Access and Provenance

Access and Provenance

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

Subject Tracings

A Finding Aid to the

Paul Abelson Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 4

1892-1954. 2.1 Linear ft.


The Paul Abelson Papers were donated by Abelson's wife, Helen Abelson, in June, 1957. Literary rights to materials authored by Dr. Abelson are held by the Abelson Heirs. Literary rights to materials authored by others are held by the individual author or his/her heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Director of the American Jewish Archives.

The papers are open to all users and available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives


Paul Abelson, the son of Joseph Mayer and Ruchama (Bromber) Abelson was born in Kovno, Lithuania, September 27, 1878. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1892. He received his A.B. from the College of the City of New York in 1899, his secondary diploma from the Teacher's College.of Columbia University in 1900, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1906. In 1918, he received his L.L.B. from the New York Law School and was admitted to the New York Bar.

Dr. Abelson taught history at De Witt Clinton High School from 1902 to 1911 and was involved with adult education programs for the immigrants. He was the first person to be designated to teach history and civics in Yiddish by the Board of Education for its lecture courses (1902). He was principal of the Educational Alliance's evening summer school from 1905 to 1910. Abelson was a lecturer on labor problems at Columbia University from 1916 to 1917 and in 1919, he lectured on Jewish labor problems at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He was also a member of the faculty of the School for Jewish Communal Work.

Mr. Abelson's career was most closely connected with the labor movement. In 1910, he entered the field of labor arbitration when he was appointed a member of the conciliation staff under the arbitration plan of the cloak and suit industry of New York City. The settlement introduced the concept of arbitration into the ladies' garment trade. In 1914, he was chosen impartial chairman between the Association of Fur Manufacturers of New York City and the Furriers' Union. He filled this role until 1929. Throughout his career, he continued to serve as a labor arbitrator for many other industries including: the paper box industry, the hosiery industry, the fur, millinery, men's hat, Jewish baking, and jewelry trades. After the passage of the National Recovery Act in 1933, Abelson was appointed by President Roosevelt as government representative on seven apparel trade boards.

Mr. Abelson was actively involved in the Bureau of Industry of the New York Jewish Community (Kehillah). The Bureau's aim was to stimulate the creation of communal agencies that would aid the Jews of New York to earn a better living and that would contribute to the industrial development of the whole city. He was chosen Director of the Bureau in 1915.

From the beginning of his adult life in New York City, he was active in social welfare work. One outstanding contribution was his involvement with the Madison Settlement House which he co-founded in 1899. Dr. Abelson also served as trustee of the Ethical Culture Society and as treasurer of the Federation of Jewish Farmers of America. He was a founder of the National Academy of Arbitrators and while alive was regarded as the Dean of that organization. He was a member-of the American ORT Federation, Conference on Jewish Relations, the University Settlement Society, and many other social service organizations. He served as a member of the National Panel of Arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association. In 1950, the Alumni Association of the City College of New York awarded him the Townsend Harris Medal for outstanding post-graduate achievement and distinguished public service.

Mr. Abelson was the contributor of numerous articles on labor, education, and civics to various magazines. He was editor-in-chief of the Enqlish-Yiddish Encyclopedia Dictionary (1915), The Dictionary of Fur Names (1921); and the author of The Seven Liberal Arts.(1906), a study in medieval education.

He was married in 1905, to Helen Cohen in New York City. They had three children (Miriam [Mrs. Robert Ness], Ruth [Mrs. Harold Ceder], and Louise) and eight grandchildren. On November 4, 1953, Paul Abelson died in New York City at the age of 75.


The PAUL ABELSON PAPERS contain materials which reflect his career and interest in labor relations, education, and social work. The collection includes correspondence, speeches, reports, memorabilia, newsclippings, articles and pamphlets. The papers span the period, 1892 to 1954, with the majority of the material occurring between 1900 and 1920. The Papers consist of a single General series of five boxes-arranged alphabetically using Dr. Abelson's categories. The Series portrays his involvement with various labor, educational, civic, and social events in New York City. Of primary interest are the files concerning the Kehillah (the Jewish Community), the East Side Civic Club, and the Educational Alliance. The arrangement within each folder is chronological. The material is in English and Yiddish.

The researcher is encouraged to use the Box and Folder List and the Subject Tracings for access to material in this series.



1       1       Abelson, Paul Biographical. 1878-1953.
        2       Abelson, Paul Citizenship Training Lectures. 1911-1941.
        3       Abelson, Paul English-Yiddish Encyclopedia Dictionary. 1915.
        4       American Jewish Historical Society Publications.
        5       Articles on Jewish Questions.
        6       Bakers, Jewish. 1940, 1950-1952.
        7       Child Welfare Exhibit. 1903-1917.
        8       Cloak and Suit Industry. 1911-1913, 1927.
        9       College of the City of New York - Alumni Society. 1936,
                      1940-1942, 1946-1953.

2       1       Columbia University. 1901-1906, 1929, 1952.
        2       Cornell School for Industrial Relations. 1947-1956.
        3       Correspondence. 1897-1952. 
        4       De Witt Clinton High School. 1900-1950. 
        5       East Side Civic Club.  1901-1904.
        6       East Side Civic Club.  1907-1912.
        7       Educational Alliance.  1895-1912.     
        8       Educational Alliance.  1919-1952.     

3       1       Educational Alliance - Lectures on Adult Immigration. 1908-1953 
        2       Federation of Jewish Famers/Jewish Agricultural Society. 1907-1950   
        3       Fur and Allied Trades. 1924-1939.
        4       Fur Coat and Trimming. 1934-1942.
        5       General Consultant - Industrial Relations. 1918, 1932-1948.
        6       Hosie'ry Industry. 1929-1940. 
        7       Kehillah - General. 1901-1921 
        8       Kehillah - Judah L. Magnes [founder]. 1914-1954.
        9       Kehillah - Bureau of Industry. 1911-1931.
        10      Kehillah - Bureau of Industry - Div. of Employment Placement Clearinghouse. 1911-1916.

4       1       Kehillah - Bureau of Industry - Div. of Employment Placement Clearinghouse. 1917-1919, 1928.
        2       Kehillah - Bureau of Industry - Div. of Industrial Relations. 1909, 1914-1919, 1937-1938.
        3       Kehillah - Bureau of Industry - Div. of Surveys. 1915, 1930-1931.
        4       Kehillah - Bureau of Industry - Div. of Vocational Guidance and Industrial
                     Education. 1915-1919.
        5       Bureau of Industry - Employment Division of Federation for the Support of
                        Jewish Philanthropic Societies. 1916-1918, 1929.
        6       Kehillah - Bureau of Jewish Social Research. 1919-1920. 
        7       Kehillah - Bureau of Philanthropic-Research, 1915-1917
        8       Kehillah - Jewish Social Services. 1890, 1916-1917, 1930-1938, 1945, 1950.
        9       Kehillah - Poultry Correspondence. 1916-1917.
        10      Kehillah - Poultry Newsclippings. 1916.
        11      Kehillah - School for Jewish Communal Work. 1915-1918.

5       1       King, Edward. 1893-1922. 
        2       Knitgoods Industry. n.d.
        3       Labor Arbitration. 1912-1953. 
        4       Ladies' Gament Workers. 1903-1941.
        5       Madison House. 1897-1952. 
        6       Memorabilia of Friends. 1902-1953.
        7       Millinery Industry. 1914-1936. 
        8       New York City.  Board of Education. 1898-1913, 1930-1939, 1952.
        9       Pleaters and Tuckers. 1924.
        10      Pocketbook Industry. 1949-1952.
        11      Unemployment. 1915-1916.
        12      University Settlement/Charles B. Stover. 1892, 1896-1897,1926-1936.
        13      University Settlement Club. 1896-1908.
Note:    The following list of subjects is a selective index to many of people and 
subjects in the PAUL ABELSON PAPERS.  It is selective in that it only attempts to draw
attention to the more significant items in the collection.  When used in conjunction with 
the Box and Folder List, the Subject Tracings should help the researcher locate topics. 
References are to boxes and folders: e.g. 1/5 means Box 1 Folder 5.
Anti-Semitism 1/4, 2/2, 2/3.
Arbitration 1/1, 1/6, 1/8, 2/2, 3/3, 3/4, 3/5, 3/6, 5/2,
                     5/3, 5/4, 5/7, 5/9, 5/10.
Child Welfare 1/7.
Civic Action 2/5.
Education 1/7, 5/8.
Education, Adult 2/7, 2/8.
Education, Jewish 1/4.
Immigrants and Immigration 2/3, 2/7, 3/1.
Judaism 1/4.
Magnes, Judah 3/7, 3/8, 3/10, 4/2, 4/7, 4/9.
Settlement Houses 1/7.
Straus, Isidor. 2/7.

Copyright © 2003 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives