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Irving Fisher papers

Call Number: MS 212
Description of the Papers
The Irving Fisher Papers consist of correspondence, diaries, writings, teaching files, and memorabilia documenting the professional career and personal life of Irving Fisher, a mathematician, political economist, prolific author, activist in numerous social and political causes, and inventor. The materials reflect Fisher's interests in economics, the League of Nations, monetary theory and policy, national politics, health reform, prohibition, nutrition, and other topics. Major correspondents include politicians, economists, members of the Yale community, family members, and personal friends. Included in the papers are photocopies and microfilmed copies of many of Fisher's publications. The papers form part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection.

The papers, which date from 1861 to 1976, were donated to the Yale University Library by Irving Fisher and his son Irving Norton Fisher between 1939 and 1963, with smaller additions donated by others between 1941 and 1982. The papers are arranged in five series:


II. DIARIES, 1877-1940

III. WRITINGS, 1864-1972


V. MEMORABILIA, 1873-1976

A list of correspondents is included here and here. Microfilmed Fisher materials are described at the end of this register in the guide to HM FILM 87. Additional Fisher material may be found by consulting the Yale Publications Catalog in the Manuscripts and Archives Department.

Series I, CORRESPONDENCE, is the largest series in the papers, and includes Irving Fisher's personal and professional correspondence as well as correspondence of other family members. An index to incoming and outgoing correspondence is included here and here. The index also includes references to Fisher items located in other collections in the Manuscripts and Archives Department. The series is arranged in two sections, General and Family, with both sections containing family letters.

The Familysection (Boxes 19 and 20) is composed of over 2000 pages of typed transcripts of family letters and memorabilia, compiled by Herbert Wescott Fisher, Irving Fisher's brother, after the death of their mother Ella Wescott Fisher, in 1929. There are eight volumes of these transcripts. An index to the materials begins in 1846, but the bulk of items date after 1884. Correspondents represented in these materials include George Whitfield Fisher, Ella Wescott Fisher, Irving Fisher, his wife Margaret Hazard Fisher, her parents and children, Herbert Wescott Fisher, and other Fisher and Wescott family members, as well as friends and neighbors. The materials document events in the lives of family members, particularly weddings, children, travel, family illnesses and their extensive treatments, and deaths. Herbert Wescott Fisher's health is highlighted.

Many of these typed transcripts were removed from the volumes and placed in the Generalsection by Irving Norton Fisher as he worked with the papers on various publications relating to his father. Transcripts are arranged throughout the section, which is in chronological order, and are the predominant material in boxes 1 and 2. In the first six boxes there is almost no professional correspondence relating to Yale teaching or to the study of economics. Major correspondents are Irving Fisher's high school friend William Greenleaf Eliot¹ and his wife Margaret Hazard Fisher. To these two correspondents Fisher writes detailed letters of his activities, thoughts, and feelings. From 1884 to 1888 letters to Eliot describe Yale College life, while files for 1893 and 1894 contain letters concerning wedding preparations², honeymoon travel to Europe, and studies in Berlin and Paris. These files also include Margaret Hazard Fisher's exchanges with her parents, a newly wed wife and expectant mother. Folders 21-23 concern Fisher's tuberculosis, its treatment, and cure, while letters in 1905 describe Fisher's introduction to treatments by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg at Battle Creek Sanitarium and his growing interest in diet and well-being.

Beginning with the 1907 files, letters to Margaret Hazard Fisher and Eliot document Fisher's active participation in health reform. Materials in this year concern the Committee of One Hundred on National Health of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and attempts to promote federal regulation of public health. Fisher made frequent journeys away from New Haven, and letters to his wife serve as a record of his activities during such events as a 1908 Conservation Commission meeting in Washington, D.C.; a European trip to a convention in 1911 (during which he viewed the coronation of George V), and the 1912 Republican convention where Fisher worked to have a health plank included in the party platform. This correspondence is supplemented by copies of material in the New York Public Library's MacMillan Co. records, which concern Fisher's publications, and in the Alabama Department of Archives's Oscar Underwood papers, which concern national politics.

The files contain a few exchanges with Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, while correspondence with Will Eliot shows Fisher's growing involvement in the campaign for national prohibition. Family letters during 1918 and 1919 refer to the mental breakdown of Fisher's eldest child Margaret and to various treatments, but the files include no mention of her death in November, 1919.

The 1920 files illustrate Fisher's support for the League of Nations and his active campaigning for presidential candidate James Cox, whom Fisher favored because of his pro-league stance. Letters to Margaret Hazard Fisher describe his meetings with Cox and Warren G. Harding and the campaign train on which Fisher toured the West. The files also include material on the Pro-League Independents, an organization headed by Fisher. After Cox's defeat the files continue to include exchanges with Pro-League Independents' staff members Ralph W. Wescott, Marian Scott, and Abbott Lawrence Lowell concerning the future of the organization. Letters during this period also discuss Fisher's invention, the Index Visible, the Life Extension Institute, and the Stable Money League, with which Ralph Wescott was also affiliated.

In 1924 Fisher traveled in support of the Bok peace plan and campaigned for Democratic nominee for president John W. Davis. The files contain contracts for Fisher's writings, and the many letters to Margaret Fisher continue to document Fisher's travels and speeches as well as personal investments, family finances, health, diet, and the careers of their children. Letters in 1927 refer to Fisher's European travels, his meeting with Benito Mussolini, and his interest in the Italian monetary situation. The files also include numerous photocopies of files from the Stable Money Association, including the correspondence of Norman Lombard.

Following the death of Ella Wescott Fisher and the stockmarket crash in 1929 the character of the Generalcorrespondence changes from being primarily personal to being primarily professional. In the 1930s there is much correspondence with MacMillan Co., Hans Cohrssen, Benjamin Whitaker, and Royal Meeker concerning Fisher's writings, while all of folder 101 concerns Fisher's Theory of Interest. The files contain letters from other economists and members of the general public who are interested in the state of the economy and a stable dollar. There is also correspondence with Frederic A. Delano, the president of the Stable Money Association.

By the end of 1932 the files also increase in quantity; they contain at least a folder of correspondence per month. Correspondents include Franklin D. Roosevelt and members of his administration, especially Marvin McIntyre, and files illustrate Fisher's attempts to influence economic policy as a behind-the-scenes braintruster. The correspondence with Thomas Goldsborough, and later with Jerry Voorhis, documents Fisher's involvement in drafting legislation to effect monetary policy. The files include material copied from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. From the 1930s on the files also reflect Fisher's worsening personal financial situation as the Depression persisted.

Though Fisher retired from teaching in 1935 the files document his continued involvement in lecturing, writing, and politics. In 1934 he considered running for the U.S. Senate. The files include correspondence concerning Alf Landon's candidacy, Marriner Eccles and the Federal Reserve; the organization of the Vitality League; a 1936 trip to Europe; work on a revision of How to Live; comments on Roosevelt's court-packing proposal; and analysis of the new business slump in 1937. Letters to Margaret Fisher continue to include details of travel, speeches, meetings, and family finances.

The 1940 files begin with family letters concerning the death of Margaret Fisher and arrangements for a memorial service. Correspondents on topics of personal finance and other family matters include Irving Norton Fisher and Carol Fisher Sawyer Baumann. These family letters, which continue until Irving Fisher's death in 1947, reveal the precarious nature of Fisher's finances and the tensions in his relationship with his children.

The 1942 files document Fisher's attempts to win acceptance for Dr. Max Gerson's dietary therapy for disease. Some discussions of Gerson and his methods are contained in correspondence with Edward R. Baldwin and with Fisher's children. Fisher's inventions of the Likaglobe, a representation of a spherical surface on a flat map, and his portable chair are illustrated in the 1943 and 1945 files. From 1945 on the files also contain material on Fisher's "100% Money" plan, post-war price stabilization, his statistical research with Max Sasuly and Rudolph Kyler, and the organization of the Irving Fisher Foundation.

The 1947 files begin with tributes to Fisher on his eightieth birthday in February, but the March and April files document Fisher's rapid decline following his hospitalization for cancer. Files following his death in April contain letters of condolence, tributes, and materials of Irving Norton Fisher, as biographer and executor of his father's estate (boxes 17 and 18).

Series II, DIARIES, includes both the diaries of Irving Fisher and his wife. Margaret Fisher's diaries are the more extensive, and cover events in her life from girlhood until her death, though each day's entry is fairly brief. Fisher started keeping a diary only after the death of his wife, and initially he used the diary to record his grief. Later his entries chart his health and diet regimes, his aging, and his attendance at meetings such as those of the board of the Sonotone Company, Remington Rand, and other companies in which he had financial interests.

WRITINGS, Series III, includes manuscripts for Fisher's addresses, essays, and books, as well as notebooks kept by Fisher while attending lectures in Europe in 1893-1894, a few lectures to Yale courses, an index to Fisher's publications, and a section of Collected Workscomposed of writings of others. The manuscripts included in this series compose only a small portion of Fisher's work; Irving Norton Fisher's published bibliography of his father's works lists over 2400 items. Many of the works included in this series are those noted in the published bibliography as "[unpublished Ms. in Yale Library]." Fisher's published works including books and their translations, pamphlets, articles, speeches, and newspaper columns can be located through the Yale Publications Catalog in the Manuscripts and Archives Department and on HM FILM 97.

The chronological index included in the series was created by Fisher's office staff and includes titles from 1886-1931. The Bookssection includes a manuscript for Fisher's unpublished biography My Economic Endeavorsand a massive bibliography on stabilization, while the Collected Workssection includes works by other Fisher family members, papers by Fisher's students, reading notes, and topical files on subjects of interest to Fisher. The section includes Irving Norton Fisher's uncut manuscript for the biography, My Father. A recording of a speech by Irving Fisher to IBM Corporation Pacific sales executives, given in Los Angeles on April 4, 1941, is housed in the Historical Sound Recordings Collection.

GENEALOGICAL MATERIALS, Series IV, contains a "Report of the Pedigree and Genealogy of the Fisher, King, Norton, Wescott, Bozroth, and Bittle Families," prepared by Sadiean Giddings Gaucher, along with the raw data used to compile the report. The report includes many family photographs used to accompany biographical sketches of family members. Individual analysis cards were made for approximately 115 family members on forms designed by the Eugenics Record Office. Forms record detailed information on physical and mental traits, temperament, and personal appearance.

Series V, MEMORABILIA, includes copies of programs on which Fisher appeared, certificates, awards, photographs, and other memorabilia. Folder 544 contains a guest book which is a history of the Fisher family and their house at 460 Prospect St., New Haven. The volume includes photographs from the time the house was built in 1894 until it was razed in 1970, poems, and correspondence, as well as the signatures of guests and their comments. Many of these guests were members of Fisher's Yale class (1888) who were entertained at "Cleftstone" during reunions, visiting dignitaries, and fellow academicians. Other photographs in the series (folder 546-548) include wedding, honeymoon, and reunion pictures. The series also contains correspondence and other materials collected by Hans Cohrssen and Arthur D. Gayer while preparing The Lessons of Monetary Experience, a volume of essays in honor of Irving Fisher's seventieth birthday.

Additional material related to the Fisher papers will be found in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 333.

¹The Eliot correspondence consists of Fisher's original letters to Eliot and Eliot's copies of letters to Fisher. Eliot returned his file of correspondence with Fisher to him in the 1940s.

²Fisher's courtship correspondence with his future wife was destroyed by the family.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Gift of Irving Fisher, 1939-1946; Irving Norton Fisher, 1947-1963; and others, 1941-1982; M. Cohrssen-Marbo, 1997, Alfred Page, 2001; and transfer from the Dept. of Economics, 2001.
Arranged in five series and three additions: I. Correspondence, 1861-1959. II. Diaries, 1877-1940. III. Writings, 1864-1972. IV. Genealogical Materials, 1930-1963. V. Memorabilia, 1873-1976.
Majority of material found within 1894 - 1947
20.25 Linear Feet
Related Names
Fisher, Irving, 1867-1947
Language of Materials