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Adlai E. Stevenson II Papers

Identifier: MS-BC612


31st governor of Illinois (1949-1953), two-time Democratic presidential candidate (1952, 1956), diplomat, statesman.

Collection consists primarily of gubernatorial papers, the bulk of which date from 1948-1952. The remainder of the collection documents his campaigns for governor and U.S. president, and includes some family and genealogical papers. Collection contains campaign materials, card indexes, lists, financial statements, correspondence, speeches, advertising, minutes, news releases, memoranda, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, legislative bills, resolutions, genealogical records, blueprints, maps, reports and scrapbooks. Topics covered include Stevenson’s gubernatorial campaign of 1948, his presidential campaign of 1952, the Schaefer Commission, the cigarette tax investigation, rent controls and housing, the Departments of Conservation, Insurance, Transportation, Public Safety and Public Aid, public welfare issues, legislation from the 66th and 67th Illinois General Assemblies, the Broyles bills, the proposed constitutional convention of 1948-1949, education, roads, Stevenson’s inaugural as governor, the budget, insurance, labor, Department of Agriculture, Chicago, civil defense, gambling and riots.

3.34 linear feet of photographs, 3 linear feet of published material, 16 broadsides, 2 films and 59 disc recordings were transferred out of the collection.

Literary rights belong to the Stevenson family.


  • 1880 - 1965
  • Majority of material found within 1948 - 1952

Biographical Sketch

Adlai E. Stevenson, II was the 31st Governor of Illinois, a two-time presidential candidate, a diplomat and a statesman. Born in Los Angeles, California, February 5, 1900, to Lewis Green and Helen Louise (Davis) Stevenson, he grew up attending public schools in Bloomington, Illinois. Stevenson came from a family with a long tradition of public service. His grandfather, Adlai I, was vice president of the United States during Grover Cleveland’s second term as president (1893-1897). His father was secretary of state of Illinois (1914-1917).

Stevenson served as an apprentice seaman in the Navy during World War I. Following that he graduated from Princeton University in 1922. He attended Harvard Law School for two years, then transferred to Northwestern University and received his law degree in 1926 and was admitted to the Illinois bar. In the meantime, he worked as a reporter and editor for the “Daily Pantagraph” from 1924-1926. This Bloomington, Illinois newspaper was published by his mother’s family. Later in 1926 he became an associate in a Chicago law office, keeping his connection with the firm through a leave of absence and reorganization. In 1937 he became a partner in the reorganized firm of Sidley, McPherson, Austin and Burgess, a connection he retained until 1948.

In 1933 he accepted an appointment as special attorney with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He also served for a brief time with as assistant general counsel for the Federal Alcohol Control Commission, before returning to his Chicago law firm in 1935. From 1941-1944 Stevenson was special assistant and counsel to Frank Knox, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy. In this position he traveled to various foreign theaters of operation, wrote speeches and represented Knox and the Navy on committees and handled various administrative duties. After the war he accepted an appointment as special assistant to the Secretary of State to work with Assistant Secretary Archibald MacLeish on a proposed world organization. He was adviser to the U.S. delegation Conference on International Organization, San Francisco. Later that year he went to London as Deputy United States Delegate to the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations Organization, a position he held until February 1946. He also served as a member of the U.S. delegation of the U.N. General Assemblies in 1946 and 1947.

In 1948 he ran for governor of Illinois as a Democrat and won by a huge margin, the largest in the history of the state. As governor of Illinois Stevenson put a high priority on stamping out political corruption and was successful in getting legislation passed to further his aims. He was instrumental in abolishing political appointments within the state police force and starting selection based on a merit system. He also encouraged legislation that started a new construction program for mental, tubercular and community hospitals. He appointed the Schaefer Commission, dedicated to reorganizing state government. Improving educational facilities in the state was another one of his goals. Legislation passed during his years as governor included a highway modernization program, cracking down on illegal gambling, expanded benefits for welfare programs, a housing and redevelopment plan, and extension of federal rent controls.

By early 1952 he had already decided to run for re-election when national leaders began to press him to run for President. Although he turned them down, the party nominated him on the third ballot at the Democratic National Convention in August 1952. After losing the election to Eisenhower he continued to act as a spokesman for the Democratic Party. He was a frequent critic of the hearings led by Senator McCarthy; he spoke in favor of internationalism; he explained his philosophy of liberalism; and proposed a program of national action that later was incorporated into Kennedy’s presidential campaign and plan of action. He spoke throughout the country on issues like U.S. foreign policy, domestic economy and internal security. Chosen a second time (in 1956) to run for the Democrats as their presidential candidate, he was again defeated by Eisenhower. Once again, he turned to the practice of law, this time with a different firm. He concentrated on international legal problems of American businesses, and traveled widely during this time.

In 1957 Eisenhower appointed Stevenson as a consultant to the U.S. Secretary of State in preparation for a NATO meeting. After Kennedy was elected president, Stevenson was appointed as a permanent representative to the U.N. This appointment was renewed by Johnson after Kennedy’s death, and Stevenson remained active in the U.N. until his own death in 1965.

Stevenson married Ellen Borden, a wealthy Chicago socialite. They had three sons: Adlai E. Stevenson III (1930-); Borden Stevenson (1932-); and John Fell Stevenson (1936-). The couple divorced in 1949.

Stevenson wrote several books and many articles for periodicals. A compilation of his major campaign speeches in 1952 has also been published. He was the first chairman of the civil right committee of the Chicago Bar Association. He also served as director or trustee of many charitable and educational organizations, including Hull House, the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society, and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Stevenson was a member of the American, Illinois and New York bar associations. He was given the Distinguished Civilian Service Award of the U. S. Navy in 1945; he also received many honorary degrees during his career. In July 1965 Stevenson went to Europe for a meeting of the U. N. Economic and Social Council. He then went to London, intending to make some private visits. He died in London, England, of a heart attack on July 14, 1965.


170 Linear Feet (152 archival boxes, 28 oversize bound volumes, 2 full-size card-file cabinets, 6 two-drawer card-file cabinets, 5 folders of oversize manuscripts)

Language of Materials


Scope and Content

The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers, 1880-1965, consist of 170 cubic feet of campaign materials, county records, card indexes, lists, financial statements, correspondence, voting records, speeches, advertising, minutes, news releases, memoranda, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, legislative bills, resolutions, genealogical records, blueprints, maps, reports, vouchers, scrapbooks, and postcards documenting Stevenson’s career as governor of Illinois. The bulk of the material dates from 1948 to 1952. Other aspects of Stevenson’s career are documented in the Stevenson Papers housed at the Seeley G. Mudd Library, Princeton University.

The collection has been divided into six series (based on the material as received): Election and Campaign Materials, State Files, Illinois State Legislature, Mansion Subject Files, Correspondence and Stevenson Family. Each series has been arranged into files related to subject matter. This order was imposed by the processor.

* SERIES I: Election and Campaign Materials consists of Boxes 1-18, five card-size file drawers, two oversize manuscript folders and five oversize bound volumes divided into three files: Gubernatorial Campaign of 1948 (1944-1949); Anticipated Gubernatorial Campaign of 1952 (1948-1952); and Presidential Campaign of 1952 (1948-1956).

-- The Gubernatorial Campaign of 1948 (1944-1949) File (Boxes 1-9, card drawers 1-5, oversize manuscripts folder for Series I [1 of 2], oversize bound volumes 1-5) contains records necessary to the campaign process. It includes folders listed by county with names of supporters and party organization office holders; lists of contributors; subject files on campaign issues; lists of groups supporting Stevenson; financial records for the campaign; postcards sent to indicate support for Stevenson; files from the women’s division that worked towards Stevenson’s election; voting and registration books; Stevenson’s personal subject files from the campaign; campaign speeches (folders are mostly empty); newspaper clippings and reprints of articles about Stevenson; general correspondence and congratulatory correspondence; and five scrapbooks of clippings about the election.

-- The Anticipated Gubernatorial Campaign of 1952 (1948-1952) File (Boxes 9-13) contains subject files related to various levels of the Democratic committee; general subject files related to the campaign; correspondence and publicity related to the campaign; women’s division records; lists of supporters and party office holders by city; subject files on state issues; and lists of supporters and party office holders by county.

-- The Presidential Campaign of 1952 (1948-1956) File (Boxes 13-18, oversize manuscripts folder for Series I [2 of 2]) contains pre-convention correspondence, filed by state; subject files on political issues, mostly filed by state; speeches by Stevenson; and press releases and magazine articles about Stevenson.

* SERIES II: State Files consists of Boxes 19-70, three card-size file drawers, and one oversize manuscripts folder divided into five files: Requisition File [Extraditions] (1949-1959); Subject and Name File (1949-1956); Departmental File (1947-1950); Schaefer Commission File (1949-1952); and State of Illinois File (1929-1955).

-- The Requisition File [Extraditions] (1943-1959) (Boxes 19-21) contains correspondence concerning extradition requests. It is alphabetized by the name of the person being sought.

-- The Subject and Name File (1949-1956) (Boxes 21-23) appears to be incomplete. It is alphabetized and covers only letters M through R. This file contains folders on specific individuals, e.g., Joseph McCarthy as well as general topics. -- The Departmental File (1947-1950) (Boxes 23-26) contains primarily correspondence related to various departments of the state, e.g., the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Labor. The folders are arranged according to a numerical code that has been used by several other governors’ offices in the state of Illinois. Each individual department has its own number assigned, e.g., 6 for anything related to the Department of Agriculture, and 27 for anything related to the Department of Labor. It also has a section that indexes subjects covered in 1948 and 1950. Finally, there is a section that deals with employment records; it is filed by department.

-- The Schaefer Commission File (1949-1952) (Boxes 26-27) contains assorted regulations, background material, and studies that went into periodic reports and the final reports of the Schaefer Commission. This commission was charged with studying the state government of Illinois with the intent of cutting out waste and corruption, and reorganizing what was left. The periodic and final reports are also in this file.

-- The State of Illinois File (1929-1955) (Boxes 28-70, oversize manuscripts folder for Series II, oversize bound volumes 6-28) is very similar to the Departmental File. It contains correspondence relating to various state agencies and departments, along with a broad range of miscellaneous subjects. Folders are numerically coded by subject and department. Included in this file are several maps and blueprints related to highway projects, a proclamation making Stevenson an “Honorary Tarheel”, and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings taken from local, state, and out-of-state newspapers containing articles and editorials about Stevenson, and one volume devoted to the Menard Riot of 1952. Other topics of interest are the cigarette tax investigation, rent controls and housing, the Department of Conservation, the Department of Insurance, public welfare issues, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Public Aid.

* SERIES III: Illinois State Legislature consists of Boxes 71-98, one card-size file drawer, and one oversize manuscripts folder divided into three files: 66th General Assembly File (1949); 67th General Assembly File (1951); and 67th General Assembly, Mansion File (1951).

-- The 66th General Assembly File (1949) (Boxes 71-82, card drawer 7) contains the House and Senate bills that were introduced, correspondence, memos and veto messages for both House and Senate bills. The file is arranged by bill number. A card index that coordinates with the legislation, as well as special session legislation, is also included. Of special interest are the Broyles Bills, which generated a large amount of correspondence.

-- The 67th General Assembly File (1951) (Boxes 82-91, card drawer 7, oversize manuscripts folder for Series III) contains the House and Senate bills that were introduced in the 67th General Assembly; occasional correspondence, related to same; a card index section coordinated with the legislation of this session; and 27 House and Senate Calendars showing the daily agenda for each body.

-- The 67th General Assembly, Mansion File (1951) (Boxes 91-98) contains occasional correspondence relating to bills; vetoes of House and Senate bills; and resolutions by both the House and the Senate.

* SERIES IV: Mansion Subject Files consists of Boxes 98-137 and one oversize manuscripts folder divided into six files: 66th General Assembly File (1941-1950); 67th General Assembly File (1948-1952); Speeches File (1949-1956); Subject File One (1947-1959); Subject File Two (1947-1959) and Mansion Expense Vouchers (1948-1953).

-- The 66th General Assembly File (1941-1950) (Boxes 98-104) contains subject files covering a broad range of topics. All are coded 3 – Legislation and primarily contain correspondence relating to legislation that was introduced in the 66th General Assembly. Also included are some subject folders related to the special session of the 66th General Assembly held in 1950, folders on the proposed Constitutional Convention of 1948-1949, and folders on housing in Illinois.

-- The 67th General Assembly File (1948-1952) (Boxes 104-108) contains subject files related to legislation introduced in 1951 in the 67th General Assembly. The majority of the files is coded 3 – Legislation, and again covers a broad range of topics, including education and roads.

-- The Speeches File (1949-1956) (Boxes 108-109) contains folders meticulously labeled for speeches Stevenson made from 1949 through1952. This file also includes newspaper clippings; assorted speeches and statements from 1952-1956; and campaign trip schedules for 1952 and 1956.

-- Subject File One (1947-1959) (Boxes 109-117) contains mostly folders designated as code 3. The following topics have fairly extensive coverage: eccentric letters; dinners and luncheons given at the executive mansion; Stevenson’s inauguration as governor in 1949; correspondence both general and requests to the governor; and folders on the budget, insurance and labor.

-- Subject File Two (1941-1956) (Boxes 117-136, oversize manuscripts folder for Series IV) contains a large number of subject folders given code 3; a large number on civil defense; a large group coded 3 – Federal Legislation; a good-sized amount of correspondence regarding interviews; a small group of requests for proclamations; a small number of folders regarding publications; and a large number of folders of correspondence regarding the Department of Agriculture (code 6). It also includes folders on the following subjects: Chicago, civil defense, community fund, gambling, riots, and schools.

-- The Mansion Expense Vouchers (1948-1953) File (Boxes 136-137) contains financial records connected with running the executive mansion. It includes personnel cards, exemption certificates, vouchers, ledger sheets, receipts and schedules of bills.

* SERIES V: Correspondence consists of Boxes 137-151, two card-size drawers, one full-size card file cabinet and six two-drawer card-size cabinets divided into eight files: Appointments File (1949-1955); Autograph Requests File (1952-1953); Christmas File (1948-1951); Invitations and Replies File (1949-1953); Miscellaneous Official Correspondence (1949-1952); Personal Correspondence (1949-1956) Thank You Letters (1949-1958); and Correspondence Index (1949-1952).

-- The Appointments File (1949-1955) (Boxes 138-139) contains correspondence (listed alphabetically) regarding Stevenson’s appointments and schedule.

-- The Autograph Requests File (1952-1953) (Box 139) contains correspondence from individuals who wanted Stevenson’s autograph and /or photograph.

-- The Christmas File (1948-1951) (Box 139 and card drawers 7-8) contains thank-you letters for gifts Stevenson received, his Christmas card list, and information on invitations received at the Executive Mansion.

-- The Invitations and Replies File (1949-1953) (Boxes 139-146) contains invitations Stevenson received and copies of the responses that were sent out. Most of the section is organized by date, with part of it organized by subject.

-- The Miscellaneous Official Correspondence (1949-1952) File (Boxes 146-147) contains correspondence filed by subject. It is a small section seemingly of odds and ends, some of which is coded 1 and 3.

-- The Personal Correspondence (1949-1956) File (Boxes 148-149) contains Stevenson’s personal correspondence filed alphabetically. Two complete folders are devoted to Jacob Arvey.

-- The Thank You Letters (1949-1958) File (Box 149-151) contains thank-yous to Governor Stevenson as well as thank-you’s from Stevenson for assorted gifts, including books.

-- The Correspondence Index (1949-1952) File (full-size card file cabinet, six two-drawer card-size cabinets) contains a single alphabetical listing of all of Stevenson’s correspondents.

* SERIES VI – Stevenson Family consists of Boxes 151-152 divided into three files: Adlai E. Stevenson, I File (1880-1964); Family Genealogy File (1949-1965); and Adlai E. Stevenson, II File (1965).

-- The Adlai E. Stevenson, I File (1880-1964) (Box 151) contains correspondence to and about Adlai I, newspaper clippings about his career, pamphlets and articles about him, and some genealogical material about Adlai and about Jesse Fell.

-- The Family Genealogy File (1949-1965) (Box 152) contains correspondence, genealogy charts and a few mementoes of major lines in the family including: Stevenson, Fell, Borden, Davis, Ewing and others.

-- The Adlai E. Stevenson, II File (1965) (Box 152) contains the news releases and memorial folder concerning Stevenson’s death and the subsequent funeral arrangements.

* Additional Materials

-- Oversize Manuscripts Folders (5 Folders)

-- Bound Volumes (28 Volumes)
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collection Repository

112 North Sixth Street
Springfield IL 62701 US
(217) 558-8923