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Robert Abercrombie Lovett papers

Call Number: MS 1617

Scope and Contents

The Robert Abercrombie Lovett Papers consist of correspondence, speeches, photographs, and memorabilia, most of which date from the periods in Robert Lovett's adult life when he was not serving in government. The papers document Lovett's personal friendships and highlight Lovett's contributions to various philanthropic organizations as well as the many honors and distinctions accorded to him for his long years of service. Some reflection on this service will also be found in Lovett's later correspondence with scholars and in his speeches and writings.

Christopher L. Brown, David S. Brown, Jr., Robert L. Brown, Evelyn deHaven Lovett, Robert A. Lovett II, Virginia Lovett, and Adele Q. Brown Nelken donated their grandfather's and father-in-law's papers to the Yale University Library in 1991 and 1993. The papers are now arranged in two series: I. Correspondence and Topical Files and II. Writings. Correspondence and Topical Files is the larger of the two series.

The files in Correspondence and Topical Files contain both material by and about an individual or subject, including letters, clippings, speeches, photographs, financial records, and printed material. The series also includes information on the genealogies of the Abercrombie and Lovett families. There are several folders for Robert Scott Lovett containing tributes and messages of condolence on his death. Arranged in the files under Robert A. Lovett are citations, medals, medical records, and volumes of congratulatory messages. These volumes may contain letters from individuals the remainder of whose correspondence is filed under their personal name. Similar congratulatory correspondence can be found under the name of the award or event such as Presidential Medal of Freedom or Sylvanus Thayer Award.

Lovett's most frequent correspondents include close business, military, and government associates. The correspondence is between old friends and marks anniversaries, other celebrations, honors, and awards. There are often discussions of family members, vacations, and finances.

The series includes files for every president from Harry S. Truman through Lyndon B. Johnson. The series also includes exchanges with personal friends such as the poet and playwright Archibald MacLeish, the author John O'Hara, and Swedish banker Marcus Wallenburg. Prominent among Lovett's correspondents are public servants from the Roosevelt and Truman administrations such as Dean Acheson, George C. Marshall, John J. McCloy, and Anna M. Rosenberg. There are a few letters from James V. Forrestal in the Forrestal file which also includes memorials to and writings about him. More material on Forrestal is in the files of Herbert Elliston and Marx Leva. Individuals who worked for and admired George C. Marshall, such as C. J. George, Marshall S. Carter, and Forrest Pogue are among Lovett's frequent correspondents. There are also voluminous files, including minutes of meetings, on the George C. Marshall Research Foundation for which Lovett served as chairman of the board.

Lovett's continuing interest in military affairs, particularly military aviation, is evident in correspondence and in speeches and congressional testimony found in Series II, Writings. Correspondents include former members of the Yale Unit such as Trubee Davison and Artemus Gates, as well as former Brown Brothers partner and senator Prescott Bush, Laurus Norstad, the retired Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and columnist Ira Eaker.

Some reflection by Lovett on his years of public service can be found in correspondence with writers and scholars like: Sydney Bailey and John Osborne on the Middle East; Calvin Christman on Ferdinand Eberstadt and the War Production Board; Daryl Hudson on the Vandenburg Resolution and the North Atlantic Treaty; and Jan H. Kalicki on the Sino-American crises in the 1950s. Other reminiscences can be found in Series II in oral history transcripts.

Since Lovett did not remove any papers he generated in his positions at the United States War Department, State Department, and Defense Department, these files are presumably now in the custody of the National Archives. Similarly, since Lovett did not retain his working files as a partner in Brown Brothers, Harriman, & Co., these files should remain with the company's records.


  • 1919-1986


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Some Levitt family correspondence is restricted until 2016. Some correspondence with Marshall N. Carter, Marshall S. Carter, and Preot Carter will remain restricted until declassified by the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Robert Abercrombie Lovett has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other 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 Christopher L. Brown, David S. Brown, Jr., Robert L. Brown, Evelyn deHaven Lovett, Robert A. Lovett II, Virginia Lovett, and Adele Q. Brown Nelken, 1991 and 1993.


Arranged in two series: I. Correspondence and topical files, 1919-1986. II. Writings, 1936-1981.


14 Linear Feet (35 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 Robert Lovett's personal correspondence, speeches, photographs, and memorabilia, which date from the periods of his adult life when he was not serving in government. The papers document Lovett's personal friendships with business, military, and government associates and pioneer aviators from the Yale Naval Air Unit. The correspondence includes many exchanges with scholars doing historical research on World War II and the Truman administration. The papers highlight Lovett's contributions to philanthropic organizations as well as the many honors accorded to him. The papers do not include files kept by Lovett as a partner of Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Abercrombie Lovett was born in Huntsville, Texas, on September 14, 1895, the son of Robert Scott and Lavinia Chilton Abercrombie Lovett. The senior Lovett served as general counsel to E. H. Harriman's Union Pacific Railroad. When he became a director of the railroad in 1909, he moved his family to Locust Valley, New York.

Lovett graduated from the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in 1914. He entered Yale University with the class of 1918 and was a junior when America entered World War I. Leaving school to join the war effort, he became an ensign and helped organize the first Yale Unit of Naval Aircraft. After receiving pilot's training, he flew many sorties over Germany and Belgium. He was discharged from the navy in 1919 as a lieutenant commander. On April 19, 1919, he married his Long Island neighbor, Adele Quarterly Brown, daughter of James Brown, the senior partner of the investment firm of Brown Brothers.

After completing his bachelor's degree at Yale, Lovett studied law and business at Harvard University. In 1921, he returned to New York, where he worked briefly as a clerk in a New York bank. Lovett then was given a position at Brown Brothers. He became a firm partner in 1926 and in the same year was elected a director of the Union Pacific Railroad and several of its subsidiaries. Not long after he effected the merger of the Harriman investment interests into what became the banking concern of Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co.

Through work in the firm's branch offices in London and on the Continent, Lovett became aware of the threat posed to world peace by Hitler's rise to power. On his own initiative, Lovett toured aircraft plants in the United States and prepared a report emphasizing the need for rapid development of military aviation. The report came to the attention of Robert Patterson, then under secretary of the army, who, in 1940, named Lovett his special assistant.

Henry L. Stimson, the secretary of war, asked Lovett to assume the position of assistant secretary of war for air in April, 1941. In this post Lovett directed the growth of United States air power and gained for the air corps the semi-autonomous status which it held within the army throughout World War II. In September, 1945, Lovett received the Distinguished Service Medal, and in December, resigned from government service to resume his work with Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co.

Lovett returned to Washington in 1947 when he was appointed under secretary of state by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, a post which he held until Marshall left the State Department in January, 1949. During the Korean War, Lovett once again held positions in the Truman administration, from 1950-1951 as deputy secretary of defense and from 1951-1953 as secretary of defense.

Resuming his business interests in New York in 1953, Lovett retained his concern for military affairs. He was appointed to several presidential commissions and testified before Congress. He also served on the boards of several foundations and charitable organizations. Lovett retired from the board of Union Pacific in 1976 and died at his home in Locust Valley, New York, on May 7, 1986.

Guide to the Robert Abercrombie Lovett Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan, Patricia Gomez, and Randall Law
February 1993
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

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