Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing


A Finding Aid to the

Walter S. Hilborn Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 37

1855-1976. 0.8 Linear ft.


The Walter S. Hilborn Papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by Walter S. Hilborn in 1966 and 1969 and by the Jules Hilborn family in 1976.

Upon receiving the Walter S. Hilborn Papers, the American Jewish Archives assumed all property rights to the collection. All literary rights to materials authored by Walter S. Hilborn are held by the Hilborn 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.


Walter S. Hilborn was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 11, 1879. He attended Boston public schools, graduating from English High in 1898. In 1898, Hilborn entered Harvard and graduated magna cum laude in 1901. That same year he began studies at Harvard Law School, serving on Law Review and graduating cum laude in 1903.

Hilborn began his law career in the law offices of Warren and Brandeis, headed by Louis D. Brandeis. In 1905 he moved to New York City and joined the firm of Gallert, Hilborn and Raphael. During this period, Hilborn became active in Stephen S. Wise's Free Synagogue, serving as a trustee and a member of its executive committee.

While with the firm of Gallert, Hilborn and Raphael, Mr. Hilborn served two years as acting director of the Russell Sage Foundation which worked to help create a Small Loans Law in New York State.

In 1908 Walter S. Hilborn married Aimee Gallert, sister of his law partner David Gallert.

In 1920 Hilborn served as Special Assistant to the Attorney General of New York State after having been a Deputy Assistant District Attorney for New York County. In 1922 Hilborn wrote the charter for the Jewish Institute of Religion and served as a trustee of the Institute and later of the combined Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

In 1927, Hilborn became a trustee of the estate of King Gillette, inventor of the razor blade and safety razor. This position gave him reason to move to Los Angeles in 1929 where he resided the remainder of his life. In 1933, Hilborn began work at the law firm of Loeb and Loeb, a position he maintained until his death.

From 1935 to 1976 Walter S. Hilborn was active in community organization work in both the Jewish and general communities. In 1945 he organized the Los Angeles chapter of the American Jewish Committee and served as its first chair. Later he was elected a national vice-president.

In 1950 Hilborn helped incorporate the Reiss Davis Child Guidance Clinic, and worked to sustain the Clinic over the next several years. From 1952 to 1954 he served as president of the Welfare Planning Council of Los Angeles (Community Chest).

Perhaps Hilborn's most significance achievement was the crucial role he played in the merger of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Council and the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations. This merger, which was one of the most important occurrences in the Jewish communal life of Los Angeles, was completed in 1959.

Hilborn continued his work as an attorney and his involvements in the community until six weeks before his death. He died on July 9, 1976.


The Walter S. Hilborn Papers (1855-1976) contain correspondence, reports, speeches, certificates, testimonials and newspaper articles dealing with the private and public activities of Hilborn, a prominent lawyer and civic leader. Also included are documents and letters of Hilborn's father Jacob Hilborn, and miscellaneous documents and papers belonging to his grandfather, Julius Heilborn.

The Papers are divided into nine categories based on subject and format. They are arranged chronologically within each folder. The box and folder list describes the contents of each folder.


Box      Folder    Contents

1        1         Biography. Newspaper articles, testimonials, an interview
                   and an incomplete family tree.

         2         Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Letters
                   to Hilborn from Alfred Gottschalk and others associated with
                   HUC JIR; dedication of the Walter S. Hilburn Chapel;
                   miscellaneous material.

         3         Community Organization. Letters to Hilborn concerning                                         Welfare Planning Council of Los Angeles, Brandeis University,
                   etc., primarily of a personal rather than business nature;
                   tributes and commemorations of Hilborn's service to the
                   community; miscellanous letters and papers dealing with
                   Hilborn's  involvement in community work and philanthropy.

         4         Business and Law. Correspondence from fellow attorneys
                   commending Hilbom for his handling of certain cases; tribute
                   to Hilborn by Loeb and Loeb; Bar Association Certificates;
                   miscellaneous letters and articles; note from Louis D.

         5         Speeches. Numerous speeches by Hilborn covering a variety of
                   subjects. Untitled. No dates.

         6         Personal Items. Personal correspondence from friends and
                   associates; commemorative book from ninetieth birthday
                   celebration; miscellaneous items.

2        1         Personal Items. Personal items continued.

         2         Letters from Stephen S. Wise. Twenty letters (1934-1941) to
                   Hilborn from Stephen Wise, discussing the possibility of a
                   merger between HUC and JIR, difficulties in raising funds
                   for Palestine, anti-Semitism in the U.S., Chaim Weizman,
                   Louis D. Brandeis, Upton Sinclair, and personal sentiments
                   which depict the friendship between Hilborn and Wise.

         3         Louis D. Brandeis. One page statement by Hilborn concerning
                   Louis D. Brandeis, no date.

Oversize Folder*   Documents, certificates including birth certificate of Jacob
                   Hilborn, marriage certificate of Jacob and Mathilda Stern
                   Hilborn, naturalization certificate of Julius Heilborn.