Leonard Solomon Silk papers, 1929-1995 and undated, bulk 1950-1985
Using These Materials
- Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke...
- Silk, Leonard Solomon, 1918-1995
- The papers of noted economist Leonard Silk span his entire career and include correspondence files; printed material such as periodicals and reports; research or subject files; newspaper clippings files; drafts of writings, including Silk's books, New York Times news columns, editorials, speeches, lectures, book reviews, and essays. There are also papers and reprints by Silk's colleagues; organizations files; publicity and informal photographs of Silk; financial documents; economic data; some teaching materials such as reading lists; and theses and dissertations (including Silk's own thesis on Swedish post-war housing, 1947). The collection also contains groups of cards, notes, memos, calendars and agendas. Silk's papers are a vast and rich resource for learning about the intersection of politics, economics, and popular opinion in the 20th century, U.S. fiscal policies, global economics, and specific topics as unemployment, inflation, banking, Keynesian economics, markets and marketing, the economies of Asian countries, and many other subjects. A more detailed original paper inventory is available in the library; in it significant portions of the correspondence are listed at the item level, including correspondents' names.
544.7 Linear Feet
Approx. 326,732 items
- Material in English
- Collection ID:
- Scope and Content:
The papers of Leonard Silk span his entire career, and are arranged by original accessions, within which there are divisions by format,assembled by Silk. Most but not all accessions are described in this collection guide. The largest one is numbered 6096 and comprises over 80 large boxes.
There are many format divisions, and they typically include correspondence files; printed material such as periodicals and reports; research or subject files; newspaper clippings files; drafts of writings, including Silk's books, news columns, editorials, speeches, lectures, book reviews, and essays; papers and reprints by Silk's colleagues; organizations files; publicity and informal photographs of Silk and others; financial documents; economic data such as forecasts and tables, much of it reported by the U.S. government; some teaching materials such as reading lists; and theses and dissertations (including Silk's 1947 thesis on Swedish housing policies). There are also groups of cards, notes, memos, calendars and agendas, and some minutes of meetings relating to organizations with which Silk was involved.
Leonard Silk's papers are a vast and rich resource for learning about the intersection of politics, economics, and popular opinion in the 20th century. Specific topics include U.S. fiscal policies; global economics (starting with materials on post-World War II Europe); trends in social institutions in the U.S.; and other economic topics as American business, unemployment, inflation, banking, macroeconomics and Keynesian economics, markets and marketing (pharmaceutical and tobacco, among others), the economies of Asian countries such as Japan, and many other subjects.
A more detailed original paper inventory is available in the library; in it, significant portions of the correspondence are listed at the item level, including correspondents' names; separated book titles are also listed individually. Many groups of other materials, however, are described only by number of pieces.
In the correspondence files, many of them arranged in chronological order, the majority of the letters are addressed to Silk, but there are also some written by him. Significant correspondents include writers and journalists as well as well-known political figures and economists too numerous to mention. A search using key words may be helpful in locating particular individuals. Again, the original paper inventory contains the names of hundreds of individual correspondents.
The largest group of materials in the collection consists of print items. Silk assembled extensive research files of clippings, articles, periodicals, reports, government publications, and reprints. All of these supported his current research interests, which ranged widely but chiefly focused on macroeconomics, Keynesian economic theory, economics for the social good, and banking and finance. He also set aside pamphlets, tables and charts, and even maps related to his travels.
- Biographical / Historical:
Leonard Solomon Silk, a journalist of economics, was born on May 15, 1918 in Philadelphia, and passed away in 1995 in Montclair, New Jersey. He entered Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in 1936 and transferred to The University of Wisconsin on a scholarship the following year. There he began his journalistic career, editing the humor magazine Octopus. He also became influenced by the cutting-edge economics department, and professors such as Selig Perlman. Silk entered Duke University in 1940 for graduate study in economics; his mentor at Duke was international economist Calvin Bryce Hoover. His graduate study was interrupted during World War II when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces. He worked as a Morse code operator in Alaska, but also wrote for Yank and other Army publications. In this capacity, he covered the 1945 founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco. Upon his return to graduate study in 1946, he travelled to Sweden to study the Swedish housing system. He published an article on this research in Fortune magazine; a longer version of which became his Ph.D. thesis and subsequently his first book, Sweden Plans for Better Housing (1948), published by Duke University Press.
Silk is most well known as a columnist and editorial writer for The New York Times and Business Week. He was one of the first journalists known for making complex economic issues understandable to the average reader. He became a full-time columnist for The New York Times from 1976-1993 and published a column twice weekly in the business pages under the "Economic Scene" rubric. In later years he also frequently wrote major news stories on economic issues.
In addition to his journalistic work, Silk taught economics at the University of Maine, Simmons College in Boston, the University of Oslo, and Pace University. He was a Senior Research Fellow on the United Nations for the Ralph Bunche Institute at the City University of New York, and a Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution. He worked for the federal government in various positions such as a housing expert and an economist for the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Silk expanded much of his journalistic research into books; his most well known are Economics in Plain English (1978), Economics in the Real World (1984), and The American Establishment.
Silk was drawn to economics by the Great Depression. During his undergraduate study at the University of Wisconsin, he was influenced by Keynesian theory and recently popularized views that economists should study micro-economics and not just macro-economics. Eventually Silk moved away from Keynesian theory, but advocated both government regulation and deregulation based on the particular economic situation. He viewed economics as a branch of philosophy and believed that economics should improve the quality of life for people, especially the disadvantaged.
- Acquisition Information:
- The Leonard Silk papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a transfer from the University of Wyoming in 2005 and 2008.
- Processing information:
Processed by University of Wyoming and Rubenstein Library staff.
Accessions 2005-0046 and 2008-0039 are represented in this finding aid.
This collection has been given basic processing: materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.
Also, at the University of Wyoming, and later, upon arrival of the collection at Duke, boxes of certain printed material such as books and pamphlets were separated from this collection; some were transferred to the Perkins Library general collections. Gaps in the box number sequence represent these separated boxes.
The collection has been given basic processing and is in the original order as received by the University of Wyoming from where it was transferred. The largest divisions represent additions to the Silk Papers, numbered by the University of Wyoming and dated, each of which is made up of format groupings such as correspondence, reports, and subject files, which appear randomly throughout each addition. Within those groupings there is often an original alphabetical order, particularly for subject files and correspondence. Keyword searching can be used to uncover specific topics or names in this large collection. Note that portions of the collection accessions are not described in this collection guide. The papers are in the queue to be fully processed by library staff.
Gaps in the box number sequence come from print materials that were separated for the Perkins Library general collections, and are no longer housed with the manuscript collection. See the administrative sections at the beginning of this collection guide for more information.
- 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
- Related Material:
Arthur F. Burns Papers, 1929-2003 and undated, bulk 1953-1981 (U.S. economist and consultant to Federal Government) David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
- Separated Material:
At the University of Wyoming, and later, upon arrival of the collection at Duke, boxes of selected print material such as books and pamphlets were separated from the personal papers represented in this collection guide. At Duke, large groupings of print material have been transferred to the Perkins Library general collections or to the holdings of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Gaps in the box number sequence reflect these separated boxes. The original paper finding aid lists most but not all of the books originally in the collection by title. Please contact Research Services in the Duke David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library for assistance in locating materials.
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
Banks and banking -- United States
Economics -- Public Opinion
Economics -- Study and teaching
Economists -- Correspondence
Fiscal policy -- United States
Fiscal policy -- United States -- Public Opinion
Finance -- United States
Journalists -- United States
Mass media and economics
Unemployment -- United States
New York Times
Silk, Leonard Solomon, 1918-1995
United States -- Economic conditions -- 20th century
United States -- Politics and government -- 20th century -- Press coverage
Using These Materials
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
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.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
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- PREFERRED CITATION:
[Identification of item], Leonard Solomon Silk papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University