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The University of Texas at Austin


The Louis Filler Papers

January 31, 2013

Louis Filler 

AUSTIN, Tx – The Briscoe Center's archival collections cover a wide range of subject fields in U.S. history, with particular strengths in political, business, and social history. The recent acquisition of the papers of historian Louis Filler is an excellent example of a growing collection strength for the center: American intellectual history. Filler (May 2, 1911–December 22, 1998) was a leading scholar in the study of American social reform movements, particularly the antebellum abolitionist movement. The Filler Papers join other collections at the Briscoe Center that document the lives and careers of significant American scholars, including Walter Prescott Webb, Lewis Gould, Clarence Ayres, and C. Wright Mills.

After earning his doctorate at Columbia University in 1943, Filler worked as a historian for the American Council of Learned Societies (1942–1944) and the War Department in Washington, D.C. (1944–1946). Although Filler held several visiting academic appointments during his long career, he was best known for his tenure as professor of American Civilization at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, for more than three decades.

The Filler Papers span 34 linear feet and cover the 1940s to his death. The collection provides in-depth coverage of his teaching, writing, and research career, and serves as an illustration of the shifts in college-level history curriculum during the three decades following World War II.

A widely published author and editor, Filler's books include A Dictionary of American Social Reform (1963); Appointment at Armageddon: Muckraking and Progressivism in American Life (1976); and Voice of the Democracy: A Critical Biography of David Graham Phillips: Journalist, Novelist, Progressive (1978). Filler's most widely noted book, however, was The Crusade Against Slavery, 1830-1860, an influential and celebrated volume in The New American Nation Series edited by Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris. Among the highlights of the Filler Papers are extensive files containing research materials and manuscript drafts for The Crusade Against Slavery, which was published in 1960.

cover of The Crusade Against Slavery

Filler's papers feature his correspondence with important scholars and literary figures, including some of the most influential historians of the post-World War II era: Oscar Handlin, John Garraty, Samuel P. Hays, Russel Nye, Philip Foner, James MacGregor Burns, Bernard DeVoto, William Leuchtenburg, Arthur S. Link, Frank Freidel, Eric Goldman, Hans L. Trefousse, Richard Hofstadter, Henry Nash Smith, Ray A. Billington, Samuel Flagg Bemis, Edmund S. Morgan, and John Hope Franklin.

Filler's correspondents included conservative intellectual Russell Kirk, poet Louis Untermeyer, folk musician Guy Carawan, social critic Max Eastman, novelists Rupert Hughes and Mark Harris, Civil Rights leader Myles Horton, and philosopher and literary critic Lewis Mumford. The papers also contain correspondence and other material related to Filler's prominent former students, such as political activist and historian David A. Horowitz, historian David Thelen, and journalist and biographer Laurence Leamer.

In addition, the papers include lecture and research notes, student papers and syllabi, scrapbooks and newspaper clippings, photographs, book and article manuscript drafts, tape recordings, legal documents, ephemera, publications, and other materials.

Finding aid for the Louis Filler Papers: