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Department of Economics records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-04-140

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Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of Political Economy/Economics range in date from 1892 to 1995.

The types of records vary within this time span, different records having been kept at different times in the department's history. The record group is divided as follows:

Series 1: Seminary Minutes and Gradebooks, 1892-1962
Series 2: Records of George E. Barnett, 1905-1938
Series 3: Evening Courses in Business Economics, 1916-1937
Subseries 1: William O. Weyforth, 1925-1937
Subseries 2: Administrative Correspondence, 1916-1932
Series 4: Courses in Social Economics, 1920-1949
Subseries 1: Theo Jacobs, 1920-1927
Subseries 2: General, 1920-1949
Series 5: General Departmental Files, 1900-1978
Series 6: Curricular Materials, 1900-1971
Series 7: Sponsored Projects, 1915-1995
Subseries 1: Sponsored Projects, 1915-1979
Subseries 2: Grants and Proposals, 1969-1995
Series 8: Former Faculty, 1942-1981
Series 9: General Student Records, 1908-1978
Series 10: Former Students, 1909-1991
Subseries 1: Admissions Cards, 1969-1975
Subseries 2: Students Who Received the M.A., 1911-1981
Subseries 3: Students Who Received No Degree, 1923-1981
Subseries 4: Students Who Received the M.A., 1973-1988
Subseries 5: Students Who Received the Ph.D., 1896-1981
Subseries 6: Candidates for Ph.D. who received no degree, 1975-1991
Series 11: University Activities, 1914-1969
Series 12: Professional Activities, 1916-1970
Series 13: Economics Tract Reprint Series, 1907-1936
Series 14: Websites, 2015-Ongoing
The records are mostly those of the chairmen, especially Jacob Hollander, G. Heberton Evans, Carl Christ, and Edwin Mills, and are most often in the form of correspondence. Correspondents include administrators, faculty and students within the University, and economists with the government and other universities, officials of professional organizations, and government officials from outside the University. Student admissions, in addition to correspondence, include worksheets and admissions cards. The Gradebooks and Seminary Minutes are bound or in notebooks.

The record group reflects the development of the department and illustrates the many different types of activities carried on therein. Basic administrative functions such as admissions of graduate students, and the hiring of faculty are well-documented, as are some long-term projects carried out under the auspices of the department such as the Hutzler Collection of Economic Classics, the Trade Union Collection, the Economics Tracts Reprints, the Lessing-Rosenthal Fund and the Schools of Business and Social Economics. The direction that research in the department has taken since 1950 is conveyed through the applications and descriptions for grant-funded research projects; such organizations as the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation have been important in this aspect of the department's work. The records of the Rockefeller Foundation's grant for Visiting Professors in the 1950s further illustrates trends within the department in regards to teaching and research.


  • Creation: 1892-1995
  • Creation: 2015 - Ongoing


Conditions Governing Access

Administrative records in series 5 are restricted for twenty-five years from their date of creation. Education records in series 9 and 10, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as employment records in series 8, are also 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.


The earliest instruction in political economy at Johns Hopkins was a series of public lectures by economist Francis A. Walker, a guest at the University during 1877-1878. The first faculty member to teach the subject was historian Herbert Baxter Adams, then Associate in the Department of History and Politics, who offered an introductory course in the spring of 1879. In the spring of 1880 Henry Carter Adams was appointed to give a course on money and banking and a series of public lectures on national debts. H. C. Adams had received Hopkins's first Ph.D. in political economy in 1878. Adams stayed on as an instructor for only a year, and Richard T. Ely was appointed to take his place in the fall of 1881.

Within the Department of History and Politics, Ely had chief responsibility for instruction in political economy. He emphasized a historical approach to political economy, and was greatly interested in American and European labor movements. His interest in labor movements left its mark: labor-related issues and topics were a primary focus of research for the next fifty years. His criticisms of American corporations and laissez-faire government policies, however, made him a controversial figure during his tenure. His chief opponent within the University was Simon Newcomb, Professor of Mathematics, who adhered to the views of the European mathematical school of political economy. Ely and Newcomb publicly criticized each other's statements and writings for several years during the 1880s.

At the beginning of the 1880s, Ely and his graduate students formed part of the Seminary of History and Politics, which was directed by Herbert Baxter Adams. Since Adams was primarily an American historian, the seminary work of the political economy group focused on American economic history. The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, a serial begun by Adams in 1882, included contributions from Ely and his political economy students. In addition to his work in the History and Politics Seminary, Ely gave lecture courses for graduate and undergraduate students on such topics as the history of political economy, finance, and administration. In 1885 Ely organized the American Economic Association. Its journal, the Publications of the American Economic Association, immediately began to accept monographs by Ely's graduate students. By 1886, political economy was a required subject for undergraduate majors in history and political science, and a three year graduate program in political economy and history had formally been devised. The sixth volume of the Studies (1888), entitled History of Cooperation in the United States, was entirely the work of political economy professors and graduate students. In that year, 38 graduate and 95 undergraduate students took courses in political economy, and in 1889-1890 the scope of offerings was broadened. A course entitled "Select Topics in Social Science" was given by four Hopkins and seven outside lecturers. Dr. E. R. L. Gould of the U. S. Labor Department gave courses on "Social Statistics" and on "The Family and Social Life." A. G. Warner, General Secretary of the Charity Organization Society of Baltimore, lectured on "Charities." Ely himself lectured on "Certain Social Problems Relating to American Cities." Seminary members undertook a study of Baltimore's charitable institutions. In 1891, 10 years after Ely arrived at Hopkins, the Economic Conference, which had begun in 1889 as the economics subdivision of the History and Politics Seminary, began to meet as a separate and distinct section.

When Ely resigned in 1892, Sidney Sherwood was appointed to the faculty. Sherwood led the Economic Conference, and a variety of special guest lecturers were used to enrich the curriculum. Among the visiting lecturers in the early 1890s were Drs. Warner and Gould, John B. Clark of Amherst, and Professors Newcomb and H. C. Adams. A field work course for the study of Baltimore's charity and corrections institutions was also conducted. In 1895, new University regulations required that all under-graduates do some work in political economy. The fifteenth volume of the Studies (1896-1897) was again the work of the political economy faculty and graduate students, consisting of studies in economic history and the history of economics. The newly designated Economics Seminary began meeting in 1898. The following year, it inaugurated a series of studies on "Commerce and Commercial Policy of the United States." At the same time, the faculty maintained its interest in what was then variously known as "Social Economics" or "Practical Sociology," and offered a course on "Public Aid, Charity, and Correction."

Although the faculty in political economy had been gaining progressively more autonomy, the discipline remained under the administration of the Department of History and Politics until the death of Herbert Baxter Adams in 1901. Since Professor Sherwood also died at that time, Associate Professor Jacob H. Hollander was appointed the first Director of the Department of Political Economy. Hollander had joined the Political Economy faculty in 1894 and quickly gained attention by discovering, editing, and publishing some previously unknown letters of David Ricardo. In 1899 Hollander was appointed U. S. Special Commissioner to Puerto Rico to introduce a system of taxation, and during 1900-1901 he served as the first Treasurer of Puerto Rico. When Hollander took over the Department in the fall of 1901, the full-time political economy faculty consisted of himself and George E. Barnett, who had been a graduate student under Hollander. Hollander led the Economic Seminary and gave graduate courses in "U. S. Fiscal Policy" and "The Development of Economic Theories Since Adam Smith." Barnett taught "Elements of Statistics" to graduates and undergraduates. Together, they revised the undergraduate political economy curriculum to suit the different needs of majors, minors, and those merely fulfilling a minimum requirement.

During Hollander's first year as Director, the Department received unexpected financial support for its long-standing interest in labor issues. An anonymous Baltimore citizen provided the University with $1500 for an investigation of the "history, activities, and influence of labor organizations in the United States." The funds allowed for the purchase of books, journals, and other research materials, and the Economic Seminary was given charge of the project as of the 1902-1903 term. Contributions from the original donor continued over the next decade, and labor issues remained central to the Seminary's research work for almost forty years. A collection of American trade union documents that was started at the time of the initial grant was the nation's largest by 1907. Another important gift dating from this period was a continuing fund provided by A. G. Hutzler for the purchase of books; these acquisitions have since become known as the Hutzler Collection of Economic Classics.

The department's practice of using visiting lectureships to supplement the curriculum was continued during the period 1900-1915. Courses were thus given by government officials, professors from other universities, foundation directors, and persons affiliated with social welfare agencies. George Barnett was promoted to full Professor in 1910, and began to conduct the Economics Seminary along with Hollander. They again revised the undergraduate curriculum, replacing the tripartite division of courses (i.e., for majors, for minors, for minimum requirement) with a sequential arrangement: Political Economy I (history of industrial development and economic theory), Political Economy II (economic theory and principles of finance), Political Economy III (advanced economic theory and statistics). During the 1914-1915 term, the Seminary focused on "forms of industrial development in the United States" as well as on labor organizations. This combination of Seminary topics was retained for more than two decades. In his 1915 report to the President of the University, Hollander wrote that the kind of training the department wished to provide for its students required "immediate contact, through observation and interview. . . with actual economic facts." He wanted advanced students to "investigate the workings of existing economic institutions," not through documentary research alone but also through a program of field work. A Research Fund was requested to serve this purpose. Apparently, the funds Hollander hoped for were not forthcoming.

The scope of the department's programs broadened considerably in the fall of 1916, when Evening Courses in Business Economics were instituted. At their inception, the courses were financed by Baltimore firms which paid tuition for their employees and pledged funds to insure the Trustees against any losses. The non-degree-granting courses were primarily designed for people actually employed in business or industry, although some full-time graduate and undergraduate students attended them from the start. The faculty included professors from the Political Economy Department as well as local "experts" (lawyers, accountants, businessmen, etc.).

The First World War wholly disrupted the 1917-1918 term. The department encouraged its graduate students and instructors to make their services available to the government, and Hollander and Barnett themselves served in various wartime agencies. The 1918-1919 term was unsettled at its start but eventually took form. Demobilization gradually returned the students and staff to Hopkins, and the remainder of the year was devoted to topics pertaining to the War and its aftermath. The Seminary dealt with the economic problems of war and readjustment, Hollander gave courses on war financing and on the economic needs of postwar industry, and Barnett lectured on wartime labor problems.

The first complete postwar term (1919-1920) saw a huge increase in enrollments throughout the University. The Political Economy Department offered two new courses for undergraduates and added William Weyforth and Broadus Mitchell to the faculty. The real boom, however, occurred in the evening Business Economics courses. The 1919-1920 term saw an enrollment there of 704 students, a number greater than the total of all full-time undergraduates. The evening curriculum expanded accordingly, offering courses in investments, foreign trade, insurance, business English, and accounting.

The fall of 1919 also saw the introduction of a new program. In the summer of 1918, the Baltimore Alliance of Social and Charitable Agencies had suggested that Hopkins provide specialized academic training for social workers. The Alliance, in return, offered use of its agencies and facilities for the field work portion of the training. The Courses in Social Economics, a two-year graduate level program leading to the M.A. degree, began a year later with an initial enrollment of thirty students. Theo Jacobs, formerly General Secretary of the Federated Charities of Baltimore, was made an Associate in Political Economy and was placed in charge of both field work and classroom instruction. The faculty for the Course included the Political Economy staff, local experts, and several instructors from the School of Hygiene. The curriculum included courses in "Community Problems and Organization," "Social Case Work," "Health and Preventable Disease," and "Immigrant Peoples." Students wishing to specialize in psychiatric or medical social work received additional training at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The fall of 1922 saw the introduction of yet another program under the auspices of the Department of Political Economy. The School of Business Economics was started to provide "specialized academic training for men contemplating a business career." A full-time, four-year program, the School granted the degree of B.S. in Economics. The first two years of instruction were very similar to the regular Arts and Sciences curriculum, while the third and fourth years were devoted exclusively to business and economics subjects. Professor Weyforth was appointed Secretary of the Governing Committee of the School, a position he held until 1941.

The undergraduate curriculum was once again revised during 1923-1924. The sequential arrangement of courses was replaced by an overall selection from which students could choose according to their interests. During the 1920s the faculty gained three new members (Howard E. Cooper, Roy J. Bullock, and George H. Evans) and in 1925 Hollander was appointed Abram G. Hutzler Professor of Political Economy. The Courses in Social Economics ceased after the 1928-1929 term due to a "lack of resources." The department weathered the Depression fairly well, largely due to consistently high enrollments in the evening courses. Beginning in 1932, the School of Business Economics made a senior thesis a requirement for the B.S. degree. In 1938 the School of Business Economics and the School of Engineering created a combined business and engineering curriculum leading to a B.S. in Economics. The decade closed with the deaths of Barnett (1938) and Hollander (1940).

As the 1940s began, new plans were being made. Evans was named Chairman in 1942 and remained in that position until 1959. The School of Business Economics revised and enlarged its curriculum, changed its degree requirements, established accounting and statistical laboratories, and hired new faculty. A Lecture Series for graduate students was established and a Journal Club was organized. These developments and others were interrupted by the Second World War. By 1942 several faculty members were serving in government boards and agencies; a number of graduate students did the same or joined the armed forces. By 1943 almost the entire student body of the School of Business Economics had been called into the armed services; activities were placed at "barest minimum for the duration." Enrollment in the evening courses also fell drastically, not only because of enlistment in the armed forces but also due to expanded industrial work schedules that left employees with no free time for study. Such academic activity as did continue during the wartime period was greatly reduced in scale.

The first postwar term (1945-1946) once again saw a huge increase in enrollment, with graduate and elementary undergraduate courses particularly in demand. Clarence D. Long and Acheson J. Duncan were added to the faculty to teach, respectively, labor economics and statistics. Long remained on the faculty until 1962, when he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives. The School of Business Economics was formally named the School of Business in 1945, and changed the degree it granted to the B.S. in Business. The administrative association between the School and the Department of Political Economy ended in 1946 when the School acquired its own Dean and Advisory Board. A year later, the Evening Courses in Business Economics became part of the newly established McCoy College, designed to administer all of the University's extension courses.

The decade following the end of the War was a period of expansion, including new faculty appointments, visiting lectureships, programs and activities, and financial support. Fritz Machlup, a specialist in economic theory, joined the department in 1946 and was appointed Abram G. Hutzler Professor of Political Economy the following year. Over the next two years, E. D. Domar, a specialist in Russian economics, and Carl Christ joined the faculty as well. In 1951 the department received a three-year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for the purpose of engaging European economists as visiting professors. The General Seminar (formerly the Economy Seminary) regularly included papers by these guests. In 1953 the department commenced publication of Economics Library Selections, a periodical that helped college libraries select works on economics. The same year, the Rockefeller Foundation provided another three-year grant, this time for pre- and post-doctoral fellowships. In 1954 Simon Kuznets, then President of the American Economic Association and well known for his work on national income, joined the faculty. Throughout this period (1945-1955), there was a significant and steady increase in the number and variety of non-academic positions held by faculty members. They served not only as officers of professional organizations, but also as consultants and researchers for such organizations as the International Monetary Fund, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Rand Corporation.

In the period 1958-1961, the department lost much of the senior faculty (e.g., Evsey Domar, Fritz Machlup, Simon Kuznets, and Clarence Long), and was faced with the task of rebuilding. A further grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1956 allowed the department to invite visiting professors in even greater numbers, and a broad Ford Foundation grant in the same year helped support the research of the faculty members and graduate students. Several new faculty members were appointed during this period, including Edwin S. Mills (1957), Richard A. Musgrave (1959), and Jurg Niehans (1965). In 1980, a faculty numbering thirteen included three members (Bela Balassa, Carl Christ, and Peter K. Newman) who had taught at Hopkins for more than fifteen years each. Richard A. Musgrave served as Chairman from 1959-1961, Carl Christ from 1961-1965, Edwin S. Mills from 1965-1969, Jurg Niehans from 1969-1976, and Peter K. Newman since 1976. Although increased in size, the department has remained committed to quality rather then quantity, concentrating in economic theory and mathematical and econometric work.

In 1988, the Department of Political Economy is renamed to Department of Economics.

Annual Report of the President, the Johns Hopkins University, 1876-1968.
Evans, George Heberton Jr., Recollections of the Johns Hopkins University, 1916-1970. Baltimore: 1970.
French, John C. A History of the University Founded by Johns Hopkins. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1946.
Hawkins, Hugh. Pioneer: A History of the Johns Hopkins University, 1874-1889. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1960.


29.82 Cubic Feet (12 record center cartons, 37 letter size document boxes, 4 letter half-size document boxes)

1 Website(s)

Language of Materials



Series 2, 3 and 4 were part of the Library's University History Collection (largely assembled by Librarian John C. French). They were transferred to the Archives in November 1972 by Dr. Morgan Pritchett of the Library. Series 1 and 5-12 were transferred by the Department of Political Economy to the Archives.

Accession Number

79.36, 82.32, 95.25, 95.31, 96.6

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Katrina Tautz, Nancy Enneking, and Evan Yost.

Department of Political Economy/Economics records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

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