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Robert B. and Helen Stevenson Meyner Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS-003

Scope and Contents

The papers document the private and political lives of Robert B. Meyner, governor of New Jersey from 1954 to 1962, and Helen Stevenson Meyner, U.S Representative from New Jersey from 1975 to 1979. Papers include correspondence, writings and speeches, printed material, memorabilia, photographic material, scrapbooks, and audio visual material.

Robert Meyner's biographical and personal files focus on his years as a student at Lafayette College and his political campaigns and contain unpublished biographical essays, oral histories, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia. Personal correspondence with family members, colleagues, and prominent political figures centers on his experiences as a student, early career attorney and politician. New Jersey subject files contain background information and patronage-related correspondence and reports, which Meyner gathered during his campaigns and after being elected governor of New Jersey. Political campaign files provide an overview of Meyner's various campaigns for political office at the state and national level, including press releases and reports on the activities of nationalities groups during his 1953 campaign. Travel files contain itineraries, correspondence, and related material documenting Meyner's official engagements and personal vacations in the United States and abroad.

Helen Meyner’s biographical and personal files contain material documenting her high school and college years and feature a large collection of diaries (circa 1939-1977), newspaper clippings, and memorabilia. Extensive personal correspondence primarily involves family members, a highlight of which documents her service with the American Red Cross during the Korean War (1950-1952). Organization files contain information on her membership in various political and philanthropic associations as well as correspondence with Trans World Airlines while she was employed as a travel consultant (1953-1955). A small number of subject files contain printed material on various interests and hobbies. Writings and speech files contain poetry, essays, and Meyner's column in the New Jersey Star Ledger (1962-1969). The speech files are especially comprehensive in documenting her campaign speeches (1972-1978) as well as various other speaking engagements while she served in Congress (1975-1978).

Helen Meyner's Congressional papers include material from her four campaigns as well as her years representing the 13th District of New Jersey in the U. S. House of Representatives. Files are organized by legislation/bills sponsored or cosponsored by Helen Meyner; legislative reference material; special projects; committees; her voting record; constituent correspondence; personal and administrative correspondence; general correspondence; press; activities of her district offices; and campaigns.

Photographs and special formats document the private and public lives of the Meyners. They include individual and group images (2,700 prints, slides, and negatives), photograph albums, scrapbooks, oversize materials, and audio visual recordings (29 phonographic albums, 4 sixteen millimeter film reels, 9 VHS and 1 eight track cassette tapes).

Additions include material added to the Meyner Papers following the original accessions received by Lafayette College between 1992 and 1996. Most of these files span the last thirty years of Robert Meyner's life and were maintained at his legal office in Newark, NJ, until he fell ill in 1986. These include biographical and personal appointment calendars, address books, awards, memorabilia, and publications; family and general correspondence; subject files; Cigarette Advertising Code files; and his 1969 gubernatorial campaign files.

Dates

  • 1910 - 1998

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the papers is without restriction with the exeption of a small number of files Helen Meyner's congressional papers that are closed for legal reasons, confidentiality, and privacy.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Baumle Meyner (July 3, 1908 - May 27, 1990), was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Pary, he represented Warren County in the New Jersey Senate from 1948 to 1951 and served as the 44th governor of New Jersey from 1954 to 1962.

Born in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1908, his family settled in Phillipsburg, New Jersey in 1922 and he graduated from Phillipsburg High School in 1926. He received his A.B. degree from Lafayette College in 1930 with a major in Government and Law. While at Lafayette, Meyner was a member of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity, the Knights of the Round Table honor society, debating team, student council, and R.O.T.C. During his senior year, Meyner served as the editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, The Lafayette. Meyner received his L.L.B. from Columbia Law School in 1933, and was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1934. He practiced as an associate with J. Emil Walscheid and Milton Rosenkranz from 1933 to 1936 in Union City and Jersey City. In 1936, Meyner moved back to Phillipsburg to practice general law; he also served as counsel to Warren County and Pohatcong Township, New Jersey, and taught Business Law at Lafayette College.

Robert Meyner began his career in politics when he ran unsuccessfully for state senator in 1941. His plans for political office were interrupted when he entered the U.S. Naval Reserve as a lieutenant in 1942. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1943 and went on active duty until 1945. He was promoted to commander in 1957 and continued to serve in the Reserves until 1966. During World War II Meyner commanded gun crews in the American and European theaters and represented enlisted men as defense counsel in court martial cases. After his return from war in 1946, Meyner ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in the 7th Distrist. Meyner was elected to the state senate in 1947. While in office he served as minority leader in 1950, as chairman of the Democratic State Convention in 1951, and on numerous committees including Appropriations, Game and Fisheries, Highways, Labor, and Industry and Social Welfare. Meyner was defeated in his reelection bid in 1951.

In 1953 Robert Meyner was elected governor of New Jersey, the first Democrat to be elected to that officed since 1940. Despite Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature in his first term and a Republican Senate in his second term, Meyner succeeded in enacting his legislative proposals and building the Democratic party in the state. Meyner was known for his commitment to an open government, the promotion of rigid law enforcement, and the exposure of crime and corruption. Meyner increased state aid to education and reorganized state government departments. He also worked to establish the "Green Acres" open space preservation system and oversaw the completion of the New Jersey Turnpike in 1954. In 1957, Meyner became the first governor in the history of the state to be elected to a second term. It was during his second term he married Helen Day Stevenson on January 19, 1957. At the 1960 National Democratic Convention, Meyner gained the spotlight by joining Lyndon B. Johnson and Stuart Symington to block the nomination of John F. Kennedy. After completing his second term in 1962, Meyner returned to private law practice in Newark and Phillipsburg, New Jersey, and in 1964, became the first and only administrator of the Cigarette Advertising Code. Meyner won the Democratic nomination for the governorship of New Jersey again in 1969, but lost in the general election.

Robert Meyner served on the boards of several organizations throughout his career, including the Phillipsburg National Bank and Trust Company, First National State Bancorporation, the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad, Prudential Insurance Company, and Engelhard Corporation. He was also a member of many civic organizations and clubs including the Pomfret Club of Easton, and he was a Trustee of the New Jersey Bar Association. He served as a chairman of the Commission to study Meadowland Development, the New Jersey Bicentennial Celebration Commission, The President's Commission for the Observance of Human Rights Year 1968, and co-chairman of the Interracial Council for Business Opportunity. Meyner died on May 27, 1990, in Captiva, Florida.

Biographical / Historical

Helen Day Stevenson Meyner (March 5, 1929 – November 2, 1997), was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, she served as a U.S. Representative from New Jersey from 1975 to 1979.

Born Helen Day Stevenson in Queens, New York, she graduated from Rosemary Hall High School in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1946 before earning her bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in 1950. Immediately following graduation, Stevenson served as a field worker for the Red Cross in Korea from 1950 to 1952 and then as a tour guide at the United Nations. From 1953 to 1956, she was hired by a major airline to travel around the globe on a promotional tour under the name Mary Gordon. In 1956 Stevenson volunteered for the presidential campaign for her mother’s distant cousin, Adlai Stevenson. During the campaign, she met New Jersey Governor Robert Meyner, and they married in 1957. After Robert Meyner left office in 1962, Helen Meyner began writing a twice-weekly column for the Newark Star-Ledger, which she continued until 1969. She also hosted a New York–New Jersey television interview program from 1965 to 1968. Beginning in 1971, Meyner was appointed to the New Jersey rehabilitation commission.

After losing an initial bid for the U.S. House in 1972, Helen Meyner benefitted from the Watergate scandal two years later, winning by thirteen points. During her two terms in the House, Meyner actively promoted women’s rights and their increased involvement in politics and developed a reputation as an even-tempered, thoughtful, and effective legislator. She served as an active member of the newly founded Congresswomen’s Caucus. She won a second term in the 1976 elections in a close race against William E. Schluter, but lost her bid for a third term in 1978 to Republican James A. Courter.

After leaving Congress, Helen Meyner returned to Princeton, New Jersey, where she again worked for the state rehabilitation commission. She also served on the boards of several major corporations, where she developed a reputation for pushing women’s equality in corporate management. After her husband’s death in 1990, she moved to Captiva Island, Florida. Meyner subsequently oversaw the establishment of the Robert B. Meyner and Helen S. Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government at her husband’s alma mater, Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania. Helen Meyner died on November 2, 1997, in Captiva, Florida.

Extent

102.5 Linear Feet

112 boxes

6 drawers

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Robert Baumle Meyner (1908-1990), was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he represented Warren County in the New Jersey Senate from 1948 to 1951 and served as the 44th governor of New Jersey from 1954 to 1962. Helen Day Stevenson Meyner (1929-1997), was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, she served as a U.S. Representative from New Jersey from 1975 to 1979. The papers include correspondence, writings and speeches, printed material, memorabilia, photographic material, scrapbooks, and audio visual material documenting the private and political lives of Robert B. and Helen Stevenson Meyner. The bulk of the material consists of Helen Meyner's congressional papers, including material on her four campaigns. Other material documents Helen Meyner's work with the American Red Cross during the Korean War, and Robert Meyner's political campaigns. Robert Meyner's biographical and personal files focus on his years as a student at Lafayette College and his political campaigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to Lafayette College in several installments. The first group consisted of the personal papers of Robert and Helen Meyner and was brought to Skillman Library from the Meyners' home in Princeton, New Jersey in 1992.

The second and largest group, Helen Meyner's congressional papers, was transferred to Skillman Library from Princeton University's Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library in the summer of 1993. Helen Meyner had deeded these papers to Princeton University at the completion of her second and last term in the U.S. Congress in 1979. While at Princeton portions of the congressional papers were selectively weeded.

An additional large installment of the Meyners' personal papers was brought to Skillman Library from the Meyners' residence in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, in 1994. Several small gifts of material have been added to the papers since then, including a collection of newspaper clippings, campaign posters and buttons, and photographs from Robert Meyner's early campaigns, which belonged to William Blackton, Meyner's press secretary while serving in the New Jersey State Senate. These materials were added to the existing collection where appropriate.

Following Helen Meyner's death in late 1997, additional collections of subject and correspondence files, photographs, and clippings arrived at Lafayette College. These materials include Robert Meyner's office files from the Newark and Phillipsburg, NJ, offices of Meyner and Landis, as well as photographs, clippings, and correspondence from Helen Meyner's home in Florida. Priscilla Stevenson Hunt, Helen Meyner's sister, donated additional materials in late 1999, including letters of condolence she recieved following Helen's death and correspondence between the two sisters from their youth. These materials, as well, were incorporated into the existing collection.

Related Materials

Robert Meyner's official gubernatorial records are located at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton.

Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and College Archives Repository

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