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MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Letter from Mayor Curley to
MIT President Compton, 1948

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Letter from Mayor Curley

Click here for a closer look at Curley's letter and Compton's response

James Michael Curley, charismatic and colorful kingfish of Massachusetts politics from 1914 to 1950, served four terms as Boston's mayor and one as governor of the state (as well as two terms in jail!). As governor, he was an ex-officio member of the MIT Corporation. His esteem for MIT dated from 1902, when Tech President Henry S. Pritchett (1900-1907) helped him win election to the city's Board of Aldermen by declaring that he was a man "of high ideals and character." Mayor Curley again sought the help of MIT in 1948 by soliciting advice on the use of flamethrowers for urban snow removal.

The archival collection containing the Curley letter shown here (AC 4) consists of the office files of MIT presidents Karl T. Compton (1930-1948) and James R. Killian (1948-1959). Reports, proposals, correspondence, and other records from this seminal period in the school's history document the growth and increasing complexity and diversification of the Institute as it expanded its programs in science and humanities, filled a critical role in the nation's war effort, and cemented ties with the federal government through post-war research and development contracts.

Have you ever wondered: How and why MIT strengthened the science curricula in the 1930s? How the Institute revised policies and modified departments in response to a changing world? What happened when radar research came to the "Rad Lab" during World War II? How the Cold War affected MIT? The records of Presidents Compton and Killian (AC 4) and a thousand other MIT-related archives and manuscripts collections comprising approximately 18,000,000 documents are the source materials available for study to bring us closer to an understanding of these and other important questions. They are available in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.

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Object of the Month: February 2000 and 2008


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