Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing


A Finding Aid to the

Joseph Solomon Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 691

1927-1996. 1.6 Linear ft.


The Joseph Solomon Paperswere initially donated by Joseph Solomon and have grown in recent years with the continued donation of materials by Solomon’s son, Dr. Alan Solomon, of Knoxville, Tennessee. Joseph Solomon, by the act of donating the Joseph Solomon Papers to the American Jewish Archives, assigned the property rights to the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to the materials authored by Joseph Solomon are held by the Solomon heirs. All literary rights to material authored by others are retained by the individuals and their heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives.

The Joseph Solomon Papers are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives.


Joseph Solomon was born in New York City on 11 March 1904 to impoverished Russian immigrants. He was raised in New York City’s Lower East Side and worked as a delivery boy while in elementary school to help support his seven brothers and sisters in a four-room cold-water tenement in East Harlem. Solomon attended P.S. 109 until he was 13, when family finances could no longer be stretched to send him to school.

At 15, Solomon began working as a messenger boy for $10 a week for the law firm for Lehman, Goldmark and Rohrlich. It was here that Solomon was introduced to the legal system and became determined to practice law. Compensating for his lack of formal education, Solomon passed the Regents qualifying exam in one year of intensive evening study and graduated from New York Law School in 1927. In 1929, he was hired by Lehman, Goldmark and Rohrlich. He was made partner of the firm in 1949 and became senior partner in 1963. In 1979, the law firm merged and the name was changed to Pincus, Ohrenstein, Bizar, D’Alessandro and Solomon. In 1983, he began serving as counsel to the firm Ohrenstein and Brown.

Joseph Solomon became an influential attorney in the field of wills, trusts, and estates. His client list included industrialists, artists, and philanthropists. Solomon was also extremely active in supporting continuing and higher education. He was the first lawyer in the United States to have three law school chairs endowed in his name: one at Columbia University and two at New York Law School. Solomon also was instrumental in the implementation of the Judaic Studies department at Columbia University. In 1977, a chair at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine was endowed in his name as part of a joint gift made by a bequest by Mrs. Florette Rosenfeld and her husband Ernst, who had been a member of the Mount Sinai board of trustees before his death in 1937. In conjunction with the endowments, Joseph Solomon also established a scholarship fund at New York Law School for the school’s Center for Legal Studies exchange at the University of Bolongna. The program was designed as a comparative study in the fields of antitrust, European Common Market and labor law, as well as regionalism and federalism. In 1983, Solomon and his wife Rita established the Rita and Joseph Solomon Professorship at New York Law School.

Joseph Solomon was the recipient of many awards, including the 1978 Horatio Alger Award, which celebrates the accomplishments and achievements of outstanding individuals in American society who have succeeded in “pulling themselves up by the bootstraps” in face of adversity. For his work toward a more open dialogue between the U.S. and Italian legal professions, Solomon was knighted in 1980 by the Italian government. In 1982, at the request of his wife Rita, Joseph Solomon celebrated his bar mitzvah at Congregation Emanu-El, the certificate of which is included in the collection.

In conjunction with the many awards for his philanthropic interests, Joseph Solomon was also very active in the legal world. He served on the board of directors of the New York Law Review, on the committee of character and fitness first department of New York City, and was an active participant in the American Bar Association.

Joseph Solomon married Rita Schwartz on August 31, 1929. They had two children: Alan (a leading figure in cancer research) and Diane (a sculptor). Joseph Solomon died on October 8, 1996 in New York City.


Papers consist of materials relating to the life and work of Joseph Solomon, a wills, trusts, and estate attorney in New York City.

Solomon was a favorite speaker at banquets and drafts of many of his speeches are included here. Also included is an extensive near print collection containing news clippings and photographs, which are arranged chronologically. Items of interest to researchers include a catalog of the artist Florine Stettheimer’s one-woman show put on at Columbia University in 1973 and the last will and testament of Etty Stettheimer, the artist’s sister. There is also correspondence from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, Mary Kay Ash, E. Donald Shapiro, James F. Simon, Robert Nathan (most well known for his screenplay Portrait of Jennie), and Judge Damon Keith. The collection contains a chronicle of the endowments and bequeathments Solomon made during his career and a memorabilia file which includes a photostat of Solomon’s first fee as an attorney.

The collection is divided into three (3) series:


SERIES A. CORRESPONDENCE. The correspondence series consists of two Hollinger boxes of correspondence that detail Solomon’s career as an attorney and his philanthropic interests together with personal correspondence. Of interest are letters written by Mary Kay Ash, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, Judge Damon Keith, E. Donald Shapiro, and the writer Robert Nathan.

SERIES B. NEAR PRINT AND PHOTOGRAPHS. The near print and photographs series consists of one Hollinger box of news clippings and articles following the professional career of Joseph Solomon, including his knighting by the Italian government, his efforts on behalf of higher education, and his numerous awards and honors. There is also a small collection of photographs, most of which are dated and labeled. This series also contains material dealing with the law firms where Solomon worked.

SERIES C. MEMORABILIA AND AWARDS. This personal portion of the collection deals with materials that Solomon saved, including a series of cards from his wife Rita’s birthdays, programs and invitations from various dinners and banquets, programs of his grandchildren’s commencement exercises, and Solomon’s writings. The awards component of the series contains material dealing with Solomon’s various endowments and awards, including an extensive file on the Horatio Alger award and his work as the executor of the Etty Stettheimer estate. The endowment portion of the series is arranged alphabetically. Span dates of this series are 1927-1996.

Box Folder			Contents
SERIES A. CORRESPONDENCE 1 1 Correspondence A-B 2 Ash, Mary Kay 25 May, 1978-1 October, 1981 3 Banks, Samuel Alston 7 July, 1982-13 January, 1985 4 Bearn, Margaret S. 18 March, 1977-24 January, 1985 5 Benjamin, Edward B., 3 July, 1975-24 September, 1991 6 Berger, Ira M., 1 January, 1985-16 June, 1986 7 Broad, Shepard 25 November, 1977-5 May, 1987 8 Buchanan, Peter 10 November, 1972-24 June, 1975 9 Butler, Robert N., 4 February, 1983-5 April, 1992 10 Correspondence C-D 11 Correspondence E-F 12 Correspondence G-H 13 Hillman, Lucille 18 March, 1977-13 January, 1984 14 Correspondence I-L 15 Keith, Damon 13 June, 1978-12 May, 1986 16 Kimball, Arthur 27 March, 1976-28 March, 1987 17 Correspondence M-P 18 McGill, William 13 July, 1973-12 June, 1979 19 Middonik, Millard 6 October, 1975-30 March, 1982 20 Miner, Roger 13 June, 1986-6 November, 1987 21 Nathan, Robert 24 February-19 June, 1978 22 Norman Vincent Peale 3 January,-1981-16 May, 1985 2 1 Correspondence R-S 2 Re, Edgar 17 December, 1975-30 April, 1987 3 Shapiro, E. Donald 1July, 1975-23 August, 1991 4 Simon, James F., 31 March, 1983-May 6, 1992 5 Sobel, Ronald B., 26 June, 1975-11 March, 1992 6 Solomon, Joseph 22 January, 1962-7 October, 1986 7 Sovern, Michael 20 July, 1972-7 February, 1990 8 Correspondence T-Z 9 Teirgarten, Alan July 14, 1975-November 20, 1986 10 Thorton, John V., December 19, 1975-14 May, 1986 11 Miscellaneous orrespondence, unsigned SERIES B. NEARPRINT AND PHOTOGRAPHS 3 1 Nearprint 2 Nearprint 3 Photographs 4 Law firm charters and dissolutions SERIES C. MEMORABILIA AND AWARDS 4 1 Speeches, interviews and writings, n.d 2 Rita Solomon cards 3 Memorabilia 4 Endowments 5 Horatio Alger Award 6 Miscellaneous awards and certificates 7 Etty and Florine Stettheimer

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