Alfred Mitchell Bingham and the Common Sense collection
Scope and Contents
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.
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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.
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
30 Linear Feet
Biographical / Historical
- Allen, Devere, 1891-1955
- American Civil Liberties Union
- American Commonwealth Federation
- Amlie, Thomas R., 1897-1973
- Arnold, Thurman Wesley, 1891-1969
- Beard, Charles A. (Charles Austin), 1874-1948
- Bingham, Alfred M. (Alfred Mitchell), 1905-1998
- Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986
- Buck, Pearl S. (Pearl Sydenstricker), 1892-1973
- Chase, Stuart, 1888-1985
- Childs, Marquis W. (Marquis William), 1903-1990
- Civil rights
- Common Sense
- Corey, Lewis
- Davis, Jerome, 1891-1979
- Dennis, Lawrence, 1893-1977
- Dewey, John, 1859-1952
- Douglas, Paul H. (Paul Howard), 1892-1976
- Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945
- Eliot, Charles William, 1834-1926
- Eliot, Thomas H. (Thomas Hopkinson), 1907-1991
- Ezekiel, Mordecai, 1899-1974
- Fairchild, Henry Pratt, 1880-1956
- Farm Labor Political Federation
- Fine, Nathan, 1893-
- Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957
- Frank, Waldo David, 1889-1967
- Hansen, Alvin H. (Alvin Harvey), 1887-1975
- Harris, Herbert
- Hertzberg, Sidney, 1910-1984
- Hicks, Granville, 1901-1982
- Holmes, John Haynes, 1879-1964
- Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963
- Huxley, Julian, 1887-1975
- Institute for Applied Social Analysis
- Janeway, Eliot, 1913-1993
- Koestler, Arthur, 1905-1983
- Laidler, Harry W. (Harry Wellington), 1884-1970
- League for Independent Political Action
- Lehman, Herbert H. (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963
- Lindbergh, Anne Morrow, 1906-2001
- Loeb, Harold
- Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
- Meiklejohn, Alexander, 1872-1964
- Merriam, Charles Edward, 1874-1953
- Mumford, Lewis, 1895-1990
- Neuberger, Richard L. (Richard Lewis), 1912-1960
- People's League for Abundance
- Political parties
- Rodman, Selden, 1909-2002
- Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
- Rovere, Richard H. (Richard Halworth), 1915-1979
- Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970
- Seymour, Charles, 1885-1963
- Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968
- Social problems
- Spender, Stephen, 1909-1995
- Spivack, Robert Gerald, 1915-
- Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968
- Tugwell, Rexford G. (Rexford Guy), 1891-1979
- United States -- History -- 1933-1945
- United States -- Politics and government
- Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949
- Voorhis, Jerry, 1901-1984
- Willkie, Wendell L. (Wendell Lewis), 1892-1944
- Wootton, Barbara, 1897-1988
- Working class
- World War, 1939-1945
- Guide to the Alfred Mitchell Bingham and the Common Sense Collection
- compiled by Staff of Manuscripts and Archives
- March 1998
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.