Descriptive inventory for the Cyrus Hall Adams, III, papers, 1874-1968, bulk 1964-1968

Cyrus Hall Adams, III, papers

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Descriptive inventory for the Cyrus Hall Adams, III, papers, 1874-1968, bulk 1964-1968

Prepared by Mary Uhl, March 1983; rev. by Jennifer Asimakopoulos, July 2005; rev. by Catherine Blauvelt, 2016
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Cyrus Hall Adams, III, papers, 1874-1968 (inclusive), 1964-1968 (bulk)
Creators: Cyrus Hall Adams, III
Chicago (Ill.) -- Board of Education
Citizens Schools Committee (Chicago, Ill.)
Clements, James
Redmond, James F.
Shriver, Sargent -- 1915-2011
Willis, Benjamin C.
Dates: 1874-1968 (inclusive), 1964-1968 (bulk)
Accession numbers: 1967.0631, 1967.0643, 1968.0706, 1968.0739
Bib number: 00065265
Call numbers: MSS Lot A
MSS Oversize A
Size: 21.1 linear feet (41 boxes, 2 volumes, 1 oversize folder)
Language of material:Collection is written in English.

Provenance statement:

These papers were donated to Chicago Historical Society by Cyrus Hall Adams III in January and February 1967, and in January and May 1968 (accession #: 1967.0631, 1967.0643, 1968.0706, 1968.0739). Sound recordings were a gift of his widow, Harriet Adams (accession #: 1985.0030).

Terms governing use:

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States coyright law, unless otherwise noted.


For listening purposes, it is necessary to use a copy, not the original sound recording (and to have a listening copy made if one is not available).

Please cite this collection as:

Cyrus Hall Adams, III, papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and series/box/folder/call number of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

Related materials in the library include the Chicago Public School Report (1963-1965), Highlights (1965), Chicago Board of Education Study Report 1964 Series, the Chicago Teachers Union records, and other publications.

Collection Summary +/-

The papers of Cyrus Hall Adams III date from 1874 to 1968 (mainly 1964 to 1968) and consist of correspondence, minutes, financial and other reports, transcripts of board hearings and meetings, news clippings, and other printed materials related to the Chicago Board of Education and Adams' service as a member of the board (from 1964-1968). Adams corresponded with other members of the board, with the General Superintendents Benjamin Willis and James Redmond, and with citizens and civic associations in Chicago regarding the policies and plans of the board. The papers reflect the major issues facing the board during the 1960s, especially racial integration of the public schools and related topics such as the Hauser and Havighurst reports and the various methods for achieving integration including the use of mobile classrooms, voluntary transfer plans, and busing. Other topics covered, though not as extensively, include labor relations with public school teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union, a shared-time plan with the Chicago Catholic Archdiocesan school system, the performance of Benjamin Willis as superintendent of schools and the educational, physical, and financial status of the Chicago public schools. Statistical information on individual public schools and on the Chicago school system as a whole is found in reports in the collection. Personal or business-related papers of Cyrus H. Adams III are limited to two scrapbooks, two publications on the history of Carson Pirie Scott and Company, a prayer book, and certificates. There are no other personal or business-related papers of Adams in this collection.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

Cyrus Hall Adams, III, a Chicago business executive, civic leader and member of the Chicago Board of Education, was born on October 24, 1909. The son of Cyrus Hall Adams, Jr. (1881-1968) and Mary Shumway Adams (1882-1962), Cyrus Adams III grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois. He attended the Hill School (a preparatory school) in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and in 1931, he received his A.B. degree from Princeton University.

Adams began his business career in 1932 as a salesman for Carson Pirie Scott and Company in Chicago. He remained in their employ for 36 years, holding positions such as merchandise manager, assistant to the treasurer, controller, and assistant to the president. Adams was vice president for civic affairs when he retired from Carson's in 1968.

Adams participated actively in various organizations in the Chicago community including the Chicago Historical Society, of which he served as treasurer and trustee, and the Better Government Association, of which he was trustee and president. Adams was also a director of the Chicago Area Project at one time and a director and president of the board of North Side Boys Club. Adams' interests in education was evident in this service as a trustee of Glenwood School for Boys, and as a trustee (for 15 years) and chairman of the board (for 3 years) of the Chicago Latin School. Adams was also a trustee for over 19 years of The Hill School.

In December 1963, Adams was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education by Mayor Richard J. Daley. Adams joined the 11 member school board at a time when it was experiencing some of its deepest controversies. One especially volatile topic was racial integration. Benjamin C. Willis, who had been superintendent of the Chicago public schools since 1953, came under attack in the 1960s for allowing de facto segregation of Chicago schools to continue. His critics charged that Willis' opposition to integration was manifested in the use of mobile classrooms to alleviate overcrowding at schools in Black neighborhoods instead of transferring pupils to schools with space in white neighborhoods, and also in his lack of response to the important reports on the school system. These reports were (1) a survey done by Dr. Philip M. Hauser and a panel of four other educators who concluded that Black children were receiving an inferior education; and (2) a survey released in November 1964 by the chairman of the survey committee, Dr. Robert J. Havighurst, which also argued that Chicago was not doing an adequate job of educating its children.

A rift between Superintendent Willis and board members grew over this increasing pressure to desegregate the schools and over conflicts about the respective areas of responsibility of the General Superintendent and of the board. In May 1965, the board voted (with Adams concurring) not to renew Willis' contract when it expired in August 1965. However, a few weeks later, against much opposition, the board agreed to grant Willis a four year contract with the provision he retire in December 1966 when he reached the age of 65.

Funding for Chicago schools was always a major problem faced by the Board of Education and one that was of special concern to Adams during his tenure. Both the Hauser and Havighurst reports focused on the school system's need to obtain more money, especially for compensatory education in underserved areas. In October 1965, the situation became even more tense when the U.S. Commissioner of Education withheld federal funds from Chicago schools because of the many charges of "enforced" segregation there. Adams was one of the board members who was particularly active in pressing for state as well as federal aid to finance the school system. At his reappointment hearing in May 1966, Adams designated lack of money as the number one problem facing the school system; the other major problem was prejudice, he said.

The last two years of Adams' service on the school board were also ones of controversy for the board. James F. Redmond succeeded Benjamin Willis as General Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools in October 1966, and in August 1967, he released a report which called for busing as the means to achieve a better racial balance in the schools. Discussion and protest over this plan continued into early 1968 when open hearings were held. Adams was one of the two board members who refused to serve on the board's busing committee because he said hearings would serve no useful purpose. Instead, Adams supported a busing plan based on voluntary participation; this plan was approved by the board in March 1968.

Adams had announced as early as Sept. 1967 that he would not serve out his five-year term (until 1971), but would retire from the board in spring 1968. His resignation became official in May 1968. At the same time, Adams retired from his position as vice president for civic affairs at Carson Pirie Scott and Company. After retirement, Adams and his wife Harriet divided their time between their residence in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and their home in Chicago. Adams died in 1985.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

Adams, Cyrus Hall III -- 1909-1985 -- Archives
Busing for school integration -- Illinois
Community organization -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
Discrimination in education -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
Public schools -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
Teachers’ unions -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
Chicago (Ill.) -- Board of Education
Financial records
Newspaper clippings
Chicago (Ill.) -- Politics and government -- 20th century
Chicago (Ill.) -- Race relations -- 20th century

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

This collection is arranged in two series.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. Board of Education files, 1874-1968 (Boxes 1-42)
Series 2. Carson Pirie Scott and Company materials, 1932-1968 (Boxes 43-44)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Catherine Blauvelt using Oxygen XML editor, 2016
Language: Finding aid is written in English.
Other Finding Aids: Finding aid also submitted to Explore Chicago Collections portal.
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