Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding Aid for the Robert W. Oliver Papers 1946-1998
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Robert W. Oliver Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1946-1998
    Collection number: 10109-MS
    Creator: Oliver, Robert W. 1922-1998
    Extent: 7.5 linear feet
    Repository: California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
    Pasadena, California 91125
    Abstract: The working papers, correspondence, publications, and biographical material of Robert Warner Oliver form the collection known as the Papers of Robert W. Oliver in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology. Oliver was professor of economics at Caltech from 1959-1988.
    Physical location: California Institute of Technology, Institute Archives
    Language of Material:
    Languages represented in the collection:


    The collection is open for research with the exception of two folders, 6.14 and 9.14. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Robert W. Oliver Papers, 10109-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.

    Acquisition Information

    The papers were donated to the Caltech Archives by Robert Oliver himself in 1990 and supplemented with one box from the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences following his death in 1998.


    Robert W. Oliver was born in Los Angeles on October 26, 1922. He attended the University of Southern California (USC), where he earned his BA degree in 1943 and his MA degree in 1948, both in economics and international relations. In 1957 he received his PhD in economics from Princeton University.
    Oliver worked as a research economist with the Stanford Institute from May 1956 to September 1959, where he engaged in studies dealing with civil defense, international shipping, the role of small-scale manufacturing in economic development, and the economy of the City of Pasadena.
    During the 1950s he was an instructor at Pomona College and an assistant professor at USC. Then, in September of 1959, he joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology, where he conducted courses in elementary economics, international economics and economic development. During the years of 1961-1963, he administrated a faculty graduate-student seminar on the problems of technical assistance to less developed countries. For twelve years (1975 to 1987) he was chairman of the student working-group of the California Seminar on International Security and Foreign Policy.
    During his many years at Caltech, Oliver also worked as an economist with the World Bank. In the summer of 1961, he transcribed an oral history of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the Brookings Institution, and in 1986, as a consultant to the World Bank, he conducted in-depth interviews for the Bank's oral history project. In 1970-1971, while on leave from Caltech, he worked in the Economics of Urbanization Division of the World Bank in Washington, DC, and participated in Bank missions to Indonesia and Taiwan.
    Oliver was also involved with the local politics of the city of Pasadena. During the years of 1964-1965, he was chairman of the Pasadena Citizens' Downtown Improvement Bond Committee, chairman of the Task Force on Housing of the Pasadena Human Relations Committee, and also served on the Community Relations Committee of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. In 1965 he was elected to a four-year term on the Pasadena Board of Directors, from which office he retired in 1969, without seeking reelection. From 1972 through 1975, and from 1991 through 1995, he was a member of the Planning Commission of the City of Pasadena. He also served on the City's Utility Advisory Commission and the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Minority History Foundation. He was President of the Pasadena Beautiful Foundation and also served on the Pasadena Historical Society, Tournament of Roses Association and League of Women Voters.
    Oliver died of a heart attack at his home in Pasadena on July 17, 1998.

    Scope and Content

    The collection is composed of eight series, organized in thirteen archival boxes, and consists of an assortment of material preserved over the course of Oliver's careers as an economist, educator, and civic leader. The correspondence section, Series I, contains a large amount of both incoming and outgoing correspondence. Letters are arranged chronologically within the alphabetically ordered folders.
    Very little of Oliver's teaching or research activities is documented in the collection. Series II, which focuses on Oliver's years at Caltech, deals mainly with his involvement in different Caltech Committees and only slightly with his teaching activities. One folder in this series that deals with the Jenijoy La Belle tenure issue (Box 6.14) is closed to researchers indefinitely due to the confidential nature of the material.
    Oliver's involvement in local politics is documented in Series III, while his involvement with the World Bank is documented in Series IV. Oliver conducted tape-recorded interviews with World Bank officials and staff members both for the Bank's oral history project and in connection with his own research which led to the monograph, George Woods and the World Bank (1995). Interviews were conducted in 1961-1962 and again in 1985-1986, with a few continuing into 1990. Transcripts of Oliver's interviews were deposited in the Butler Library at Columbia University, in the Archives of the World Bank, and in the Caltech library (now transferred to the Caltech Archives). Correspondence about the interviews, along with a few miscellaneous transcripts, may be found in the Oliver papers in Series IV and in the correspondence section by interviewee name (Series I). One file (9.14) containing the transcript of the Aron Broches interview is closed, per the instructions of the interviewee. Oliver was also employed in the Economics of Urbanization Division at the World Bank during 1970-1971, where he wrote working papers about Indonesia and Taiwan which can be found in Series V, which contains most of his preprints, reprints, technical reports and other publications.
    Some of Oliver's talks and speeches are arranged in Series VI in chronological order. Folders in this series contain a wide variety of talk-related documents, from outlines and notes to related correspondence. Series VII contains a small amount of biographical material. For further biographical information, researchers should refer to his oral history , conducted by Loma Karklins in 1990, which is deposited in the Caltech Archives. The final series, VIII, is an assortment of oversize materials.
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. CORRESPONDENCE
    • Series 2. CALTECH
    • Series 4. THE WORLD BANK
    • Series 6. TALKS AND SPEECHES
    • Series 7. BIOGRAPHICAL
    • Series 8. OVERSIZE

    Related Material

    The interviews conducted by Robert Oliver concerning the World Bank now deposited in the Caltech Archives are in two groups, as follows.
    The World Bank/IFC Archives, Oral History Program. Transcripts of interviews held in 1961 with S. Aldewereld, G. Alter, with J. de Wilde and H. Larsen, E. Black, R. Cavanaugh, S. Cope, D. De Iongh, R. Demuth, W. Diamond, with M. Hoffman, D. Fowler, R. Garner, W. Howell, W. Iliff, A. Kamarck, J. B. Knapp, H. Larsen, A. Luxford, L. Machado, G. Martin, M. Mendels, H. Ripman, L. Rist, M. Rosen, O. Schmidt, D. Sommers, A. Stevenson, and R. Wheeler. Columbia University, Oral History Research Office, 1968-1969.
    Conversations about George Woods and the World Bank. Conversations with S. Aldewereld, G. Alter, B. Bell, M. Benjenk, W. Bennett, R. Demuth, B. De Vries, I. Friedman, W. Gilmartin, H. Graves, J. Grenfell, R. Gulhati, R. Hirschtritt, G. W. Johnson, A. Karmarck, J. B. Knapp, M. Lejeune, P. Lieftinck, N. McKitterick, D. Sommers, W. Stanton, R. Steckhan, A. Stevenson, L. von Hoffmann, and R. Westebbe. California Institute of Technology, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, 1985-1990.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    California Institute of Technology
    World Bank
    Pasadena (Calif.)