By Will Noel
When Charissa Jefferson joined Princeton University Library as economics Librarian in 2020, she noticed the portrait of J. Douglas Brown on the walls of the Industrial Relations Section, housed in the Louis A. Simpson Building, and decided to find out more.
Brown, it turns out, joined the Princeton faculty in 1921. He was Dean of the Faculty from 1946 to 1966, and served as the University’s first Provost in the year before he retired in 1967. He was dearly beloved and deeply respected by faculty and students alike. As Charissa found out, he was also instrumental as an economic advisor to the Roosevelt administration during the New Deal, and she created a marvelous exhibition for the Industrial relations section based on her research.
The materials came from the Public Policy Papers in Mudd Library that Charissa has explored extensively. Among the items on view is this letter, in which Edwin Witte demonstrates a startling lack of ceremony in his haste to secure Brown’s expertise for the Cabinet-level Committee on Economic Security.
Brown of course answered his country’s call, and In 1934 he joined a panel of four advising the Committee on Economic Security for the Aged. The Committee drafted legislation for Social Security which was passed by Congress in 1935 and has subsequently benefited tens of millions of people.
All the items that were on view in the exhibition have been digitized, and Charissa has created a wonderful digital version for those of you who were not able to see it in person.