R. J. Lytle papers: 1943-1994
Summary Information
Title: R. J. Lytle papers
Creator: Lytle, R. J., 1919-
Inclusive dates: 1943-1994
Extent: 1 linear foot
Detroit, Mich., businessman in the prefabricated home manufacturing industry, author of books on building, proponent of school choice through payment of vouchers to students. Biographical information; writings on education and school vouchers; correspondence relating to his ideas on education, including many letters from Milton Friedman; and miscellaneous files on his business and other activities.
Call number: 00128 Aa 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid prepared by: Cristine Paschild

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was donated by Mrs. Robert J. Lytle (Donor no. 8907), July 2000.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see: http://bentley.umich.edu/research/duplication/.


Donor(s) have not transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., R. J. Lytle Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Robert J. Lytle, a Detroit native born in 1919, was the author of numerous works on education reform. A strong proponent of school choice through vouchers, Lytle's articles appeared in the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, and Education Week. He also wrote a book entitled Liberty Schools: A Parent's Voucher Plan, published in 1975. Milton Friedman, the Noble Prize-winning economist with whom Lytle corresponded extensively, referred to Lytle's book as a "breath of fresh air in this stifling atmosphere" and to Lytle as "a pioneer in promoting educational choice through vouchers and other means." Lytle was also a founder of the Education Voucher Institute, an organization that provided technical assistance to groups interested in parental choice in education through vouchers or tax credits.

Educated at local parochial schools, Lytle was a Cass Technical High School dropout, who later went on to graduate from the Army's Command and General Staff College. He served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, beginning as a private and rising to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, receiving the Bronze Star Medal for "meritorious achievement and service" in 1945.

In addition to his interest in education, Lytle was also a leader in the field of prefabricated home manufacturing in Michigan. He started and headed Modern Homes Corp., a prefabricated home company in Dearborn from 1946 to 1956 and The Panel Clip Company, a building materials manufacturer based in Farmington from 1956 to 1985. Lytle also served as the secretary/treasurer of the Prefabricated Home Manufacturers Institute and authored several books on building topics, including Farm Builder's Handbook (1973) and Book of Successful Fireplaces: How to Build, Decorate, and Use Them, co-authored with his wife, Marie-Jeanne Lytle, in 1971.

An avid hunter and conservationist, Lytle was an early member of The Ruffed Grouse Society. He was elected to the organization's national board in 1974 and became the organization's president in 1976, holding that office for two years. According to Dr. Samuel R. Pursgolve, Jr., the executive director of the non-profit group, Lytle "was instrumental in leading The Ruffed Grouse Society and turning it into a national conservation organization."

The father of ten children, Robert J. Lytle died in 1994.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Robert J. Lytle papers document his professional and personal activities. The collection contains material from 1943 to 1994, with a concentration on Lytle's writings and correspondence on education reform and school vouchers from the 1970s through the 1990s. The collection is divided into four series: Biographical, Writings, Correspondence, and Professional and Community Activities.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Education -- Michigan.
  • Educational vouchers -- Michigan.
  • Prefabricated houses.
  • Photographs.
  • Lytle, R. J., 1919-
  • Lytle, R. J., 1919-
  • Friedman, Milton, 1912-2006.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Biographical [series]

The Biographical series consists of one folder containing obituaries, eulogies, clippings, records of Lytle's military service and a short autobiographical sketch. There are also two black and white photographs of Lytle.

Box   1  
Clippings photographs, etc. 1946-1994, undated
Writings [series]

The Writings series contains Lytle's writings divided into two subseries, Published and Unpublished. The Published subseries includes copies of Lytle's articles from the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, and Education Week, 1987 through 1993; a copy of his book, Liberty Schools: A Parent's Voucher Plan; a 1974 booklet entitled Property Tax Cut & School Vouchers; and a series of columns for The Eccentric Newspapers entitled "Liberty Schools," also from 1974. The Unpublished subseries contains numerous articles, essays, and proposals by Lytle, the majority in draft form and dating from 1988 through 1992. One folder contains articles addressing Michigan educational issues in particular. The Unpublished subseries also contains proposals and drafts from 1990 through 1993 of Lytle's unfinished manuscript" Schooling's Revolution," a book length work on how to improve America's education system through privatization, parental choice, and increased technology in the classrooms. Of note in this subseries are the several partial drafts with extensive margin notes and commentary most likely by Milton Friedman.

Published [subseries]
Box   1  
Articles 1987-1993
Box   1  
Book A Parent's Voucher Plan 1974
Box   1  
Booklet Property Tax Cut & School Vouchers 1974
Box   1  
Columns, "Liberty Schools," The Eccentric Newspapers 1974
Unpublished [subseries]
Box   1  
General 1988-1992, undated (3 folders)
Box   1  
Michigan 1991-1992
Column, "World's Best Schools"
Box   1  
Proposals and drafts 1991
Manuscript Schooling's Revolution
Box   1  
Proposals undated, 1991
Box   1  
Drafts 1990-1992, undated (4 folders)
Correspondence [series]

The Correspondence series includes letters to and from Milton Friedman, Lytle's general correspondence, and his correspondence with publishers. Materials are arranged in chronological order. The single folder of correspondence with Milton Friedman ranges from 1988 to 1992 and includes discussions of Lytle's writing and voucher systems and school privatization in general. Two folders of general correspondence dating from 1974 to 1993 document a range of issues related to education through inquiries and contacts made by Lytle in the course of his research. The single folder of publisher correspondence tracks Lytle's dialogues with a variety of publishers, primarily in reference to his submissions.

Box   1  
undated, 1988-1992
Box   1  
General undated, 1974-1993 (3 folders)
Box   1  
Publishers 1988-1996
Professional and Community Activities [series]

The final series, Professional and Community Activities documents Lytle's business activities and his organized activities in areas of his interest. Included are materials on two of Lytle's Michigan-based businesses, the Modern Home Corporation, with clippings, records, and other printed materials from 1956 to 1958, and the Panel Clip Company, with limited printed materials from 1973. Also included are materials from the Education Voucher Institute (EVI), an organization spearheaded by Lytle, as well as materials from the Ruffed Grouse Society. The series also contains clippings documenting Lytle's 1970 run for the Birmingham School Board.

Business Materials
Box   1  
Modern Home Corporation 1956-1958
Box   1  
Panel Clip 1973
Box   1  
Education Voucher Institute (EVI) undated, 1981-1985
Box   1  
Ruffed Grouse Society undated, 1980-1984
Box   1  
School Board Run, Birmingham 1970