The Rockefeller Archive Center
“If we assist the highest forms of education – in whatever field – we secure the widest influence in enlarging the boundaries of human knowledge.”
—John D. Rockefeller, Sr.



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Size: 102 cu. ft.

Collection: The collection is comprised primarily of the foundation's files of grantees, the bulk of which date from 1970-1985. The bulk of the collection is open for research; records that document the peer review process are restricted from public access.

Arrangement: William T. Grant Foundation collection is arranged in five series:

Series 1 - The papers of William T. Grant are comprised of correspondence, speeches and articles dating from 1916 to 1959; and records and publications about the William T. Grant Company and its employees, including Grant's secrets of retailing success ("the Grant Game")

Series 2 - The foundation's first and longest-running grant, the "Grant Study of Adult Development," is documented in the correspondence, administrative files, bibliographies and publications spanning the years 1937-1990

Series 3 - The bulk of the Grant Files dates from 1970-1985, with some grants documented as early as the 1940s. The records document the administration of grants awarded by the foundation and include applications, administration records, progress reports, final reports, publications, correspondence, and financial records.

Series 4 - Administrative Records spans the years 1930-1999, and is divided into three subseries: Administrative Records (1930-1989), including general correspondence, reports, financial records, reports of meetings, and publications on the foundation's history; Annual Reports (1936-1999), including all annual reports with the exception of years 1938-1948 and 1994; and Minutes of the foundation's board meetings (1936-1997)

Series 5 - Accompanying photographs, scrapbooks, audio and visual material are available in Special Formats. The bulk of the scrapbooks and photographs have been separated from grant files or consist of material supplementary to the grant files. Also included are photographs and negatives from annual reports, and images of foundation trustees, officers, staff, and the W.T. Grant Commission. Twenty-seven reels of 16 millimeter film separated from grant files are available.

Photograph Collection: Yes

Organizational History:The following biographical information and history of the foundation are drawn for the website of the William T. Grant Foundation

William Thomas Grant was born in Stevensville, Pennsylvania in 1876. At age 30, he opened the first "W. T. Grant Co. 25 Cent Store" in Lynn, Massachusetts with $1,000 he had saved from his work as a salesman. The stores specialized in retail sales of small household wares, and were earning almost $100 million a year in sales by 1936. By the time Grant died in 1972, at age 96, he had built a nationwide empire of nearly 1,200 of W. T. Grant Stores. Just two years later, however, in 1974, the company declared bankruptcy. The Grant Foundation, which he had founded in 1936 to fund research in the social sciences, was a major holder of the company's stock, and its endowment suffered through the bankruptcy. It soon rebounded, and by the mid-1980s its assets stood at $130 million in assets.

Grant's lifetime of philanthropic work began with the incorporation of the Grant Foundation on October 29, 1936, to support long-term approaches in social science research aimed at the understanding and prevention of the root causes of suffering and social problems. In his mind, the object of his philanthropy was "the enrichment of life, with a primary interest in people and in their adjustment to the world in which they live."

Grant's initial impetus as a philanthropist was to find out why some young people succeeded in life while others who were similarly equipped for success did not. This interest prompted the foundation's first and longest-running grant, the "Grant Study of Adult Development," also known as the "Harvard Grant Study" or the "Harvard Longitudinal Study." Dr. Arlie V. Bock was the first director of the project, at Harvard University, which received Grant Foundation support from 1938-1947 and again from 1957-1977. Conducted by several generations of researchers, the study has followed some of the original subjects for more than 50 years. George Vaillant joined the project staff at Harvard in 1966 and published the latest findings from the study in December 2001.

The Grant Study was a turning point in the use of interdisciplinary research, combining knowledge from the fields of medicine, psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, and social sciences. An interdisciplinary approach has characterized much of the research that the foundation has funded throughout its history.

Most of the work that the foundation supported in its first 40 years focused on mental health research and evaluation for children and adolescents. In the late 1940s, the foundation made major contributions to the field now recognized as family and community mental health by awarding grants to the Community Research Associates (CRA) directed by Bradley Buell; the Harvard School of Public Health directed by Dr. Eric Lindemann; and the Merrill-Palmer School.

Beginning with a grant to the University of Maryland to fund the Institute of Child Study in 1949, the foundation's attention became more heavily concentrated on youth, a focus that remained its primary interest for the next 30 years. Under the direction of Daniel Prescott and later Gerthon Morgan, the foundation provided $1.5 million to fund the Institute of Child Study between 1949 and 1979. Benjamin Spock, Robert L. Thorndike, and Robert Havighurst all received foundation support for their research in child development and child psychology.

The foundation also supported research and training in child psychiatry. Beginning in 1956, the foundation supported a well-baby clinic and nursery school at the Hampstead Clinic in London under the direction of Anna Freud, child psychiatrist and daughter of Sigmund Freud. Care and education of the preschool child became a focus of foundation beginning in the 1950s.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Grant Foundation became one of the leading funders of research in infant development, and researchers in the field of human psychology were awarded funding for their research on primates, including Jane Goodall and David Hamburg, Harry Harlow, Robert Hinde, David Premack, and Beatrice and Alan Gardner. From the mid 1950s to early 1970s, the foundation also supported a variety of research projects in the neurosciences.

Beginning with program support for the United Negro College Fund in 1949, the foundation invested resources in social service and action programs, minority education, and social policy and advocacy studies during the late 1960s and 1970s. The foundation also supported research and training in behavioral pediatrics.

During the presidency of Robert Haggerty (1980-1992), program funding moved away from studies on infancy toward research and training to support the well being of the older child. Responding to sharp cuts in federal funding for social science research, in 1981 the foundation established the Faculty Scholars Program, later renamed the William T. Grant Scholars Program.

In 1986, the foundation established "Youth and America's Future: The William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship." It issued reports on "Non-College Youth in America" and "Pathways to Success for America's Youth and Young Families," which were distributed widely as "The Forgotten Half."

Haggerty's successor as president, Beatrix ("Betty") Hamburg (1992-1998) continued to focus the foundation resources on underserved American youth and shifted the focus to the prevention of youth violence and systems for dealing with young offenders.

The various phases of the foundation's work are documented in the William T. Grant Foundation records.

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