J. B. Matthews papers, 1862-1986 and undated

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Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966
J. B. Matthews (1894-1966) was a Methodist missionary, college professor, author, lecturer, and prominent conservative spokesman. Collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, statements, speeches, reprints, clippings, broadsides, newsletters, press releases, petitions, and other printed material, chiefly 1930-1969. The principal focus of the collection relates to the work and research of Matthews and his associates in the area of anti-communism, particularly in connection with Matthews' role as Director of Research for the Special Committee on Un-American Activities of the U.S. House of Representatives (1938-1945), Executive Director of the Permanent Subcommittee on Government Operations of the U.S. Senate (1953), and a consultant for John A. Clements Associates. Many of the organizations, newspapers, periodicals, and persons represented in the collection have various leftist, socialist, communist, radical, or pacifist (especially anti-Vietnam War) connections. Individuals represented in the files include Ralph Abernathy, Bella Abzug, Roy Cohn, John Foster Dulles, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Michael Harrington, Alger Hiss, J. Edgar Hoover, Jesse Jackson, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Joseph Lash, Joseph McCarthy, Carl McIntire, Benjamin Mandel, Richard Nixon, Aristotle Onassis, Lee Harvey Oswald, Linus Pauling, Drew Pearson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Louis Untermeyer.
479 Linear Feet (307,000 items)
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The papers of J.B. (Joseph Brown) Matthews span the years 1862 to 1986, although the bulk of the collection falls during the 1930s to the 1960s. Included are correspondence, memoranda, statements, speeches, reprints, clippings, broadsides, newsletters, press releases, petitions, and other printed material. there is virtually no material relating to Matthews' early work as a Methodist missionary and college professor or to his involvement with various leftist and radical groups during the 1930s. The principal focus of the collection relates to the work and research of Matthews and his associates in the area of anticommunism. This focus is especially reflected in the Vertical Files, Persons, and Card File Series in the collection with many of the organizations, newspapers, periodicals, and persons represented therein having various leftist, socialist, communist, pacifist, or radical connections. The Vertical Files Series, primarily covering the period of the 1940s through the 1960s, constitutes over three-fourths of the bulk of the total collection, with printed matter comprising a large portion of the individual files. Originally the Vertical Files Series was a set of duplicate files that J.B. Matthews kept while working as a consultant for John A. Clements Associates. He later acquired other material and integrated it into the original files. During processing, many loose papers, unlabelled folders, and unorganized files were integrated into this Series when appropriate. There is, however, some overlap among the materials in the Vertical Files Series, the Research Correspondence Series, and the Persons Files Series.

Organizations represented in the Vertical Files Series include many peace and anti-Vietnam war groups, such as America First Committee, American League Against War and Fascism, American League for Peace and Democracy, American Peace Crusade, American Peace Mobilization, Church Peace Union, Committee for Non-Violent Action, National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, Promoting Enduring Peace, Vietnam Day Committee, War Resisters League, World Council of Peace, and Youth Against War and Fascism. Also included are other organizations, such as the Women's International Democratic Federation, Women Strike for Peace, Black Panther Party, National Negro Labor Council, and Revolutionary Action Movement. Other representative categories in this Series include the American Civil Liberties Union, American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, American Friends Service Committee, American Legion, Americans for Democratic Action, Communism and the Communist Party, Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy, The Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Foreign Policy Association, Institute of Pacific Relations, Ku Klux Klan, National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, World Federation of Trade Unions, Young Socialist Alliance, United Nations; and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. At the end of this series are folders for various miscellaneous organizations and miscellaneous lists of organizations.

The Persons Files Series consists of files of information about persons who were investigated because of suspected communist or communist-front connections and volumes of indexes and selected documents. m e individual persons files, which are generally quite slim, usually include written statements about people and their activities, accusations against them, and other Items such as speeches, memoranda, and clippings, often including the source of the information. This series also includes files gathered by associates of Matthews. Included in the volumes in this series is the "Index to Organizations and their Members," ca. 1930s-1950s. Names of organizations, institutes, conferences, periodicals, committees, councils, appeals, funds, etc., are organized alphabetically. Below the name is the dated source of the information, such as a leaflet or letterhead, followed by the names of members of that organization, often including a brief biographical phrase identifying each person.

Also in the volumes are an "Index to Individuals," and an "Index to Organizations and Publications." These indexes refer to page numbers in the volumes of selected documents where one can locate references to the names of the person, publication, or organization. Examples of the types of documents to be found are letters; portions of newsletters and journals; newspaper clippings; programs; petitions; press releases; articles; announcements of meetings; partial directories; and lists of staff, sponsors, or officers of organizations. Each volume of selected documents is indexed separately. In addition, each volume of selected documents also has its own index at the front. Some volumes are incomplete and/or unbound.

Benjamin Mandel was an important associate of J.B. Matthews and the series within the collection bearing his name forms an important component of the papers. Like Matthews, Mandel also was involved with various communist organizations only to change his views in later life. Mandel was a leading member of the Communist Party in the 1920s and later joined the research staff of the House Un-American Activities Committee and from 1950 to 1967 served as the research director of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. Included in this series is a file of correspondence, 1939-1969, between Matthews and Mandel and subject files relating to the F.B.I. and J. Edgar Hoover.

Matthews's personal and private life is reflected in the Personal Series. Included are family papers, private correspondence, material he collected, columns and editorials in which he is mentioned, and Items about his death. Telephone messages, 1949-1955, are mostly typed carbons that were created while he worked for John A. Clements Associates. This series reveals information about family relationships, including his children Joseph, Jr. (married to Helen; children were Susan, and twins Sharon and Steve); Roy (married to Genevieve; children are Brian and JoAnne); Martin S.; Margaret (married to John Burd; children are Larry and Marilyn, who married Thomas Quinn); and Grace (married to Wayne Cressman). In the Joseph Matthews file is information pertaining to the tragic suicide/murder incident involving J.B. Matthews' son, Joseph, Jr. Other family members represented in this series are Matthews' sister, Jesse Matthews Sikes, and his second wife, Ruth E. Shallcross Matthews, who was an economist at the Institute of Paper Chemistry; she later married George Erskine Maynard on July 14, 1951.

In the Ruth I. Matthews series are the papers of the third wife of J.B. Matthews, who also had been a consultant to the Hearst Corporation, but, contrary to her husband, has always held conservative political views. She has had an important career in her own right, most recently as treasurer, assistant publisher, and trustee of Consumer's Research Magazine and as a free lance writer. She has been a professor of sociology at the University of Washington and research editor of Combat, a subsidiary of National Review; helped launch Deadline Data on World Affairs; and was a staff member of the House Committee on Internal Security.

Highlights of the titles in the Volumes Series are "Subversive Activities Investigation" (Investigatory Hearings of the New York Department of Labor's Industrial Commission), 1941; "Master Reference on Communism;""Communist Perspective: A Handbook of Communist Doctrinal Statements in the Original Russian and English;""Communism in the Motion Picture Industry;" Joint Statement of Five Employees of Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company Before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, 1947; and works of J.B. Matthews: Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler and Guinea Pigs No More. In this series are two reports published by John A. Clements Associates: "Report on Venezuela" (1958) and "Report on Guatemala" (1952). A mimeographed report, "Vanguard in Guatemala - The Myth Comes to America," used by J.B. and Ruth I. Matthews for "Report on Guatemala" is in the Addresses and Writings Series.

In the picture cabinet are oversize items, such as an invitation to a dinner and awards presentation sponsored by the American-Russian Institute, including the names of the Board of Directors of the Institute and the sponsors. Also included, from the American League Against War and Fascism folder, is a 1936 calendar with appropriate artwork. A large poster advertises the book Partners in Plunder by J.B. and Ruth Shallcross Matthews.

The collection includes extensive card files, which are principally comprised of files of names. The two major files in the Card Files Series are the J.B. Matthews File and the Donald I. Sweany File. In general, there is more factual information, as opposed to referrals to others sources, in Sweany's File, Although both files contain both types of information. Donald I. Sweany, who compiled the Sweany File, was a friend of the Matthewses' and a member of the American Legion. The card file was originally prepared for the Legion; the Rubenstein Library has the carbon copies he prepared on paper slips. The types of data on the cards include citations to information on persons in periodicals or other sources, such as the Fish Hearings; and biographical information about persons. Sometimes a source is given.

Another file in the Card Files Series is the Titles of Publications File. These cards have the title of a publication at the top, with one or more of the following pieces of information: a number, name of a person, date, letter/number combination, or abbreviation of an organization. The Tocsin File gives citations in this publication for information on persons. Perkins Library stacks does not have holdings of Tocsin. In the Vertical Files Series of this collection, there are a few folders of Tocsin material, including issues from 1960 plus an index to Tocsin, 1961-1965.

Also included in the Card Files Series is the In Process Files, including a variety of cards that Ruth and J.B. Matthews were working on, such as some cards to be filed in the Matthews name file. Other cards contain a statement from a newspaper or petition which was signed by several people. The Matthewses would then type the name of each person at the top of a card with the statement on it, and then file the cards by name. The Miscellaneous File is a small alphabetical file of miscellaneous information, such as addresses. Included are the names and addresses of publications to which the Matthewses subscribed. The 4 X 6 Cards File is a separate set of files that the Matthewses obtained from an unknown source. It primarily contains brief information about organizations, people, and various subjects.

The final file in the Card Files Series is the large J.B. Matthews File. These cards include information about various persons, such as organization affiliation, relationship to the organization, and source of the information. The name of the organization is usually given as an acronym. Other cards give citations for information on persons in various periodicals such as Daily Worker. Titles are given as acronyms, such as "DW." There is a guide key to these acronyms, called "Key to Organizations." It includes both publications as well as organizations, and is located on top of Cabinet 10. A few cards contain information about a person with the source of the information. Some cards note, "See folder in file cabinet of persons." There are folders for some of these names in the Persons Files Series; for others there are not. Another notation on cards is, "See SB File." The "SB" refers to Stephen Birmingham, an investigator for the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1930s. When he retired, he gave his file to Matthews. The Manuscript Department does not have his file, but it was too time-consuming to remove all these cards.

Throughout the collection, in general, there tend to be small amounts of information about numerous persons. It is not possible to mention here all the important names that appear in the papers. There are subject cards in the card catalog for the names that follow as well as many others. Included is information on Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Benjamin Mandel, Ralph Abernathy, Bella Abzug, Roy Cohn, John Foster Dulles, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Michael Harrington, Alger Hiss, Jesse Jackson, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Joseph Lash, Fulton Lewis, Malcolm X, Carl McIntire, Francis McNamara, Richard Nixon, Aristotle Onassis, Lee Harvey Oswald, Linus Pauling, Drew Pearson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Louis Untermeyer. In addition, there is some correspondence in the Research Correspondence Series with John T. Flynn, 1947-1964; Westbrook Pegler, 1936-1969; Norman Vincent Peale, 1955-1962; and Victor Riesel, 1948-1952.

It is important when checking for names of persons in the inventory to consult all the following series: Vertical Files Series; Persons Files Series, including the indexes at the end; Research Correspondence Series; and Card Files Series. There are references in some folders to a card for a person in the Card Files Series.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1894, June 28
Born, Hopkinsville, Kentucky
B.A., Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky
Methodist Missionary to Java
Married Grace Ison
B.D., Drew University
S.T.M. (Magna cum laude), Union Theological Seminary
A.M., Columbia University
Professor of Hebrew and the history of religion at the Scarritt College for Christian Workers, Nashville, Tennessee
Member of faculty of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee
Publication of Youth Looks at World Peace: a Story of the First World Youth Peace Congress
Executive Secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation
Member of various left-wing organizations
Publication of Fascism (with Ruth E. Shallcross) and Traffic in Death: a Few Facts Concerning the International Munitions Industry
Publication of Partners in Plunder: the Cost of Business Dictatorship
Vice President of Consumers' Research, Inc.
Married Ruth E. Shallcross
Publication of Guinea Pigs No More
Publication of Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler
Director of Research for the Committee on Un-American Activities of the U.S. House of Representatives
Lecturer; author of anticommunist articles; speaker before Federal and state committees investigating communism; and consultant for John A. Clements Associates, the Hearst public relations firm
Married Ruth Inglis
1953, June
Executive Director of the Permanent Subcommittee on Government Operations of the U.S. Senate
1953, July
Publication of "Reds and Our Churches" in American Mercury
1966, July 16
Died, New York City
Acquisition information:

The papers of J. B. Matthews (1894-1966), missionary, political conservative, research director, author, and lecturer, were a gift to the Rubenstein Library in 1983 by Ruth Inglis Matthews.

Funds from the Virginia Gray Fund were used in the acquisition of the collection.

Processing information:

Processed by Sharon E. Knapp

Completed ca. 1986

Encoded by Stephen D. Miller and Robin LaPasha

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Copyright interests in these papers are reserved to Ruth Inglis Matthews. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], The J. B. Matthews Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University