Daniel C. Roper papers, 1860-1958

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Roper, Daniel C. (Daniel Calhoun), 1867-1943
56 Linear Feet
circa 33,900 items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Daniel C. Roper Papers, 1860-1958 (bulk 1933-1938), consist chiefly of professional and political correspondence, including telegrams and memoranda, but also include speeches, financial papers, clippings, invitations, legal papers, printed material, and pictures. The collection primarily documents Roper's term as Secretary of Commerce during the first administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In general the papers provide an inside look at this Democratic administration during the early depression years, as well as the relationships among business, government, and politics. In particular, Roper had close ties to people in the business community and was sympathetic to their concerns. In addition, the collection tracks the course of the New Deal in the Department of Commerce and the career of Roper not only as a United States government official in Roosevelt's cabinet but also as a progressive Democrat. However, there are some gaps in these professional files in that there is very little material pertaining to Roper's career prior to his appointment to the cabinet post. Also, files for 1931 are almost entirely missing, and cross-reference sheets in the collection prepared by Roper's staff appear to refer to a separate set of files missing from this collection. There is relatively little in the papers concerning Roper's personal life, except for financial papers.

Roper's tenure as Secretary of Commerce is primarily documented in the Alphabetical Series, which not only is the largest series but also forms the heart of the collection. His support of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential campaign probably helped him earn this cabinet appointment along with Roper's representation of the old Woodrow Wilson element in the Democratic Party. Roper set as a major task the development of mutual confidence, cooperation, and a closer relationship between business and government in order to bring about a recovery from the depression. Since he had been a tax expert and business consultant prior to becoming Secretary, this was a natural role for him. In fact in 1933 he had organized a Business Advisory and Planning Council for the Department of Commerce to advise the administration on the effect of the New Deal's proposals on business. After serving in the administration for almost six years, Roper resigned to return to private life.

The Alphabetical Series includes correspondence from a large number of prominent senators and congressmen, men in government service, businessmen, lawyers, judges, and New Deal figures. These include Bernard Baruch, James Byrnes, Patrick Callahan, James Cannon, Thomas Chadbourne, David Coker, Homer Cummings, Josephus Daniels, William Dodd, Ernest Draper, Robert Elbert, James Farley, John Garner, and W. Averell Harriman. Other correspondents are William Henry Harrison, Edward House, Louis Howe Cordell Hull, Clarence Hurrey, Jesse Jones, Hugh MacRae, William Gibbs McAdoo, George Milton, Robert Owen, Hollins Randolph, Lawrence Robert, L.S. Rowe, and John Humphrey Small. The Farley correspondence includes a run of first day covers, 1933-1938, while he was Postmaster General. Roper's interest in the stamps was piqued in part by the fact that he had been the First Assistant Postmaster General appointed by Woodrow Wilson. There are smaller amounts of correspondence with other New Deal figures, such as Harry Hopkins, Frances Perkins, and Harold Ickes.

Information on organizations and topics is scattered throughout the Alphabetical Series. They include aeronautics (in Aviation folder); American University; the Board of Education of the District of Columbia; commerce (in Foreign Trade folder); communication (radio and telegraph); financial federations, specifically The Community Chest of Washington, D.C.; the Democratic National Committee; the Democratic Party (in Politics folder); Duke University; the Export-Import Bank of Washington; and the Hindenburg accident. Others are the Freemasons (in Masons folder); Japanese Economic Mission to the United States; the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (also in Methodist Church and Mt. Vernon Place Church folders); the National Benefit Life Assurance Company; the National Recovery Administration; the Post Office Department; the presidential election of 1932 (in Politics folder); prohibition; religion and politics; Franklin D. Roosevelt; and temperance and liquor laws (in Liquor Control folder). Roper supported prohibition and in fact had served during the prohibition era as Commissioner of Internal Revenue in the Treasury Department, charged with enforcing liquor laws. There is information about agencies within or related to the Department of Commerce including the Business Advisory Council, the Bureau of the Census (in Census folder), the Bureau of Fisheries (in Fisheries folder), and the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce (in Foreign and Domestic folder). Other topics represented in the collection include the Boxing Bill; the Communications Group; the Inter-departmental Communications Committee (in Communications Committee folder), probably a precursor of the Federal Communications Commission; and a proposed National Advisory Council.

Roper's professional views are expressed in the Writings and Speeches Series primarily while he served as Commissioner of Internal Revenue and as Secretary of Commerce. The speeches address a number of domestic political and economic issues, including the relationship of business and government, government regulation, taxation, economic recovery from the depression, the U.S. Postal Service, and the role of government in society.

There is scant evidence in these papers relating to Roper's career other than that as Secretary of Commerce and his speeches as Commissioner of Internal Revenue. His autobiography, Fifty Years of Public Life in the Writings and Speeches Series, gives an overview of his career. There is some information on his career as the First Assistant Postmaster General in the Alphabetical Series in the Postmaster General file. In that series there is a little information in Internal Revenue Service folders about his resignation as Commissioner. In the Clippings Series there is documentation of his brief service as U.S. Minister to Canada in the summer of 1939. There is a scrapbook, "My Clippings of Their Majesties' Visit to Canada, 1939," and loose clippings pertaining to the visit.

Roper's personal life is not well documented in the collection except for his financial concerns as seen in the Financial Papers Series. The information in that series relates not only to the investments and bank accounts of Roper but to his wife Lou McKenzie Roper and their children. There is some additional information on the Ropers in the various Roper folders and in other scattered folders under various topics in the Alphabetical Series, and in the Legal Papers and Pictures in the Miscellaneous Series.

A photograph album entitled, "Sugar: Story in Pictures," concerning sugar growing in Santo Domingo appears in the Miscellaneous Series. In addition this series contains photographs of prominent statesmen and others, such as Bernard Baruch, the British Royal family, William Jennings Bryan, Grover Cleveland, Josephus Daniels, Averell Harriman, Harold Ickes, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. An oil portrait of Roper is in the custody of the Special Collections Library. The Clippings Series includes scattered information on farming in South Carolina, especially cotton, African Americans, racial relations, tariffs, the presidential campaign of 1924 and William Gibbs McAdoo, and Roosevelt's cabinet.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1867, April 1
Born Marlboro County, S.C.
Received B.A. from Trinity College (became Duke University)
1889, Dec. 25
Married Lou McKenzie
Member of South Carolina House of Representatives
Clerk for U.S. Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce
Practiced law in Washington, D.C.
Expert special agent for U.S. Census Bureau
Received LL.B. from National University (Washington, D.C.)
Statistician and Chief Clerk for Ways and Means Committee, U.S. House of Representatives
First Assistant Postmaster General of United States
Chairman, Organization Bureau, Woodrow Wilson campaign
1917, Mar.-Sept.
Vice-Chairman, U.S. Tariff Commission
Commissioner of Internal Revenue
President of Marlin Rockwell Corporation, New York City
Returned to Washington, D.C. to practice law
Trustee of Duke University
Worked on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential campaign
U.S. Secretary of Commerce
1939, May-Aug.
Minister to Canada
1943, April 11

Roper received the following academic degrees: LL.D. from Tusculum College (1927), LL.D from National University (1933), M.B.A. from Bryant and Stratton College in Providence, R.I. (1933), and L.H.D. from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fl.(1934). He was a member of the American Bar Association; the Board of Stewards; the Democratic Party; the Board of Directors for the Atlantic Coast Line Railway; the Board of Education in Washington, D.C. (1932); the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1930); the 6th Ecumenical Conference (1931); Sigma Alpha Epsilon; Phi Beta Kappa; the Chevy Chase Club; the National Press Club; the University Club (Washington, D.C.); and the Masons. He was a trustee of Coker College and the American University. Roper was the author of The United States Post Office (1917) and Fifty Years in Public Life (1941).

Acquisition information:
The papers of Daniel C. Roper (1860-1958) were donated to the Duke University Special Collections Library in 1977, 1978 and 1980 by members of the Roper family.
Processing information:

Processed by Denise Dolan and Sharon Knapp

Date Completed: April 27, 1993

Encoded by Alvin Pollock

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

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The copyright interests in the papers of Daniel C. Roper have not been transferred to Duke University. 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], Daniel C. Roper Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.