From the Editors

Social Velocity’s Q&A with HistPhil

Several weeks ago, Social Velocity’s Nell Edgington sent us a series of questions asking us to compare and contrast past and present American philanthropy. She has now posted our responses on Social Velocity’s blog. Please visit her site and check out this latest post: “Learning from Philanthropy’s Past: An Interview with the HistPhil Blog.” In this Q&A, Stan discusses two general topics: what is really new in philanthropy and the relationship between large foundations and missionary work abroad. Benjamin reflects on why philanthropic giving has not grown above 2% of US GDP, while I consider the parallels between the gilded age and today and whether we are heading toward a more progressive period.

-Maribel Morey, co-editor of HistPhil

2 thoughts on “Social Velocity’s Q&A with HistPhil

  1. 1. It was the UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, not the “United States Congressional Commission on Industrial Relations.” This was a federal commission, not a Congressional one.

    2. Did John D. Rockefeller Sr. actually testify before this commission? I thought only “Junior” testified.

    3. Wasn’t the reason why critics of the Rockefeller Foundation were mad at them giving money to MacKenzie King to investigate the Ludlow Massacre was that it seemed that the foundation was advancing the financial interests of the Rockefeller family?

    See Martin Morse Wooster, SHOULD FOUNDATIONS LIVE FOREVER?, 4-6.

    Martin Morse Wooster.


    • Dear Martin,
      To your first point, yes, it was the “United States Commission on Industrial Relations”; though of course, the commission reported to Congress. Thanks for catching that. According to Martin & Joan Bulmer in “Philanthropy and Social Science in the 1920s: Beardsley Ruml and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, 1922-29” (1981), JDR Sr. and Jr. were both called to testify before the Commission. However, to your second question, Ron Chernow in TITAN seems only to discuss JDR Jr.’s experience testifying. And in the FINAL REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS (1915), I see only mention of Junior. So, it could very well be that both Rockefellers were called to testify (as the Bulmers noted) but only Junior actually did. To confirm this one way or the other, though, I would need to penetrate beyond the secondary literature and access further archival material. To your third point, it seems that we both have a similar reading of the reasons for public outcry at the time.
      Many thanks for your engagement! Please do feel free to suggest a blog post idea for HistPhil on the history of philanthropy!
      Very best,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s