Theodore Mead Newcomb Papers: 1906-1984 (bulk 1936-1983)
Summary Information
Title: Theodore Mead Newcomb Papers
Creator: Newcomb, Theodore Mead, 1903-1984
Inclusive dates: 1906-1984
Bulk dates: 1936-1983
Extent: 6 linear feet
Abstract:
Professor of sociology and psychology at the University of Michigan. Biographical material, professional correspondence, research projects files, University of Michigan files, papers detailing professional activities, and miscellaneous; also photographs.
Call number: 851934 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: Carol Hofstadter

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection (Donor No. 7205) was donated by Newcomb's wife, Mary Shipherd Newcomb, in June and July 1985. Additional materials were received from Newcomb's daughter, Suzanne N. Ferguson, in July 1989.

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/.

Copyright:

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Theodore Mead Newcomb Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Biography

Theodore M. Newcomb was born in Rock Creek, Ohio on July 24, 1903. He received his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1924 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1929. In 1931 he married Mary Shipherd; they had three children, Esther, Suzanne, and Theodore, Jr. Newcomb, a pioneer in American social psychology, built his professional reputation on his research into the impact of college on students, attitudes and beliefs.

Newcomb was associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University from 1929 through 1930 and at Western Reserve University from 1930 to 1934. In 1934, he became professor of psychology at the newly established Bennington College. The liberal environment and teaching of small classes were quite agreeable to Newcomb. At Bennington, he began his four-year longitudinal investigation of the impact of college on the political and social attitudes of students. The study revealed that degrees of attitude change corresponded to the individual's length of stay and status in the college. A follow-up study 25 years later found that the attitudes acquired by graduation persisted to a considerable degree in a large sample of alumnae. The Bennington study has served as a model in social psychology for its thoroughness and accuracy.

In 1941, Newcomb began his long appointment with the University of Michigan, which would continue until his retirement in 1972. His initial position was as associate professor of sociology. The early years were interrupted by his wartime service from 1942 to 1945 as a researcher in the Foreign Broadcast Service, Office of Strategic Services, and in the Strategic Bombing Service Morale Division. In 1946, he was promoted to professor of sociology and named professor of psychology at Michigan.

Newcomb continued actively to conduct research, especially on theories of interpersonal behavior and attitude change. The Group House Project research was the basis for The Acquaintance Process. Newcomb demonstrated that groups of initial strangers developed attraction preferences toward other group members that were predictable from attitude similarities revealed in their responses to questionnaires taken prior to their arrival at the university. The Peer Influence Project studied juveniles in correctional institutions. Newcomb was interested in comparing similarities and differences between such juveniles and college students, as both were in educational institutions. Late in his career, Newcomb and Kenneth Feldman co-authored The Impact of College on Students (1969) which concluded that many attitude changes attributed to college experience were, in fact, normal developmental changes. Newcomb continued to collaborate with University of Michigan faculty until his death in 1984.

Newcomb was instrumental in establishing the Survey Research Center in 1946. This evolved into the Institute for Social Research, of which he was program director. In 1946, he founded one of the first doctoral programs of social psychology in the country, which he chaired from 1947 to 1953. Newcomb also was a key player in the creation of the Residential College and the Pilot Program. These two programs attempted to create a small liberal arts college learning environment within a large university and may reflect Newcomb's views as an educator from his own experiences at Oberlin and Bennington. Newcomb was quite active in professional organizations. He was a member of the American Psychological Association's (APA) board of directors from 1948 to 1950, and its president in 1956. He was also a charter member and president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues as well as co-editor of its first yearbook, Industrial Conflict (1939). His work was esteemed and he received the Kurt Lewin Award (1962) for his efforts in social psychology. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1957 and to the National Academy of Science in 1974. At the University of Michigan he held the Mary Ann and Charles R. Walgreen Professorship for the Study of Human Understanding (1969-1974), and was Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Sociology.

Throughout his career, Newcomb supported liberal causes and was outspoken on his political views. He joined with other progressive psychologists to form a radical committee of the APA in the late 1930s, working to improve the living conditions of the oppressed working man in America. He opposed the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the McCarthy era. While under investigation himself, Newcomb publicly defended three University of Michigan faculty members who had been removed from their positions for their alleged Communist sympathies. In the mid-1960s, he was the senior of 22 faculty members who endorsed the University of Michigan's teach-in on the Vietnam war.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Theodore Mead Newcomb papers document the career of one of America's foremost social psychologists and pioneer of survey research. The papers which arrived in the 1985 accession were organized into six series: Biographical, Correspondence, Research Projects, University of Michigan, Professional Activities, and Miscellaneous.

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.


  • Psychology.
  • Sociology.
  • World War, 1939-1945.
  • Photographs.
  • American Psychological Association.
  • Bennington College.
  • Newcomb, Theodore Mead, 1903-1984.
  • Peace Corps (U.S.)
  • Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
  • United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Morale Division.
  • University of Michigan. Dept. of Psychology.
  • University of Michigan. Dept. of Sociology.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
  • Newcomb, Theodore Mead, 1903-1984.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
 
Biographical 1906-1984 [series]

The Biographical series comprises four linear inches of materials and consists of biographical information, newspaper clippings, interviews, obituaries, journals, and photo-graphs. Newcomb's liberal political bent is evidenced by the clippings from the Bennington Banner which state his position on the Spanish Civil War. Such vocal liberalism incurred the unpleasant federal investigations of Newcomb's political activities during the McCarthy era; the transcripts of these investigations are preserved in this series. Given his later research into the impact of college on shaping attitudes, the journal Newcomb kept during his college years at Oberlin is of special interest to the biographer.

Box   1  
Autobiographies undated
Box   1  
Journal entries of Newcomb's mother 1906-1916
Box   1  
Journal of Newcomb (Oberlin years) 1923-1925
Box   1  
Vitae, biographies, obituaries circa 1950-1984
Box   1  
Clippings and interviews 1973-1984
Box   1  
Federal investigation of political activities 1943-1954
Box   1  
Photographs circa 1920-1984
 
Correspondence 1920-1984 [series]

The Correspondence series runs to nearly one linear foot and contains four subseries. The first is arranged chronologically and contains both personal and professional materials for the years 1920 to 1963. The years 1936 through 1945 and 1956-1957 are best documented. The second subseries is arranged alphabetically under the name of the individual or organization and then chronologically; this subseries covers the years 1975 through 1983 best. Each of these subseries include incoming and outgoing mail with publishers, students, faculty, friends, family and colleagues. The third subseries contains four folders of family correspondence. This material is quite rich in what it reveals of the maturing Newcomb, as the letters to his father while he was at Oberlin are neatly balanced by letters from his son at Reed nearly forty years later. In each run the younger man finds his college-shaped attitudes distancing him from his father. The final subseries contains correspondence between Newcomb and his publishers during the last two decades of his career.

 
General (chronological) 1920-1963
Box   1  
1920-1925
Box   1  
1930-1931
Box   1  
1933-1935
Box   1  
1936
Box   1  
1937
Box   1  
1938
Box   1  
1939

(includes Industrial Conflict Yearbook)

Box   1  
1940
Box   1  
1941

(includes Personality Patterns and Attitude Change)

Box   1  
1942-1943

(includes Personality Patterns and Attitude Change)

Box   1  
1944
Box   1  
1945
Box   1  
1946-1949
Box   1  
1950-1955
Box   1  
1956
Box   1  
1957 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1958-1960
Box   1  
1961
Box   1  
1962-1963
 
General (alphabetical) 1965-1984, 1975-1984
Box   1  
A-L (10 folders)
Box   2  
M-Z (9 folders)
 
Family 1923-1965
Box   2  
Mother and Father 1923-1925
Box   2  
Wife (Mary Shipherd) 1930-1934
Box   2  
Daughter (Esther) 1950-1963
Box   2  
Son (Theodore, Jr.) 1960-1965

(include letters written while in Peace Corps)

 
Publishers 1960-1983
Box   2  
A-C 1968-1979
Box   2  
Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1960-1982
Box   2  
J-W 1968-1983
 
Research Projects 1934-1985 [series]

The material of the Research Projects series runs to two linear feet and includes questionnaires, memoranda and notes, findings, grant proposals, and other papers from five studies. These materials document unevenly the major research thrusts of Newcomb's career and are arranged chronologically according to the starting date of the study. The first is the Bennington Study, a longitudinal study of the influence of college on the attitudes of Bennington and neighboring college students. A follow-up investigation, Bennington Study Revisited, examines the persistence of attitude change and political affiliation over a lifetime. The World War II Studies undertaken in the European theater include interviews with the German high command and surveys of the German populace on the impact of Allied bombing. The fourth subseries is the Group House Project and is the most comprehensively documented aspect of Newcomb's research including drafts and reports created by students working under his direction. This study returns Newcomb to his pre-war milieu, examining college students' attitudes; this time studying the interactions of students sharing the same house. The last study is the Peer Influence Project which looked at the impact of correctional institutions on juveniles.

 
Bennington Study 1930-1982, 1934-1939
Box   2  
Interview materials 1934-1939
Box   2  
Re-test interview 1937
Box   2  
Student autobiographies 1938-1960
Box   2  
Student ratings 1936-1938
Box   2  
Reviews 1940-1982
Box   2  
Miscellaneous circa 1935-1939
 
Bennington Study Revisited: Political Affiliations Over a Life-Span 1951-1984
Box   2  
Questionnaires 1984
Box   2  
Results 1951-1982
 
World War II Studies 1941-1945
 
U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Morale Division
Box   2  
Interviews with German high com 1945
Box   2  
Impact of Bombing reports 1945 (2 folders)
 
Research Branch, Information and Education Division, ETO Headquarters 1945
Box   2  
Utilization of Negro platoons in White companies 1945
Box   2  
Miscellaneous notes 1944-1945
Box   2  
Citations and awards 1941-1945
 
Group House Project 1951-1981, 1953-1957
Box   3  
Correspondence (alphabetical) 1953-1957
Box   3  
Correspondence with Rockefeller Foundation 1953-1957
Box   3  
Background research 1953-1955 (2 folders)
Box   3  
Hypothesis/Analysis 1954-1955
Box   3  
Selection criteria circa 1955
Box   3  
Interview materials 1955-1956
Box   3  
Meetings (weekly) 1955
Box   3  
Research notes 1951-1962 (4 folders)
 
Research reports and drafts 1954-1956
Box   3  
Goldsmith reports 1955-1956
Box   3  
Scarr reports 1955-1956
Box   3  
Smith reports 1954-1956
Box   3  
Team reports 1955
 
Second Year's Research 1955-1956
Box   3  
Planning discussion 1955
Box   3  
Selection/Development of Xs 1955-1956
Box   3  
Systems variables 1955-1956
Box   3  
Theory Group Seminar 1955
Box   3  
Papers 1956-1981
 
Peer Influence Project 1972-1985
Box   3  
Questionnaires 1981-1983 (3 folders)
Box   4  
Memoranda 1974-1983 (2 folders)
Box   4  
Grant proposals 1980-1985 (2 folders)
Box   4  
Papers 1972-1983
 
University of Michigan 1938-1983 [series]

The fourth series, University of Michigan, contains six linear inches of materials and concerns Newcomb's dealings with the institution where he spent the bulk of his long career. Departmental Activities consists of materials from the sociology and psychology departments as well as from the social psychology doctoral program which he founded. Of interest in the Course Materials are lecture notes, papers, and proseminar discussion notes from the social psychology courses. The remaining folders in this series thinly cover Newcomb's affiliation with the Institute of Social Research and adequately document his involvement in the founding of the Residential College and the Pilot Program. These last two programs were experiments which attempted to create the small class learning atmosphere and the close relationships among teachers and students of a small liberal arts college within a large university.

 
Department Activities 1954-1974
Box   4  
Psychology 1973
Box   4  
Social Psychology 1954-1969
Box   4  
Sociology 1962-1974
 
Course materials 1938-1964

(includes some Bennington lecture notes)

 
Social Psychology 1938-1962

(includes some Bennington lecture notes)

Box   4  
Lecture notes 1938-1947
Box   4  
Social Psychology 62 1942-1962
Box   4  
Pro-Seminar 268 1951
Box   4  
Sociology 166 1941-1950
Box   4  
General lecture notes 1957-1964
Box   4  
Institute of Social Research 1977-1983
Box   4  
Residential College 1961-1976
Box   4  
Pilot Program 1970-1982
 
Professional Activities 1941-1983 [series]

The next series, Professional Activities, comprises two linear feet of materials, and documents Newcomb's close involvement with both the American Psychological Association and its affiliate, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Newcomb, at different times, was president of both organizations, and he served on the board of directors of the APA for several years. Newcomb's status among his peers and his commitment to socially relevant research are evidenced by significant contributions to these two organizations. The years of his more active involvement, 1945 to 1958, are best documented. The series also contains papers related to Newcomb work as a board member of International Automated Machines and Skills, Inc.

 
American Psychological Association 1941-1983, 1945-1956
 
General Correspondence
Box   4  
1946-1954 (8 folders)
Box   5  
1955-1959 (4 folders)
Box   5  
1976-1981
Box   5  
Board of Directors 1949-1956 (6 folders)
 
Committees 1947-1960
Box   5  
Awards 1957-1960
Box   5  
Doctoral Education 1953-1954
Box   5  
Kurt Lewin Award 1947-1951
Box   5  
Relations with Education 1955-1957
Box   5  
Relations with Psychiatry 1954-1956
Box   5  
Relations with Social Work 1954-1955
Box   5  
Training in Clinical Psychology 1950-1955
 
Divisions 1941-1983, 1945-1955
Box   5  
#8-Personality and Social Psychology 1946-1955
 
#9-Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues 1941-1983
Box   6  
1941-1955 (10 folders)
Box   6  
1957-1958
Box   6  
1983
Box   6  
International Automated Machines 1966-1978 (2 folders)
Box   6  
Skills, Inc. 1977-1978
 
Miscellaneous 1920-1975 [series]

The final series, Miscellaneous, consists of seven folders of papers and speeches by Newcomb. Papers stating his views on education, university admittance policies, and other topics are in this series. Newcomb's high school valedictory speech, notes for speeches, and an audiotape of a speech made by Newcomb before the Mid-western American Psychological Association round out this series.

Box   6  
Education 1963-1979
Box   6  
Papers circa 1955-1975
 
Speeches 1920-1955
Box   6  
Valedictory to Lincoln High 1920
Box   6  
Speech/Lecture notes 1941-1955 (3 folders)
Box   6  
Audiotape of address to APA undated