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Leon Keyserling Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS219

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The collection includes that part of Keyserling's papers which relate to his long tenure as legislative aide to Senator Robert F. Wagner. Besides correspondence from Wagner, it contains numerous drafts of bills written by Keyserling, such as the Housing Act of 1937 and the Wagner National Labor Relations Act (present in eight separate drafts), files of campaign speeches, and related material.

Extent: 4.5 linear feet Date Span: 1928 - 1982, bulk 1934 - 1956


  • 1928 - 1982
  • Majority of material found within 1934 - 1956

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Leon H. Keyserling was born on January 22, 1908 in Charleston, South Carolina, to William and Jennie Keyserling. He attended Columbia University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1928, and Harvard Law School. After receiving his law degree in 1931, he taught economics at Columbia University for a short time, and then joined Senator Robert F. Wagner's staff as his chief legislative aide from 1933 - 1937. He helped formulate Wagner's $3 billion public works bill, the wage and hour provisions of the National Industry Recovery Act of 1934, the National Housing Act of 1935, the Wagner National Labor Relations Act of 1935, portions of the Social Security Act of 1935, and the US Housing Act of 1937. He also helped draft the platforms for the National Democratic Party Conventions in 1936, 1940, and 1944.

After leaving Wagner's staff, Keyserling worked in the United States Housing Agency and helped to draft the executive order reorganizing the various overlapping federal agencies dealing with housing into one central agency. As acting administrator and general counsel of the National Housing Agency, he helped organize the construction of millions of housing units for war workers. He married Mary Dublin Keyserling, former head of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau, in 1940.

From 1946 - 1953, Keyserling served as vice chairman and chairman of President Truman's Council of Economic Advisors. During this time, he helped formulate economic policies which enabled the nation to smoothly adjust from a wartime economy to a peace time one while meeting society's demands for increased housing and schooling without inflation. In 1953, he became a private consulting economist and worked with various national organizations, governments, firms, and individuals; his clients included the governments of France, India, and Israel. In 1971, he retired from private practice and devoted his time to working for the Conference on Economic Progress, a private, nonprofit research organization he founded in 1954.

Keyserling was a prolific writer and authored more than 30 book-length studies such as Inflation - Cause and Cure, The Federal Budget and the General Welfare, Key Policies for Full Employment, Taxes and the Public Interest, Progress and Poverty, The Role of Wages in a Great Society, and The Coming Crisis in Housing. He was also the recipient of various honors and awards, ranging from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He died on August 9, 1987. His other papers can be found at the Truman Library in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Robert F. Wagner (1877 - 1953) served as a Senator from New York for 23 years and authored much of the important social and economic legislation of the 1930's and 1940's, including the Wagner National Labor Relations Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Railroad Retirement Act, and Social Security legislation. He also introduced bills for for unemployment insurance, low-cost public housing, and federal housing programs. Robert F. Wagner's Papers are housed in Georgetown University's Special Collections Division. For more information on Wagner, researchers are encouraged to look at his papers as well as utilizing the 'Biographical Data' on Wagner contained in this collection. (See the Index for Wagner - Biographical Data.) Wagner greatly valued Leon Keyserling's legislative assistance and friendship, as one can see from the following:

'I have always said, and still insist that you are the best informed housing expert in the country' ( ALS from Wagner, March 20, 1941) 'Your [sic] such a loyal person that whenever I need help I turn to you. I hope you'd turn to me sometime!' (ALS from Wagner, undated)


4.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



Provenance: Gift of Mary Dublin Keyserling

Leon Keyserling Papers
Deborah Marrone. Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057