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David T. Bazelon papers

Identifier: MSS 0495

Scope and Contents

The David T. Bazelon papers includes of manuscripts, correspondence, books, clippings, and photographs documenting the work of the social critic and member of the post-war "New York Intellectuals," David T. Bazelon.

The collection is divided into four series corresponding to the major areas of Bazelon's work and life. The files closely follow the original order of the papers, with correspondence collected carefully and records of freelance writing meticulously maintained by the author throughout his life. The first series documents Bazelon's literary work. Series two contains material related to Bazelon's academic career as a student and as a professor at Rutgers Law School and SUNY Buffalo. The third series relates to his legal career. The final series concerns his personal life, including a substantial collection of correspondence spanning a period of over forty years.

The Literary Work series includes Bazelon's files on his three books: The Paper Economy (1959), Power in America: the Politics of the New Class (1967), and Nothing But a Fine Tooth Comb: Essays in Social Criticism, 1944-1969 (1969). Also included are files on Bazelon's articles for magazines and journals like Commentary, Politics, Dissent, and others from the late 1940s through the 1980s. Many of these articles were reprinted in Nothing But a Fine Tooth Comb along with articles and essays that had not been previously published. The series also includes an extensive collection of unpublished work, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as Bazelon's journals. In addition, the series includes material related to the discussion of "The New Class" that was stimulated in part by Bazelon's book Power in America and his article "The New Class," published in Commentary in August 1966. The discussion culminated in the formation of "The New Class Study Group" and publication of the volume The New Class? edited by B. Bruce-Briggs, in 1979. Contributors included Daniel Bell, Peter L. Berger, Nathan Glazer, Michael Harrington, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Kevin P. Philips, Norman Podhoretz, and others. Bazelon served as an advisor to the project and the collection includes Bazelon's annotations and comments on drafts of the essays included in the volume.

The "Ghost-writing" section of the series documents Bazelon's work during the late 1950s and early 1960s as a researcher-writer for his uncle, federal judge David L. Bazelon, as well as his brief employment as a writer and interviewer for the ABC television program The Mike Wallace Interview Show during the late 1950s. Bazelon's research files are included in the literary series. The files include a vast array of clippings and other printed material related to his work, mostly focused on issues of contemporary politics, economics, and popular culture. The research files as a whole provide a great sense of the times and represent topical fodder for a social critic. He collected clippings and articles, some annotated and underlined, on everything from Law and Lawyers to consumerism, from the Kennedy administration to the rise of Reagan and neo-conservatism. He observed cultural phenomena from the 1950s television quiz scandal to Jim Jones and mass suicides of the People's Temple congregation. Bazelon was particularly interested in the social unrest of the 1960s, collecting information about "the student left" and events at Columbia University and Chicago. Also included is material related to conferences in which he participated and organizations to which he belonged. The sub-series on organizations includes

Also included is material related to conferences in which he participated and organizations to which he belonged. The sub-series on organizations includes Bazelon's sole foray into political activism with position papers and correspondence related to his attempt to found a National Coalition for a New Congress in 1964. Bazelon's collection of reprints, typescripts, and clippings by and about his friends and associates completes the Literary works series. Material generally follows the arrangement made by Bazelon himself.

The Academic series includes material relating to Bazelon's undergraduate career and to his career as a professor at Rutgers Law School and at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The undergraduate material consists mainly of class notes. Bazelon's teaching career is documented through correspondence with administrators and colleagues, reports of committees on which he served, and his lecture notes and other records relating to particular courses he taught. Included in the sub-series on Bazelon's career at Rutgers are materials relating to Bazelon's application for his Guggenheim fellowship in 1967 – 1968. The research project on Law and Lawyers that he proposed for the fellowship involved an area of interest that continued throughout his subsequent literary and academic careers and that figured prominently in Power in America, as well as in many of the articles he wrote, and in his contributions to the discussion of the "New Class." Also in the Rutgers sub-series is a file of clippings and correspondence documenting the "Arthur Kinoy Incident." Kinoy was an Rutgers Law professor who was arrested at the House Un-American Activities Hearings in 1966. Bazelon was among the members of the faculty who publicly supported Kinoy. The extensive sub-series devoted to Bazelon's career at SUNY Buffalo includes, besides correspondence and material relating to specific courses he taught, records of Bazelon's work toward establishing a doctoral program in Policy Studies at the University.

The Law series includes class notes from law school courses at Yale University and incidental files from his work as an attorney in New York City from 1953 to 1958.

Most notable in the Personal series is the extensive collection of Bazelon's correspondence. Part of this collection is organized by individual correspondent and includes letters to Bazelon from the novelist James T. Farrell, to whom Bazelon wrote in 1942 seeking advice on his writing career. Farrell and Bazelon continued to correspond through 1944 and the collection includes forty letters with substantial content from Farrell. Bazelon's early correspondence also includes a large number of letters from the novelist and film-writer Calder Willingham and from the peace activist Robert Pickus, both of whom were college friends. Saul Bellow, Irving Howe, and Dwight MacDonald were other important early correspondents, the latter two as editors and friends involved in the early stages of Bazelon's career as a freelance writer. The Individual files of the Correspondence also includes over thirty years of letters (1937 – 1967) from Judge David L. Bazelon which supplement the letters included in the section of the Ghost-writing sub-series devoted to Bazelon's work with his uncle. The letters in the correspondence series deal mainly with the personal relationship between Bazelon and his uncle and document the judge's early efforts to assist David T. Bazelon's career.

The second part of the Correspondence series is arranged in chronological sub-sets of alphabetical series, according to Bazelon's original arrangement, i.e. 1944-1949 A-Z; 1950-1957 A-Z, etc.. This section includes letters from Bazelon's cousin, the composer Irwin Bazelon; Norman Podhoretz; the psychiatrist Leslie Faber; the sociologist Dennis Wrong; and many others. Throughout the correspondence files are occasional letters from editors such as Delmore Schwarz or Harold Hayes, who wrote to Bazelon about writing assignments. A small but substantial group of nine letters in the post-war chronology (1944-1949) are from former German officer and prisoner of war Horst Raczynski. In a sort of re-education program, Raczynski became a penpal with Bazelon to broaden his understanding of his own role in the war and non-German world views.

The personal series also includes files related to his wives and to his son, ephemera, family photographs, and financial records as they pertain to his freelance writing career. An item of tangential interest in the collection is an educational game designed by Jack Bazelon, David Bazelon's father, called "Cross-Number Puzzles: Decimals & Percent; Whole Numbers."


  • Creation: 1935-1994
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1942-1985

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Social critic David T. Bazelon was one of the "New York Intellectuals" whose work appeared in journals like Commentary, Partisan Review, Dissent, and Politics in the years following the Second World War. Throughout his career, Bazelon was associated with writers and intellectuals like James T. Farrell, Saul Bellow, Irving Howe, Norman Podhoretz, and others. He was born in 1923 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and grew up in Milwaukee and Chicago.

Bazelon briefly attended the Universities of Illinois, Virginia, and Chicago before graduating from Columbia University in 1949. He taught at Bard College for a year and then enrolled in the Yale School of Law (LL.B., 1953). From 1953 to 1958, Bazelon worked as a corporate attorney in New York City. Bazelon quit his law practice in 1958 in order to devote himself to writing. He assisted his uncle, the federal judge David L. Bazelon, with research and writing for speeches and articles from 1959 until 1965, and worked briefly as a writer and interviewer for ABC's Mike Wallace Interview Show during the late 1950s. Bazelon was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. (1963-1965), visiting professor at Rutgers Law School (1965-1967), and a Guggenheim fellow (1967-1968). In 1969, Bazelon joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo, retiring as Professor of Policy Studies and English in 1985. Bazelon was married three times and had a son, Coleman, by his second marriage.

At every stage of his careers, Bazelon thought of himself first as a writer. Beginning in 1943 with book reviews in The New Republic and The New York Times Book Review, Bazelon contributed more than a hundred articles, reviews, stories, and poems to periodicals including Commentary, Reporter, Partisan Review, New Leader, and Dissent. He was an early contributor to Dwight MacDonald's influential journal, Politics. Although Bazelon's initial interest was in writing fiction and poetry, his earliest success came from his essays and reviews, and he established his reputation as a social critic. Bazelon continued to write fiction, much of it autobiographical, as well as poetry throughout his career, most of which remained unpublished. Bazelon also gave speeches in academic, professional, and civic venues and contributed to a number of conferences. He wrote the script for the 1964 documentary Point of Order about Joseph McCarthy, and contributed liner notes for Columbia Records releases.

Bazelon published three books: The Paper Economy (1963), Power in America (1967), and Nothing But a Fine Tooth Comb (1970). The Paper Economy was an analysis of the corporation and its relation to the structure of the American economy. It was listed by the American Library Association as one of its fifty notable books of 1963. In Power in America, Bazelon took up the ideas of Milovan Djilas and John Kenneth Galbraith to examine the growing power of intellectuals in American society. Publication of the book was a seminal moment in the discussion of the idea of a "New Class" that culminated in the "New Class Study" and subsequent publication of the volume The New Class? (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1979). Bazelon served as an advisor to the project. Nothing But a Fine Tooth Comb, Bazelon's third book, collected many of the essays and reviews he had published in periodicals together with previously unpublished material and new introductory material and an epilogue written for the book.

The course of Bazelon's literary and professional careers is discussed and documented in the extensive collection of letters contained in the David T. Bazelon papers. He met the future novelist and film-writer Calder Willingham at the University of Virginia and the two young writers carried on an extensive correspondence during the years 1941-1944 in which they discussed their ideas about writing and their plans for work. During the same period, Bazelon wrote to the novelist James T. Farrell soliciting advice on pursuing a writing career and the older novelist responded with a series of letters, from 1942 through 1944. Bazelon also corresponded extensively with Saul Bellow, Irving Howe, and Dwight MacDonald in both personal and professional capacities. Other significant correspondents include his uncle, Judge David L. Bazelon, the sociologist David Riesman, and the peace activist Robert Pickus, another early friend from his time at the University of Chicago.

Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hill, Mich.: The Gale Group, 2004. Accessed 11 Aug. 2004 Other information derived from the collection.


27 linear foot


The David T. Bazelon papers, spanning the dates 1935-1996, includes manuscripts, correspondence, books, clippings, and photographs documenting the work of the social critic and member of the post-war "New York Intellectuals," David T. Bazelon.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of David T. Bazelon, November 1996

Related Materials in this Repository

Items from the collection appeared in the exhibition “Trail to the Voting Booth: An Exploration of Political Ephemera,” lauched online September 2020, University of Delaware – Morris Library. The exhibition can be viewed online at

Shelving Summary

  • Boxes 1-27: Shelved in MSS record center cartons
  • F161a, F161b, F606: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (17 inches)
  • Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)
  • F64, F93: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversized galleys

Processing Information

Processed by Kevin Burke, July–September 2004. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, March 2010. Adidtional encoding by John Caldwell, September 2019.

Finding aid for the David T. Bazelon papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 24
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

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