Skip to main content

Henry Chalmers papers

Identifier: Coll 241

Scope and Contents

The Henry Chalmers papers consist mainly of correspondence, memoranda, and reports relating to issues and events in world economic history from the 1920s-1950s. The collection is a solid group of papers on modern economic history and bureaucratic workings from the period. The organization of the collection is based on the manner in which it was received. The box titles (U.S. Foreign Trade, Economic Conferences and Congresses, etc.) came from a general inventory made for the collection in 1962, and so may or may not be original.

However, the subject headings came from the major file headings of Chalmers’ original file system, with some necessary simplification and clarification. The file names are not, for the most part, original, and generally reflect the material type. The organization is roughly chronological with the box headings and within subject headings, once again with exceptions to provide greater clarity and unity.

Henry Chalmers was a foreign tariff expert and much of the collection deals with tariffs and tariff-agreements and regulations. Of particular interest are subject headings such as the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff and GATT negotiations from the early years. A common material type throughout the collection is reports from U.S. embassies in foreign nations which give a flavor of world opinion and U.S. diplomatic relations.

Notable subjects include war- and postwar-time, and German penetration of markets from the 1930s. It must be noted also that more wartime materials can be found under the heading Economic Aspects of WWII. This section includes reports on the “European War” and material on controls of economic relations with Latin America and Japan.

Latin American economic relations play a considerable role in the collection, especially in the Customs Unions and Trade Agreements section. This section consists of historical materials on past customs agreements and planning for a future customs agreement. Of other interest relating to Latin America are the materials on the International Conference of American States held in Bogotá in 1948. This conference, at which Henry Chalmers was a delegate, saw the formation of the Organization of America States (O.A.S.) which has played an important role in modern Latin American history. Also of interest are the clippings and reports on the disturbances that rocked Bogotá and Colombia during the conference and of which Henry Chalmers was a firsthand observer.

Returning to Europe, the Customs Unions section contains important background materials on the development of the organization that would eventually grow to become the European Common Market. This material relates to both pre- and postwar Europe. The subheading of regional groupings, Europe, also contains material on German relations with various Eastern European nations in the 1930s, one of the hot issues of the coming World War.

Of European and world interest is the International Conferences and Congress section in the material on the International Monetary and Economic Conference in London 1933. Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the background materials of this conference suggest a world in which the principal leaders and experts are desperately trying to save a system that they know to be on the point of complete collapse. Once again Henry Chalmers is on the periphery. Of particular interest is the correspondence of this sub-heading, along with the Whaley-Eaton News Service Reports (6/45), conference chronology (7/2), various reports such as “The State and Economic Life” (7/20), the diaries of Sallie Chalmers (7/22), speeches by Soviet delegates (7/49), and “The Plan to Save the World” (7/50) and Open Letter to Cordell Hull (11/26) for radical viewpoints. In short, this section shows the depth of the attitudes and problems of the World Economic System in the early 1930s.

The Selected Memoranda were bound and of great importance to Henry Chalmers. The personal section is actually fairly barren of any personality with the exception of various biographical essays and a series of correspondence between Chalmers and the publishers of his book, World Trade Policies.

A 2010 Accession consists of correspondence, newsletters, publications, biographical information, articles and a book by Chalmers.


  • 1919-1958


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Chalmers (1892-1958) was an economics expert. His main interest was in the economic history of the 20th century. His career spanned thirty years, beginning around 1919 with his work on the Tariff Commission. Prior to this he worked as a statistician for the New York State Board of Health.

In 1921, Chalmers was appointed chief of the Division of Foreign Tariffs with the Department of Commerce. From 1921 until World War II, Chalmers was an important player in world economic issues of great consequence such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff and the Most-Favored Nation Principle. During the war he was a special economic advisor and continued in this type of advisory position throughout the 1950s.

He was most popular in the 1950s for his yearly articles on world economics, which he began writing in 1926. These articles were published in book form as World Trade Policies (Berkeley University Press, 1952).


13.75 linear feet (13 containers)

Language of Materials



Henry Chalmers was an economist who worked in state and national offices. His collection consists of memoranda, position papers, special studies, and correspondence relating to economic affairs.


Collection is organized into the following series: U.S. Foreign Trade and Commercial Policy, U.S. and World Tariff Policies, Customs Unions and Trade Agreements, U.S. Trade Agreements, Economic Conferences and Congresses, Economic Aspects of World War II, Selected Studies and Memoranda on Trade Policies and Relations, Personal Correspondence and Publications of Henry Chalmers, 2010 Accession.

Materials within this collection are arranged first by initial accession(s) that were processed together as a whole and then by subsequent accession(s). This organization reflects the fact that the collection had been processed at one point in time and then more materials were acquired in increments over time. This organization is also based on the decision not to merge the various accessions and organize them into a whole at this point in time, given the fact that future accruals are anticipated and/or that this organization is deemed sufficient for access.

Researchers should note that materials within a series or accession may overlap and/or relate to materials found in other accessions or initially processed materials. For example, correspondence may be found in all or only some groupings. In order to locate all relevant material within this collection, researchers may need to consult each accession.

Researchers should also note that similar materials can be arranged differently in each accession, depending on how the material is organized upon receipt or during initial processing. For instance, correspondence is one accession may be arranged alphabetically, while correspondence in another accession is arranged chronologically.

Other Finding Aids

Paper finding aid with additional information available in Special Collections & University Archives.

Physical Description

8 record storage boxes, 2 clamshell boxes, 1 oversize flat box, 2 manuscript boxes

Processing Information

Collection processed by Daniel Montero.

This collection may have received a basic level of processing including some organization and rehousing. The initial accession(s) were processed and arranged as a whole and are reflected in the series arrangement. Subsequent accession(s) for the collection have not been merged or organized as a whole.

Description information is drawn in part from information supplied with the collection and initial surveys of the contents.

Guide to the Henry Chalmers Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by University of Oregon Libraries, Archivists' Toolkit Project Team and Tanya Parlet.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA