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Leon H. Keyserling papers

Identifier: Mss 1052

Collection Overview

This collection includes biographical material, letters and correspondence, writings, congressional and other testimonies, clippings, and audiovisual recordings documenting the professional and personal activities of Leon H. Keyserling. Biographical materials include short biographies, biographical notes, resumes of career achievements, personal date books, obituaries from national newspapers, and material from Keyserling's memorial service, including William Keyserling's tribute to his uncle as well as John Kenneth Galbraith's remarks. Also included are materials relating to Mary Dublin Keyserling, such as biographical information, a "Career Record," a copy of her will, and a list of published articles. Professional letters include Keyserling's correspondence with politicians, Democratic Party organizations, researchers, book reviewers, such as Peter Irons, the author of The New Deal Lawyers, and interview requests from Studs Terkel and the BBC. Also present are correspondence between Keyserling and prominent economists such as Gar Alperovitz and David C. Colander, and between the CEP and various organizations regarding consulting fees and pamphlet distribution. Personal letters between Keyserling and various friends and family members include correspondence with his father, William Keyserling (1869-1951), his mother, Jennie Hyman Keyserling (1881-1935), and brother, Herbert Keyserling (1915-2000). Writings include his journal and magazine articles, as well as materials prepared by Keyserling for others, including U.S. Senator F. Wagner and U.S. Representative Augustus Hawkins. Also included are distribution lists of CEP publications, typescripts of speeches presented by Keyserling at conferences and symposiums, as well as poetry and writings by others about Keyserling. Transcripts of testimonies Keyserling gave before courts and congressional committees are mostly from hearings before the House Education and Labor Committee and the Joint Economic Committee. Clippings relate to Keyserling's political, professional, and personal life and also include clippings relating to Mary D. Keyserling, Harriet Keyserling, Robert F. Wagner, and various economists. Audiovisual materials include interviews and speeches on audiocassette tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, and videocassettes.


  • Creation: 1918-1990


Language of Material

Materials in English

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical Note

American economist and lawyer Leon H. Keyserling was born on January 22, 1908, to William Keyserling (1869-1951) and Jennie Hyman Keyserling (1881-1935), in Charleston, South Carolina. Keyserling grew up on the coastal island of St. Helena and in 1918 moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, with his family. Graduating from Beaufort High School at the age of sixteen in 1924, Keyserling attended Columbia University, finishing in 1928 with a major in economics. Keyserling then entered Harvard Law School, receiving his LLB in 1931 and returning to Columbia to pursue a Ph.D. in economics. At Columbia Keyserling taught economics and conducted research for the Rockefeller Foundation while completing all the requirements for his Ph.D., except for his thesis, interrupted when he entered government service in 1933 at the beginning of the New Deal. From 1933 to 1937 Keyserling was the legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Robert F. Wagner while also serving on the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. As legislative assistant, Keyserling helped draft the National Industry Recovery Act of 1934, the National Housing Act of 1935, the Wagner National Labor Relations Act of 1935, portions of the Social Security Act of 1935, and the U.S. Housing Act of 1937.

Beginning in 1937, Keyserling served in the United States Housing Authority, first as deputy administrator and general counsel, and then as acting administrator. As general counsel of the National Housing Agency, Keyserling drafted legislation reorganizing federal housing into one central agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In 1942, as acting administrator of the National Housing Agency, Keyserling supervised the construction of several million units of government financed housing for war workers.

In 1940 Keyserling married Mary Dublin, also a prominent economist. Before their marriage she had been the executive director of the National Consumers League and a professor of economics at Sarah Lawrence College. In 1964, she was appointed director of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau by President Lyndon B. Johnson, serving in that position until the end of his administration in 1969.

From 1946 to 1953, Keyserling served on President Truman's Council of Economic Advisors, first as vice chairman in 1946, then as acting chairman in 1949, and finally, chairman in 1950, a position he held until 1953, the end of the Truman administration. During this time Keyserling helped formulate economic policies that enabled the nation to smoothly adjust from a wartime to a peacetime economy while meeting the country's demands for increased housing and education without inflation.

After leaving government service in 1953, Keyserling practiced as a lawyer and private consulting economist, working with various national organizations, governments, firms, and individuals. In 1971 Keyserling retired to devote his time as president and director of the Conference on Economic Progress (CEP). Founded by Keyserling in 1954, the CEP was a nonprofit research organization dealing with U.S. economic development and national economic policies. As president and director of CEP, Keyserling authored more than thirty-five book-length publications, including The Toll of Rising Interest Rates, The Coming Crisis in Housing, and Full Employment Without Inflation. During this time he also worked on the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978 with U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey and U.S. Representative Augustus Hawkins. During his life Keyserling was the recipient of various honors and awards, including an award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change and induction into the National Housing Hall of Fame.


9.70 linear feet (11 document boxes, 1 slim document box, 2 flat boxes, 2 cassette boxes, 1 banker box)


Letters, correspondence, writings, testimonies, and audiovisual recordings of Leon Hirsch Keyserling (1908-1987), American economist, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Harry S. Truman, lawyer, and founder and president of the Conference on Economic Progress (CEP). Materials primarily relate to Keyserling's professional life as a private consulting economist, especially to members and committees of Congress, as a practicing attorney, and with his nonprofit organization, the Conference on Economic Progress. The collection also includes a small amount of biographical material, clippings and audiocassette tapes relating to Mary Dublin Keyserling, economist and wife of Leon Hirsch Keyserling.

Collection Arrangement

  1. Biographical material, 1930-1987
  2. Letters and correspondence, 1918-1987
  3. Writings, 1933-1990
  4. Testimonies, 1956-1987
  5. Clippings, 1935-1988
  6. Audiovisual materials, 1956-1988

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated in 1999 by William Keyserling and in 2002 by Harriet Keyserling.

Related Material

Related materials in Special Collections include the Keyserling family papers - Part I, 1890-1980 (Mss 1049a), the Keyserling family papers - Part II, 1900-2004 (Mss 1049b), an oral history interview with Herbert Keyserling (Mss 1035-036), and the publications Leon H. Keyserling: A Progressive Economist by Donald K. Pickens (2009), Doctor K: A Personal Memoir by Herbert Keyserling (1999), and Against the Tide: One Woman's Political Struggle by Harriet Keyserling (1998).

Processing Information

Processed by Joshua Minor, March 2012.

Encoded by Joshua Minor, March 2012.

Reviewed and uploaded by Martha McTear, June 2012.

Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the processing of this collection and encoding of the finding aid.

Inventory of the Leon H. Keyserling Papers, 1918-1990
Processed by: Joshua Minor; machine-readable finding aid created by: Joshua Minor
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the processing of this collection and encoding of the finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections
College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424
(843) 953-8016
(843) 953-6319 (Fax)