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Finding Aid for the Theodore Fred Kuper Papers, 1920-1980
1524  
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Theodore Fred Kuper Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1920-1980
    Collection number: 1524
    Creator: Kuper, Theodore Fred, 1886-1981
    Extent: 37 boxes (18.5 linear ft.) 2 oversize boxes
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Abstract: Theodore Fred Kuper (1886-1981) was a lawyer, the national director of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (1923-35), executive director of the George Washington Foundation for Citizenship and Education(1928-30), executive manager (1932-36) and law secretary (1936-43) of the New York City Board of Education, and later served as legal, legislative, and public relations counsel for City Colleges of New York and for the Fashion Institute of Technology. The collection consists of correspondence, newspaper and journal articles, personal manuscripts, books, pamphlets, brochures, prints, lithographs, and approximately 150 photographs.
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Advance notice required for access.

    Additional Physical Form Available

    A copy of the original version of this online finding aid is available at the UCLA Department of Special Collections for in-house consultation and may be obtained for a fee. Please contact:
    • Public Services Division
    • UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections
    • Room A1713, Charles E. Young Research Library
    • Box 951575
    • Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575
    • Telephone: 310/825-4988 (10:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m., Pacific Time)
    • Email: spec-coll@library.ucla.edu

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Mrs. Terry Kirker, 1987.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Theodore Fred Kuper Papers (Collection 1524). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Biography

    Kuper was born on May 1, 1886 in Moscow; moved with his parents to New York City in 1891; LL.B, New York University Law School, 1904; member of the E.R. Terry law firm, 1908-14; worked in oil business in the Midwest, 1917-22; returned to New York City, serving as national director of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1923-35; wrote Thomas Jefferson the Giant, later printed as Thomas Jefferson Still Lives, 1926; executive director, George Washington Foundation for Citizenship and Education, 1928-30; executive manager of New York City Board of Education, 1932-36; served as law secretary of New York City Board of Education, 1936-43; served as legal, legislative, and public relations counsel for City Colleges of New York, and for the Fashion Institute of Technology, 1948-59; moved to California, 1959; died on May 30, 1981 in Whittier, California.

    Extended Biographical Narrative

    Theodore Fred Kuper (b. 1886) was a Russian-Jewish immigrant to the United States who became a leader in the preservationist movement that saved Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello and an important player in the administration of New York City's public schools and city college system. In 1891, Kuper and his family left Moscow for New York City, where they settled, and where Kuper would live, except for a five year period, until his move to California in 1959. Successful completion of the Board of Regents Examination qualified Kuper for higher education; consequently, he entered, in 1902, the New York University School of Law, from which he received his LLB in 1904. Kuper then served as a law clerk in the firm of E.R. Terry, a member of a distinguished New York family. After passing the New York State Bar Exam, Kuper became a member of the firm in 1908.
    After making and then losing a substantial amount of money in the oil business in the Midwest from 1917-1922, Kuper returned to New York City. In 1923, Kuper began the definitive work of his life, assuming an important role in the newly organized Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, the purpose of which was to buy, and then preserve as part of the national heritage, the third president's home of Monticello. Kuper served as the New York-based organization's National Director and was responsible for fundraising. In this role, Kuper made speeches throughout the nation, exhorting citizens to support financially the foundation in its work that the national treasure that is Monticello not be lost. Kuper also designed fundraising brochures for the organization; an especially noteworthy success in his fundraising efforts was the $100,000 raised from American schoolchildren to cover the mortgage for Monticello when donations from businesses and wealthy individuals proved insufficent.
    As part of the effort to promote the foundation's work, Kuper wrote Thomas Jefferson the Giant, a popular account of the third president's life and accomplishments. Later printings of this booklet, the last appearing during the United States Bicentennial, were entitled Thomas Jefferson Still Lives. With Kuper's critical contributions, the Foundation successfully purchased and restored Monticello. As part of his work with the Foundation, Kuper was involved in the United States Sequicentennial celebration and the centennial of Jefferson's death in 1926. In short, Kuper stands as significant figure in a movement that blazed the way for historic preservation in the United States and that restored to public notice the importance of Thomas Jefferson. Kuper's official relationship with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation ended in 1935, but his interest in Jefferson did not flag. He maintained unofficial ties with the organization throughout his life and continued to publish on Jefferson and the Constitution.
    By 1932 Kuper had also begun his work with the New York City Board of Education which would lead to his position as Law Secretary for the Board. In this capacity, Kuper was responsible for the legal aspects of educational policy, the legal and administrative questions that required a lawyer's expertise. His notable accomplishments included successfully representing the New York City Board of Education in several law suits, reduction of interest rates paid by the Board in its contracts, revision of standard Board contracts, and the revision of school by-laws. In 1943, Kuper was at odds with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia over the mayor's decision to change school purchasing procedures. As a result, despite much protest from school officials and such groups as the NEA, LaGuardia wrote Kuper's position out of the budget, thus ending his official association with the New York City Board of Education.
    Kuper's involvement in public education continued with his role as legal counsel for the City Colleges of New York. Here, Kuper was instrumental in the fight for salary increases for college faculty and helped found the Fashion Institute of Technology.
    Kuper moved to California in 1959, eventually settling in Whittier. Despite advancing age, Kuper's expertise in fundraising and public relations work for organizations was not unwasted: he served, for example, as a consultant for the Hollywood Museum in the early 1960s. His interest in Jefferson and United States history remained strong and seemed to increase as the nation prepared for the Bicentennial. Kuper wrote numerous articles on the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson, and was the subject of newspaper and magazine articles himself because of his work in preserving Monticello. Only his death in 1981 ended the productivity of this remarkable man.
    All information in this biography and chronology comes from the material in the the Theodore Fred Kuper Papers.

    Chronology

    1886 Born May 1, in Moscow, Russia
    1891 Emigrates with family to New York City
    1904 Graduates from New York University Law School with LLB
    1904 Clerks in law firm of E.R. Terry
    1907 Passes New York State Bar Exam
    1908-1914 Member of law firm of E.R. Terry
    1917-1922 In oil business in the Midwest (Oklahoma?)
    1923-1935 National Director of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation
    1925-1932 Consultant to president of New York City Board of Education
    1926 First printing of Thomas Jefferson the Giant; later printings entitled Thomas Jefferson Still Lives
    1928-1930 Executive director of George Washington Foundation for Citizenship and Education
    1932-1936 Executive manager of New York City Board of Education
    1936-1943 Law Secretary of New York City Board of Education until dismissal by Mayor LaGuardia
    1939 Graduates from high school
    1948-1959 Legal, legislative, and public relations counsel for City Colleges of New York
    1948-1959 Legal, legislative, public relations and fund raising counsel for Fashion Institute of Technology
    1959 With wife Rose, moves to California
    1960-ca.1965 Consultant for Hollywood Museum
    1970-1980 Heads We, the People-Today project at the University of Southern California, and writes numerous newspaper articles on Jefferson, the Constitution, and American history
    1981 Dies 30 May, in Whittier, California

    Scope and Content

    Collection consists of correspondence, newspaper and journal articles, personal manuscripts, books, pamphlets, brochures, prints, lithographs, and approximately 150 photographs.

    Expanded Scope and Content

    The Theodore Fred Kuper Papers are comprised of 37 boxes and two oversize boxes. With a few exceptions, the majority of the material in the collection falls within the period 1920-1980. The collection includes correspondence, newspaper and journal articles, personal manuscripts, books, pamphlets, brochures, prints, lithographs, and approximately 150 photographs. Reflecting both the original order and the material preserved in the collection, the Theodore Fred Kuper Papers have been arranged in the series described in the following paragraphs. The sub-series publications was created for each series because of the collection's large number of publications and to facilitate easier searches.
    Thomas Jefferson Foundation: Papers, publications, and correspondence related to the Foundation and Kuper's work for it.
    Jefferson: Material covering Kuper's interests, research, and publications on Jefferson and early United States history.
    Correspondence: Letters from professional and personal acquaintances; includes material that Kuper collected on persons, eg, book reviews, or that was given to him by friends and acquaintances. Some crossover from other series, eg, material on the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
    New York City Board of Education: Articles, personal and professional papers, and correspondence related to Kuper's work with the Board.
    Education: Material covering Kuper's numerous other activities in the field of education.
    City Colleges of New York: Business and personal papers, correspondence, articles on Kuper's work with CCNY. Includes the sub-series Fashion Institute of Technology, the school that Kuper helped found and that was associated with the CCNY system.
    Personal: Material covering all other professional and personal interests, activites, and writings of Theodore Fred Kuper. This includes, for example, his involvement in Zionist activites or association with the Hollwood Museum.
    The majority of material is found in the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Jefferson series. Correspondents of note include Claude Bowers, historian and U.S. ambassador to Spain during the Spanish Civil War; the Jefferson scholar Dumas Malone; the movie producer Sol Lesser; and Marian Deckerman, Eleanor Roosevelt's confidant. The collection should be of value to researchers interested in Jefferson and Monticello in twentieth-century American popular culture and thought, the preservationist movement in the United States, the history of education in New York City, and U.S. ethnic history.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.
    2. Jefferson.
    3. Correspondence.
    4. New York City Board of Education.
    5. Education.
    6. City Colleges of New York.
    7. Personal.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Kuper, Theodore Fred, 1886-1981--Archives.
    Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826.
    <630>
    Lawyers--United States--Archival resources.
    Education--New York City--20th century.
    Historic buildings--Conservation and restoration--Monticello (Va.).
    Photographs.