Beard, Morris Hillquit, Harry Laidler, Algernon Lee, John Spargo, and secretary W.J. Ghent. Over the next 50 years, a variety of Rand School courses on many contemporary topics, traditional subjects, and socialist theory were taught by intellectual leaders of the socialist movement, distinguished academicians, and trade union leaders.
During its early years from 1906 to 1922, the Rand School was supported by funds from the Socialist Party, the People's Educational Camp Society (Camp Tamiment), trade unions, the Workmen's Circle, the Jewish Forward Association, and the Rand School Bookstore. Most of the courses offered during this period pertained to socialist theory, economics, economic history, American history, literature, and other traditional subjects. Among the members of the Rand School faculty at this time were such luminaries as Scott Nearing, Charles Beard, James Harvey Robinson, Algernon Lee, and Bertha Howell Mailly.
By 1917 the Rand School had outgrown its original offices and classrooms in New York City's Greenwich Village and, in the fall of that year, purchased a six story building at 7 East 15th Street that had been vacated by the Young Women's Christian Association. This new building, named the "People's House" after a socialist center in Brussels, Belgium, had an auditorium, a library, spacious classrooms, and office space which was utilized by several socialist organizations as well as the Rand School staff. This building served as the headquarters of the Rand School until it closed in 1956.
The growth of the Rand School and the increased strength of the socialist movement contributed to the climate of anti-radical hysteria that prevailed in New York and other parts of the country following World War I. In 1919, the New York State Assembly appointed a special Committee investigate radical activities in the state, including the Rand School. Under the chairmanship of State Senator Clayton R. Lusk, this committee engaged in a campaign of harassment against the Rand School and its administrative board, the American Socialist Society. During the course of three years, the Lusk Committee conducted a raid on the Rand School offices, confiscated Rand School property, and attempted to close the school by court ordered injunction. Through a series of court cases in 1920 and 1922 (United States of America vs. American Socialist Society and Scott Nearing; The People of the State of New York vs. American Socialist Society), the Rand School was able to successfully counteract the Lusk Committee and retain control over its operations.
Following the debacle with the Lusk Committee, the Rand School entered into a period of expanded course offerings, special educational programs, and increased student enrollment. One of the most prevalent areas of expansion in the Rand School from the early 1920s until the mid-1940s was course offerings. During this period, the Rand School curriculum shifted from its parochial attachment to socialist instruction to a wide range of courses in the areas of child development, trade union policies, education, home economics, music, art, Russian studies, juvenile delinquency, race relations, peace education, propaganda and public opinion, psychology, public speaking, social work, supervision, and youth leadership. Some of the more notable instructors for these courses were Charles Beard, Franz Boas, Marc Connolly, Stephen Vincent Benet, Bertrand Russell, and August Claessens.
In addition to these expanded course offerings, the Rand School also provided many special educational programs. One of the most popular programs implemented by the Rand School was the correspondence courses. First organized prior to World War I, the correspondence course program was refined and expanded during the 1920s. Most of the course offerings pertained to socialist theory, but there were also courses in trade unionism, economics, social problems, and government. Another well attended special program was the Trade Union Institute. This program was first offered in the mid 1920s as the Workers' Training Course and later revised at the Trade Union Institute during the 1936-1937 academic year. The Institute offered courses in union organizing, contemporary labor problems, labor management relations, labor history, parliamentary procedure, and public speaking. During the 1940s and early 1950s, the Trade Union Institute was one of the most vital components of the Rand School curriculum.
When the Rand School was re-organized in the late 1930s, special education programs were offered for the first time in select professional areas of study. Some of these programs included review courses for the certified public accountant's examination, teacher in service credit courses and coaching courses, and courses for social workers and employment counselors. During this same period, the Rand School administration also established the following programs: (1) a Rand High School division which was designed to supplement the regular studies of high school students (1935-1936); (2) a political training course for members of the Social Democratic Federation and the American Labor Party (1937-1939); (3) the Newark School of Social Science which featured socialist, trade union, and contemporary issue courses and lectures for workers living in New Jersey (1937-1940); and (4) the Rand School in Northern New Jersey which superseded the Newark School and offered similar courses (1947-1949).
Besides its special education programs, the Rand School also sponsored numerous lectures, forums, and conferences on a variety of socialist and labor subjects. Some of the most interesting events of this nature were the 1931 forum on current events with Charles Edward Russell and Norman Thomas among the quest speakers; the 1932 United Youth Conference Against War; the 1941 symposium on America's role in World War II with Alfred Baker Lewis, August Claessens, and Gerhart Seger among the guest speakers; the 1941 conference on war aims and the postwar world with Alexander Kerensky, Matthew Woll, and Bertrand Russell among the guest speakers; the 1943 panel discussion on the validity of socialism with Sidney Hook, Max Eastman, and John Chamberlain among the guest speakers; and the 1944 lecture series on contemporary "prophets" with Max Ascoli, Mark Starr, Raphael Abramovitch, and Sidney Hook among the guest lecturers. As a means of helping to raise funds for the perpetually debt ridden institution, the Rand School staff also sponsored annual benefits at the metropolitan Opera House and produced occasional plays through the Rand Playhouse in the 1930s and the Labor Theatre in the early 1950s.
During its most active period, the Rand School operated a book store which contained many traditional and contemporary works on socialism, American and European labor, politics, sociology, and economics. The Rand School also maintained several research operations, including the Labor Research Department, the American Labor Archive and Research Institute, and the Institute of Social Studies. These research and information services published such works as The American Labor Year Book (1916-1932), The American Labor Who's Who (1925), the American Labor Press Directory (1925), and the Index to Labor Articles (1926-1953).
Another important adjunct of the activities of the Rand School was the library. Initially begun with gifts from students, teachers, alumni, and many socialist and labor supporters, the Meyer London Memorial Library (later known as the Tamiment Library), named after the famous New York City congressman, became well known for its manuscript collections, books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers pertaining to socialism, communism, and organized labor.
Shortly after World War II, the Rand School suffered a sharp decrease in both enrollment and course offerings. Recurring financial problems, the decline of American socialism in general, and the haunting specter of McCarthyism contributed significantly to this predicament. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Rand School offered only a few courses in addition to its relatively successful labor management relations program. Finally, in January 1956, the Board of Directors of the American Socialist Society closed the Rand School and transferred the title of the "People's House" to the People's Educational Camp Society (PECS), the governing body of Camp Tamiment, which had provided the bulk of the funding for the Rand School for many years. PECS reopened the library in 1958 as the Tamiment Institute Library, under the auspices of the Tamiment Institute, the educational arm of Camp Tamiment. In 1963, Camp Tamiment, now a successful resort, lost its tax-exempt status as an educational institution, and the Library was donated to New York University as part of the settlement between PECS and the Internal Revenue Service.
Folders are generally arranged chronologically within each series except pamphlets and publications which are arranged alphabetically.
The files are grouped into nine series, three of which are arranged into sub-series:
Series I: Administrative Records, 1901-1956
Subseries IA: Rand School Boards/Minutes, 1907-1956
Subseries IB: American Socialist Society, 1901-1956
Series II: General Correspondence, 1913-1957
Series III: Course Records, 1917-1955
Subseries IIIA: Course Records and Correspondence, 1925-1953
Subseries IIIB: Miscellaneous Records, 1917-1955
Subseries IIIC: Transcripts of Lectures and Debates, 1920-1945
Subseries IIID: Manuscripts, 1931-1950
Series IV: Financial Records, 1912-1955
Series V: Rand School Bookstore Records, 1922-1956
Series VI: Publications, 1906-1955
Subseries VIA: Correspondence and Reports, 1912-1953
Subseries VIB: Pamphlets and Books, 1914-1954
Subseries VIC: The American Labor Year Book, 1916-1932
Subseries VID: Index to Labor Articles, 1926- 1953
Subseries VIE: Serials, 1918-1955
Subseries VIF: Course Bulletins and Announcements, 1906-1955
Subseries VIG: Correspondence Course Lesson Books, 1913-1936
Subseries VIH: Ephemera, 1911-1955
Subseries VII: Press Releases, 1926-1955
Series VII: Addendum, 1910-1955
Series VIII: Fragile Originals, undated
Series IX: Embossing Stamp, undated
Scope and Contents
This collection includes the administrative records of the Rand School of Social Science, including the papers of the Rand School Board of Directors and the American Socialist Society which was the governing body of the Rand School. Correspondence files constitute the largest quantity of records in the Rand School collection. Most of the items in this series pertain to the period, 1930-1949, although there is correspondence covering the entire history of the Rand School. In additional to course records from the Rand School, there are also transcripts of lectures and debates, correspondence and manuscripts.
The financial records of the Rand School consist of correspondence, audits and treasurer's reports, bequests and wills, concert benefit papers, lists of contributors to the sustaining fund, and the one Third of a Century Fund papers. Materials from the Rand School Bookstore include reports and plans of the bookstore, financial records, job applications, printed catalogues of books, advertising flyers and brochures, and correspondence. Publications include reports, pamphlets, books, The American Labor Year Book, Index to Labor Articles, serials, course bulletins, announcements, correspondence course lesson books, ephemera, and press releases.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by the Rand School of Social Science, was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.
Identification of item, date; Rand School of Social Science Records; TAM 007; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by the People's Education Campy Society, 1963. The accession number associated with this gift is 1963.005.
Several items found in the repository were incorporated into the collection in 2013 and 2014. The accession numbers associated with these materials are 2013.039 and 2014.046
The Rand School of Social Science Records were transferred to New York University in 1963 by the People's Educational Camp Society (later renamed the Tamiment Institute), as part of a larger transfer of records of the School and of organizations associated with the founding and maintenance of it (including the American Socialist Society, The Society of the Commonwealth Center, and the People's Educational Camp Society) as well as the contents of the School's library, the Meyer London Memorial Library. The materials from this transfer were then separated into several different collections, one of which is the Rand School of Social Science Records.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Due to the fragile nature of the original materials, researchers must use the microfilmed version; microfilm call number is Film R-7124, Reels 29-55. Researchers must use microfilm for all boxes except 59-64 and 66-69.
The Rand School of Social Science Records, 1901-1956, are organized into six series. Each series has been assigned an alphabetical frame designation, while the subject files (which may contain more than one folder) have been assigned a numerical frame designation within their series. Each series and its respective subject files are cited in the complete reel list that follows this description of the arrangement of the collection. In a representative frame number (XIII:B:4), the letter "B" indicates series B (the 2nd series, i.e., Series II.) and number "4" indicates the 4th file within that series, and the roman numeral XIII indicates that the Rand School Records are the 13th collection within the microfilm publication Socialist Collections in the Tamiment Library, 1872-1956.
The following items were not included in the microfilm edition of the Rand School Records: in Series I, Administrative Records newspaper clippings relating to the Lusk Committee investigation; in Series III, Course Records miscellaneous student records and a file on the Social Work course of 1939 (contained mailing lists); in Series V, Rand School Bookstore Records mailing lists and a record of book orders; in Series VI, Publications Rand School Press monographs, one Rand school scrapbook, public relations correspondence, advertising layouts, and the accession books of the Meyer London Memorial Library.
Other Rand School related collections which were not filmed for legal reasons were the records of The Society of the Commonwealth Center (including the papers pertaining to the "Save the People's House" campaign in the early 1930s), Camp Tamiment (The People's Educational Camp Society), and the Tamiment Institute. Scholars interested in these collections should contact the Tamiment Library for access information.
The Tamiment Library Labor and Radicalism Photograph Collection (PHOTOS 001) contains materials separated from this collection.
Twenty-four rolled photographs were separated from this collection pending conservation treatment.
About this Guide
Decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2019 are unknown. In 2019, materials were rehoused in new acid-free folders and boxes with spacers when necessary in preparation for offsite storage.