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Alfred Mitchell Bingham and the Common Sense collection

 Collection
Call Number: MS 148

Scope and Contents

The papers consist of correspondence, writings, printed material, and other papers of Alfred Bingham, social reformer, writer, founder and editor of Common Sense, lawyer, and politician. Included are his personal papers, consisting of diaries, writings and correspondence, much of the latter being with individuals and organizations prominent in the reform movements of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1960s. Also included are the business and correspondence files of Common Sense, and files relating to various organizations with which he was associated. Correspondents of note include Paul Douglas, Charles Beard, Chester Bowles, Lewis Corey, John Dewey, Theodore Dreiser, Aldous and Julian Huxley, Henry Pratt Fairchild, Charles Merriam, John Haynes Holmes, Anne Lindbergh, Alexander Meiklejohn, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bertrand Russell, and Norman Thomas.

The Alfred Bingham Papers consist of the personal papers of Alfred Mitchell Bingham and the files of Common Sense, the magazine Bingham edited from 1932 until 1946 when it was absorbed by the American Mercury.

Alfred Bingham was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1905. His great-grandfather and grandfather, Hiram Bingham I and Hiram Bingham II, were linguists and missionaries in Hawaii. Alfred Bingham's father, Hiram Bingham III, taught at Harvard, Princeton and Yale; took part in the Yale-Peruvian expeditions; served as Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut, 1922-1924; was elected Governor in 1924; and having served one day, was chosen U.S. Senator, which position he retained until 1933. (See the "Bingham Family Papers" and the "Bingham-Yale-Peruvian Expedition" collection in this library.)

Alfred Bingham was the third of seven brothers. He was educated at the Adirondack-Florida School, Groton, Yale College and Yale Law School. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1930, but did not practise law until after the second World War. In 1934 he married Sylvia Doughty Knox. Between 1930 and 1932 Alfred Bingham travelled extensively in the Near East, India, the Far East, the Soviet Union and Europe. As a correspondent for the Hartford Times and other New England papers he interviewed Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, Mussolini and other prominent figures. His experiences during these years, especially his visit to Russia where the first Five Year Plan was underway helped to shape his political views. Bingham believed that some form of social planning or "production for use" should replace the capitalist "production for profit" system, although he thought that Marxist theories did not take into account many factors present in modern society, in particular the middle classes.

In 1932, Bingham and Selden Rodman launched Common Sense, a monthly journal of progressive opinion and comment. Bingham and Rodman believed that they were following in the footsteps of Thomas Paine and took the title of his famous pamphlet for the name of their magazine. Their original platform called for a return to the ideals of 1776, and stated that "a system based on competition for private profit can no longer serve the general welfare."

In 1934 Bingham was arrested and jailed in Jersey City for picketing during a civil rights demonstration. He was later released on appeal. Between 1932 and 1936 Bingham devoted considerable time and energy to third party movements. In 1933 he became executive secretary of the Farmer Labor Political Federation, established by the League for Independent Political Action's "United Conference for Progressive Political Action". Bingham was also executive secretary for the American Commonwealth Political Federation, which suceeded the Farmer Labor Political Federation in 1935. These organizations, associated with the LaFollette Progressives in Wisconsin and the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, had intended to run candidates in the 1936 elections, but many sections of the movement, fearing a Republican victory, withdrew their opposition to Roosevelt. After 1936, Bingham himself supported the New Deal. In fact he eventually became skeptical of the possibility of organizing a national liberal movement, and in 1941 he ran and was elected as a Democrat to the Connecticut State Senate, where he became chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee (1941-1942). In 1944 Bingham entered the army as a Military Government Officer and served as a labor specialist, mainly in Germany. After the war Common Sense ceased publication and Bingham began to practise law. He also served as Workmen's Compensation Commissioner from 1949 to 1951 during the administration of Chester Bowles, then Governor of Connecticut. In addition Bingham served on many boards and committees, including the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, 1940-1947.

Alfred Bingham's published books include: Challenge to the New Deal, a symposium co-edited with Selden Rodman (1934), Insurgent America; the Revolt of the Middle Classes (1935), Man's Estate; Adventures in Economic Discovery, which is partly autobiographical (1939), The United States of Europe (1940), The Technique of Democracy (1942) and The Practice of Idealism (1944).

The Alfred Bingham papers are divided into seven series, which fall into two main groups. Series I - V consist of the personal correspondence and papers of Alfred Bingham while Series VI and VII are the files of Common Sense. The seven series are: Correspondence, Subject Files, Writings, Newspapers, Special Files, Common Sense Correspondence Files, and Common Sense Special Files.

The bulk of the material in Correspondence and Subject Files is arranged under subject headings which, in most cases, are the names of movements or organizations to which Bingham belonged, or in which he was interested. Alfred Bingham Correspondence contains both letters received by Bingham, his own retained file copies, and a small quantity of correspondence among other persons, most of which was probably passed on to Bingham for his information. Bingham corresponded with many of the politicians, liberals, and intellectuals of his day, and often wrote or received letters in his capacity as an official or member of various reform organizations. Correspondents of note include, among others: Charles Beard, Chester Bowles, Lewis Corey, John Dewey, Paul Douglas, Theodore Dreiser, Henry Pratt Fairchild, John Haynes Holmes, Anne Lindbergh, Norman Thomas and Oswald Garrison Villard. A small portion of correspondence is of a purely personal nature, but Bingham knew many of his correspondents in both official and personal capacities. Some letters are routine and pertain to the day-to-day administration of the journal, but many letters also discuss civil rights, the third party movement, and politics in general. Of particular interest is the extensive correspondence (1933-1943) with Thomas Amlie, Progressive Congressman from Wisconsin and chairman of both the Farmer Labor Political Federation and the American Commonwealth Political Federation. There is also considerable correspondence (1935-1936) with Nathan Fine, Director of the National Office of the American Common-wealth Political Federation, who worked closely with Amlie and Bingham. There is also correspondence pertaining to the case of Jerome Davis, professor in the Yale Divinity School, whose contract was terminated allegedly because of his economic and social views, and correspondence concerning the Rust Cotton Picker Company, in which Bingham was a shareholder.

The Subject Files contain such material as circular letters, minutes of meetings, press releases and reports relating to the many organizations, publications and subjects in which Alfred Bingham was interested. There is considerable material relating to the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Commonwealth Political Federation and the Farmer Labor Political Federation. Also of interest is the material relating to co-operatives, various peace movements and organizations devoted to "technocracy", including the People's League for Abundance.

The collection also contains addresses and articles by Alfred Bingham and other writers including Jerome Davis and Upton Sinclair; copies of news-papers with a progressive political orientation, many of which are first issues, and miscellaneous materials, such as copies of proposed legislative bills, lists of names, newspaper clippings and notes.

The correspondence files of Common Sense consist of letters received by the magazine and the retained file copies of replies written by various staff members, including Alfred Bingham, Sidney Hertzberg and Selden Rodman, all editors, Richard Rovere, managing editor, and Katrina McCormick, publisher. A large part of the correspondence concerns the acceptance or rejection of articles, or comments on editorials and the general content of the magazine. Many prominent politicians and intellectuals, however, also contributed to and corresponded with the editors of the magazine, including Pearl S. Buck, Stuart Chase, Lawrence Dennis, Jerome Frank, Aldous Huxley, Julian Huxley, Charles Merriam, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bertrand Russell, Upton Sinclair, Stephen Spender and Wendell Wilkie. There is also a small section of the personal correspondence of Sidney Hertzberg, and Robert G. Spivack, assistant editor of Common Sense.

The Special Files of Common Sense contain correspondence and other material related to the operation of the magazine, such as its finances, advertising, distribution and general organization. There is also material from scrapbooks, mainly newspaper clippings referring to Common Sense or containing reprints of Common Sense articles. Of particular interest is 'Beyond Defense', a section of correspondence and writings related to a series of articles about post-war planning published in Common Sense and intended for future publication in book form. Among the contributors are: A.A. Berle, Count R.N. Coudenhove-Kalergi, Charles W. Eliot, Thomas H. Eliot, Henry Pratt Fairchild, Herbert Harris, Hans Heymann, Eliot Janeway, Harold Loeb., Rexford Guy Tugwell, Jerry Voorhis and Barbara Wooton.

A full set of Common Sense is available in the general collection of the Sterling Memorial Library.

* * * * *

Addition Description

The May 1979, June 1979, and July 1979 additions to the Alfred Mitchell Bingham and the Common Sense Collection comprise Addition 1. The papers augment the first accession through the documentation of Bingham's personal life and correspondence, political career, monograph writings, and volunteer activities. The addition also adds other writings, professional papers, and photographs to the main accession. Although the papers range from 1905 to 1979, the bulk of the materials runs from the mid 1920s to the early 1970s. Correspondence with family and close friends and diaries, including a detailed travel journal he kept during a 1930-1932 world tour, provide documentation of Bingham's private and personal affairs. Bingham's brief career as a Connecticut state senator from 1941 to 1943 is also documented in these papers. The addition includes multiple files which reflect Bingham's professional and volunteer involvement with national, state, and regional progressive groups and organizations devoted to legal aid and lawyer referral, democracy in Germany and the Soviet Union, region and city planning, the peace movement, and public welfare, among others. A small but substantive set of files concerning the journal Common Sense also constitutes a part of the addition. Finally, there are many of Bingham's writings, including drafts for several of his books and articles, his poetry and literary prose, and his student essays.

Dates

  • 1905-1979

Creator

Language

English

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to Yale University for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection. 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 Alfred Bingham in 1952 and 1979.

Arrangement

Arranged in eight series and one addition: I. Correspondence. II. Subject Files. III. Writings. IV. Newspapers. V. Special Files. VI. Common Sense Correspondence Files. VII. Common Sense Special Files. VIII. Scrapbook.

Extent

30 Linear Feet

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.0148

Overview

The papers consist of correspondence, writings, printed material, and other papers of Alfred Bingham, social reformer, writer, founder and editor of Common Sense, lawyer, and politician. Included are his personal papers, consisting of diaries, writings and correspondence, much of the latter being with individuals and organizations prominent in the reform movements of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1960s. Also included are the business and correspondence files of Common Sense, and files relating to various organizations with which he was associated. Correspondents of note include Paul Douglas, Charles Beard, Chester Bowles, Lewis Corey, John Dewey, Theodore Dreiser, Aldous and Julian Huxley, Henry Pratt Fairchild, Charles Merriam, John Haynes Holmes, Anne Lindbergh, Alexander Meiklejohn, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bertrand Russell, and Norman Thomas.

Biographical / Historical

Alfred Bingham was born in 1905, the third son of Hiram Bingham III and Alfreda Mitchell Bingham. He graduated from Yale College in 1927 and Yale Law School in 1930. After obtaining his law degree, he embarked on a two year trip around the world, visiting several countries and meeting and interviewing many international figures for American newspapers. Upon his return, he began the progressive journal Common Sense with Selden Rodman, which the two of them owned and operated until it ceased circulation in 1945. In the 1930s, Bingham was also involved in a variety of progressive organizations and movements, including the League for Independent Political Action. In 1940, Bingham was elected on the Democratic ticket to the Connecticut State Senate in which he served one two year term. From 1944 to 1946, Bingham served in the United States Army in Germany. After World War II ended, he settled in Southeastern Connecticut where he practiced law and became involved in many local, state, and national organizations which worked for social reform in a variety of areas. Bingham is the author of many articles and books on subjects including political theory, economics, democracy in Germany and the Soviet Union, and the Bingham family in Connecticut.
Title
Guide to the Alfred Mitchell Bingham and the Common Sense Collection
Author
compiled by Staff of Manuscripts and Archives
Date
March 1998
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
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