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Samuel Herbert Fisher papers

Call Number: MS 213

Scope and Contents

The Samuel Herbert Fisher Papers consist of correspondence and background material which document Samuel Fisher's service to Yale University and his historical research and writing. Though the papers detail Fisher's involvement as a member of the Yale graduate committee on university development and his plan for the reorganization of the university (1919), the bulk of the papers focus on Fisher's role as a member of the Yale University Corporation (1920-1935). The papers record the corporation decisions during this period which significantly changed Yale's administration, physical plant, student housing, and course of study. They highlight Yale's search for a new president (1920-1921), James Rowland Angell's presidency, the major building programs made possible by the gifts of John Sterling and Edward S. Harkness, and the development of the residential college system. The papers do not include any of Fisher's legal files, and thus his role as junior counsel to Yale University and as personal counsel to Mrs. Stephen V. Harkness and Edward S. Harkness is not documented. Historical research files testify to Fisher's interests in the history of Litchfield, Connecticut

Robert L. Fisher and Mrs. Theodore Babbitt donated a portion of their father's papers to the Yale University Library in 1961. George W. Pierson received several files of papers from Samuel Fisher in the 1940s while working on his history of Yale. (See folder 116). These files subsequently became part of the Fisher Papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Department. The papers are arranged in two series.

Series I is the larger of the two and comprises seventy-five percent of the papers.

Series I consists of topical files which are arranged in alphabetical order. Almost all files include correspondence but may also contain related minutes, reports, charts, and printed material. There are files for all the committees on which Fisher served and for many administrative offices and Yale organizations. There are also voluminous files concerning the Yale class of 1889, its donations to the university, and its reunions. Correspondence with a particular individual may be in several different files.

University reorganization is the subject of the files for the Alumni Committee of Yale University (folders 3-24). Correspondence between Fisher and fellow committee members and also with University Secretary Anson Phelps Stokes concerns the existing division of functions between Yale College and Sheffield Scientific School. The committee's report, issued in February, 1919, proposed changes in the structure of the university, a common freshman year and the addition to the administration of a provost and a dean of students. Correspondence following the appearance of the report contains reactions from alumni, faculty, and university officers such as Charles Seymour and Lewis S. Welch. Correspondence in the fall of 1919 also includes discussions of candidates to fill the new administrative positions.

Building Committee files (folders 26-45) concern Fisher's interests in changes to the physical plant of the university from 1920 to 1922 and from 1933 to 1935. The files include general discussions of architectural plans for the university's development as well as correspondence with architects, contractors, and suppliers concerning specific buildings such as Sterling Chemistry Laboratory and Sterling Hall of Medicine. Folders 144-145 concern buildings for the School of Forestry.

In the files under the heading "Corporation" is correspondence with individual corporation members and administrative officers as well as with alumni concerned with matters under the corporation's consideration. Many letters relate to the selection of new corporation members. Also in these files are discussions of student drunkenness, a presidential residence, academic appointments, improvements in graduate education, and undergraduate housing needs. The correspondence with Lewis Welch in these files is particularly substantive. Additional files relating to Yale's plan for residential colleges are found under the subjects "Educational Policy" and "Yale University: general." Similar discussions are found in the files for "President," "Provost," "Secretary," and "Treasurer."

The papers include two boxes of material relating to the work of a committee to receive suggestions of candidates for the Yale presidency, which Fisher chaired beginning in April, 1920. Incoming letters containing suggestions are voluminous, and many letters also contain reflections on the Hadley presidency and the qualities sought in the new president. The most frequent names mentioned are Anson Phelps Stokes, Charles Seymour, and Henry Sloane Coffin. The files also include Fisher's correspondence with fellow committeemen such as John V. Farwell and reports and lists submitted to the corporation.

The files for the Yale Alumni University Fund Association and the Yale College Class of 1889 are also voluminous, and both document Fisher's efforts as a fund-raiser and organizer for the Class of 1889. Many letters relate to reunion arrangements, and frequent correspondents include Lewis Welch, Gifford Pinchot, and George Parmly Day. The papers also contain many files relating to theater and the Yale Department of Drama. Some of these relate to the controversy surrounding the resignation of Monty Woolley as a coach of the Yale Dramatic Association.

Series II includes correspondence, notes, and drafts relating to Fisher's research on Thomas Collier, an eighteenth century printer in Litchfield, Connecticut, and his publication ofPublications of Thomas Collier, Printerin the early 1930s. The files contain notes on the locations of almanacs printed by Collier, a manuscript of a biography of him, Fisher's correspondence with the Yale Printing Service, and letters of acknowledgement and congratulation.


  • 1916-1954


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Robert L. Fisher and Mrs. Theodore Babbitt, 1961, and George W. Pierson, n.d.


Arranged in two series: I. Yale University Files, 1916-1954. II. Thomas Collier Files, 1930-1948.


13 Linear Feet (26 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence and background material which document Samuel Fisher's service to Yale University and his research on the eighteenth century Litchfield, Connecticut printer Thomas Collier. The papers detail Fisher's involvement as a member of the Yale graduate committee on university development and his plan for reorganization of the university (1919). The papers also highlight Fisher's role in Yale's search for a new president (1920-1921) and his influence in the development of the residential college system.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Herbert Fisher was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 26, 1867. He received B.A. (1889) and LL.B. (1892) degrees from Yale University. Fisher practiced law in New Haven, Connecticut and New York City and served as junior counsel to Yale University and personal counsel to Mrs. Stephen V. Harkness and Edward S. Harkness. He was a fellow of the Yale Corporation (1920-1935) and chaired the Connecticut tercentenary commission (1934-1935). Fisher died in 1957.

Guide to the Samuel Herbert Fisher Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan and William E. Brown, Jr.
March 1987
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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