Guide to the Papers of Louis Marshall (1856-1929)
undated, 1905-1933

Processed by Irene Korenfield

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161



© 2016, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Irene Korenfield as an MS Word document. July 2003. Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 2002 by Tanya Elder. Sept. 2003. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Marshall, Louis (1856-1929)
Title: Louis Marshall Papers
Dates:undated, 1905-1933
Abstract: Louis Marshall, a leader in American Judaism, was born in Syracuse, New York. He moved to New York City and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1877; in 1894, he joined the law firm of Guggenheimer and Untermyer, later becoming a partner in the firm. Marshall was a Reform Jew; president and strategist of the American Jewish Committee; Chairman of the Commission of Immigration in New York state; and led the opposition concerning the establishment of literacy tests for new immigrants. Marshall was a defender of Leo Frank, a negotiator in the Peace Conference of 1919, and attempted to block Henry Ford's publication, the Dearborn Independent, due to anti-Semitic rhetoric. Though Marshall was a somewhat controversial figure in American Judaism, he nonetheless worked diligently on issues regarding Jewish immigration and rights. The collection contains correspondence, memoranda, pamphlets, minutes, reports, and copies of Congressional bills.
Languages: The collection is primarily in English with some Yiddish news clippings.
Quantity: 1 1/4 linear ft. (2 1/2 manuscript boxes, 1 oversized folder).
Accession number: P-24
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

Louis Marshall (1856 - 1929)

Louis Marshall, corporate and constitutional lawyer and Jewish communal leader, was born in 1856 in Syracuse, New York. Both his mother, Zilli Strauss, and his father, Jacob Marshall, had immigrated to the United States from Germany. At the time of his immigration, Jacob was barely literate. Zilli was self-educated.1 Through the experiences of his parents, Marshall came to understand and identify with the hardships faced by immigrants and by those who remained in autocratic countries.

Marshall graduated from Columbia Law School in 1877 and joined the law firm of William C. Ruger in Syracuse, New York. Between 1878 and 1894, Marshall argued over 150 cases before the Court of Appeals and rose to prominence in the Jewish community in Syracuse. He moved to New York City in 1894 when he joined the law firm of Guggenheimer and Untermyer. In New York, Marshall was intensely involved in Jewish communal affairs. By 1903, Marshall was Secretary at Temple Emanu-El, the most important Reform congregation in the United States, and in 1916, he became its president. 2 Marshall also served as chair of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He saw no contradiction between his roles at Temple Emanu-El and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Conservative Judaism’s rabbinical school, because "to him there was one Judaism." 3

The American Jewish Committee was established in 1906 by a group of established German-Jewish leaders including Marshall 4 in order to "watch closely over legislative and diplomatic matters of interest to American-Jews and to convey to the President, State Department, and Congress, requests, information, and if need be, political threats." 5 Marshall, who would eventually become "the AJC’s major strategist and most active lobbyist," 6 became its president in 1912, a post he held until his death. In the early years of the twentieth century, pogroms and debilitating laws, especially the limiting of Jews to residence in the "Pale of Settlement," were impoverishing and endangering the Russo-Polish Jewish communities. These adverse conditions caused almost 2,500,000 Jews to immigrate to the United States between 1881 – 1925. 7 At the same time, American society was changing rapidly, becoming increasingly urbanized, industrialized and, due to massive immigration, more ethnically and religiously diverse. Reacting to the influx of immigrants, a movement was organized that called for the government to impose a restrictive immigration policy. Although the restrictionist movement was generally xenophobic and not specifically anti-Semitic,8 its ideology threatened to substantially reduce the number of Jewish immigrants coming to America. Marshall and the AJC recognized this threat. Between 1912, when Marshall assumed the presidency of the AJC, and 1917, two presidents vetoed restrictive immigration legislation that had been passed by Congress. One of the main objections Marshall had to these bills was their literacy test provisions, which he recognized would prevent many illiterate Jews from entering the country. In 1917, although President Woodrow Wilson had vetoed the restrictive immigration bill presented to him, Congress overrode the veto and the bill became law. After 1917, Marshall continued to fight against laws that he and his associates judged to be hostile to immigration, but the restrictionists prevailed. In 1924, Congress imposed a quota system that so drastically reduced immigration, America was effectively cut off as an avenue of escape for most people who sought to immigrate.

In 1911, Marshall led the movement for the abrogation of the 1832 commercial treaty between the United States and Russia. The contested point "involved Russia’s refusal to allow native-born or naturalized American Jews to travel freely in Russia, despite the fact that they possessed American passports." 9 "Marshall…idealistically believed that abrogation would force Russia to end the Pale, to liberate Russian Jewry, and ultimately, to relieve the pressure for immigration."10 Although the suffering of the Russian Jews did not end, the abrogation of the treaty is among Marshall’s most important achievements. 11

In 1914-15, Marshall lent his skills to the Leo Frank case. Leo Frank, who had been educated in New York State, was the Jewish manager of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia. Amidst anti-Semitic hysteria, Frank had been accused and convicted, in 1914, of raping and murdering a 14-year old girl. Marshall offered legal counsel during Frank’s appeals, raised money, initiated an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court and discreetly solicited the help of influential Southerners.

In 1919, after World War One, Marshall attended the Paris Peace Conference where he helped formulate minority rights clauses for the constitutions of the newly created states of eastern Europe.12 During his later years, Marshall attempted to stop the newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, which was owned by Henry Ford, from spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, epitomized by its popularization of the ideas found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Marshall was also a champion of conservation, helping to found the New York State College of Forestry.

Although he did not always agree with the political Zionists, when the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was issued, Marshall worked for the establishment of a national Jewish home in Palestine. In 1929, shortly before his death, Marshall was instrumental in organizing the Jewish Agency which brought together Zionists and non-Zionists throughout the world "for the management of Jewish colonization efforts under the terms of the British mandate." 13

Additional source:

Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder, editors-in-chief, The Encyclopedia Judaica. (Jerusalem: The MacMillian Company, 1972), s.v. "Louis Marshall" by Morton Rosenstock.


1856Born on December 14 in Syracuse, New York
1877Graduates from Columbia Law School and joins prominent Syracuse, New York law firm headed by William C. Ruger
1894Partner in the New York City law firm of Guggenheimer, Untermeyer and Marshall
1895Marries Florence Lowenstein
1902Appointed chairman of a commission investigating slum conditions on New York City’s Lower East Side
1909Appointed chairman of the Commission of Immigration of New York State
1910Acts as mediator in cloak-makers’ strike in New York City
1911Successfully leads campaign to abrogate the U.S.-Russian Commercial Treaty of 1832
1912Assumes presidency of the American Jewish Committee
1913Smith-Burnett immigration bill vetoed by President William Howard Taft
1914Joins legal staff on Leo Frank case and initiates appeal of case to Federal Supreme Court
1915Immigration Bill vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson
1916Florence Lowenstein dies
1917Immigration Act of 1917 vetoed by President Wilson. Congress overrides veto. Literacy Test, albeit with Marshall’s exemption clause, becomes law
1919Delegate to the Paris Peace Conference; arbitrator in clothing-workers’ strike
1920sAttempts to block Dearborn Independent’s publication of anti-Semitic propaganda.
1921Emergency Immigration Quota Act becomes law
1922Helps reverse Harvard University’s announced intention to impose a quota on Jews
1924Immigration Quota Law of 1924 becomes law.
1929Dies in Zurich, Switzerland on September the age of 72

Sources for Chronology

Isaac Landman, ed. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. (New York: Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Inc., 1942), s.v, "Louis Marshall" by Nathan Caro Belth.

Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder, editors-in-chief, The Encyclopedia Judaica. (Jerusalem: The MacMillian Company, 1972), s.v., "Louis Marshall" by Morton Rosenstock.

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Scope and Content Note

The papers of Louis Marshall encompass the years 1905 – 1933, focusing on 1907 – 1928, and include the period when the United States Congress debated and passed increasingly restrictive immigration legislation. Researchers will be able to follow the progression of the restrictive legislation and observe how Marshall and his associates, within and outside the American Jewish Committee, attempted to defeat such legislation and/or to change the wording of proposed legislation to create laws that promoted immigration to the United States. Researchers will also be able to follow the letter writing campaigns, especially during 1914-15 (Box 1, Folder 12-15); (Box 2, Folder 1) pursued by Louis Marshall and his associates to influence the course of immigration legislation.

The collection contains correspondence, pamphlets, reports and copies of Congressional bills that refer to many different pieces of proposed immigration legislation through the years 1907 – 1928. Chief among the legislation was a literacy test for new immigrants which was introduced in Congress at different times and in different forms (Box 1, Folder 1; Box 1, Folders 3 –9; Box 1, Folders 11-15; Box 2, Folders 1-5; Box 3, Folder 3).

Documented in the collection is the period after the Immigration Bill of 1917 was passed by Congress (Box 2, Folder 5)and became law, when Marshall turned his attention to other immigration legislation. Such legislation included A Bill To Suspend Immigration in 1918 (Box 2, Folder 6), certain provisions of the Deportation Act of 1925 (Box 2, Folder 8), and various bills concerning the registration of aliens (Box 2, Folder 7; Box 2, Folders 9-10; Box 3, Folder 1) and the reuniting families where the wife and/or minor children of an immigrant were still abroad (Box 2, Folders 10-11; Box 3, Folders 1-3). Also important were Marshall’s efforts regarding immigrant quota systems of any kind (Box 2, Folders 6-7; Box 2, Folders 9-10; Box 3, Folders 1-2).

The papers contain information about Louis Marshall’s involvement with the general welfare of immigrants, as evidenced by the pamphlets and booklets relating to many aspects of the immigrant experience (Box 1, Folder 2; Box 1, Folder 7; Box 1, Folder 10; Box 2, Folder 1; Box 3, Folder 3). The collection also shows evidence of Marshall’s commitment to religious diversity in the United States as discussed in his correspondence with Oscar Straus (Box 1, Folder 2).

The collection also includes reports such as "Memorandum on the Treaty Rights of the Jews of Roumania" (Box 1, Folder 2) and "Memorial Presented by the Roumanian Jews to their Parliament" (Box 1, Folder and articles and news clippings on the situation of the Jewish community in Russia (Box 1, Folder 12) which documents evidence of Marshall’s concern for the welfare of Jewish communities abroad, particularly of Russia and Romania, communities from which the bulk of Jews were immigrating during the years covered by the papers.

The collection is organized chronologically in one series that consists generally of correspondence but also includes Minutes of the Conference on Immigration (Box 1, Folder 2; Box 1, Folder 4), posters (Box 3, Folder 3), Minutes and a Report of the American Jewish Committee (Box 1, Folder 1; Box 1 Folder 14), copies of Congressional bills and memoranda throughout the collection, a transcript of an address Louis Marshall gave at New York University (Box 1, Folder 12), reports and newspaper clippings. These items serve to give background to the legislative debates in which Louis Marshall and his associates were involved.

Researchers may also be interested in several letters contained in the collection that either make scant reference or no reference to immigration but could illuminate other aspects of Marshall’s career. These are a letter to Miss Lowenstein from Marshall (Box 1 Folder 14); from Cyrus Adler (Box 2, Folder 1); and from A. Mitchell Palmer (Box 2, Folder 6).

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The collection is in chronological order.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011.

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Related Material

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Louis Marshall Papers; P-24; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Index to the Louis Marshall Papers

Please note: The following list is incomplete. Numbers refer to additional box and folder locations.

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Collection Box List, undated, 1905-1933

The predominant language of the collection is English with some Yiddish news clippings.
1 1/4 linear feet

This collection is in chronological order.

Scope and Content:

See the collection Scope and Content Note.

1 1 Correspondence: Dillingham-Gardner Immigration Bill September 1905 - February 1907request_box
1 2Correspondence, pamphlets, minutes and memorandum March - December 1909request_box
13Correspondence and misc. February - October 1910request_box
14Correspondence and minutes February - April 1911request_box
15"A Bill to Regulate the Immigration of Aliens to and the Residence of Aliens in the United States" (the Dillingham Bill); the Root AmendmentJanuary - April 1912request_box
16Pamphlet May 1912request_box
17Correspondence, bills, pamphlets and misc. [See also MAP folder] June - December 1912request_box
18 Correspondence and misc.: Burnett Bill and Dillingham BillJanuary - February 1913request_box
19 Correspondence and U.S. vs. Holland-America Lines BriefFebruary - December 1913request_box
1 10Report and pamphlets1906 - 1911request_box
111Correspondence and misc.: Burnett Billn.d, c. 1913request_box
112Correspondence, news clippings, transcriptJanuary - February 1914 request_box
1 13Bill H.R. 6060: An Act to regulate the immigration of aliens to and the residence of aliens in the United States.March 1914request_box
1 14 Correspondence, report, transcript: Immigration Bill, H.R. 6060February - December 1914request_box
115Correspondence, booklet, report, news clippings, bill and misc.: Literacy test and exemption clauseJanuary 1915 request_box
21 Correspondence, pamphlet, news clipping, Literacy test pamphlet [See MAP folder]January - October 1915request_box
22Correspondence, bill: Immigration bill with literacy test provisionApril - May 1916request_box
23Correspondence, billsJune - December 1916 request_box
2 4 CorrespondenceDecember 1916request_box
25Correspondence, report, transcript, billJanuary - March 1917request_box
2 6 Correspondence, bills, reportOctober 1918 - January 1920request_box
27Correspondence of Simon Wolf with James J. Davis, billFebruary 1922 - May 1924 with gapsrequest_box
28 Correspondence, bill, report, news clipping and misc.: Deportation Act of 1925January - December 1925 request_box
210 Correspondence, news clippingsJanuary - April 1926request_box
211Correspondence and misc.June - July 1926 request_box
31 Correspondence, report, billMay - December 1926request_box
32 Correspondence, billsFebruary 1927- April 1928request_box
33 Bibliographies, pamphlets, reports, posters [See also MAP folder]undated and pre-1920request_box
34Dedicatory Program, Louis Marshall Memorial, New York State College of Forestry and misc.undated, 1927 and 1933request_box
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Oversized Materials, undated

1 MAP folder
OSMAPReprint of first chapter from Immigration and Labor, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New YorkNovember 8, 1912request_box
OSMAP"The Injustice of the Literacy Test," reprinted from the Jewish Immigration Bulletin published by the Hebrew Sheltering Immigrant Societyundatedrequest_box
OSMAP4 posters, all entitled "Will President Wilson Approve Literacy Test for Immigrants?" Published by the Foreign Press Committee, New York Cityundatedrequest_box
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