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Archive - Cyrus Adler Papers

Identifier: ARC-1

Collection Scope and Contents

The collection includes correspondence concerning Jewish Theological Seminary of America, United Synagogue of America, American Jewish Historical Society, and other topics; manuscript and printed speeches and articles; diaries of trips to Near East, the Paris Peace Conference, and Europe and Palestine, and a general diary; Jewish Theological Seminary Board of Directors minutes; correspondence, programs, clippings, and other material concerning deaths of Israel Friedlaender and Bernard Cantor, and memorial meetings for them; correspondence, lists, and addresses regarding a testimonial for Adler; parts of Adler’s memoirs; and miscellaneous other material. It also includes articles about Adler, and materials concerning memorial meetings; correspondence of wife Racie F. Adler; photocopies and transcripts of Adler’s letters; and correspondence concerning project to publish Adler’s letters. Accrual materials include additional Racie Adler correspondence, condolence letters, materials from daughter Sarah Adler Wolfinsohn and bound volumes of correspondence, tributes, etc.


  • Creation: 1863-1977 (bulk 1885-1940)



Materials are available by appointment only. To make an appointment and request materials in advance, contact the Librarian in charge of archival materials at: 212.678.8973 or via E-mail:


There are no restrictions to accessing this collection, however written permission is required to print or publish.


Cyrus Adler (1863–1940), was an American Jewish scholar and public worker. Born in Van Buren, Arkansas, Adler's father died in 1867 and he and his mother, Sarah Sulzberger, moved to Philadelphia where he was raised by his mother and uncle, David Sulzberger. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1883 and studied Assyriology at Johns Hopkins University, earning a Ph.D. in 1887; he taught Semitic languages there from 1884 to 1893. Adler became a librarian at the Smithsonian Institute in 1892 and worked there until 1905.

Adler helped found Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning in 1907 and served as its president from 1908 to 1940, splitting his week between Washington and Philadelphia. In 1915 he became temporary president of Jewish Theological Seminary following Solomon Schechter, a post which became permanent in 1924 and lasted until 1940, again, splitting his time between the two cities.

A bachelor until age 42, Adler married Racie Friedenwald of Baltimore in 1905; they had one daughter, Sarah. He died in Philadelphia, on April 7, 1940 of cancer.

Sources: Wertherimer, Jack. Tradition Renewed. A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. pp. 103-161; Cyrus Adler article, Wikipedia; accessed 7/8/2015; Cyrus Adler article, The Jewish Virtual Library; accessed 7/8/2015


14.14 Linear Feet (in 29 document boxes, 1 record center carton and 2 oversized flat boxes.)

Language of Materials



The Cyrus Adler Papers contain correspondence (loose and in bound volumes), speeches, diaries, minutes, articles and other writings, ephemera and artifacts, JTS organizational documents, typescripts, tributes (loose and in bound volumes), and photographs.

Collection Arrangement

Series I . Correspondence
Subseries A. Alphabetical, 1892-1939
Subseries B. Chronological, 1888-1939
Subseries C. Personal, 1890-1932

Series II. Articles and Addresses, 1892-1939

Series III. Ephemera and Artifacts, 1863-1939

Series IV. JTS Related Material, 1897-1939

Series V. Memoir, undated

Series VI. Tributes, 1920-1976

Series VII. Provenance (Collected Letters), 1940-1977

Series VIII. Photographs, undated

Location of Materials

Materials are available (by appointment only) at The Special Collections Reading Room, The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Phone: 212.678.8973 or via E-mail:

Custodial History

The provenance of this collection is somewhat unknown. At least some of the materials was found in the room at JTS where he would stay when he was in New York. In the late 1950s Arthur Hertzberg borrowed the bulk of the materials to work on a collection of Adler letters for publication. When Hertzberg did not complete the project, the material was sent to Adler's daughter, Mrs. Sally Wolfinsohn of Cambridge, MA, who took charge of the project. At its conclusion, Mrs. Wolfinsohn returned the originals to JTS and also gave the notes, copies, and other research material gathered for the publication project. Addition materials were sent in 2003 (Accrual #1) and 2008 (Accrual #2).

Related Archival Materials Note

ARC 2003-01 - Louis Finkelstein Papers
R.G. 1 - General Files

Processing Information Note

The correspondence, speeches, diaries, minutes, and articles was initially surveyed by Daniel Soyer in October 1986. In June of 2008 the collection was processed, the materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes, and a preliminary arrangement and description was created by David Berman.

Guide to the Cyrus Adler Papers
David Berman, Michala Biondi
June 2008; July 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Language of description note
Funding for the retrospective conversion of the original finding aid documents to produce this guide using Archivists’ Toolkit was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary Repository

3080 Broadway
New York N.Y. 10027 USA