George Leslie Harrison Collection Finding Aid


George Leslie Harrison Collection Finding Aid


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum






A collection on economics, finance, insurance, and the creation of the atomic bomb


Grayson Family


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum


Cataloging of archival materials




13 Series.

Unless otherwise noted by the abbreviation ABC, (arranged alphabetically), all contents are arranged chronologically with any undated materials at the back of folders.

Series 1 Correspondence, 1906-1971
Series 2 Employment, 1918-1957
Series 3 Travel, 1925-1937
Series 4 War Department Appointment, 1942-1945
Series 5 Clubs and Organizations, 1923-1959
Series 6 Speeches and Addresses, 1917-1949
Series 7 Personal Records, 1905-1958
Series 8 Publications, 1776-1950
Series 9 Miscellaneous Documents, 1891-1959
Series 10 Scrapbooks, 1933-1949
Series 11 Daybooks/Planners, 1906-1958
Series 12 Photographs
Series 13 Material Items

Biography or History

George Leslie Harrison was born in San Francisco, California on 26 January 1887. He graduated from Western High School in Washington D.C. in 1906, Yale in 1910, and Harvard Law School in 1913. A Member of the Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale and Associate Editor of the Harvard Law Review while at Harvard, Harrison was selected to serve a year’s clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes after completing his higher education. Although he initially desired to join a law firm as a junior partner, in the fall of 1914 Harrison instead chose to pursue a profession in finance, and was appointed Assistant General Counsel of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington D.C. Ineligible to join his brothers in combat due to a lame knee he had suffered in childhood, Harrison volunteered in 1918 to do his part in the war effort by serving with the Red Cross in France. Upon returning to the States, he was appointed General Counsel of the Federal Reserve Board. Soon after, Harrison moved to New York City and was named Deputy Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Holding that position for eight years, he was promoted in 1928 to the position of Governor of the bank following the death of his predecessor Benjamin Strong. In 1936, although his duties remained the same as before, his title changed to President, a role Harrison maintained until 1941 when he left the New York Federal Reserve Bank to become President of the New York Life Insurance Company. On 2 March 1940, Harrison, a long-time bachelor, married Alice Gordon Grayson, widow of his close friend Rear Admiral Cary T. Grayson. In 1946, Harrison’s position changed to Chairman of the Board of the New York Life Insurance Company. During the second World War, Harrison served as a special consultant to Henry Stimson, Secretary of War, on financial and economic matters, and also served as alternate chairman of the “Interim Committee,” a high-level group created in May 1945 aimed at examining the problems that could result from the use of the atomic bomb. Harrison maintained a lifelong interest in the Red Cross, serving as a member of the Board of Incorporators of the and briefly as interim president of the organization. He also served on the Board of Trustees of both Yale and Columbia Universities. In 1953, Harrison retired from his position as Chairman of the Board of the New York Life Insurance Company, although he remained a board member until his death. Harrison died in New York City on 5 March 1958 following a stroke caused by a cerebral hemorrhage.



Scope and Content

Series 1: Correspondence
Series Dates: 1906-1971
Quantity: 18 cubic feet
Arrangement: Two subseries: General Correspondence and Select Correspondence.
Chronological unless otherwise noted. Alphabetical arrangement is noted by abbreviation ABC.
Series Description:
This series contains a vast array of general correspondence, mostly personal in nature but official at times. The first four boxes of the series consist of family correspondence from the 1900s and 1910s, the vast majority letters written to GLH by his mother before her death in 1918. There also are several letters from GLH’s father, which cease after his death in 1909. Also present are letters from three of GLH’s four brothers - Ross, William “Billy”, Edward “Cleve,” and both sister Leila and an aunt Leila. Family correspondence continues to be interspersed throughout the remainder of the series, with the largest portion being a significant grouping of letters in box 12 to GLH from brother Cleve in the 1940s and 50s.

Besides family correspondence, the series contains a large collection of congratulatory documents sent to GLH in response to promotions, appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, retirement, etc., and several boxes of general correspondence arranged alphabetically according to the name of the sender. The final two boxes in the general correspondence sub-series consist of memorial resolutions and condolences sent to GLH’s widow, Alice Gertrude Grayson, following GLH’s death in 1958.

The final box of the series consists of select correspondence - correspondence of special note and interest from noteworthy people. This subseries includes communication from the following notable persons: William Howard Taft, Senator Robert Taft, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edith Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cary Grayson and family, Herbert Hoover, Wendell Wilkie, Harlan Stone, Cordell Hull, Fiorello LaGuardia, Henry Stimpson, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Also included is a 1956 fundraising letter from the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and GLH’s response.

Series 2: Employment
Series Dates: 1918-1957
Quantity: 5 cubic feet
Arrangement: Series is arranged into three sub-series: Red Cross, Federal Reserve Bank, New York Life. Chronological unless otherwise noted. Alphabetical arrangement is noted by abbreviation ABC.
Series Description: This series contains a vast array of documents – notes, reports, correspondence, brochures, etc. relating to GLH’s professional life. First is the Red Cross subseries. Documents in these two folders relate to GLH’s 1918 service in the Red Cross in France during World War I. Next, dominating the series are four boxes worth of materials from GLH’s 26 years with the Federal Reserve Bank system, first in Washington D.C. with the Federal Reserve Board and then in New York with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The fifth and final box in the series consists of documents having to do with the New York Life Insurance Company, GLH’s final place of employment from 1941 to 1953.

Series 3: Travel
Series Dates: 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937
Each year represents a separate trip
Quantity: 2 linear feet
Arrangement: No subseries, organized chronologically by year of trip
Series Description: The contents almost exclusively deal with George Harrison’s trips abroad as a representative of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. During these trips Harrison traveled on business to England, France, Poland, and other European countries, where he met with top bankers of the hosting nations. The final three trips of this series, 1935, 1936 and 1937, were closer to home. The 1935 trip was to Bar Harbor, Maine, and the 1936 trip included the cities of Chicago, Kansas City, Topeka, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. The 1937 trip included stops in Chicago and San Francisco, as well as Ottawa, Canada. Materials include many official documents relating to worldwide banking, Harrison’s handwritten notes, and many items of memorabilia such as tickets, ship passenger lists, and hotel receipts.

Series 4: War Department Appointment
Series Dates: 1942-1945
Quantity: 2 linear feet
Arrangement: Box 24 folders 1-3 arranged alphabetically, the remainder of the
series arranged chronologically. Box 24 folders 1-5 contain correspondence, the remainder of the series contains a mixture of reports, memorandums, and miscellaneous.
Series Description: The series contains a variety of official documents and notes relating to GLH’s WWII work as a special assistant to Secretary of War Henry Stimson. With an office in the Pentagon, GLH studied and weighed in on a variety of subjects having to do with the relationship between the war and America’s economy. Much of the series is correspondence between GLH and other individuals intimately involved with the War effort, including government officials and military officers. A great deal of the documents in this series have to do with financial issues relating to the end of the war – demobilization, post-war inflation, employment for returning veterans, the closing of war contracts, etc. Although this series does not offer many documents directly related to it, the most significant and substantial work done by GLH in the War Department was his labor as one of eight members of the “Interim Committee,” a high-level group created in May 1945 by Secretary Stimson with the approval of President Harry S. Truman aimed at examining the problems that could result from the creation of the atomic bomb. Kept top secret at the time, it was only in the aftermath of the war that any of GLH's family or friends know of his involvement with the planning of the atomic bomb.

Series 5: Clubs and Organizations
Series Dates: 1923-1959
Quantity: 8 linear feet
Arrangement: 6 Subseries: Membership Correspondence, Miscellaneous, Yale,
Columbia, Invitations, and Events – programs and brochures. Boxes 26-30 arranged alphabetically, boxes 31-33 arranged chronologically. Mostly correspondence, but also reports, brochures, tables and charts, etc.
Description: This series contains a great deal of correspondence and other
official documents regarding GLH’s participation with a variety of clubs, committees and organizations. Correspondence in box 26 deal mostly with membership, asking GLH for his support by becoming a member, encouraging him to donate his time and money, etc.
Boxes 27 and 28 represent miscellaneous documents from some of the organizations which held the most prominent positions in GLH’s life, some at the professional level and include the Rockefeller Trust, RCA, Harper Brothers, Foreign Service Educational Foundation, and the New York Banking Board. Box 29 covers GLH’s relationship with Yale, his alma mater, and box 30’s contents deal with his involvement with Columbia, the institution that ultimately received GLH’s collection of Federal Reserve System papers. Box 31 contains invitations from a variety of organizations to join committees, speak at meetings, etc. Boxes 32 and 33 contain event programs, brochures, and other memorabilia from organizational meetings, dinners and conventions held by clubs in which GLH was involved.

Series 6: Speeches and Addresses
Series Dates: 1917-1949
Quantity: 2 linear feet
Arrangement: Two subseries, Correspondence and Speech Texts
Chronological unless otherwise noted. Alphabetical arrangement is noted by abbreviation ABC.
Description: Box 34 contains correspondence dealing with both oral addresses and written statements made by GLH throughout his career, the majority on the subject of finance. Much of the correspondence is made up of friends and supporters congratulating GLH on speeches made and asking for copies of his remarks. Box 35 contains full speech texts of many of GLH’s remarks and speeches, both written and oral.

Series 7: Personal Records
Series Dates: 1905-1958
Quantity: 8 linear feet
Arrangement: 7 subseries: High School, Boating, Dinners Hosted, Wedding Arrangements, Medal of Merit, Medical Records, Finances. Chronological unless otherwise noted. Alphabetical arrangement is noted by abbreviation ABC.
Description: This series contains a variety of documents relating to the personal life of GLH. Box 36 contains such highlights as debate tournament programs from GLH’s high school years in Washington D.C., correspondence and plans for his beloved hobby of boating, and documents from dinners and luncheons hosted by and planned for GLH. Also included in box 36 are papers showing wedding preparations and follow-up correspondence for GLH and Alice Grayson’s 1940 wedding, and a folder of documents regarding GLH’s 1946 Medal of Merit award. Box 37 contains documents stemming from GLH’s complicated medical history. The remainder of the boxes, 38 – 43 contain financial records such as tax information, charitable contribution records, household budgets, sales invoices and receipts, etc.

Series 8: Publications
Series Dates: 1776-1950
Quantity: Approximately 7 linear feet (1 regular and 2 large boxes)
Arrangement: Series contains 5 subseries: Nylic Review, World War Two, Yale,
Harvard, and Miscellaneous. Box 44 is arranged chronologically, boxes 45
and 46, both oversize boxes, are arranged thematically.
Description: This series contains publications in a variety of forms and on a variety of topics. Publication formats include newspapers, newsletters, magazines and books. The topics are arranged into the five subseries noted above. Highlights of the series include articles about GLH in the Nylic Review subseries, an introduction written by GLH in a book about the Federal Reserve System, and two very old books, one published in 1776 and one in 1869. There also are a number of catalogs, yearbooks, and alumni histories of both Yale and Harvard, both alma maters of GLH. The WWII subseries contains mostly post-war reports and summaries of the conflict, with a special focus on the atomic bomb effort in which GLH was a major player.

Series 9: Miscellaneous Documents
Series Dates: 1891 - 1959
Quantity: 2 linear feet
Arrangement: 5 subseries: Biographies, Benjamin Strong Collection, Admiral Cary Grayson’s death, University Commencements, and Miscellaneous. Arrangement is chronological
Description: This series contains a variety of documents that did not fit into any
of the other series. One subject included is a biographical section, containing documents relating to biographies of GLH that were elicited for publication. A highlight is a biographical article from The Sun, (date unknown – most likely 1930s), one of the best short biographies available in the collection and a good overview of GLH’s life and work. Other topics include The Benjamin Strong Collection at Princeton, university commencements and the passing of Admiral Cary Grayson. The second of the two boxes contains a vast array of miscellaneous documents, arranged by decade with undated documents at the end. Highlights include a handwritten note by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes advising the recipient to grant GLH admission to the bar, tickets to a Franklin D. Roosevelt speech, and memorial statements released upon GLH’s death.

Series 10: Scrapbooks
Series Dates: 1933-1949
Arrangement: Chronological
Description: Large scrapbooks containing clippings of various important events in the life of GLH. Scrapbooks are arranged into five books with each book covering several years. Some of the clippings and pages are quite brittle and fragile and should be handled with care. While five volumes of scrapbooks are in the collection, since the earliest scrapbook is labeled “volume 4”, it appears that earlier volumes existed as well. Also included is a scrapbook of GLH’s obituaries and death notices, probably created by GLH’s widow in 1958.

Series 11: Daybooks / Planners
Series Dates: 1906-1958
Arrangement: Material form (ie – large daybooks or small daybooks) and chronological within material form
Description: These series of daybooks and planners are an excellent source of understanding GLH’s daily life. The large daybooks maintained by GLH’s secretaries almost exclusively deal with professional and official matters, although they also mention things like vacations and personal trips as a reminder of how GLH’s time was spent. The small daybooks that GLH kept for himself also include official matters, but in addition mention, in great brevity due to the books’ size, personal plans and events. A special inclusion in this series is a 1906-1907 diary that GLH kept during his first year of college at Yale.

Series 12: Photographs
Quantity: 4 linear feet, one small box and one oversize box
Arrangement: Chronological, approximate due to many undated photographs

Series 13: Material Items
Quantity: ½ linear foot, stored in a shoebox size box; also two oversized items stored with the scrapbooks in an oversize tub
Arrangement: None
Description: A select few material items including paperweights, business card plates, and GLH’s prized medal of merit.


GL Harrison Finding aid.pdf


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, “George Leslie Harrison Collection Finding Aid,” 1776-1971, FA000479, George Leslie Harrison Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.

Archival Finding Aid