Archives Unbound: Law, Politics, and Radical Studies

The political and legal history of the United States is highlighted in the papers of politicians and the organizations that supported them, and documentation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department.  These collections also feature materials about world communism and the evolution of the American militia movement.

To learn more about the archives within this collection, select the menu topics below. Interested in a trial? Request one today, or contact your rep for more information.

  • Legal History

    FBI File: Alger Hiss/Whittaker Chambers - No single episode did more to set off alarms of a diabolic “Red” conspiracy within the national government than the case of Alger Hiss. During the 1948 presidential campaign, the House Un-American Activities Committee conducted a hearing in which Whittaker Chambers, a senior editor at Time magazine and former Soviet agent who had broken with the communists in 1938, identified Hiss, who had worked as an aide to the assistant secretary of state, as an underground party member in the 1930s. This file traces the machinations of the many figures involved in one of the era’s most famous witch hunts. Trails of evidence are followed through correspondence between alleged Communist Party members and sympathizers, as well as interviews with associates of the accused. The archive is an invaluable resource on the Second Red Scare and the internal politics of the United States during the early years of the Cold War.

    FBI File: Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. - The assassination on April 4, 1968, of Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, triggered a massive manhunt culminating in the arrest of James Earl Ray. The 44,000-page case file of the Federal Bureau of Investigation documents the bureau’s role in finding Ray and obtaining his conviction. The file also includes background information amassed by the FBI on Dr. King’s social activism. This archive is of particular interest to students of the civil rights movement and the continuing controversy surrounding Dr. King’s murder.

    FBI File: Watergate - The Watergate scandal grew out of the scheme to conceal the connection between the White House and the accused Watergate burglars, who had succeeded in a plan to wiretap telephones at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C. Early in the morning of June 17, 1972, a security guard foiled the break-in to install the bugs. After the election, a federal judge refused to accept the claim of those on trial for the break-in that they had acted on their own. In February 1973, the U.S. Senate established the Special Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to investigate alleged election misdeeds. This archive is a valuable resource for students of the Watergate scandal and modern American political history. Included here are all of the reports and evidence acquired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as data that was gathered in the campaign activities of the 1972 presidential candidates.

    FBI File on Harry Dexter White - Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White (1892–1948) was one of the highest-ranking New Deal officials accused of espionage. Instrumental in shaping post-war international monetary policy, White co-authored the plans which created the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and served as the American executive director of the International Monetary Fund. This FBI file contains reports, correspondence, news clippings, and four pages of White's documents that were found in a hollow pumpkin on Chambers's Maryland farm in 1948. This file is an excellent resource for the study of the anticommunism fervor in the formative years of the Cold War.

    Lincoln at the Bar: Extant Case Files from the U.S. District and Circuit Courts, Southern District of Illinois 1855-1861 - This collection consists of the extant files of cases from the records of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts at Springfield with which Abraham Lincoln has been identified as legal counsel, and date from 1855 to 1861. The 122 case files reproduced here include civil actions brought under both statute and common law, admiralty litigation, and a few criminal cases.

    Price Control in the Courts: The U.S. Emergency Court of Appeals, 1941-1961 - In the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, Congress established a comprehensive system of administrative controls over prices, as a means of checking the inflation that accompanied America’s entry into World War II. The Act created a temporary Emergency Court of Appeals, staffed by federal judges from the district courts and courts of appeals, with exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of price control regulations.

    Spiro T. Agnew Case: The Investigative and Legal Documents - Spiro T. Agnew (1918–1996) was Vice President to Richard Nixon from 1969 until his resignation in 1973 following an investigation on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, bribery, extortion, and tax fraud. This collection contains the legal documents of the case, the correspondence surrounding the investigation and trial, Agnew's records, and related newspaper and magazine articles. Few criminal investigations have ever uncovered such detailed evidence of wrongdoing, with near mathematical precision. These documents are also noteworthy because they detail a most unusual occurrence, in which the second-highest official of a government has been investigated, prosecuted, and forced from office by the Justice Department of that same administration.

    The Scopes Case - This collection records one of the most famous cases of the 20th century, which pitted lawyer Clarence Darrow (1857–1938) against the politician and fundamentalist William Jennings Bryant (1860–1925). The Scopes Case, formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, took place in July 1925. The trial highlighted the ongoing debates in the United States between creationism and evolutionism and involved a high school teacher, John T. Scopes (1900–1970), who was accused of teaching evolution at a school in Dayton, Tennessee. His trial became a highly controversial spectacle, sparking debates across the country. The so-called "Monkey Trial" became less about a law getting broken and more about whether science or religion should take priority in U.S. education.

  • Political History

    Conditions & Politics in Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1945 - These historical documents capture the hidden history of war-torn Europe and offer researchers, teachers, and students many new perspectives on politics, diplomacy, and everyday life in the German-occupied countries. Here is the complete record of political life in Occupied Western Europe available to the British Government during World War II from the original intelligence reports received by the British Foreign Office following the breakdown of normal diplomatic relations during wartime from class "FO 371" at The National Archives. The collection includes detailed information indexed by year and section, from the occupied states of Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and the Vatican, and the neutral countries—Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Some of the topics covered include the German attempts to win over important groups in occupied countries, the reaction to, and effect of, the German occupation, the propaganda struggle, the creation of the first resistance units, the repercussions of events such as the German invasion of Russia and essays on life under occupation in France, the Low Countries, and Norway.

    Electing the President: Proceedings of the Democratic National Conventions, 1832-1988 - This collection includes the proceedings of the 1832-1988 Democratic National Conventions, providing gavel to gavel coverage, including speeches, debates, votes, and party platforms. Also included are lists of names of convention delegates and alternates. Records of the earliest proceedings are based in part on contemporary newspaper accounts.

    Electing the President: Proceedings of the Republican National Conventions, 1856-1988 - The collection includes the proceedings for 1856-1988 of the Republican National Conventions, providing gavel to gavel coverage of the conventions, including speeches, debates, votes, and party platforms. Also included are lists of names of convention delegates and alternates. Records of the earliest proceedings are based in part on contemporary newspaper accounts.

    Election of 1948 - This collection provides documents and the perspectives of the four base camps from the 1948 United States presidential election: Democrat incumbent President and eventual victor Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; U.S. President, 1945–1953), Republican and New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey (1902–1971), Progressive and former Vice President Henry A. Wallace (1888–1965) and Dixiecrat and South Carolina Governor J. Strom Thurmond (1902–2003). Sources include Papers of Harry S Truman, Thomas E. Dewey Papers, Papers of Americans for Democratic Action as well as selections from several southern newspapers.

    FBI File on Joseph Kennedy - Joseph Kennedy, the patriarch of America's most famous family, achieved success in both the political and business arenas. As a businessman, Kennedy was involved in banking, shipbuilding, motion picture distribution, and real estate. His political activities included a stint as ambassador to Great Britain in the harrowing years leading up to World War II. This FBI file deals with aspects of Kennedy's life mainly in the 1940s and 50s. It includes FBI background checks as well as information concerning his close friendship with J. Edgar Hoover. This collection also contains snippets of information on Kennedy's sons: John, Robert, and Ted -- most notably of death threats made against Ted in 1968. Those interested in American social history, especially the 1940s and 50s, will find this file useful and informative.

    FBI File on Nelson Rockefeller - In 1940, Nelson Rockefeller (1908–1979) began a long career in government when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him as coordinator of inter-American affairs. He served in various federal posts until he was elected governor of New York in 1958. In 1973, after three unsuccessful runs for the Republican presidential nomination, Rockefeller resigned as New York's governor. In 1974, President Gerald Ford appointed him vice-president. This file on Nelson Rockefeller contains papers relating to the background checks conducted by the FBI in advance of his appointment to various positions in the federal government.

    FBI File on Robert F. Kennedy - Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. attorney general from 1960 to 1964 and a presidential candidate in 1968, came under special scrutiny by the FBI because the bureau’s aging but popular director, J. Edgar Hoover, considered him a political enemy. The materials in this file document not only many of Robert Kennedy’s activities but also Hoover’s enmity toward him. In addition to coverage of Kennedy’s public appearances and speeches, the file includes allegations of an affair between him and Marilyn Monroe and details of his trip to Alabama to meet with Governor George C. Wallace. The second half of the file documents the infamous public feud over wiretapping, in which Hoover released to the press memorandums suggesting that Kennedy had authorized wiretaps as early as 1961. The strength of Hoover’s dislike for the young Kennedy is borne out by the unusually large number of marginal notes written by Hoover on bureau memorandums in the file. This collection thus sheds light on the careers of both Hoover and Robert Kennedy, plus the bureaucratic resistance the Kennedy administration faced in its attempts at reform in the 1960s.

    JFK and Foreign Affairs, 1961-1963 - Originally microfilmed as JFK and Foreign Affairs, 1961-1963, this collection provides insights into President Kennedy’s views on foreign affairs, U.S. leadership of the "West," and various worldwide crises. There are more than just documents on the Bay of Pigs, Berlin, and Cuba. Some documents highlight American efforts to support Third World countries, balance of payments and foreign trade, Alliance for Progress and relations with Latin America, nuclear weapons and testing, NATO and the Multilateral Force in Europe, Southeast Asia and regional security, foreign aid, and military assistance, and the international space race.

    Official and Confidential Files of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover - The 164 files reproduced here were collected and maintained in Hoover's own office during his directorship, from 1924 to 1972. This unique collection contains extensive documentation, mostly derogatory, on such figures as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Several of the files also concern controversial FBI activities, such as attempts to discredit the civil rights movement. The files are arranged in the following categories: congressional, administrative, investigative, prominent persons, informative, policy, personnel, information from other agencies, presidential, and miscellaneous. Each file is preceded by an abstract prepared by the bureau.

    Papers of the Nixon Administration: The President’s Confidential and Subject Special Files, 1969-1974 - This publication consists of documents of an administratively sensitive nature, arranged according to subject from President Nixon’s Special Files collection, comprising the Confidential and Subject Files. These documents provide an in-depth look into the activities of the President, his closest advisors, and the administration. These records support the behind-the-scenes historical inquiry into an administration that may well be the most significant one since World War II and one of the most important in the 20th century.

    Political, Economic, and Military Conditions in China: Reports and Correspondence of the U.S. Military Intelligence Division, 1918-1941 - The documents in this collection are from the Military Intelligence Division (MID) relating to conditions in China from 1918 to 1941. In addition, there are documents created by other U.S. Government agencies and foreign governments. The MID documents from which the six file categories (general conditions, political conditions, economic conditions, army, navy, and aeronautics) reproduced in this collection were extracted is a part of the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group (RG) 165.

    Presidential Election Polls, 1988: The Gallup/Conus Reports - Introduction by Larry Hugick. Published in cooperation with the Gallup Organization. In 1988 the Gallup Organization conducted one of the most comprehensive political surveys ever undertaken during a presidential election year. From January through November, 33 polls tracked Americans' preferences among candidates and opinions on key issues. The resulting reports, all of which are provided in this collection, reveal how the public felt about not just the candidates themselves but also the nominating process, the political parties, and the advertising they used. Each report contains a written analysis of significant trends along with poll results for the various questions asked. 1988 Presidential Election Polls will give researchers in political science and contemporary history an unprecedented insight into the process of choosing the chief executive.

    Rise and Fall of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy - The brief but dramatic political reign of Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy (1908–1957) is examined in this collection, from the Wheeling speech in 1950 to McCarthy's condemnation by the Senate in late 1954. McCarthy rode the crest of U.S. anti-communist paranoia in the early 1950s, and his tactics of accusation through insinuation and innuendo have come to be known as "McCarthyism". His popularity was short-lived, however; in 1954 his television appearances severely damaged his image, followed by a backlash by his political opponents resulting in a condemnation vote by the Senate in December that year.

    Society, Culture & Politics in Canada: Canadiana Pamphlets from McMaster University, 1818-1929 -  The subject matter is varied, and deals with many aspects of Canadian history, literature, social and political conditions. Included are pamphlets on religion and churches, all levels of government, elections, peace movements and war service, Communism, local communities, and labor organizations to name but a few of the topics covered. Approximately 250 pamphlets date from before 1867. Several of the pamphlets are in the French language. 

    The Minority Voter, Election of 1936 and the Good Neighbor League - This collection is designed as a case study of minority involvement in a presidential election campaign, using the 1936 Democratic Campaign as a model. The 1936 election provides an excellent example partly because of the availability of manuscript material on the Good Neighbor League, a vital force in helping make minorities part of the Roosevelt coalition in 1936. Through recruitment and publicity, the League was one means Democrats used to attract minority voters to Roosevelt. Their activities show that bringing together such a coalition was not a chance occurrence, but a well-planned political move whose basic premise was the New Deal legislative program. Minorities proved by their participation that they would be a significant influence in elections to come. 

    World Communism: Pamphlets from McMaster University - This collection contains un-cataloged pamphlets about communism, socialism, and class struggle. The pamphlets are global in scope, although they are all in English unless otherwise noted. The bulk of the collection originates from China and Soviet Russia during the post-WWII period, although Cuba and Britain are strongly represented as well.

  • Radical Studies

    FBI File: House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (later called the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC) developed a working relationship in the period 1938 through 1975 that increased the authority of the committee and gave the bureau power to investigate suspected communists. The archive is divided into three parts. The first part, 1938-1945, documents clashes between HUAC chairman Martin Dies and the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The second section, 1946-1949, records the process by which the FBI and HUAC chose their targets. The final section follows HUAC, renamed the Internal Security Committee, in its attempt to protect the FBI from other congressional investigative committees.

    FBI File: Waco/Branch Davidian Compound - The Waco/Branch Davidian Compound Negotiation Transcripts are of interest to historians, political scientists, legal scholars, and students of criminal justice. The archive serves as a case study of twentieth-century alternative religious movements and their relationships to the U.S. federal government. 

    FBI File on Albert Einstein - From the moment he entered the United States in 1933, Albert Einstein was under constant surveillance by the FBI, which was alarmed by his advocacy of peace through world government and his support for Zionism. This file chronicles the daily activities and findings of agents assigned to Einstein over the years.

    FBI File on America First Committee - The America First Committee (AFC), an anti-interventionist group formed in the early 1940s, advocated isolation from the war in Europe, and quickly gained a large following, with more than 800,000 members at its peak. However, by 1941 it was increasingly seen as pro-German and anti-Semitic, particularly after a controversial speech by celebrated aviator and AFC supporter Charles Lindbergh. IT dissolved shortly after the Pearl Harbor attacks and Hitler's declaration of war on America. This file, which covers the group's activity from 1937 to 1941, contains newspaper accounts, America First literature, speeches, letters, reports, and press releases. The group was investigated for possible communist infiltration.

    The Minutemen, 1963-1969: Evolution of the Militia Movement in America, Part I - The Minutemen was a militant anti-Communist organization formed in the early 1960s. The founder and head of the right-wing group was Robert Bolivar DePugh, a veterinary medicine entrepreneur from Norborne, Missouri. The Minutemen believed that Communism would soon take over all of America. The group armed themselves, and was preparing to take back the country from the “subversives.” The Minutemen organized themselves into small cells and stockpiled weapons for an anticipated counter-revolution.

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