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Dexter Archive of Oral History

 Collection
Identifier: MS-0379
Lewis Anthony Dexter (1915-1995) was an author and professor of political science. The collection consists of over 1200 individual interviews with people in the fields of government, politics, business, industry, and the military dating primarily from 1953 to 1966, but ranging from 1946 to 1972.

Dates

  • 1946-1972
  • Majority of material found within 1953-1966

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Interviews with persons known to be deceased are open for research. Interviews with living persons are restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Extent

5.68 Cubic Feet (13 letter size document boxes, 3 letter half-size document boxes, 1 flat box (11 x 9 x 3 inches))

Biographical / Historical

Lewis Anthony Dexter was an author and professor of political science. Dexter was born November 13, 1915. He was educated at the University of Chicago (1935); Harvard University (1938); and Columbia University (Ph.D.,1960). Dexter described his varied career as having been half in college and university teaching and the other half in consulting, government, and business. He was interested in "general administration, organizations, political anthropology, political invention, and the sociology of inventiveness and creativity."

At various times, 1950-1969, Dexter taught political science and related courses at Bryn Mawr College, the University of Puerto Rico, the University of South Florida, the University of Massachusetts, Howard University, the University of California, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and other universities as well. He served as a free-lance consultant on social science research projects; mental retardation issues; and political campaigns, 1950-1960. He was an occasional consultant to the National Research Council advisory committee on civil defense and the U.S.-Japan Trade Council.

Dexter's early work in the interviewing process was begun during the 1950s with the assistance of colleagues from M.I.T., Raymond Bauer and Ithiel de Sola Pool. The researchers completed an extensive series of interviews with congress people and business people (referred to as "the trade study") to determine an American response to the lowering of tariffs on foreign imports. Research on later projects included interviews on topics as diverse as civil defense issues, the Stevenson-for-President campaigns (1952, 1956), military policy, and the provincial governments in Canada. The many interviews were the basis for Dexter's published books and articles. Dexter's well-known works include American Business and Public Policy (New York: Atherton Press, 1963); New Perspectives on the House of Representatives (Chicago: Rand McNally, 2nd ed. 1969, 3rd ed., 1977); and Sociology and Politics of Congress (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1970).

Lewis Anthony Dexter died in 1995.

Scope and Contents

The collection of oral interviews assembled by political scientist and author, Lewis A. Dexter, has been artificially arranged into six series that correspond to the subjects of his research and writings. A seventh series in the collection is the work of Philip Brenner, a graduate student in the Political Science Department, The Johns Hopkins University (1971-1972). Brenner employed Dexter's methods during his research.

In the collection there are over 1200 individual interviews arranged by Lewis A. Dexter with people in the fields of government and politics, business, industry, and the military. During some of the interviews, he had the assistance of colleagues. The interviews are examples of what Dexter termed, "elite interviewing." The interviews are mostly from the period, 1953-1966, transcribed in carbon typescript. Some interviews are annotated with Dexter's personal impressions and explanations.

Dexter's most extensive work in interviewing was done during the period, 1953-1960, for a research project at M.I.T. These interviews on commercial policy were sometimes referred to as "the trade study" and were intended to determine national opinion regarding Congress's debate over the extension of the Reciprocal Trade Act. This material forms Series 1, Boxes 1-5, and is the largest part of the collection. Of interest too is Series 6: Voting Patterns, filed in Boxes 10 and 11, which contains surveys, polls, and interviews related to the Adlai Stevenson (D. Ill.) presidential campaigns of 1952 and 1956. A copy of Dexter's report regarding Stevenson's candidacy is included in the series. A further explanation of Dexter's use of the interviews and the published research resulting from the subjects of the interviews is given in the Series Description.

The final group of interviews that forms Series 7 in the collection is the work of Hopkins alumnus, Philip Brenner. Brenner employed methods used by Dexter to interview congress people and their aides, 1971-1972, to complete the research for his dissertation, "An Examination of Conflict in the U.S. House of Representatives" (1975).

In January 1997, two boxes of research of Ruth Anne Becker were added to the collection. Miss Becker was a Hopkins archivist who had begun to research [1977-1978] many of the persons interviewed by Dexter.

Arrangement

The collection, filed in 14 document boxes, is arranged as follows - Series 1: Commercial Policy Interviews (1953-1960); Series 2: Military Policy Interviews (1955-1956); Series 3: Civil Defense Interviews (1957-1966); Series 4: Business Interviews (1955-1960); Series 5: Canadian Interviews (1966- 1967); Series 6: Voting Patterns (1946-1960); and Series 7: Philip Brenner Collection (1971-1972). In each series, the names are filed in alphabetical order. There is also a card file of names (Box 12) that corresponds to the filing of the interviews in each series with the exception of Series 6: Voting Patterns. Nothing in the card file corresponds to Series 6. Information on the cards includes birth dates and date of the interview. A typed list of persons interviewed is also included in the Container List, part of this register.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to the University by Lewis A. Dexter in 1975.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in December 1995. In January 1997, during a period of library renovation, two boxes (15 and 16) of research by Ruth Anne Becker were removed from an A-Level study and added to the processed collection. Becker was a Hopkins archivist who had begun to research [1977-1978] many of the persons interviewed by Dexter.

In each series, the names are filed in alphabetical order. There is also a card file of names (Box 12) that corresponds to the filing of the interviews in each series with the exception of Series 6: Voting Patterns. Nothing in the card file corresponds to Series 6. Information on the cards includes birth dates and date of the interview.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Contact:
The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA