The papers of Ben W. Lewis span the years 1922 to 1982, with the bulk of the collection concentrated in the period 1958 to 1974. During these sixteen years, Lewis served with the Ford Foundation's Overseas Development Program. There is little information in this collection regarding Lewis' teaching career at Oberlin College or his personal life.
The Lewis papers, originally maintained as general files, are organized into three series: Series I. Correspondence; and Series II. General Files. Within series, files are further subdivided into subseries. The six subseries of Series II are arranged according to professional activity and include: 1. Files Relating to Oberlin College and Community; 2. Government Service Files; 3. Ford Foundation Files; 4. Consultant to Foreign Government Files; 5. Professional Activities and Affiliations; and 6. Writings. Within these subseries, files are typically arranged chronologically or alphabetically by topic or type of material. Series III. Course related material consist of notes taken by Lewis while he was a student in law school.
The correspondence of Ben Lewis is found throughout his papers. Series I consists of correspondence which was organized by the archivist in 1984 into three distinct runs: Professional Correspondence (Incoming), 1922-67; Professional Correspondence (Incoming and Outgoing), 1936-81; and Personal Correspondence (Incoming and Outgoing), 1967-72.In the general files of Series II, letters accompany attached materials and are present in the chronological file (1967-70) relating to Ford Foundation matters.
The largest body of correspondence is the incoming correspondence of Subseries 1, 1922-67, which is indexed by correspondent. It covers the period from Lewis' graduate work at the University of Michigan to his retirement from teaching at Oberlin College. Included are letters from leading economists and academicians, including John Kenneth Galbraith (b. 1908) of Harvard University, Leon Carroll Marshall (b. 1879) of Johns Hopkins University, and Isaiah Leo Sharfman (b. 1886), Lewis' mentor at the University of Michigan. Topics covered include public utility regulation and pricing, as well as Lewis' professional aspirations, his publications and research projects, American Economics Association business, and the scheduling of speaking engagements. Correspondence from Oberlin College President Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1880-1966) and Oberlin Economics Department Chairman Harvey A. Wooster (1886-1963) relates to the terms of Lewis' appointment at Oberlin, negotiations for leaves of absence, and ancillary personnel and academic matters. Related materials pertaining to Lewis' service to Oberlin College, housed in Subseries 1 of Series II, cover Lewis' salary and promotions, the General Faculty Committee on Retirement, trustee-faculty relations and governance issues, and departmental business. There are no teaching materials in these papers, except for Lewis' notes for lectures delivered at schools other than Oberlin. These are housed in Series II, Subseries 6.
The remaining correspondence in Series I, contained in Subseries 2 (1936-43, 1950-81) and Subseries 3 (1967-72), sheds light on many of the topics covered in greater detail in Series II. Letters (1936-38) relate to Lewis' year of study in England (1935-36) under a grant from the Social Science Research Council and to his efforts to parlay that experience into further government service. There is no correspondence for the period 1943 to 1949. Later correspondence (1967-72) mainly relates to securing Lewis' participation on committees and at conferences or his valuable support for candidates for employment or graduate study. While there is some correspondence in Subseries 3 (mainly file copies) relating to Lewis' work with the Ford Foundation, it is almost entirely of a routine nature. The files in Series II, Subseries 3, contain the bulk of material relating to his service with the Ford Foundation, as described below.
Correspondence, memoranda, and reports document Lewis' early service to the federal government (1933-44) during the Roosevelt administration. Files relate to his sixteen months with the National Recovery Administration (1934-35), arrangements for his fellowship to Great Britain (1935-38) and his activities there, his work with the Consumers Division of the National Defense Advisory Commission (1939-42), the Office of Price Administration (1941-43), the Foreign Economic Administration (1943-44), and the Office of Alien Property Custodian (1944). Of particular interest are several memos drafted by Lewis and his colleagues at the Office of Price Administration, immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, relating to the national rubber stock, its projected supply and plans for rubber rationing. Among Lewis' files on the Foreign Economic Administration is a secret report written by staff of the Department of State, Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations, dated September 8, 1943. Entitled "Preliminary Draft of a Program for Relief Operations in Italy," it contains statistics compiled from Italian sources on food and supplies in Italy. Official memoranda issued by Lewis as Chairman of the Patent Contracts Committee in the Office of Alien Property Custodian pertain to patent contracts negotiated in time of war between American concerns and foreign owners of patents.
The best-documented phase of Lewis' career is his work (1958-71) as an independent consultant for the Ford Foundation. From 1958 to 1971, and intermittently thereafter, Lewis served as an economic advisor specializing in economic planning to governments in Africa, Latin American, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Most of his work was done under the auspices of the Ford Foundation's Overseas Development Program, Near East and Africa Division, for a project known as the Middle East and Africa program (MEA). Included in the files are appointment and reappointment letters (1966-71); general correspondence with Foundation personnel relating to living arrangements abroad, travel plans, expenses incurred, and salary matters; and lists of individuals to be contacted in various countries. Country files include correspondence, reports, memoranda, and related materials pertaining to Lewis' consultations. The bulk of these files relate to Lewis' work in Amman, Jordan (1959-65) for the Jordan Development Board; in East Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania (1962-72); and in Latin America (1966-70), in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru. Files titled "Europe" include miscellaneous papers concerning Lewis' trips to England, Norway, Denmark, Holland, and Sweden to recruit promising economists to the Foundation staffs in Africa and the Middle East. The correspondence mainly concerns arrangements for interviews and requests from colleagues for names of potential candidates. Special files relate to Lewis' involvement with the Middle East and Africa Law and Development Project (1968-71) and to the 1971 conference of Middle East and Africa Program Advisors. The complete files of the Middle East and Africa Program are located in the Archives of the Ford Foundation in New York City.
Ben Lewis' numerous publications are listed in a bibliography housed in Series VI. Present in these files are ms. drafts of articles, including several variants (1958-59) of the well-known piece, "Economics by Admonition", and drafts for talks and for the monograph, British Planning and Nationalization (1951-54). Also present are drafts of four chapters (1968-69) for a projected volume on the British economy in a Charles E. Merrill series, Comparative Economic Systems, and drafts of Lewis' contribution to an economics textbook (1971-72) published by the Dushkin Publishing Group. Manuscript submissions are accompanied by related correspondence from colleagues, editors, and friends requesting copies.
The balance of Lewis' papers include files relating to his professional activities. Included is correspondence (1958-68) with textbook editors at Appleton-Century Crofts, files on the National Task Force on Economic Education (1954-68), speaking invitations (1959-66), and miscellaneous papers (1949-56) pertaining to Lewis' participation at various conferences.
Lewis’ efforts to assemble a photo gallery of distinguished graduates of the Oberlin Economics Department is documented in Series II. Subseries 1