Frank W. Fetter papers, 1902-1992, bulk dates 1920s-1980

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Fetter, Frank Whitson, 1899-1991
Frank W. Fetter (1899-1991) was a professor emeritus of economics at Northwestern University. This collection priarmily documents his professional life through his correspondence and diaries, writings, research, professional and faculty activities, and photographs. It forms parts of the Economists' Papers Archive.
114 Linear Feet (64 boxes.)
Material in English.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

This collection includes correspondence, diaries and journals, course material, published books, articles and book reviews, and all the supporting research for these publications. There is also printed material, as well as additional research material on index cards and microfilm. The files contain fellowship and grant applications, conference and seminar programs, notes and texts of lectures and speeches, as well as financial papers, a scrapbook, and pictures. The collection highlights the academic and consulting experiences (particularly the Kemmerer Commission) of Fetter, and documents his intellectual development as an historian of economic thought. Centering on his publications and research, and to a lesser extent his teaching, the largest series are the Publications and the Research series. His publications and research focused on the study of the history of economics, in particular inflation and international economic thought. As reflected in the Correspondence series, he corresponded with economists, academics, and writers. There is a relatively small amount of material concerning his personal life.

Fetter's research interests and publications were wide-ranging, and they are documented in both the Publications and Research series. His articles and pamphlets from 1921-1990 address such topics as Irish and Latin American currency, economists and their relationship to politics, as well as trade, tariff, and hard money issues. His articles focus mainly on the economic history of Great Britain in the 19th century, including the rise and fall of various economic trends and theories in the British financial system. One of the Kemmerer missions provided the basis for his first book, Monetary Inflation in Chile (1931), which foreshadowed his enduring interest in the causes of monetary instability. When later interests changed his focus to classical economics, and in particular British economic thought from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill, he illuminated the classic controversies over money and banking, which at the time of the Napoleonic Wars shaped the economic theories and institutional structures that served Britain and the world before 1914.

The Research series complements the Publications series, as Fetter used these files for many different projects. Much of this material deals with English banking history, and includes files on Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, the bullion controversy, and tariff issues.

In addition to research, Fetter's career involved a great deal of international consulting outside academia. He accepted commissions for projects throughout the world, and in the 1920s he participated in missions led by the Princeton economist E. W. Kemmerer (known as the "money doctor"), advising numerous Latin American governments and others on their monetary problems. The Commissions, Consulting, and Government Service series includes the material used to produce various economic reports for the foreign governments of Guatemala, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Poland, and China. He worked collaboratively with the US government and the governments of India, Cuba, and Germany to secure economic stability for each of these countries.

Not only was Fetter a consultant, but he also taught economics at Princeton, Haverford College, Northwestern University, and, upon his retirement, Dartmouth College, where he adapted his Northwestern University course material for his classes. Both the Northwestern University series and the Teaching subseries in the Professional series highlight such courses as "Money and Banking," "History of Economic Thought," "International Investment," and "Latin American Culture and Civilization."

The Student Papers subseries in the Personal series and Teaching subseries in the Professional series detail Fetter's educational experiences, both as a student and teacher. The Teaching subseries chiefly covers his teaching experiences before his appointment to Northwestern University, with just a few files during and after the Northwestern years.

Letters to and from colleagues with whom Fetter was closely associated, as well as correspondence with friends and family members (including his father, the Princeton economist Frank Albert Fetter), can be found in the Correspondence series. Among his correspondents were J. Garner Anthony, Robert D. C. Black, J. Chester Bradley, R. C. Brooks, Colin Campbell, Lino Castillejo, S. G. Checkland, (Chick) Eagen, Luther Evans, Max Farrand, Milton Friedman, Craufurd Goodwin, Barry Gordon, Frank Graham, Keith Horsefield, Hollard (Ho) Hunter, Per Jacobsson, E. W. Kemmerer, John Maynard Keynes, Charles Kindleberger, Samuel Loescher, Vernon Mund, Leslie Pressnell, Lord Robbins, Richard Sayers, Franklin Scott, Joseph B. Shane, Frederick Jackson Turner, F. W. Taussig, Alan Valentine, Jacob Viner, C. R. Whittlesey and Harold Williamson. Other correspondents of note are E. M. Forster, Upton Sinclair, and Gore Vidal.

Varying aspects of Fetter's personal and professional life are reflected in both the Personal and Professional series. His associations with a number of professional organizations are represented in the files of the American Economic Association, Midwest Economic Association, History of Political Economy, and National Bureau of Economic Research. Personal information, including his marriage to Elizabeth Pollard in 1929, and his second marriage to Elizabeth Stabler in 1978, are part of the Biographical subseries.

Fetter was a consistent diarist, and the Calendars, Diaries, and Journals series records many events during his life. There are also travel journals of Elizabeth Pollard from her 1929 trip to China and 1937 trip to England.

The Visual Material series contains personal images and documentary photographs of Fetter's consulting work. The majority of the photographs are from Fetter's trip to Russia in 1930, taken mainly in Kazan and Moscow.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1899, May 22
Born in San Francisco, CA
Graduated from Princeton High School (NJ)
AB, Political Science, Swarthmore College (Phi Beta Kappa)
AM, Princeton University
AM, Harvard University
PhD, Economics, Princeton University
Assistant Professor and Professor of Economics, Princeton University
1929, Jan. 14
Married Elizabeth Pollard (died 1977)
Member, Commission on Cuban Affairs, organized by Foreign Policy Association
Associate Professor and Professor of Economics, Haverford College
Guggenheim Fellowship (research on banking in Great Britain)
Economist, Export-Import Bank
Economic advisor, Central Bank of Ecuador
Economic advisor, Lend-Lease Administration and Department of State; 10 months in India
Professor of Economics, Northwestern University
1950, Summer
Advisor, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Advisor to Department of State, Division of German Affairs, and member of American delegation to London for Preliminary Conference on German Debts
1978, Apr.
Married Elizabeth Miller Stabler (died 1985)
Died in Hanover, NH
Acquisition information:
The Frank W. Fetter papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library as a gift in 1991 and from Geoffrey Gilbert in 2012.
Processing information:

Processed by Denise Dolan, John Gribble, and Tara Tappert, 1992.

Encoded by Stephen D. Miller.

Accessions described in this collection guide: the original 1991 accession and 2012-0233.


The Frank W. Fetter papers are arranged into ten series: Correspondence; Calendars, Diaries, and Journals; Commissions, Consulting, and Government Service; Northwestern University; Publications; Research; Personal; Professional; and Visual Material.

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Access restricted. There is a Restricted subseries in the Publications series. Contact Research Services for access.

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