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Max Lerner papers

Call Number: MS 322

Scope and Contents

The papers of Max Lerner in the Yale University Library are divided into four series and six additions: I. Correspondence; II. Speeches and Writing; and III. Photographs, Press Clippings, and Memorabilia. IV. Books in the Max Lerner Papers.

Series I, CORRESPONDENCE, has been divided into two sections. The first section contains Lerner's letters to and from important political, literary, and academic figures, and the publishers of his books. The collections begins in 1935 and continues until 1969. Harold J. Laski (approximately 120 letters) and Felix Frankfurter (approximately 350 letters) are probably the most important correspondents. Other major correspondents are Hugo L. Black (47 letters), Howard K. Beale (16 letters), Chester Bowles (21 letters), James M. Burns (21 letters), Hiram Haydn (75 letters), Bruce Bliven (100 letters), Eleanor Roosevelt (10 letters), Adlai Stevenson (8 letters), Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (50 letters), and James Wechsler (35 letters). The letters deal entirely with Lerner's public life and career; no family or personal correspondence is in this collection.

The second section of correspondence contains letters from less prominent persons and from the general public. It is arranged in chronological order and runs from 1935 until 1969. Of particular interest are the letters from readers in response to Lerner's columns in the New York Post, especially in the early 1950s. Lerner wrote several columns on the activities of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and a lengthy series on the Kinsey Reports and related subjects. The series produced the greatest reader response of any of Lerner's columns.

Series II, SPEECHES AND WRITINGS, the largest series, has been divided into four sections. The first contains Lerner's newspaper columns. A few are from the New YorkStar, but the columns appearing in the New York Post from 1949 until 1969 are almost complete, and these columns provide a useful guide to the evolution of Lerner's thought over the twenty year period. Background notes and rough drafts are included with many of the columns.

The second section of this series contains some of Lerner's printed magazine articles and the background notes for them. This collection is far from complete, and the notes are in an extremely dilapidated state. Many of Lerner's articles, however, appeared in The New Republic in the 1940s and early 1950s; so interested persons should consult the indices of the magazine for those years.

The third section contains some of Lerner's speeches and the background notes for others. Again the notes are in extremely poor condition. In the 1940s and early 1950s when the widespread use of tape recorders madetranscriptionmuch easer, many of Lerner's public addresses were transcribed and printed. This section also contains some lecture notes for the courses that Lerner taught at Sarah Lawrence College in the 1930s.

The fourth section contains the notes, drafts, and proofs of Lerner's published books. Included in this section are the course outlines and syllabi from Brandeis University which formed the basis for America as a Civilization. Also in this section are the notes, drafts, and fragments of the books which Lerner did not complete or publish.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, PRESS CLIPPINGS, AND MEMORABLILA, contains photographs, mostly unidentified, press clippings, book reviews, printed programs, and other memorabilia. These items have not been arranged in any particular order. The last box contains 47 tape recordings of radio and television programs in which Lerner participated in the 1950s and 1960s. (Transferred to Historical Sound Recordings)

Series IV, BOOKS IN THE MAX LERNER PAPERS, contains books authored or edited by Max Lerner.


  • 1927-1998


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Max Lerner 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 Max Lerner, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1970, and 1981; gift of Richard Cummings, 1996; gift of Stephen Lerner, 1997 and 2004; gift of Robert Schmuhl, 2000, and 2010; purchase from Ardwright Chamberlain, 1999.


Arranged in four series and six accessions: I. Correspondence, 1935-1969. II. Speeches and Writings, 1927, 1932-1969. III. Photographs, Press Clippings and Memorabilia, 1955-1969. IV. Books in the Max Lerner Papers.


102.79 Linear Feet (185 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 correspondence, speeches, writings, and other papers, (including research and teaching materials, photographs, memorabilia, newspaper and periodical clippings, books, and radio and television tapes) of Max Lerner, an American educator, author, lecturer, historian, and political scientist. The papers focus on Lerner's public life and career with very little material on his personal or family life. The papers document Lerner's close association with Justice Felix Frankfurter and Harold J. Laski, his controversial writings on homosexuality, his work with the Democratic Party during Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaigns, his work on behalf of Jewish causes and Zionism, and his activities during the "red scare" of the 1950s.

Biographical / Historical

Max Lerner was born in Minsk, Russia, in 1902 and came to the United States in 1907. His family lived first in New York City and then in New Haven, Connecticut, where he attended high school. Lerner received his B.A. degree from Yale University in 1923 and attended Yale Law School for one year. He received his M.A. degree from Washington University in 1925 and his Ph.D. from the Robert Brookings Graduate School of Economics and Government in 1927. He worked as assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences and became managing editor. From 1932 until 1935 he taught political science at Sarah Lawrence College; he also taught at the Wellesley Summer Institute and the Harvard Summer School. From 1936 until 1938 he was editor of The Nation. In 1938 Lerner became professor of political science at Williams College, remaining there until 1943.

Throughout his career Lerner has been an active writer, commentator, and lecturer. From 1943 until 1948 he was editorial director of the newspaper PM and in 1948 and 1949 he was a columnist for its successor the New York Star. In 1949 Lerner became a regular columnist for the New York Post; his column appeared three times weekly for more than twenty years. Active in the founding of Brandeis University, Lerner became professor of American Civilization there in 1949 and remained there until his retirement. His well-known book, America as a Civilization, in large part grew out of his Brandeis course.

Lerner wrote many magazine articles and in the 1950s and 1960s spoke frequently before educational associations, college and university groups, religious and civic organizations, and on television and radio programs. He is the author of It is Later Than You Think (1938 rev. ed 1943), Ideas are Weapons (1939), Ideas for the Ice Age (1941), The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes (1943), Public Journal (1945), The Portable Veblen (1948), Actions and Passions (1949), America as a Civilization (1957), The Unfinished Country (1959), The Essential Works of John Stuart Mill (1961), The Age of Overkill (1962), Education and a Radical Humanism (1962), and Tocqueville and American Civilization(1969).

Lerner married Anita Marburg in 1928, and they had three daughters: Constance, Pamela (dec.), and Joanna. They were divorced in 1940, and in 1941 he married Edna Albers; they had three sons: Michael, Stephen, and Adam. Max Lerner died mid 1992.

Guide to the Max Lerner Papers
Under Revision
compiled by staff of Manuscripts and Archives
May 2001
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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