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James Graham Phelps Stokes papers

Call Number: MS 1587

Scope and Contents

The James Graham Phelps Stokes Papers consist primarily of incoming letters addressed to James Graham Phelps Stokes and to his wife Rose Harriet Pastor Stokes between the years of 1903 and 1910. Very few outgoing responses are included in these papers. While obviously not a complete record of the period, the papers help document Stokes's social reform activities and his increasing involvement in the Socialist Party, as well as the early years of his marriage and the popularity of both husband and wife as speakers and writers. The papers augment collections of James Graham Phelps Stokes Papers at Columbia University and of Rose Pastor Stokes Papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Department and in the Tamiment Library.

The papers, which were purchased from Charles Apfelbaum in 1990, are arranged in two series: I. JAMES GRAHAM PHELPS STOKES FILES, 1889-1910 and II. ROSE PASTOR STOKES FILES, 1904-1910.
Both series include correspondence, as well as small quantities of bills and receipts, writings, and memorabilia. Letters addressed to both husband and wife are arranged in the files of James Graham Phelps Stokes, as are all letters from members of the Stokes family.

Series I, JAMES GRAHAM PHELPS STOKES FILES, is the larger of the two series, with correspondence and general files comprising the bulk of the series. Correspondents include personal friends, family members, and colleagues active in social reform work and the Socialist Party. In addition to incoming letters, the files also may include records of committees on which Stokes served, brochures and other printed material concerning charitable and political organizations, program announcements, and clippings. These files include numerous invitations to speak with subsequent details concerning arrangements.

Among the larger files are those for the National Conference of Charities and Corrections and the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor. For the former there are records kept by Stokes as treasurer and for the latter there are materials relating to the finances of Hartley House and monthly statistical reports concerning the work of the association's Department of Relief. Other letters concerning Stokes's interest in the settlement house movement will be found in the files for various settlement houses. Housing conditions are the subject of Robert W. De Forest's letters, while the eight hour working day is discussed in correspondence with Commissioner Sherman of the New York State Department of Labor. A smaller number of letters relating to Stokes's business and the Nevada Company is included in the file for James McCulloch.

While Stokes was active in politics as a candidate supporting William Randolph Hearst, there is little in these files on the subject. The files for the New York American and the New York Journal are relevant, while letters from William Earl Dodge Stokes comment on his nephew's political decisions, including his membership in the Socialist Party.

Series II, ROSE PASTOR STOKES FILES, is similar in content to that for her husband, though smaller in quantity. The bulk of this material concerns speaking engagements and writings. There are few exchanges with personal friends; there does not appear to be any correspondence with members of the Pastor family, though there are a number of unidentified letters.


  • 1889-1910




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

The papers were purchased from Charles Apfelbaum, 1990.


Arranged in two series: I. James Graham Phelps Stokes Files, 1889-1910. II. Rose Pastor Stokes Files, 1904-1910.


2.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers consist primarily of correspondence of James Graham Phelps Stokes and Rose Harriet Pastor Stokes between 1903 and 1910. Correspondents include personal friends, family members, and colleagues active in social reform work and the Socialist Party. Invitations to speaking engagements and arrangements for public appearances are the subjects of many of these letters.

Biographical / Historical

James Graham Phelps Stokes was born in New York City on March 18, 1872. He was the son of Anson Phelps and Helen Louise (Phelps) Stokes. Family members included leaders in New York society, who had derived their fortune from the Phelps-Dodge Company and subsequent railroad and real estate holdings. The family had a long history of interest in religious and philanthropic activities and had been particularly active in the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, and the American Tract Society.

Stokes was educated at the Berkeley School in New York City and entered Yale's Sheffield Scientific School as a member of the class of 1892. While at Yale he was director of the Cooperative Society and a member of the executive board of the YMCA. After graduation he spent a year traveling and then entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia with the class of 1896. In medicine he hoped to combine his religious and scientific interest to become a medical missionary. While a medical student he served as an ambulance surgeon at Roosevelt Hospital, which covered Hell's Kitchen, and from this experience he came to be interested in the environmental influences on disease. Stokes perceived that the roots of the conditions in Hell's Kitchen were intimately related to the great disparities of wealth in American society.

Upon graduation he had to forego his desire to enter the missionary field to replace his ailing father in the family business. Eventually he served as president of the Nevada Company and the Nevada Central Railroad and, after 1927, as a member of the board of directors of the Phelps-Dodge Company. Stokes combined his entry into business with a year of study of political science at Columbia. But, in the years after 1897, settlement house work became the focus of his life. He served on the board of directors of the University Settlement and immersed himself in the study of life on the Lower East Side.

After serving in the Spanish-American War, Stokes returned to reform work. He served on innumerable boards, including those of the Outdoor Recreational League of New York, the Prison Association of New York (he eventually became a state inspector of prisons and a delegate to the International Prison Congress of 1905), the League of Political Education, the Citizens' Union, the New York State Conference of Charities and Correction, the New York Child Labor Committee, and Tuskeegee Institute. He also was a founder and chairman of the board of trustees (1897-1917) of Hartley House, a settlement house on West 46th Street.

After 1902 he lived at the University Settlement. It was here that he met Rose Harriet Pastor, a former cigar worker and militant reporter for the Jewish Daily News, who would become his wife in the much publicized marriage of the "Millionaire and the Factory Girl." At this time Stokes was evolving a collectivist philosophy which he called "Omnilism," one which looked "primarily to the Well-being of the Whole which Others and Self are but parts" and called for dedication to the advancement of the whole. This philosophy and his activist wife led him to politics and socialism.

In 1904 Stokes was a presidential elector on the Populist ticket, and in 1905, running on the Municipal Ownership League ticket headed by William Randolph Hearst, he was nearly elected president of the Board of Alderman of New York City. He joined the Socialist Party in 1906 and was a founder of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, serving as its president from 1907 to 1917. In 1907 he renounced the concept of philanthropy in favor of the collective ownership of capital for the public welfare, and in 1908 he was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party. In the same year he ran for the New York State Senate on the Socialist ticket. He also was one of the participants in the 1909 meeting on the status of the Negro, which led to the calling of the National Negro Congress and the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of colored People (NAACP). In 1912 he ran for mayor of Stamford, Connecticut, on the Socialist ticket, and in 1916 he helped edit The Socialism of Today.

The question of American intervention in World War I split the Socialist Party. Stokes promoted the war effort as a founding member of the American Alliance for Labor and Democracy. His wife opposed the war and moved towards communism. Their ideological split led to a divorce in 1925. In the years after the war, Stokes became progressively more conservative and increasingly centered his attention on veterans and on cultural and philanthropic activities. In 1926 he married Lettice Lee Sands. He devoted his later years to the study of religions and published two books on Christianity and the religions of the East. Stokes died in New York City on April 8, 1960.

Extracted from: Biographical Dictionary of Social Welfare in America, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press), 1986.
Guide to the James Graham Phelps Stokes Papers
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan and Katherine M. Lewis
February 1991
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)