The Frank L. Polk Papers consist of twenty-two linear feet of correspondence, diaries, memoranda, telephone logs, memorabilia, and miscellaneous printed and mimeographed-material. They are arranged in five series:
- I. Correspondence
- II. Diaries
- III. Subject Files
- IV. Chronological Files
- V. Politics and Memorabilia
Most of the papers in Series I and all the papers in Series II-IV are related to Polk's service as Counselor and Under Secretary in the State Department. Series V spans most of his life but relates mainly to his diplomatic service and to his political and civic activities in New York. There are only a few items related to his practice of law.
The Polk Papers were reprocessed in 1978 because the original arrangement and description by Charles Seymour and his staff had proved unsatisfactory to many researchers. The principal change was to separate most of the correspondence from the miscellaneous papers that are now arranged by subject (roughly as Seymour left them) in Series III. "Partial Index to Series I" is a listing by subject of correspondents whose letters have been removed from Seymour's subject arrangement.
Series I, Correspondence, is related mainly to Polk's service in the State Department. The major correspondents include Gordon Auchincloss, Ray Stannard Baker, Henry Bruère, Frederic R. Coudert, Sir Richard Crawford, John W. Davis, Henry P. Fletcher, David R. Francis, Norman Hapgood, Edward M. House, Jean Jusserand, Robert Lansing, Irwin B. Laughlin, Clarence H. Mackay, Walter Hines Page, William Phillips, Sir Cecil Arthur Spring Rice, Frederic N. Watriss, and Woodrow Wilson. Most of the letters are arranged alphabetically by correspondent, but there are also letterbooks containing copies of outgoing letters in chronological order from 1915 to 1917.
Notwithstanding the modification of Charles Seymour's arrangement of the papers, there are still some letters filed by subject in Series III. The series description for Series I and the introduction to the "Partial Index to Series I" explain how to find correspondence by writer and by subject.
There is also a small amount of correspondence in Series V, consisting mainly of personal letters, congratulations on Polk's various appointments, and exchanges with historians about events in World War I diplomacy.
Series II, Diaries, spans from 1915 to 1920. It consists partly of memoranda of conversations with representatives of foreign governments. Copies of individual memoranda were circulated within the State Department, and some of these copies are mixed with other papers in Series III.
Series III, Subject Files, consists of memoranda, correspondence, and miscellaneous papers spanning mainly from 1915 to 1920. Polk himself created very few of these items; the series consists rather of papers submitted to him and papers circulated among State Department staff. There are a great many carbon and mimeographed copies, some of which bear handwritten notations.
Series IV, Chronological Files, consists of transcripts of telephone conversations and several sequences of State Department mimeographed materials. The transcripts resulted from government wiretapping between 1915 and 1917.
Series V, Politics and Memorabilia, consists of certificates, clippings, photographs, routine correspondence, mementoes, and miscellaneous papers related to Polk's education, military and diplomatic service, and political and civic activities.