Skip to main content

Milton Conover papers

Call Number: MS 807

Scope and Contents

The Milton Conover Papers contain the correspondence, writings, teaching materials, clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous material of Milton Conover. The papers reflect Conover's interests and activities as a political science professor, an author, a temperance and prohibition advocate, and a 1932 candidate for United States senator on Connecticut's Independent Republican ticket. The collection consists of seven linear feet of material and dates from 1898-1936 Bulk dates for the collection are 1925-1935, thus the papers document a brief albeit important segment of Conover's life.

The collection is arranged in the following four series:

  1. I. CORRESPONDENCE 1917-1935
  2. II. TOPICAL FILES 1898-1935

SERIES I, CORRESPONDENCE, is arranged in two sections: General and Commonwealth Party. General files consist of letter to and from individuals and organizations on a wide range of topics including: personal matters, academic concerns, professional writings, temperance and prohibition activites, developments at Yale, the Independent Republican Party, and the senate campaign of 1932. The wealth of material covers the years 1925-1935, although the first two folders contain items from 1917-1924. Commonwealth Party files contain correspondence which focuses exclusively on Conover's efforts to determine the national climate for a third political party comprised of the several temperance and prohibition forces across the country. These letters date from 1933-1935. (Additional material is arranged in Series II, in topical files as originally maintained by Conover.)

Generalfiles include Conover's personal correspondence, which is generally limited to letters from three family members: Elbert (brother), Elisha (uncle) and Samuel (father) Conover. These letters reveal little about the family's committment to temperance and prohibition, although both Conover's parents and grandparents were active in the Prohibition Party and the W.C.T.U. Conover never married and only letters from Kerah Carter, Annamae Schmitt, and Prudence Veatch provide insights into his social life.

Conover corresponded with a number of college and university professors in the field of political science including: Ralph S. Boots, J. P. Comer, Thorsten Kalijarvi, George C. Robinson, Lloyd M. Short, Rhinehart J. Swenson, and James Young. Among the common topics of discussion in these letters are the structure of departmental programs, recommendations for faculty positions, and programs for professional conferences and meetings.

Another aspect of Conover's academic career was his work at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. Conover spent summers there researching and writing on topics in American government. Correspondence files for the institute for Government Research, F.W. Powell, and Gustav Weber elaborate on Conover's projects and performance. Discussion and reaction to various publications is included here. (Drafts and printed copies of these works, as well as reviews of the publications are arranged in Series IV.) Files for the American Political Science Review, American Yearbook, and the G. and C. Merriam Company contain correspondence discussing contributions to those bodies. The latter refers to a series of state histories written for Webster's dictionaries. Johns Hopkins Press and Lord Baltimore Press also corresponded with Conover regarding the sales and royalties for his publications.

Correspondence with Yale colleagues, administrators, and officials details much of Conover's daily interactions with the university community. Individual correspondents include; James Rowland Angell, Charles E. Clark, Jerome Davis, Clive Day, Fred R. Fairchild, Irving Fisher, Edgar S. Furniss, Sidney Lovett, and Clarence W. Mendell. General topics of discussion with these individuals include the administrative requirements surrounding the teaching of courses, the arrangement of lectures and examinations, and the social amenities inherent in the university setting. Routine correspondence and memos with university officers such as the registrar and the library are arranged under the heading "Yale University". (For correspondence relating to the Dodge lecture series, see Series II).

Conover's academic career did not deter him from becoming an active member in the temperance and prohibition movement during the 1930s. Conover remained steadfast in his desire to see "liquor traffic" in the United States ended permanently. Correspondence with the following individuals and organizations document his contributions: Alfred Abrahamson, American Moral Forces, Connecticut Temperance and Anti-Saloon League, Intercollegiate Prohibition Association, International Order of Good Templars, International Reform Federation, and the National Temperance Bureau.

In 1932, the Independent Republican Party carried the prohibition struggle into the political arena. Conover, as the party candidate for U. S. senate, assumed a leading role in the fight. He corresponded with a number of individuals and organizations in the course of the campaign including the Connecticut League of Women Voters, William J. Pape, and the Republican National Committee.

Letters to and from fellow candidates on the Independent Republican ticket are particularly enlightening. Letters with Albert Levitt, the gubernatorial candidate; Allen B. Lincoln, the candidate for secretary of state; and Nathan B. Stone, a party official and candidate for representative-at-large discuss the campaign and the role of the Independent Republican Party in the aftermath of the 1932 election. These letters provide a rare glimpse of Conover's political acumen as he discusses the viability of "prohibition" as a political issue.

Additional correspondents of interest in this section include: Charles A. Beard, Consumers' League of Connecticut, Dickinson College, Albert Bushnell Hart, Perfecto Laguio, and New Haven Council of Churches. Letters with Beard focus on his inability to appear as a speaker for the Dodge lectures. Correspondence with the Consumers' League, a body Conver supported as a member of the board of directors, discusses labor practices and employment conditions. Letters from Dickinson College, where Conover remained an active alumnus, concern an honorary degree awarded him in 1933. Albert Bushnell Hart, a close friend and associate, wrote careful reviews of Conover's work and commented on the 1932 campaign. Correspondence with Perfecto Laguio, a Phillipine student who received his M.A. from Yale, reveals a high degree of respect between the two individuals. In this case Conover exhibits a close personal concern and interest in the career of a friend. The New Haven Council of Churches, another organization that Conover actively supported, forwarded routine memoranda and minutes of meetings to Conover. Miscellaneous items (folder 95) are unsigned or unidentified letters.

Commonwealth Party files focus on Conover's efforts to explore coordinated, national action for prohibition under the banner of a new political party. These letters reveal the diversity of opinion among prohibition advocates as to the proper course to follow. Each individual position regarding the viability of a national Commonwealth Party was the product of the local political situation, the perception of the national political scene, and the personal preference toward the Conover concept. Conover was deeply committed to the search for a successful method of combatting the "wet" forces. He best described his feelings in a letter to Edward Blake, "Personally, I am so anxious to isolate the wets of both parties, and ambush them and consign them to an eternal prison camp that I find myself studying this manner of tactics almost perpetually."

Among the important figures who corresponded with Conover on this topic were: Edward F. Blake, Patrick H. Callahan, Edwin C. Dinwiddie, Howard L. Holmes, Clinton N. Howard, Raymond E. Mendenhall, Howard Hyde Russell, Robert P. Shuler, and William F. Varney. Arranged under a section for individuals associated with the Women's Christian Temperance Union are letters with Nellie Scott Coleman, Helen G. H. Estelle, Ida B. Wise Smith, Mary Welles, and numerous state organization editors and presidents.

Files for the National Voice also concern the acceptability of the term "Commonwealth Party" as the proper name for a new political party. As a result of information published in the National Voice Conover received numerous postcards and letters of support for his efforts. This material and Conover's letters with the National Voice are filed together. Similarly, under the heading "General" are additional folders relating to the choice of party appellation. Questionnaire responses from individuals associated with the Anti-Saloon League of American (both favorable and opposed) as well as general files for other negative and positive responses are arranged here. These answers are far more descriptive of the personal and political reasons for support or opposition than National Voicematerial.

Correspondence with Patrick H. Callahan includes hundreds of copies of the "Callahan Correspondence", a privately published newsletter sent to selected readers. These "letters" comment on the social, economic, and political topics of the day. Callahan was a prohibitionist and member of several related organizations, including the National Temperance and Prohibition Council and the Association of Catholics Favoring Prohibition.

SERIES II, TOPICAL FILES, consists of Conover's files of correspondence, clippings and material on a select group of topics. Files for the American Immigrant Institute and the Americanization Committee of New Haven document these organizations' attempts to assimilate foreign-born individuals into American society. Social and educational functions were organized to help both immigrants and native Americans deal with the complex problems facing them. Conover was instrumental in forming the American Immigrant Institute, a combination of the Americanization Committee of New Haven and the International Institute.

The American Veteran's Association material includes printed material and correspondence, advising veterans of the activities of the association as well as the status of legislation affecting their rights. Correspondence with the Civic Federation of New Haven includes discussion of municipal matters such as the proposed sewage disposal project for New Haven in 1933-1934.

"Courier" correspondence concerns the background work done by Conover for a proposed book on diplomatic couriers. Conover hoped to document the history of this branch of the service, to which he contributed during World War I. Letters here include the rememberances of Crittenden Mariott who served in Cuba from 1897-1898. Andrew Summers Rowan also supplied Conover with his official report of service in Cuba from 1897-1898. Conover copied this report and returned the original.

Other topics of interest in this series include Dodge lectures, Independent Republican Party, and U.S. Senate campaign. Dodge lecture material contains items relating to Conover's efforts in organizing the 1933 series of lectures at Yale University. The topic under consideration that year dealt with the responsibilities of citizenship. Independent Republican Party items consist of lists of delegates to the state party convention. These lists were complied according to the delegates' city of residence. U. S. senate campaign files include clippings, correspondence, and press releases from the 1932 campaign. This material is interesting for the internal information evident in correspondence as well as for the external or public information provided in clippings and press release. These files also represent the largest quantity of material for any topic in this series. In addition to a copy of Irving Fisher's speech nominating Conover to office, there are clippings files for twenty-three identifiable newspapers, twenty-one of which are from Connecticut. Correspondence includes copies of letters written by Alfred Lee, who served as press agent-secretary for the campaign, and letters written under the name Jasper Lee. These Lee letters were often published in New Haven newspapers.

SERIES III, TEACHING MATERIALS, consists of the many course outlines, syllabi, exams, and notes used by Milton Conover as a member of the faculty in Yale's political science department. Also arranged in this section are gradebooks for students from 1922-1935. The pre-1925 gradebooks are from Conover's work at New York University.

Student papers concentrate on municipal politics and include reports on specific urban centers and city bases as well as on Supreme Court decisions affecting municipalities. Another topic of student papers is the use of primary versus secondary material in classes.

SERIES IV contains published writings, unpublished manuscripts, notes, speeches, and miscellaneous files arranged in two sections, Writings and Miscellanea. Printed copies of several articles written by Conover are arranged here as are reviews of his publications. Both draft versions and a published copy of his most notable work, "Working Manual of Original Sources in American Government", are contained in Writings, Among the writings and student papers are copies of his M.A. thesis at the University of Minnesota, "The Development of Civil Pensions in the United States", and "Dry Tides", a series of essays which explore the prohibition movement in several states. These essays were sent to New Jersey newspapers in 1918 and were written while Conover attended officers training school in Alabama. "Commonwealth Notes" is a collection of research cards Conover prepared as he investigated the religious, political, and social origins of the word. Speeches contains draft copies and notes for several talks delivered in the 1930s. None of these items appear to relate to the 1932 campaign but rather deal with such topics as "The City in Civilization" and "The Opportunities for Service in Business".

Miscellanea consists of appointment books which note dinner engagements, meetings, and lectures from 1932-1934, genealogical data on the Conover family, passports, photographs, printed material from Yale and elsewhere, and clippings files on recommendations in the area of city management in New Haven, on the political career of Samuel S. Conover, and on Conover's service in World War I.

The Milton Conover Papers were given to Yale University in 1977 by Mrs. Robert T. Lentz, a niece of Milton Conover. Prior to this Harvard University held the material, as part of the Albert Bushnell Hart Papers. In processing the Hart collection Harvard separated the Conover Papers and arranged with Mrs. Lentz to transfer these items to Yale.

For material in other collections relating to Milton Conover see the Irving Fisher Papers (manuscript group number 212).


  • 1898-1936


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

Gift of Mrs. Robert T. Lentz, 1977.


7 Linear Feet (17 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, writings, teaching materials, clippings, photographs and memorabilia reflecting Conover's activities as a political science professor, an author, a temperance and prohibition advocate and a 1932 candidate for United States Senator as an Independent Republican in Connecticut.His correspondents include close family members and colleagues at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Yale University and Dickinson College, as well as political scientists on other campuses. The professional correspondence is largely concerned with administrative and technical matters connected with teaching. In his political correspondence as senatorial candidate in 1932 and through his lifelong interest in prohibition, he was in touch with Alfred Abrahamson, William J, Pape, Albert Levitt, Allen B. Lincoln, Nathan B. Stone, Charles Beard and Albert Bushnell Hart. In his attempt to found the Commonwealth Party, ca. 1933, he corresponded with Edward F. Blake, Patrick H. Callahan, Edwin C. Dinwiddie, Howard L. Holmes, Clinton N. Howard, Raymond E. Mendhall, Howard Hyde Russell, Robert P. Shuler and William R. Varney. He also corresponded with a mumber of leaders of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, among them Nellie Scott Coleman, Helen G. H. Estelle, Ida B. Wise Smith and Mary Welles.

Biographical / Historical

Milton Conover (1890-1972) was born near Swedesboro, New Jersey, on August 16, 1890, to Samuel Shull and Atlantic (Attie) Dean Moore Conover. He attended Montpelier Seminary in Vermont and was employed as a correspondent by the Boston Herald from 1908-1909. Conover then taught in the public schools of Swedesboro from 1909-1910.

Conover graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1913 and subsequently moved to Burlingame, California, where he taught at St. Mathews Episcopal School from 1913-1915. In 1916 Conover earned an M.A. from the University of Minnesota, where he studied political science. Later that year he was admitted to the Indiana bar and he studied as a fellow in the political science department at Indiana University from 1916-1917. Conover also served as a bill draftsman for the Indiana legislature in 1917.

Military service in World War I began with Conover's enlistment as a private with the Third New Jersey Infantry in 1917. He was promoted to corporal with the 104th Engineers and eventually achieved the rank of second lieutenant with the 42nd (Rainbow) Division during the Argonne drive. Conover also served as diplomatic courier to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace. This duty sent him to Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Greece. Before returning to the United States Conover was a delegate to the Founder's Convention of the American Legion in Paris in 1919.

After the war Conover resumed his academic career and accepted positions at the University of Pennsylvania (1919-1920) and New York University (1920-1924). Conover also served as a staff member (1921-1922) and associate (1922-1932) of the Institute for Government Research at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Additional activities included service as an editorial consultant for the Encyclopedia of Social Science and work on President Hoover's Commission on Social Trends. Conover also continued his own studies in the 1920s and 1930s. He did postgraduate work in politics at the University of Oxford, the University of Munich, and at the Sorbonne in Paris.

In 1924 Conover joined the political science department at Yale University as an instructor and from 1925-1930 he was an assistant professor. Conover was promoted to Associate Professor of Government in 1930, a position he held until his departure from the university in 1935. While at Yale Conover used his political expertise in a variety of ways.

Conover was an adamant believer in prohibition and in 1932 he joined with other alienated republicans to form the Independent Republican Party. The "Independents" or "Drys" were upset with the Republican Party's stand on the alcohol issue and they organized a slate of candidates for offices in Connecticut. Conover was the party's candidate for United States senator against the incumbent Republican Hiram Bingham and the Democratic nominee Augustine Lonergan. Newspaper accounts of the election reported political maneuvering by Republican Party officials and the attempt to prohibit the names of Independent candidates from appearing on election ballots became a serious campaign issue.

Conover tallied 10,621 votes, not nearly enough for victory. The total did insure the defeat of Hiram Bingham, however, as the incumbent lost to Lonergan by only 4,266 votes. The defeat of Bingham was a great solace to Conover and his supporters and they looked forward to the 1934 elections. The campaign thrust Conover into the forefront of the prohibition cause and he began to explore broader avenues of service to the prohibition movement. Conover assumed the presidency of the National Temperance and Prohibition Council (N.T.P.C.) in 1934 and investigated the feasibility of unifying temperance and prohibition forces across the nation. Tentative inquiries, often in the form of questionnaires, were made to state and national leaders in organizations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) and the American Anti-Saloon League. Conover's hope was to organize a national third party, preferably under the name he had selected as most appropriate for such an organization, the "Commonwealth Party". No unification was possible, however. The combination of the repeal of the eighteenth amendment late in 1933 and the elections of 1934 convinced Conover of this. His personal committment to prohibition did not waver, although his active participation in the movement seems to have ended in 1935.

Conover was not wanting for other interests to pursue. He served as president of the American Immigrant Institute of Connecticut from 1934-1935. This body grew out of the Americanization Committee of New Haven, which was affiliated with the National Institute of Immigrant Welfare.

The year 1935 marks a turning point in Conover's life. For reasons which are unknown. Conover left Yale in 1935, and he toured Germany, India, and Arabia from 1935-1937. From 1938-1939 Conover was a seminarian at Princeton and at Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning in Philadelphia. In 1939-1940 Conover's travels included Alaska and the Strait of Magellan. Conover continued to travel throughout 1940-1942, as he observed "Negro self-government" in Haiti (1940-1941) and French and Indian communities in Canada (1941-1942).

Conover held research positions from 1942-1944, at Catholic University (1942-1943) and at the Middle American Research Institute in New Orleans (1943-1944). After a brief term engaged in legal practice in Chicago (1944-1945), Conover served as a law adjudicator in Newark, New Jersey, from 1946-1948. In 1948 Conover accepted the duties of seminarian in law at Columbia University, a position he maintained until 1953. He also lectured in finance at Rutgers University in 1949.

Conover held faculty appointments at Seton Hall University from 1947-1972. He was named associate professor of law in 1955, professor of law in 1960, and professor emeritus in 1968. Milton Conover died on May 6, 1972, and is buried in Swedesboro, New Jersey.

Guide to the Milton Conover Papers
Under Revision
compiled by William E. Brown, Jr.
September 1982
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours