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COLLECTION Identifier: Arch GA 13.11

Arthur Harrison Cole Papers


Speeches, writings, and research material of Harvard Business School professor and librarian Arthur Harrison Cole.


  • 1926-1960

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. HBS Archives collections require a secondary registration form, please contact for more information.
Access Restrictions Access may be restricted. An appointment is necessary to consult the collection.


17.25 linear feet (16 cartons, 1 box)
The papers of Arthur H. Cole (1889-1974), economic historian and Librarian of Baker Library, reflect professional activities and interests relating to his position in the scholarly world of economics and business history.

Professor Cole's records contain letters sent, correspondence, worksheets, reports, research notes, telegrams, memoranda, manuscripts, photographs, negatives and bibliographic cards. The bulk of the records relate to the International Scientific Committee on Price History which describe an international attempt to chronicle commodity prices and incomes from England, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Spain and the United States. Included are financial records as well as writing and research material for a number of the scholarly publications by economists from the above countries. Included in the collection are records which document Cole’s writings in other journals and worksheets for his publications, Fluctuations in American Business, 1790-1860 with W. B. Smith (1935) and Wholesale Commodity Prices in the United States, 1700-1861 (1938). Also included is correspondence written to and by Cole during his tenure as Librarian of Baker Library.

Biographical Note:

Arthur Harrison Cole was born November 21, 1889 in Haverhill, MA. He attended Governor Dummer Academy (1904-1907) and graduated from Bowdin College with a BA (1911). He received his MA (1913) and PhD (1916) in economics from Harvard University. After completing his dissertation, Cole tutored and taught economics at Harvard. He rose from instructor (1916-1917, 1920-1923) to assistant professor (1923-1928) to associate professor (1928-1933). In addition to his academic work, Professor Cole worked in the War Department and the U. S. Tariff Commission from 1917-1920. In 1933, he became Professor of Business Economics at Harvard Business School.

In 1929, Arthur Cole was appointed financial supervisor of the International Scientific Committee on Price History. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, which supported the study of social and economic problems, the Committee researched commodity prices of leading European countries and the United States prior to 1861. The Rockefeller Foundation eventually spent $325,000 for this study and allowed Cole the administrative freedom to dispense the funds to Committee members.

Under the presidency of Sir [later Lord] William Beveridge, the Committee reached a consensus on methodology in 1931 after meeting in London (1930), Frankfort (1930), and Amsterdam (1931). Thereafter, economists on the Committee from England, Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Spain, and the United States proceeded to investigate prices in their respective countries. Meetings in Aix-en-Provence (1932), Vienna (1932) and Locarno (1933) allowed the members to gather periodically to discuss various problems of investigation and methods.

In addition to serving in an administrative capacity for the International Scientific Committee on Price History, Arthur Cole wrote one of the volumes of price history for the United States, Wholesale Commodity Prices in the United States, 1700-1860 (1938). The other two volumes of price history for the United States were Prices in Colonial Pennsylvania by Bezanson, Gray and Hussey (1935) and Wholesale Prices for 213 Years, 1720-1932 by Warren, Pearson and Stoker (1932). Publication of the price histories were suspended during World War II, but resumed after the end of hostilities.

Arthur Cole assumed the dual role of economic historian and library administrator throughout his long professional career. As Administrative Curator of Baker Library (1929-1932) and later, Librarian of Baker Library (1932-1956), Cole’s pioneering efforts in collecting and preserving historically significant business records led to the accumulation of one of the finest collections on the subject in the world. In addition, his influence as an economic historian continued long after he left the classroom. Cole remained an integral part of the scholarly community as Managing Editor of the Review of Economic Statistics (1935-1937), Chairman of Inter-University Research Commission on Economic History (1941-1958), Associate Editor of the Journal of Economic History (1943-1946), and Executive Director, Research Center in Entrepreneurial History (1948-1958). He retired to emeritus status from Harvard Business School in 1956.

Arthur Cole married the former Anne Steckel of Pennsylvania on August 5, 1913 and they had two children: Barbara and Jonathan. He died November 10, 1974.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:
  1. Series I. Speeches and Articles, 1937-1960
  2. Series II. International Scientific Committee on Price History, 1928-1953
  3. Series III. Publications, 1926-1930s
  4. Series IV. Correspondence, 1937-1957

Physical Location


Related Materials

For insight into his duties, responsibilities, and influence as library administrator consult Baker Librarian Office Files, 1929-1960 [Archives Collection E6A].

Processing Information

Processed: January 1995

By: Carole Foster
Link to catalog
Cole, Arthur Harrison, 1889-1974. Arthur Harrison Cole Papers, 1926-1960: A Finding Aid
Baker Library

Repository Details

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

Baker Library Special Collections 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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