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Brand Blanshard papers

Call Number: MS 1488

Scope and Contents

The Brand Blanshard Papers include correspondence, writings, teaching files, diaries, photographs, and other personal papers which document the personal lives and professional careers of Brand Blanshard and his first wife Frances Bradshaw Blanshard. The papers highlight the life of a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in the early twentieth century, the development of Swarthmore College during the presidency of Frank Aydelotte, the growth of the Yale University Department of Philosophy after World War II, and trends in the study and teaching of philosophy in the twentieth century, particularly in metaphysics, the theory of knowledge, ethics, and rationalism.

The papers, which Roberta Yerkes Blanshard donated to the library between 1989 and 1993, are arranged in four series:

  1. General Files, 1915-1989
  2. Writings, 1913-1989
  3. Teaching Files, 1921-1962
  4. Personal Files, 1873-1989

Though the earliest materials in the papers date from the nineteenth century, the bulk of the material dates from Blanshard's tenure at Yale and his years in retirement. The series General Files includes personal and professional correspondence, memoranda, minutes of meetings, agendas, and notes. Material in Writings includes manuscripts and notes for Brand Blanshard's articles, books, speeches, and informal talks. The series also includes published copies of many articles, letters to the editor, book reviews, and sketches. The Teaching Files include course notes for courses Blanshard taught at the University of Michigan, Swarthmore College, Yale University, Wesleyan University, and the Salzburg Seminar, as well as reading lists, syllabi, class lists, and examinations. Series IV, Personal Files, includes diaries, notebooks, photographs, and other types of memorabilia of Brand Blanshard. The series also includes papers of other family members.

There is no separate series for photographs. Photographs sent as enclosures with letters have been left with the letter and filed in Series I. Photographs of Brand Blanshard are arranged in Series IV (folders 176-193) as are photographs of Frances Bradshaw Blanshard (folders 62 and 176) and other family members and friends (folders 28-35 and 194).

Series I, General Files, is the largest series in the papers. The files include many different types of material, though the bulk of the material is incoming correspondence. Since much of Blanshard's correspondence was carried on in long-hand, there are very few copies of Blanshard's outgoing letters before the late 1960s. The files are arranged alphabetically by individual or corporate name.

The General Files reflect Blanshard's wide circle of professional acquaintances, and many of the outstanding philosophers of the twentieth century are represented in his correspondence. These include George Boas, John Dewey, Dorothy Emmet, A. C. Ewing, Errol Harris, Carl Hempel, Ernest Hocking, W. P. Montague, Ernest Nagel, and Gilbert Ryle. There are occasional exchanges with fellow Rhodes scholars and with more senior scholars whom Blanshard first met while a student in England. These include F. H. Bradley, Edgar Carritt, Harold Joachim, H. W. B. Joseph, G. E. Moore, H. A. Prichard, and T. S. Eliot.

Blanshard's years at Swarthmore are reflected in the files for Frank Aydelotte, Monroe Beardsley, Richard Brandt, Everett Hunt, and John Nason, as well as in the continuing stream of letters received from former students. The series also includes correspondence with Thomas Malcolm Knox and Edgar Dickie, whom Blanshard came to know when he delivered the Gifford Lectures in St. Andrews, Scotland. Colleagues at Yale University represented in the correspondence include Robert Brumbaugh, Theodore M. Greene, Charles Hendel, Filmer Northrop, Arthur Pap, Wilmon Sheldon, John Smith, and Paul Weiss. The series also contains correspondence with former Yale graduate students such as John Silber. (Silber's sketches of his philosophy professors are included in Series IV, folder 25.) Some correspondence is on a strictly professional level but other correspondence reflects the development of Blanshard's friendship with many of these individuals.

Blanshard's work in philosophical organizations and on scholarly committees is well documented in this series. There are several files for the American Philosophical Association's Commission on the Function of Philosophy in Liberal Education and for commission members Curt Ducasse, Charles Hendel, Arthur Murphy, and Max Otto. Other organizations represented include the American Humanist Association, the American Philosophical Society, the American Theological Society, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, the Fullerton Club, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, the Metaphysical Society of America, the Mind Association, the New York Philosophy Club, the Personalist Discussion Group, the Social Science Club, and the Unitarian Universalist Association's Committee on Theology and Frontiers of Learning.

Blanshard's views on various trends in philosophy are recorded in letters scattered throughout the series as well as in his writings and notebooks in Series II and IV. His opposition to behaviorism in particular is documented in Series I. There is a file for B. F. Skinner and for the Yale University Chubb Fellowship Conference on B. F. Skinner. In addition the file for Edwin G. Boring contains material on an American Philosophical Society symposium during which Blanshard confronted Skinner and the subsequent publication of the encounter.

The series contains material concerning Blanshard's publications. Included are files for publishers George Allen and Unwin, Open Court Publishing Company, and Wesleyan University Press. There are also files for the various journals in which Blanshard published and for editors with whom he maintained both professional and personal associations such as Jeannette Hopkins and Eugene Freeman. There is extensive correspondence with Paul Arthur Schilpp about the Library of Living Philosophers and volume XV.

Two of the most extensive files of correspondence are those with Blanshard's first wife, Frances Bradshaw Blanshard, and with his twin brother Paul. The correspondence files for Frances date from March 1918 and cover preparations for the summer study of the Polish community in Philadelphia with John Dewey's group. They contain Brand's letters to her during their courtship, following their marriage when Brand was serving in the army in Europe during World War I, and at other times when the couple was separated. The incoming letters from Paul chronicle his varied career as a minister, labor organizer, field secretary for the League for Industrial Democracy, New York City official during the LaGuardia administration, lawyer, and author of fifteen books including the controversial American Freedom and Catholic Power.

The correspondence reflects the many personal friendships, including that with Dorothy Canfield Fisher, that were strengthened through closer contact during summers spent in the area of Peacham, Vermont, where the Blanshards owned a summer house. In later years one renter of the Peacham house was Alger Hiss, whose correspondence in these files mainly concerns the relationship of Blanshard to his tenant.

Many of these files concern routine matters for an academic and intellectual such as invitations to symposia or requests for lectures and papers. Following the publication of books and articles the files contain letters of appreciation from complimentary readers, some of whom develop into enduring correspondents. Particularly after World War II, the volume of letters seeking recommendations for academic positions is high.

Series II, Writings, includes an extensive, though not inclusive, collection of Blanshard's manuscripts. A large portion of drafts for articles and speeches have been preserved, though the voluminous files for Blanshard's books have not been saved. For anyone trying to evaluate the extent of Blanshard's published writing the notebook "Bibliography," found in box 70, folder 122, will be useful, as will John Howie's bibliography to 1989, published in Idealistic Studies (Vol. XX, no. 2, May 1990).

The series begins with manuscripts from Blanshard's student days at Oxford and papers written while on the faculty of the University of Michigan. The files then progress through the numerous talks Blanshard gave and the materials he wrote while on the faculty of Swarthmore College. Many of these were addressed to the Society of Friends and concern themes such as pacificism and the approach of World War II. After 1945, the files reflect Blanshard's increasing popularity as a speaker. Numerous texts are noted as "delivered at various locations" since he would reuse a speech, modifying the introduction as necessary. The manuscripts also include sketches of John Dewey, Frank Aydelotte, Arthur Pap, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hocking, and F. H. Bradley.

At the end of the manuscripts are brief, undated pieces, book reviews, and notes for informal talks. These are followed by a few manuscripts for books. The series contains an early draft for The Nature of Thought and a partial first draft for The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard as well as material for two unpublished titles, one a volume of collected essays and the other a work on behaviorism. The series concludes with several boxes containing published copies of Blanshard's articles, book reviews, and other writings. Published books, however, are not included in these boxes.

Materials in Series III, Teaching Files, document Blanshard's approaches to the teaching of philosophy as well as his interests in particular topics such as ethics, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion. The files, which include lecture notes and other course materials from the various institutions at which Blanshard taught, are arranged by course title or number and are identified, where possible, by date and institution. This arrangement means that the materials are in a fairly rough order. The files for a specific course in a specific year are not easily distinguishable. Blanshard taught some of the same courses, with only slight variation in title, over a number of years. He also offered several courses with similar names but with different content through the years.

Series IV, Personal Papers, comprises various types of personal material, which span Brand Blanshard's entire life. These include childhood photographs, school diplomas, diaries, memorabilia from the University of Michigan, Oxford, India, Swarthmore, Vermont, Salzburg, and Yale, reviews of writings, and memorials at his death. Five boxes in the series contain small notebooks, which are listed by topic. They reflect Blanshard's research interests, both philosophical and general. There are notebooks on Eliot, Bradley, and Brightman, and behaviorism, positivism, and humanism, as well as on art, jobs, psychical research, and tales and limericks.

Blanshard's personal papers also include materials relating to other family members. These materials are filed under the heading "Family papers." There are some general family papers, including memorabilia and photographs of Coulter, Blanshard, and Yerkes family members, but the bulk of the "Family papers" is material relating to Frances Bradshaw Blanshard and Paul Blanshard.

For Frances Blanshard there are many types of material, including diaries and memorabilia, which date from student days, Smith College alumnae activities, tenure as dean of women at Swarthmore College, and scholarly pursuits. The files include research materials for her writings on Frank Aydelotte, William Wordsworth, and painting, as well as the manuscripts for her writings. Though Frances's correspondence with her husband is filed in Series I, her correspondence with personal friends and professional acquaintances is filed here. Frances's letters to her mother are included in the Bradshaw Family Papers (MS 1234) in Manuscripts and Archives.

Paul Blanshard's papers are housed at the University of Michigan. Materials in this series are those saved by Brand concerning his brother. They include clippings, photographs, and copies of writings.


  • 1873-1989
  • Majority of material found within 1913 - 1989


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Brand Blanshard 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 Roberta Y. Blanshard (Mrs. Brand), 1989, 1990, and 1993; and of Edward V. Lofstrom, 1995.


Arranged in six series and one addition: I. General files, 1915-1989. II. Writings, 1913-1989. III. Teaching files, 1921-1962. IV. Personal papers, 1873-1989.

Associated Materials

Associated material: Bradshaw Family Papers (MS 1284), (Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library).


40.5 Linear Feet (82 boxes, 1 folio)

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, writings, teaching files, diaries, photographs, and personal papers which document the personal life and career of Brand Blanshard and his first wife Frances Bradshaw Blanshard. The papers highlight the development of Swarthmore College during the presidency of Frank Aydelotte, the growth of the Yale University Department of Philosophy after World War II, and trends in the study and teaching of philosophy in the twentieth century.

Biographical / Historical

Brand Blanshard (named Percy Brand at birth) and his twin brother Paul Beecher were born on August 27, 1892, in Fredericksburg, Ohio. Emily Coulter Blanshard, their mother, died in a fire the following summer. Their father, Francis Blanshard, a Congregational minister, suffered from consumption and, in 1902, went west alone for the sake of his health, leaving the twins in the care of his widowed mother, Orminda Blanshard. Sometime after Francis's death in 1904, the family moved to Petoskey, Michigan, and in 1908 the family moved to Detroit for Brand and Paul to attend high school.

The brothers both went to the University of Michigan. There the chairman of the Philosophy Department, Robert Mark Wenley, heightened Brand's growing interest in philosophy and helped him secure a Rhodes scholarship. After his junior year, Brand studied philosophy at Oxford with Harold Henry Joachim as his tutor. He was a member of Merton College, Oxford. During his two years at Oxford, he also came to know T. S. Eliot and F. H. Bradley.

In 1915, Blanshard joined the British Army Y.M.C.A. and was sent successively to Mesopotamia and India. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Blanshard returned to the United States and spent the academic year 1917-1918 studying philosophy at Columbia University with John Dewey. He received an M.A. from Columbia in 1918, and at about the same time the University of Michigan awarded him an A.B. degree and elected him to Phi Beta Kappa.

During the summer of 1918, Dewey took Blanshard and a few other graduate students to Philadelphia to study the Polish community there. One of the other students was Frances Bradshaw. When Blanshard was drafted into the army in 1918, he and Frances arranged a hasty wedding before he was sent to France. With the war coming to an end, the army established an educational program in France for those men awaiting transfer home. Blanshard was assigned to the new University of Beaune as an instructor in philosophy.

On his discharge, following ten months in France, Blanshard returned to Oxford, where Frances joined him, to complete the last year of his Rhodes scholarship. Here he came under the influence of H. W. B. Joseph and prepared a thesis on Dewey's theory of judgement for the B.Sc. degree. Blanshard then returned to the United States and completed a doctorate at Harvard University during the academic year 1920-1921.

In the fall of 1921 he returned to the University of Michigan where he taught philosophy until offered an associate professorship at Swarthmore College in 1925. He was promoted to the rank of professor in 1928. Frances Blanshard became assistant, associate, and then dean of women at Swarthmore.

The Blanshards spent the year 1929-1930 in Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Blanshard commenced serious writing for a book that would be published in 1939, The Nature of Thought. The book brought Blanshard prominence, and he was elected to serve as president of the Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, for 1942. When the Board of Officers of the Philosophical Association undertook a review of the place of philosophy in American education in 1943, they appointed Blanshard to the study commission. The commission issued its report, Philosophy in American Education, in 1945.

Through his work on the commission Blanshard came to know Charles Hendel, the chairman of the philosophy department at Yale University. He also worked with Hendel on a committee to write an introduction to philosophy for use by the armed forces. This work was published as Preface to Philosophy. Blanshard's work with Hendel probably led to the invitation that he received in 1944 to join the Yale faculty. The Blanshards left their positions at Swarthmore in the spring of 1945. Brand began teaching at Yale that summer and remained on the faculty for seventeen years. For seven years during his tenure he also served as chairman of the department (1945-1950, 1959-1961).

Blanshard was invited to deliver the Gifford Lectures at St. Andrews University in Scotland in 1952 and 1953. Receiving a leave from Yale, he began preparing two series of ten lectures each, the first series on reason and its critics and the second on reason and goodness. In the midst of his preparations for the second series, he received an invitation from the American Philosophical Association to give the Carus Lectures. From these three lecture series Blanshard slowly crafted his trilogy on reason to supplement The Nature of Thought. Reason and Analysis, published in 1962, contains his conception of reason in light of contemporary analytical theories. Reason and Goodness, in which he applies this conception of reason to ethics and politics, was published in 1961, and in 1975 Reason and Belief was published. In the latter, Blanshard applies his conception of reason to Christian theology.

After teaching during the summer of 1953 in the Seminar in American Studies in Salzburg, Blanshard returned to Yale. Blanshard was known internationally for his literary clarity and felicity of style, and in 1954 he published a classic volume on writing, On Philosophical Style. After retiring from Yale in 1961, Blanshard spent a year at the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University and a term at the University of Minnesota. In 1966 Frances Blanshard suffered a heart attack and died. She had left unfinished her biography of Frank Aydelotte, which Brand completed during the next two years.

In 1969, Blanshard married Roberta W. Yerkes, a neighbor and editor at the Yale University Press. The next fifteen years were extremely productive ones for Brand's research and writing. He saw five books through publication including Frank Aydelotte of Swarthmore (1970) and Reason and Belief (1975). Many of his talks were collected and published in The Uses of a Liberal Education and Other Talks to Students (1973). The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard appeared in 1980 as Volume XV in the Library of Living Philosophers series. At the invitation of Paul Arthur Schilpp, founder-editor of the series, Brand wrote an autobiography, with many pen portraits of other philosophers (Part I), and replies to essays by 30 critics selected for inclusion in the volume (Part II). A bibliography of Blanshard's writings from 1916-1980, compiled by John Howie, is included as Part III of this volume. Blanshard's only foray into biography was his last book, Four Reasonable Men: Marcus Aurelius, John Stuart Mill, Ernest Renan and Henry Sidgwick (1984). At his death on November 18, 1987, the bibliography of his publications included more than 300 books and articles. Tributes at the time described him as "one of the nation's leading rationalist philosophers" and "the philosopher's philosopher."

For a fuller sketch of Blanshard's life see his "Autobiography of Brand Blanshard," The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard, volume XV in the Library of Living Philosophers, published by Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1980.

Guide to the Brand Blanshard Papers
Under Revision
by Diane E. Kaplan, George Krumpacky and Stephanie Atiyeh
August 1994
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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