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Guide to the Reuben Abel papers, 1927-1995

Collection Overview


New School Collections

Collection Identifier



Abel, Reuben, 1911-


Reuben Abel papers, 1927-1995, (Bulk, 1936-1995)


2.2 linear ft: 2 boxes, 3 folders

Language of Materials note



These papers document the academic career of Reuben Abel (1911-1997), beginning with his education as an undergraduate student at Columbia College and doctoral philosophy student in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, and continuing throughout his professorship at the university. It includes course notes and syllabi from his academic work, and correspondence and other material documenting his student activities, such as his role as founder and editor of the New School student magazine, 12th Street: A Quarterly, and later his membership in the Alumni Association. Abel's papers reflect his position within the Graduate Faculty, consisting of correspondence with colleagues and deans, appointment letters, faculty minutes, and committee documents; in addition to his role as instructor and advisor to students, consisting of lecture notes, thesis committee work and doctoral exam requirement reviews. Affiliations as a scholar found in his papers include the Conference on Methods in Philosophy and Sciences and the American Society for Aesthetics. Contains one annotated typscript of his work,  Man Is the Measure.

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Reuben Abel papers, NA.0003.01, box __, folder __, The New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

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Biographical note

Reuben Abel (born 25 November 1911 in New York City, died August 1997) received degrees from Columbia University (AB, 1929), New York University Law School (JD, 1934), and the New School for Social Research (Master of Social Sciences, 1943; PhD, 1952). He served as a graduate assistant for Horace M. Kallen's "Dominent Ideals in Western Civilization" course; as a teaching fellow of philosophy and psychology; and as a lecturer in the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science. He was appointed adjunct associate professor, Department of Philosophy (1960-1992); chairman of Humanities, Adult Division of the New School for Social Research (1965-1984) and professor emeritus (1992). His name appears in university course catalogs through 1994. Abel began pursuing master's degree work in his late thirties while employed as a buyer for a department store, and received his doctorate when he was in his early fifties.

While a graduate student, Abel co-founded and edited the New School student periodical, 12th Street: A Quarterly (1944). Later, he served on the executive board of the Graduate Faculty Alumni Association (1952) and was a charter member of this organization. Abel was secretary-treasurer of the Conference on Methods in Philosophy and the Sciences while earning his doctorate at the New School for Social Research. Over the next few decades, he would serve as a member of the executive committee and as conference chairperson. This organization was closely associated with the New School for Social Research since its founding in 1937, with Horace Kallen, John Dewey and Sidney Hook as conference co-founders. Abel authored  The pragmatic humanism of F.C.S. Schiller (1955) based on his dissertation and  Man is the measure : a cordial invitation to the central problems of philosophy (1976).

Although he enrolled in the New School for Social research under the name Reuben Ablowitz, he changed his surname to Abel sometime in the early 1940s. Additionally, New School publications sometimes incorrectly list his first name as Ruben.

Researchers should keep in mind significant divisional name changes. The university now known as The New School was originally founded in 1919 as the New School for Social Research and was solely dedicated to adult education. In 1933, a graduate division was added. The graduate division was called the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, while the original adult education division was called the New School for Social Research or, simply the New School. After Abel's retirement, the Graduate Faculty was renamed the New School for Social Research, while the university as a whole became The New School.


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Scope and Contents note

These papers consist of course notes, exams and other documents stemming from courses taken and taught by Abel; academic papers and articles authored by Abel and others; conference proceedings, correspondence, and committee records documenting his administrative role at the New School for Social Research; and a manuscript for Abel's work, Man is the measure. Some of Abel's original folder titles have been maintained while others have been expanded and revised for clarity. This collection does not contain papers of a personal nature, nor does it contain records of his career as a department store buyer (1929-1948) or president and treasurer of the Atlas Bedspread Company (1948-1961).

A notable component of Abel's papers is documentation on lectures offered at the New School for Social Research by prominent faculty members and visiting scholars, many outside of Abel's concentration in philosophy. Abel appears to have been attracted to lectures on the arts, psychology, and sociology, but attended lectures on endocrinology, mathematics, and housing reform in addition to an array of other topics. The predominantly handwritten notes were contained in two bundles (an additional folder was added during processing) often accompanied by typed bibliographies. The following is a semi-comprehensive list of lecturers with a selection of lecture titles included:

Rudolf Arnheim, Max Ascoli ("After the New Deal"), Adolf A. Berle, Marcel Barzin, Ernest Sutherland Bates, Gregory Bateson, S. B. Boudin, Arnold Brecht, Kenneth Burke, V.F. Calverton, George DeSantillana, De Sloovere, L.C. Dunn, Arthur Feiler, Emil J. Gumel, Charles Hartshorne, Selig Hecht, Eduard Heimann ("Nature and History of Capitalism"), Will Herberg, Sidney Hook, Karen Horney, Erich Hula, Edgar Johnson, Horace Kallen, Edward Kasner ("The New Mathematics"), Felix Kaufmann, Paul Keller, Otto Klineburg, Alexandre Koyre, A.P. Lerner, Max Lerner, Alexander Lesser, Nino Levi ("The Sociology of Law"), Karl Lowith, Bronislaw Malinowski, William Marias Malisoff, Charles Morris, Ernest Nagel ("Philosophy of Science"), S. Nathan ("Concepts of Mathematics"), Franz Oppenheimer ("Economic Theory"), Talcott Parsons ("Role of the Professions"), Alexander Pekelis, Kurt Riezler, Lindsay Rogers, Albert Salomon ("Philosophy of Freedom"), James Sand, Paul Schrecker, Alfred Schutz ("Problems of Social Knowledge"), Charles Seeger, Meyer Shapiro ("Theories of Modern Art"), Hans Speier ("Hero Worship"), Max Wertheimer ("Psychology of Learning"), Ernst Karl Winter, Fritz Wittels ("Psychiatry and Social Services").

Hook's and Kaufmann's lectures are particularly well represented within the notebooks. Some lectures appear to have been part of the New School for Social Research's General Seminar. According to the Spring 1934 course catalog, the General Seminar consisted of lectures given by the Graduate Faculty as a group: "Each session will be opened by one of the members of the faculty with an analysis of the scope of the problem before the group. The discussion will then be taken up informally by other members of the faculty and by students." ( Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science Supplementary Announcement, 1934, unpaginated).

Of additional interest is documentation on the creation of a student journal. 12th Street: A Quarterly was initially published by the Magazine Committee of the New School Student Assembly, a student-led organization established in the mid-1940s. At the time, the New School for Social Research's only building was located at 66 West 12th Street in Greenwich Village.  12th Street was a literary and scholarly endeavor rather than a typical college newspaper. At this time, the New School for Social Research primarily served an adult population (Abel was in his early thirties in 1944 when the first issue was published). The editorial staff, with Abel as editor-in-chief (Jean Rhys served as associate editor), sought original contributions from current New School students as well as alumni in the social sciences, the arts, and creative writing.


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Organization and Arrangement

Arranged in three series

  1. General, 1932-1995
  2. Faculty papers, 1950-1998
  3. Student papers, 1927-1952

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

New School Collections - May 25, 2016

66 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY, 10011

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Reuben Abel papers, NA.0003.01, box __, folder __, The New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Note

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu

Custodial History note

Donated to the Raymond L. Fogelman Library of The New School by Elizabeth Abel and Richard Abel, Reuben Abel's children, 2011.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from Raymond Fogelman Library to the New School Archives and Special Collections, 2012.

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Related Materials

Reuben Abel's dissertation and a more complete run of 12th Street: A Quarterly are available for consultation by making a Special Collections appointment.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects

Corporate Name(s)

  • New School for Social Research (New York, N.Y. : 1919-1997). Graduate Faculty.


  • Administrative records.
  • Correspondence.
  • Lecture notes.
  • Manuscripts.
  • Offprints.
  • Syllabi.

Personal Name(s)

  • Hook, Sidney, 1902-1989
  • Kallen, Horace Meyer, 1882-1974
  • Kaufmann, Felix, 1895-1949
  • Malisoff, William Marias, 1895-1947
  • Pekelis, Alexander H., (Alexander Haim), 1902-1946
  • Schiller, F. C. S., (Ferdinand Canning Scott), 1864-1937


  • College publications -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Philosophy -- Study and teaching.
  • Universities and colleges -- Admission.
  • Universities and colleges -- Alumni and alumnae.

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Collection Inventory

General 1932-1995 

This series contains documentation on aspects of Abel's career that spans his roles as student and educator. Notable in this series is fairly comprehensive documentation of the semi-annual gathering of the Conference on Methods in Philosophy and the Sciences across a half century.

Box Folder
Articles authored by colleagues, 1932-1973 

Mostly offprints, some inscribed to Abel, with those by Horace Kallen predominating.

1 1-3
Conference on Methods in Philosophy and the Sciences, 1947-1995, undated 
1 4-7
Graduate Faculty Alumni Association, 1951-1958, 1970 
1 8
n_6 3
Man is the measure: a cordial invitation to the central problems of philosophy [annotated typescript], circa 1976 

A portion of the document has been photocopied because the original was severely discolored by water damage.

1 9-10
Unidentified annotations, undated 

Consists of photocopied pages with handwritten annotation. It is unclear if all of the pages originated from the same text, but all appear to be essays by philosophers.

1 11

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Faculty papers 1950-1998 

This series contains materials resulting from Abel's long career teaching philosophy in two university divisions.

The "Graduate Faculty" folders document Abel's activities in that division. Materials include correspondence with students concerning their theses, recommendation letters for former students, Philosophy Department meeting minutes and memoranda, correspondence with administrators concerning course proposals, and internal reports issued to all faculty members. A great deal of correspondence concerns Abel's self-advocacy regarding hiring, reappointment, titles, increased pay, and, finally, retirement benefits. These files cover the end of his doctoral work, when he was already teaching in the Graduate Faculty, through his final years, although the 1980s and 1990s are not as well-documented as earlier decades.

The "New School" folders document Abel's activities outside of the Graduate Faculty, teaching in what was formerly known as the Adult Division and, as of 2016, the Schools of Public Engagement. The referenced "Senior College" is the forerunner of the current undergraduate Eugene Lang College. Records consist of memoranda and reports primarily concerning administrative matters, particularly faculty compensation and a multi-year dispute between the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the New School for Social Research over contracts. Additionally, Abel served on the school's Curriculum Committee. Abel's primary correspondent in these files is Dean William Birenbaum and Birenbaum's successor, Allen Austill. Although Abel continued to teach outside of the Graduate Faculty, these files are concentrated in the 1960s.


Box Folder
Ad Hoc Committee of New School Faculty and Students for a Forum on Vietnam, 1965, 1968 

Folder contains materials documenting a forum held at the New School for Social Research in 1965 at which Abel spoke and includes his five-page typed script. Also contains two items regarding the student blockade of Columbia University in 1968.

n_6 4
American Society for Aesthetics and the Committee on Academic Nondiscrimination and Integrity, 1985-1986 
1 12
Graduate Faculty, 1950-1998, undated 
1 13-17
Graduate Faculty qualifying examinations, 1961-1983, undated 

Consists of exam questions for a PhD in philosophy as well as correspondence between Abel and fellow faculty members regarding the exams and other degree requirements.

1 18
Lecture notes, 1950s-1980s 

Notes in this series consist of typewritten notes for Abel's lectures, heavily annotated with handwritten additions and subtractions. Sections are tabbed with abbreviations indicating lecture contents. Dates are estimated.

1 19-20
2 1
Minutes, 1951-1965 
2 2-3
New School, 1959-1967, 1986 
2 4-5
Pragmatism lecture materials, circa 1953-1966 

Original folder title included the following notations, likely indicating the division, semester and year Abel taught this course: GF: S53, F55, S62, S65, S69, S76, S78, S81; NS: [?]64.

2 6
The proposal and evaluation of new college courses by Reuben Abel, 1967 Dec 4 
2 7

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Student papers 1927-1952 

Course notes, which comprise half of this series, document Abel's experiences attending lectures at the New School for Social Research as a student. These handwritten and typed notes are organized by course name and/or lecturer, and divided with file tabs. Some of these lectures formed the General Seminar of the Graduate Faculty. Additionally, this series contains typed documentation about the General Seminar. Materials in the Correspondence folder largely concern Abel's tuition scholarship requests as well as a small amount of correspondence with Horace Kallen regarding Abel's dissertation. There is also documentation concerning Abel's participation in the creation and editing of the 12th Street: A Quarterly journal.

Box Folder
12th Street: A Quarterly 1943-1947 

The General correspondence folder contains materials of an editorial nature, as well as fan mail, while Advertising and circulation contains requests for ad space, primarily from publishing houses, and subscription requests from academic and research libraries, demonstrating the journal's relevance outside of the New School community.

General correspondence, 1943-1947, undated 
2 8
Advertising and circulation, 1944-1947 
2 9
New School Assembly, 1945-1947, undated 
2 10
n_6 5
Volume 1, 1944-1945 
2 11
Bibliographies, 1934, undated 

Typed bibliographies for unidentified courses, possibly not taken with the New School for Social Research, and two bibliographies associated with New York University and the New Workers School.

2 12
Columbia College, 1927-1928 
2 13
Correspondence, 1939-1952 
2 14
General Seminar, 1939-1942 
2 15
Lecture notebooks, 1936-1944 
2 16-21
Loose notes and course materials, 1936-1943, 1952 
2 22
Social Control of Economic Activity (Alexander Pekelis), 1942 Oct 7 

An unpublished 64-page, typed document distributed to students in Pekelis's class. According to the 1942-1943 New School course catalog, this class was part of the Research Project on Contemporary Political and Legal Trends.

2 23
Summaries of W. M. Malisoff's lectures, 1937 
2 24

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Collection Guide Last Updated: 10/25/2016

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