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COLLECTION Identifier: Arch GA 12.50.1

Alfred D. Chandler papers


The collection includes papers of Professor Alfred D. Chandler documenting his research, teaching, and other professional activities.


  • Creation: 1940-2007


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. HBS Archives collections require a secondary registration form, please contact for more information.

Restricted material has been identified and separated. Note that box and folder lists of restricted material have been redacted. See HBS Archivist for more information.

Digital use copies in this collection can only be accessed onsite in the de Gaspé Beaubien Reading Room.


148 linear feet (291 boxes, 1 carton, 7 oversize boxes, 3 volumes, and 3 oversize folders)
178 kilobytes (content from 4 disks)

The collection reflects the work and intellectual development of Alfred D. Chandler from graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University, through his tenures at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard Business School, to his position as professor emeritus. The collection covers a period of over sixty years during which Chandler studied the historical evolution and organizational development of the modern corporation.

The collection includes many of his lecture and seminar notes and almost the entire body of his professional correspondence. The collection documents his and others’ research on and interpretation of the evolution of the modern corporation; his editorial work on the papers of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower; his role as trustee and president of the Economic History Association and as executive board member of the Organization of American Historians; and his involvement with many other professional and scholarly organizations, especially in contributing to business history conferences, editing papers, and overseeing their publication. The collection includes manuscript versions of his and others’ work. It is also rich in research material gathered in the course of his comparative studies of corporate structure and its development in the United States and in other industrial economies, including a wealth of research notes taken and photocopies made from records in institutional and company archives.

The collection is divided into eleven series. The first five represent stages in Chandler’s career and institutional affiliation; the sixth consists of audio-visual material; the seventh of restricted Harvard University and Harvard Business School administration records; the eighth of restricted Harvard University and Harvard Business School student and personnel records; the ninth of biographical materials; the tenth of ephemera; and the final of offprints of publications by Alfred Chandler. Contents of both restricted series were separated according to Harvard University guidelines.

Biographical Note:

Alfred Dupont Chandler was born in Guyencourt, Delaware on September 15, 1918. He received his BA in history from Harvard College in 1940 and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1945 to 1946 (from which he received an MA in history in 1951). He returned to Harvard in 1946 and received his MA in 1947 and then PhD in 1952, both in history. He married Fay Martin in 1944 and had four children.

Chandler wrote his dissertation on Henry Varnum Poor, his great-grandfather, whose personal papers he discovered stored in the house of a deceased aunt. His dissertation eventually became his first book, Henry Varnum Poor, Business Editor, Analyst and Reformer, published in 1956. It was through studying Poor’s comparative analysis of railroads, the first U.S. large-scale enterprise, that Chandler began his career-long engagement with the study of change in business structure and managerial organization. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1940-1945 as Lt. Commander, which gave him valuable, first-hand experience with a giant enterprise.

Chandler was a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1950-1951 and taught there from 1951-1963. In 1954 he served as academic consultant at the Naval War College, where he conceived the idea for Strategy and Structure, his second book, which was published in 1962, and won the Newcomen Award. During his time at MIT he also wrote a number of articles, served as assistant editor of four volumes of The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, and was consulting historical advisor to Alfred P. Sloan Jr. in the writing of Sloan’s My Years with General Motors, published in 1964.

Chandler taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1963-1970, serving as chairman of the history department for four years and as director of the Center for the Study of Recent History for three years. He edited and compiled Giant Enterprise: Ford, General Motors, and the Automobile Industry, published in 1964, and The Railroads, The Nation’s First Big Business, published in 1965. He also co-edited The Changing Economic Order: Readings in American Business and Economic History, published in 1968, and edited and co-edited six volumes of The Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Chandler came to Harvard Business School in 1970. He was the Thomas Henry Carroll Ford Foundation Visiting Professor for a year and Isidor Straus Professor of Business History from 1971 to 1989. He became Isidor Straus Professor of Business History Emeritus in 1989. He published a number of books while at HBS: Pierre S. du Pont and the Making of the Modern Corporation , written with Stephen Salsbury (1971); The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (1977), which won both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes; The Coming of Managerial Capitalism: A Casebook in the History of American Economic Institutions, written with Richard Tedlow (1985); Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism (1990); Inventing the Electronic Century: The Epic Story of the Consumer Electronics and Computer Industries (2001); and Shaping the Industrial Century: The Remarkable Story of the Evolution of the Modern Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industries (2005). He also contributed numerous chapters and articles to books and journals, edited and co-edited a number of volumes, and served as the editor of Harvard Studies in Business History.

During his years at HBS, Chandler traveled extensively around the United States, Europe and Japan for conferences and lectures. In addition he was visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford (1975), visiting professor at the European Institute of Advanced Studies in Management, Brussels (1979), and Walker-Ames Visiting Professor at the University of Washington (1981).

Throughout his career, Chandler was actively engaged with numerous professional organizations and conferences, often in leadership roles. Among them were the Economic History Association, the Society for the History of Technology, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Business History Conference, the Eleutherian Mills Hagley Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Business History Foundation, and the Council on Research in Economic History. He was chairman of the Advisory History Committee of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (the AEC was dismantled in 1975 and superseded by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Energy Research and Development Administration) and also served on advisory boards and committees for the corporate histories of business corporations, among them, the British Petroleum Company, Alcoa, Citibank, and Du Pont’s Research and Development Division.

Alfred Chandler received honorary degrees from the University of Leuven, Belgium (1976), the University of Antwerp, Belgium (1979), Italian Academy of Business Economy (1980), Babson College, Massachusetts (1982), Ohio State University (1987), York University, Canada (1988), New England College (1992), University of Delaware (2002), and Northeastern University (2002). In 1995 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award which is Harvard's highest honor.

Alfred Chandler died on May 9, 2007 in Cambridge, Mass.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged into 11 series.

Physical Location



Gift of Alfred D. Chandler. The collection was received in separate accessions between 1989-2011.

Material related to General Motors was donated by Alfred D. Chandler in 1971. These papers were previously cataloged with the Baker Library Historical Collections Manuscripts Collection (MSS: 534 1908-1960). They consist of interviews, memos, drafts, and other records related to the publication of Alfred P. Sloan's book My Years with General Motors. Scrapbooks transferred from Schlesinger Library where they had been donated by Fay Chandler as part of the Poor Family Papers (A-11-07). Manuscript material related to unpublished book about William G. Ramsay and condolence letters donated by Appy Chandler (A-11-16). Photographs and drawing of Chandler headstone donated by Appy Chandler (A-11-37).

Related Material:

Papers of Fay Chandler, 1934-2004. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.

Processing Information

Processed: 1993; revised 2004 by Katherine Powers; additions processed 2010 by April Johnson and 2016 by Liam Sullivan.

Digital content on physical storage media has been reformatted when possible. Files were surveyed, screened for privacy and confidentiality concerns, and transferred to secure storage. Content open for research is described at the series and folder levels below

Processing note:

The arrangement of the collection follows as closely as possible the original order of the material as they were arranged by Alfred D. Chandler, though that order was not always systematic. Chandler often created groups of records that were neither alphabetically nor chronologically arranged, and over the years he extracted material from earlier projects for use or refinement in current ones. This order does, in fact, reflect the way in which Chandler shaped his conclusions and reveals the bearing that his previous work and the work of others had on the development of his ideas. As a consequence, these groups have been left intact.

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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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