Collection ID: MS 374

Collection context


Newton, Byron Rufus, 1861-1938
Corrrespondence, writings, notes, printed materials, clippings, photographs, financial papers, and memorabilia of Byron R. Newton, journalist and official in the Democratic Party. The papers relate largely to Democratic Party politics from 1910-1933, though there is also material relating to the early history of aviation in this country. Correspondents of note include Newton D. Baker, Charles W. Fairbanks, William G. McAdoo, William F. McCombs, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Wilbur and Orville Wright.
5 Linear Feet


Acquisition information:
Gift of Margaret L. Newton, 1969.
Rules or conventions:
translation missing: en.enumerations.resource_finding_aid_description_rules.Finding aid created in accordance with Manuscripts and Archives Processing Manual
Scope and Content:

The Byron R. Newton Papers consist of seven archive boxes containing correspondence, manuscript articles, notes, and poems; a quantity of printed articles and newspaper clippings (mostly articles written by Newton); and a small quantity of photographs, financial materials, and memorabilia. Although small, the collection provides a rich source of information for the scholar interested in Democratic party politics from about 1910 to 1933. In addition, there are interesting materials concerning early aviation, William G. McAdoo's fight to build a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River, and the early use of political polls and opinion surveys, as well as the practice and techniques of public relations by Newton, one of its earliest practicioners.

The collection is divided into three series: Correspondence; Writings, Memoirs, and Notes; and Special Files. The first series, Correspondence, contains revealing materials on the Wilson election campaign of 1912, and on the fights for the nominations and the subsequent election campaigns in the years 1924, 1928, and 1932. Newton's correspondence with Newton D. Baker (16 items) is especially valuable for the insights it provides into the campaign strategies and behind-the-scenes maneuvering of various candidates, especially Franklin D. Roosevelt, William McAdoo, and Woodrow Wilson for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. In addition, a number of important issues are discussed, notably those pertaining to the regulation of the railroads and utilities, oil interests, municipal reform, the influence of Tammany Hall in the Democratic party, and corruption in city governments. The predominant issue, however, is that of prohibition, a question of vital interest to McAdoo. Much of the correspondence between Newton and McAdoo, in particular, deals with the effect of prohibition on the election campaigns of 1928 and 1932, as well as its effect on the question of "law and order." The influence of Tammany Hall and its alleged control of Al Smith and then governor Franklin D. Roosevelt are also topics prominent in Newton's correspondence during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

In addition to McAdoo, Roosevelt, and Baker, other prominent correspondents represented in the collection are: Charles W. Fairbanks (6 items); the Aero Club of America (14 items); William F. McCombs (10 items); Theodore Roosevelt (5 items); Allan A. Ryan (4 items); Woodrow Wilson (ca. 23 items); and Wilbur, Orville, and Katherine Wright (4 items). A small group of "Correspondence of Others" consists primarily of materials relating to the Wilson presidential campaign of 1912 and includes the correspondence of Woodrow Wilson (7 items), William McAdoo (8 items), and William F. McCombs (4 items).

The second series, Writings, Memoirs, and Notes, consists mainly of articles written by Newton as newspaper reporter, although there are also some magazine articles, memoirs of his experiences during the Spanish-American War, and various speeches, poems, and some notes on the death of McKinley, an event covered by Newton while he was a reporter.

Special Files consists primarily of expense accounts, financial records of Newton (and to a lesser extent of the Wilson campaign of 1912), and personal and family papers and memorabilia. In addition, there are photographs of McAdoo and the families of Newton and Woodrow Wilson. Most important in this series, however, are three folders of materials pertaining to the Wilson campaign of 1912 and a small amount on the campaign of 1916.

* The Newton Papers contain nothing from the period from 1933 until Newton's death in 1938.

Biographical / Historical:

Byron R. Newton (1861-1938) was born in Alleghany County, New York, and attended Oberlin College. After his graduation, he returned to upper New York State and pursued journalism. In 1886, he was employed by the Buffalo News, for which he worked until the Spanish-American War. In the summer of 1898, he went to Cuba as an Associated Press correspondent.

Shortly after his return he was appointed to represent American newspapers at the British-American Joint High Commission session in Quebec. He continued working for the Buffalo News until he became Secretary of the Pan American Exposition in 1901.

In 1902, he accepted a position with the New York Herald. Newton was among the first to recognize the importance of the early experiments in aviation, and his interest gained much favorable publicity for this new field. Also while working for the Herald, Newton became acquainted with William Gibbs McAdoo, who was then attempting to implement his widely-ridiculed plan to build railroad tunnels under the Hudson River. Newton took McAdoo's plan seriously and reported it favorably, reversing public opinion. The two men became fast friends.

In 1910, Newton resigned his newspaper position to work for the election of Woodrow Wilson. Both Newton and McAdoo served in high posts at Democratic headquarters. After Wilson's inauguration, Newton served briefly as private secretary to McAdoo before he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. He was appointed Collector of Customs of the Port of New York in 1917 and remained there while Wilson was in office.

During the 1920s Newton was retained first by the New York State Chamber of Commerce, then by the Anthracite Coal Operators in public relations capacities. Later in the decade he took an interest in the petroleum industry, but the nature of his involvement with it is unclear.

Byron R. Newton died in 1938.


Arranged in three series: I. Correspondence. II. Writings, Memoirs, and Notes. III. Special Files.


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