Guide to the Papers of Cyrus Adler (1863-1940)
undated, 1883-1937

Processed by Holly Snyder

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160



© 2020  American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Holly Snyder as an MS-Word file. June 1996. Created as a PDF by Adina Anflick December 18, 2001. Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 2002 by Tanya Elder. October 2003. Description is in English.
May 2005. Finding aid was updated and reconverted in order to match other online finding aids by Dianne Ritchey Oummia. January 2006. Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Cyrus Adler (1863-1940)
Title: Cyrus Adler Papers
Dates:undated, 1883-1937
Abstract: Born in Arkansas and raised in Pennsylvania, Cyrus Adler was a prominent Jewish scholar, educator, and leader. A nephew of the Philadelphian Sulzbergers (Mayer and David), Adler developed an interest in libraries, Semitics, and Assyriology, earning a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins. In 1888, Adler began work at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.circa, and eventually became the President of Dropsie College in Philadelphia. Adler was active in Jewish affairs and history, in the American Jewish Historical Society, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the United Synagogue, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, The Jewish Encyclopedia, the National Jewish Welfare Board, and he participated in the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The collection represents a small portion of Adler's papers with materials concerning Jewish activism, Conservative Judaism, and Jewish scholarship and history in America. The collection contains correspondence, galleys and page proofs, manuscripts and published articles, clippings, notes, speeches, and ephemera.
Languages: The collection is in English, with some Hebrew and Yiddish.
Quantity: 2.5 linear ft. (5 manuscript boxes)
Accession number: P-16
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

Cyrus Adler (1863-1940)

Cyrus Adler was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, on September 13, 1863. His father, Samuel, was a merchant and cotton planter who had settled in Van Buren in 1840. The family fled Civil War fighting and poor economic conditions in Arkansas for a return North several months after Cyrus was born. Unfortunately, Samuel Adler did not long survive the trip. Following her husband's death in January 1867, Sarah Adler took her family back to Philadelphia to live with her unmarried brother, David Sulzberger. Cyrus grew up surrounded by the traditional Ashkenazic religious practices of his maternal Sulzberger relatives, who had emigrated from Germany; he was particularly influenced in this regard by his uncle and an older second cousin, Mayer (a prominent Philadelphia judge). From them he also absorbed a love of scholarship which would shape the rest of his life.

Young Cyrus first attended a day school run by the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia, where he studied Hebrew and Judaism in addition to traditional public school subjects, and then transferred to the public grammar school several blocks away. During his high school years, he began the task of preparing an author's catalog to the library collection of Isaac Leeser, which had been donated to the Library of the Philadelphia YMHA. Impressed with the results of his young nephew's efforts, David Sulzburger arranged for the catalogue to be printed. Adler later referred to this work as having "laid the foundation of my interest in libraries, in cataloguing and in bibliographies."

Cyrus Adler attended college near home, at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned an A. B. in 1883 and an M.A. in 1886. Having developed a keen interest in Semitics, he went on to study Assyriology under Professor Paul Haupt in the newly established graduate program at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where Adler also taught Semitics from 1884 to 1893. Upon obtaining his Ph.D. from Hopkins in 1887, Adler was appointed Honorary Assistant Curator of Semitics at the United States National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. His devotion to the Smithsonian led to his subsequent appointment there as Curator of Historic Archaeology and Historic Religions at the U.S. National Museum (1889-1908), Institute Librarian (1892-1905), and Assistant Secretary (1905-1908). In the interim, Adler also served as Special Commissioner to the Orient for the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893, for which he organized the Oriental Department, and served on the editorial board of the Jewish Encyclopedia from 1899 to 1905. In 1908, he accepted the post of President of the newly formed Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning in Philadelphia and moved back to Philadelphia.

Adler's involvement with Jewish history and culture was not limited to his own scholarly endeavors. In 1888, he helped to found the Jewish Publication Society of America, and edited the first seven volumes of The American Jewish Year Book. He was also instrumental in the founding of the American Jewish Historical Society in 1892, the first organization to promote the scientific study of the history of Jews in the Western Hemisphere. He edited The Jewish Quarterly Review, a scholarly journal whose publication was assumed by Dropsie College. Following the death of Solomon Schechter in 1916, Adler became Acting President of The Jewish Theological Seminary - a post which eventually turned permanent in 1924. In 1906, he was one of the founders of the American Jewish Committee, eventually succeeding Louis Marshall as President in 1929. Adler found himself in frequent disagreement with American Zionist leaders during this period, but continued to serve on behalf of world Jewry, acting as co-chair of Council for the Jewish Agency from 1929 to 1931.

Adler was a bachelor for more than half his life, finally marrying Racie Friedenwald of Baltimore in 1905, at age 42. Adler and his wife had one child, a daughter named Sarah born the year after their marriage. In his later years, failing health caused Cyrus Adler to slow his lifelong hectic pace of academic and communal activities, and he largely retired from public life after 1933. During his retirement, he delighted in spending time with his small granddaughter, Judith Wolfinsohn. Adler died at age 77 in April 1940.


Adler, Cyrus. I Have Considered the Days. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1941.

Neuman, Abraham A. Cyrus Adler: A Biographical Sketch. New York: The American Jewish Committee, 1942.

S. v., "Adler, Cyrus," Who's Who in American Jewry, 1938-1939 (New York: National News Association, Incirca, 1938), pp. 10-13.

S. v., "Adler, Cyrus," Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (New York, 1941), pp. 88-89.

S. v., "Adler, Cyrus," Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1972), pp. 272-27


1863Born in Van Buren, Arkansas, to Samuel Adler and his wife Sarah Sulzberger Adler (of Philadelphia)
1867Samuel Adler dies. Sarah Adler moves her family to Philadelphia
1883Obtains A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania
1884-1893Fellow, Instructor and Associate Professor of Semitic languages at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland
1886Obtains M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania
1887Earned Ph.D. in Semitics from Johns Hopkins University in February; began teaching at Johns Hopkins and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York
1888Appointed Honorary Assistant Curator for Oriental Antiquities at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.circa
Prepared exhibition of biblical archeology for Government building at the Cincinnati Exposition
Founding member of the Jewish Publication Society of America
1889-1908Curator of Historic Archaeology and Historic Religions at the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution
1890-1892Special Commissioner to Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Tunis and Morocco for the World's Columbian Exhibition at Chicago; organized Oriental Department for the fair
1892Founding member of the American Jewish Historical Society
1892-1898Secretary of the American Jewish Historical Society
1893Appointed Librarian of the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution
1898Represented the United States at the Conference on the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature, London
1898-1922President of The American Jewish Historical Society
1899-1905Editor of the American Jewish Year Book
1899-1906Departmental editor for The Jewish Encyclopedia
1902-1905President of the Board of Trustees, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Sept. 1905Married Racie Friedenwald of Baltimore
1905-1908Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
1906Helped found the American Jewish Committee
Daughter Sarah born
1908Appointed President of Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning in Philadelphia; moved back to Philadelphia
1908-1915Chaired the Board of Editors for new JPS translation of the Bible
1910Became Co-Editor of The Jewish Quarterly Review with Solomon Schechter
1913Helped found the United Synagogue of America
1916-1940Editor of The Jewish Quarterly Review
1916-1924Acting President of Jewish Theological Seminary; Chair of Executive Board of the American Jewish Committee
1917Became Chairman of the Army and Navy Committee of the National Jewish Welfare Board
1919Represented the American Jewish Committee at the Paris Peace Conference
1923Elected President of the American Oriental Society
1924Appointed President of the Jewish Theological Seminary
1929Appointed President of the American Jewish Committee
1929-1931Co-chair of the Council of the Jewish Agency for Palestine
1932Daughter Sarah marries violinist Wolfe Wolfinsohn in January
1933Granddaughter Judith Wolfinsohn born on November 26th
1939Summoned by President Roosevelt to confer on strategies for peace in post-War America
1940Died on April 7.

Awards and Honors

1925Honorary Doctorate in Hebrew Letters, Hebrew Union College
1930Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of Pennsylvania
1933Silver Buffalo Award, Boy Scouts of Americirca
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Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Cyrus Adler encompass the breadth of his involvement in the American Jewish community as a scholar, educator, administrator and leader. Although the collection represents only a small portion of his extant papers, there is a great deal of important material contained within it for the study of Jewish activism, Conservative Judaism, Jewish scholarship in America and American Jewish history.

The collection is valuable to researchers interested in the history of the American Jewish Historical Society and its early activities, in the development of the Jewish Encyclopedia in 1901, in Jewish immigration to the United States from Russia, in Jewish participation in the Spanish American War, and in the growth of Conservative Judaism and the Jewish Theological Seminary, as well as in the scholarly study of Semitics at The Johns Hopkins University and the Smithsonian Institution toward the end of the 19th century.

The collection contains correspondence, galleys and page proofs, manuscript and published articles, clippings, notes, speeches and ephemera. The vast majority of the items are in English, with some notations in Yiddish and Hebrew (generally made by others).

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The collection is arranged into four series.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

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Related Material

Papers of Max James Kohler, P-7
Papers of the Sulzberger Family, P-147
Papers of Louis Marshall, P-24
Papers of Jacob H. Schiff, P-295
Papers of Israel Zangwill, P-225
Papers of Oscar Solomon Straus, P-220
Papers of Rabbi Bernhard Felsenthal, P-021
Records of the American Jewish Historical Society
Records of the American Jewish Relief Committee for Sufferers from the War, I-083
Records of the Baron de Hirsch Fund, I-055
Records of the National Association of Jewish Social Workers, I-087
Records of the National Jewish Welfare Board, I-180
Records of the American Jewish Historical Exhibition, I-021
American Jewish Historical Society

Papers of Jacob H. Schiff
Papers of Louis Marshall
Papers of Judah L. Magnes
Papers of Rabbi David Phillipson
Papers of Morris D. Waldman
American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati

Papers of Cyrus Adler
Center for Judaic Studies Library, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Records of the American Jewish Committee
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York

Records of the Jewish Theological Seminary
The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York

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Individual gifts given to AJHS, in part, by Cyrus Adler (1908, 1911, 1914), Racie Friedenwald Adler (1940), the American Jewish Committee (1976), and The Sang Foundation (1979).

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Cyrus Adler Papers ; P-16; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY.

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Access points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Series I: General Correspondence,  (undated, 1884-1937)

The predominant language of the series is English.
Box 1

General correspondence is arranged in alphabetical order first by individual, second by institution, followed by general correspondence and miscellany.

Scope and Content:

This series contains correspondence, both personal and professional between Cyrus Adler and a number of his friends, relations, colleagues, and professional contacts. The correspondence dates largely from the period 1905 to 1908, but includes interesting material concerning Adler's early relationships with the Smithsonian Institution and the Johns Hopkins University.

11Estate of J. Elfreth Watkins1905-1907 request_box
1 2Harry Friedenwald1906-1908request_box
13Louis Marshall 1905-1907request_box
14 Rev. Henry Pereira Mendes 1905-1908request_box
15Jacob H. Schiff1901-1907request_box
16Hannah G. Solomon 1905request_box
17Oscar Solomon Straus1905-1915request_box
18David Sulzberger 1884-1910request_box
19 Mayer Sulzberger1888-1907 request_box
1 10Simon Wolf 1903-1908request_box
111 Israel Zangwill1905 request_box
1 12 The American Hebrew 1906-1908 request_box
1 13American Jewish Committee1907-1908request_box
114B'nai B'rith1908request_box
115Century Publishers1893-1905request_box
116Congregation Mikve Israel 1905-1907request_box
117 The Cosmos Club1906-1908 request_box
1 18Dropsie College1907-1908request_box
119Federation of American Zionists1898-1908request_box
120Funk & Wagnalls 1908request_box
121Gratz College1907request_box
122Jewish Agricultural & Industrial Aid Society1908request_box
123Jewish Publication Society of America1900-1907request_box
124Jewish Theological Seminary of America1905-1936request_box
125The Johns Hopkins University1886-1908request_box
126National Liberal Immigration League1908request_box
127Smithsonian Institution 1888-1908request_box
128 Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of the United States & Canada1907request_box
129General Correspondence 1887-1905request_box
130 General Correspondence 1906-1907request_box
131General Correspondenceundated, 1908-1937 request_box
1 32Invitations & other Miscellany1906-1933request_box
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Series II: American Jewish Historical Society, (undated, 1892-1920)

The predominant language of the series is English.
Box 2

Series is arranged generally by subject.

Scope and Content:

The series contains documentation of the early activities of the Society, of which Adler was a founder in 1892. He subsequently served the Society as Secretary from its founding to 1898, when he was elected as the Society's President - a post he continued to hold until 1922.

21Correspondence 1896-1905request_box
22 Correspondence1906 request_box
2 3 Correspondence1907request_box
24Correspondence 1908-1910request_box
25 Addresses by Cyrus Adler 1892-1920request_box
26"Jews in the Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States" - Correspondence1906-1907request_box
27Minutes of Meetings 1905-1907request_box
28 Publications & clippings 1892-1900request_box
29Manuscript Notes for "Sources of American Jewish History"undatedrequest_box
210Notes on Primary Sources Pertaining to the Inquisitionundatedrequest_box
211Notes on Jewish members of Congress1900request_box
212Miscellaneous notes on Jewish historyundatedrequest_box
213References on American Jewish history from Publications of the AJHS (3 loose typescripts)undatedrequest_box
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Series III: Jewish Soldiers in the War with Spain, (undated, 1900-1907)

The predominant language of the series is English.
Box 3

Arranged in alphabetical order.

Scope and Content:

This series consists of correspondence, and other materials collected by Adler, with respect to an effort to compile all data on Jewish servicemen who were active in the Armed Forces of the United States during the Spanish-American War. The effort was initiated by the American Jewish Historical Society at its 7th Annual Meeting in December 1898, and assumed by Adler after J. H. Hollander was unable to complete the task. The list was published in the American Jewish Year Book in 5661 (1900-1901).

31General Correspondence 1900 February - Augustrequest_box
32General Correspondence 1900 October -1902request_box
33Hebrew Veterans of the War with Spain - Correspondence1900-1907request_box
34Notes on Jewish service in wars of the United Statesundatedrequest_box
35Notes on American Jews in the Revolutionundatedrequest_box
36Raw Data, Alabama to Illinois1900request_box
37Raw Data, New York (City & State)1900request_box
38Raw Data, Louisiana to Wisconsin1900request_box
39Raw Data, U.S. Navy & Marines1900request_box
310Marked galleys and page proofs1900request_box
311Unmarked galleys and page proofs1900request_box
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Series IV: Writings, Clippings & Research, (undated, 1883-1907, 1912)

The predominant language of the series is English.
Boxes 4 & 5

The series is arranged generally by subject or type of material.

Scope and Content:

Consists of materials pertaining to Cyrus Adler's written work product in various forms - articles, book reviews, editorials, obituaries, documentary notes, etc, both published and unpublished - as well as articles of interest assembled by him in the course of his own research on particular topics.

4 1 The Jewish Encyclopedia, Contracts & Administrative Matters1897-1907request_box
42 The Jewish Encyclopedia, Correspondence with Dr. Isidore Singer1897-1901request_box
43 The Jewish Encyclopedia, Correspondence regarding articles1898-1905request_box
44Jefferson Bible, Reproduction of - Correspondence1904 January-Augustrequest_box
45Jefferson Bible - Correspondence1904 September-1905request_box
46Jefferson Bible - Notes for preparation of Adler's Introduction undatedrequest_box
47 Manuscript for "The Cotton Grotto - An Ancient Quarry in Jerusalem"undatedrequest_box
48"The Jewish Calendar" - Manuscript, ephemera, notes & clippingsundated request_box
4 9Manuscript articles - Miscellaneousundatedrequest_box
51"Jews in the Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, 1840-1905" [bound typescript]1906request_box
52Book Reviews published1883-1890 request_box
5 3Articles on oriental antiquities1884-1893request_box
54Editorials, Letters to the Editor and Obituaries publishedundatedrequest_box
55Clippings on Adler's addresses, lectures and professional activitiesundated request_box
5 6Miscellaneous Clippings on Judaismundatedrequest_box
57Miscellaneous Clippings on the Smithsonian and Biblical Archaeologyundated request_box
5 8Miscellaneous Clippings on Educationundatedrequest_box
59Miscellaneous Clippings on Jewish Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination Activities undatedrequest_box
510Miscellaneous Clippings on the Philadelphia Jewish Community undatedrequest_box
511 Research materials on Russian Jewry1892-1904request_box
512Research materials on Regulation of Immigration1912 April-Mayrequest_box
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