What A Difference A Year Makes!

It seems like only yesterday that the first shipment of what would be 710 boxes of the historic Institute of Public Administration Collection with its papers of Luther Gulick arrived at Baruch on April 1, 2014. Now after a year of processing, and the generosity of Carnegie Corporation of New York, we met the deadline, posting a finding aid on the Baruch Library website.

Drum roll, please.


Here’s what the beginning looked like.


Many boxes were a mess and needed to be checked for contents and preservation issues.



A project of this size required a massive infusion of supplies, which soon came rolling in by the palette.



The detritus was soon counted in hundreds of emptied old boxes.


Discarded metallic fasteners, paper clips, clasps, rubber bands, and other bindings abhorred by archivists made for quite a collection in itself.


Pencils were ground down labeling thousands of folders.


Finally it was time to put permanent labels on new acid-free Hollinger boxes.


And transport them to their happy resting place in the Archives.


Where they will patiently await their summonses by researchers.



The year flew by. Now we’re looking ahead to digitizing as much of the collection as practicable, and continuing to mine its treasures for this blog.


Pas de Deux? Pas du Tout!*


Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, after being stricken with polio, with her then-husband, George Balanchine/LIFE

Luther Gulick, as we never tire of telling, was a pioneer of public administration, master planner, urban visionary, statesman and policy strategist, confidant of FDR, and Mayor Robert Wagner, advisor to the Shah of Iran, Gamal Abdel Nasser and countless other leaders the world over. Gulick’s gift was teaching politicians how to translate their prescriptions for society’s betterment into actual workable programs.

Gulick was lots of things. But a balletomane?

Yes, that too. The files reveal him as an aficionado of the dance, knowledgable and confident enough to share his insights with even George Balanchine. In 1956, Balanchine’s wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq, was stricken with polio while on tour in Copenhagen.


Gulick, who had long supported New York City Center, the city’s original performing arts venue, founded by Mayor LaGuardia, frequented the ballet whenever possible and was moved to write Balanchine in sorrow and solidarity with “your battle in Copenhagen.” He took the opportunity to critique a performance of the Ballet Theater that had fallen short – “showy but mediocre” in Gulick’s view.



* Pas de Deux, is French for a ballet duet. Pas du tout is French for “Not at all.”


“Beame” Me Down, Luther


Mayor Abe Beame /NYC Records

Luther Gulick had pretty shrewd political instincts. He disdained President Gerald Ford, largely for his pardon of the disgraced Richard Nixon, whom Gulick HATED, along with his sleazy VP, Spiro Agnew. So when Jimmy Carter ran against Ford for President in 1976, Gulick (a onetime Republican devoted to FDR and the New Deal) sent the Georgia peanut farmer a fan note.


Carter responded, kind of pro forma.


But Gulick’s gushing note three years earlier to another political victor, Mayor Abe Beame, came to haunt him.


By late 1981, Gulick had changed his view considerably, as he wrote Leona Baumgartner, former city health commissioner and a close friend. Now Beame was “our friend” (in quotes) whose “gimmicks” had landed the city in bankruptcy.



Gulick was wrong about something else as well, he noted. Then nearing 90, he said he had never much expected to live into his 80s. In fact he would reach almost 101, having been born (in Japan) the year Grover Cleveland became president and dying the year Bill Clinton took office.


Going for (Power) Broke(R)

Moses and the Promised Land/Parks Department Photo Archives

Busy as he was in the late 60s and 70s, Luther Gulick found time to assist a young reporter named Robert A. Caro tackle the toughest biographical subject any writer could imagine — master builder Robert Moses.

Caro and his publisher were deeply grateful, as these letters in the collection attest:




(The “F” on the letters is Gulick’s code for “file”.)


Going Up…

Image result for vintage elevators

What’s the most successful transportation system in the world? Luther Gulick could speak with some authority. Born in 1892, he witnessed the coming of the automobile, the airplane and the New York City subway. Let others praise these, or even the lowly peddler’s pushcart. No, Gulick opined in 1956, the greatest people-mover of all time was…the elevator.

Just think of it, he marveled: it was always there when you needed it, perfectly engineered into the environment with the perfect carrying capacity and perfectly free.