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Robert Eisner (1922-1998) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/10/11

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Scope and Contents

The Robert Eisner Papers fill 46 boxes, spanning the years 1942 to 1998, and document Eisner's professional life, with the bulk of the Papers consisting of correspondence and publications. The Papers are arranged in seven major categories: biographical material, education, correspondence, teaching files, speeches, publications and research/consulting materials. Five boxes of publications and drafts contain an almost complete collection of Eisner's writings, along with many unpublished or unidentified texts. Eisner's enthusiasm for explaining and discussing economic issues with the general public is reflected in the many newspaper and magazine clippings as well as his correspondence with readers of his articles.

Materials are arranged chronologically throughout the collection unless otherwise noted. (See the separate note describing the organization of Eisner's speeches and publications files.)

The biographical materials subseries includes several versions of Eisner's curriculum vitae, information forms for Who's Who and other biographical reference books, obituaries, clippings, and conference or seminar programs. The most extensive section consists of clippings from newspapers and popular magazines (these are distinct from the journal articles, book reviews and other works that fall under the Publications subseries.) The clippings are organized into four categories: articles about Eisner, articles in which Eisner is quoted or mentioned, letters to the editor written by Eisner, and articles written by Eisner for popular magazines (some of these are marked with D-numbers that denote their presence on his CV).

Materials relating to Eisner's graduate education at Johns Hopkins University consist of his 1951 doctoral dissertation (designated “G-2” on his CV) and an earlier paper.

Eisner's voluminous correspondence files fall into three broad categories, reflecting his original organization system: personal correspondence, general (A-Z) correspondence, and subject files. General (A-Z) correspondence files consist of folders for each letter of the alphabet. Subject files, the largest section of correspondence, are composed of individual folders for persons, groups or topics. Subject files are arranged alphabetically by surname, organization name, or topic. In many cases it is not clear why a person, group, or topic was given a subject file as opposed to being filed within the general (A-Z) correspondence. The presence of material in general correspondence files does not mean there is not significant material on that subject, just that, for whatever reason, a specific subject file was never created.

The researcher is encouraged to search both general and specific subject files, and to look under various headings, as material relating to a certain person may be filed by the surname, the name of an organization in which they held a leadership position or the name of a conference or university that they were associated with. Both incoming and outgoing correspondence is included throughout the correspondence files, and all files are arranged chronologically within folders.

Eisner's personal correspondence relates mostly to family members, and dates primarily from the 1960s to 1970s. In addition, there are two files regarding personal lawsuits filed by Eisner.

Within the general (A-Z) correspondence, specific items are filed by the last name of the sender, recipient or subject of the letter, or the name of an institution or organization. There are two or more folders for most letters of the alphabet. Within each folder the correspondence is arranged chronologically.

The extensive subject files may relate to an individual, an organization, a journal or other publication, a topic, or a meeting. A subject may fill more than one folder. Among the substantial sections are several folders of material relating to the American Economic Association, spanning the years 1961 to 1995. Eisner was an active member of the association and served as its president in 1987. In addition, there is a great deal of material documenting Eisner's affiliation with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER.) This organization funded Eisner's research and published his 1963 book Determinants of Business Investment (co-authored by Robert H. Strotz). Eisner was a NBER senior research associate from 1969 to 1978 and frequently acted as a reviewer for NBER; the correspondence also contains his evaluations of research proposals.

Of special interest within the subject files is the correspondence between Eisner and Senator George McGovern, spanning the years 1962 to 1991. Eisner was a personal acquaintance and a strong supporter of McGovern and served as a part of the Illinois delegation to the 1972 Democratic National Convention that nominated McGovern as the Democratic candidate for president.

There is a substantial section within the subject files regarding the United States Government, much of it relating to Eisner's testimony as an expert economist at congressional hearings. Also included here are letters to colleagues in the government and to legislators regarding issues of interest to Eisner. These include files relating to the Department of Commerce (Congressional Budget Office and the Bureau of Economic Analysis), as well as the Departments of Labor and of the Treasury; and the Joint Economic, House Ways and Means, and Senate Finance committees. There is a file for both the Senate and the House of Representatives which includes correspondence with members of Congress, many of whom also have a specific subject file, so their correspondence may be in multiple places.

Certain extensive and complex categories of subject correspondence were treated as subsubseries and were placed after the alphabetical run of subject files. These categories are: correspondence with colleges and universities, Northwestern University-related correspondence, correspondence related to international trips, recommendations, correspondence with newspapers and magazines, correspondence related to radio and television appearances, and responses to Eisner's appearances both in the print media and on radio or television.

Correspondence files for specific colleges and universities contain material relating to speaking engagements or other visits, as well as job offers from these institutions. There are many more items of correspondence with universities contained within the general (A-Z) correspondence files. Correspondence regarding universities may also be found within subject files for individuals associated with a university and within the speaking engagements files.

Northwestern University correspondence is divided into three categories: general, faculty/administration, and students. Student correspondence includes a general file as well as several files for specific students. Letters of recommendation are not included in this section, except when a student has his or her own file here. Some of Eisner's students may have subject files (arranged alphabetically by surname) that include correspondence from their days at Northwestern as well as their subsequent career. Correspondence with faculty and administration, including correspondence with several presidents and deans, is arranged alphabetically by name and chronologically within each folder. The most extensive of these is the file for Robert H. Strotz with whom Eisner collaborated on research and publications.

Eisner's many international trips for lectures and conferences are documented in files arranged alphabetically by country. This correspondence includes material relating to travel accommodations, host institutions, conferences attended, and individuals Eisner met during these trips. Eisner's reflections on his travels to the U.S.S.R. in 1960 are included in his personal correspondence with his family members, as well as in the Vladimir Makarov subject file.

After serving in the Army in France during World War II, Eisner studied at the University of Paris and returned to France on many occasions. Because of Eisner's close connection to France, correspondence about trips may also be found in subject files by name or by organization.

Eisner often wrote recommendations for students and colleagues seeking employment, internships, or admission to graduate programs. Recommendation letters, forms, and related correspondence (spanning the years 1957 to 1994) are arranged by letter of the alphabet and filed by surname. Recommendations for individuals who have a subject file devoted to them are included in their subject file, not in this subseries.

Correspondence with newspapers and magazines contains specific files for several major newspapers as well as files that include correspondence with a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. The correspondence is often a letter to the editor (that may or may not have been published and collected in the clippings files), or an article that Eisner sought to have published. One folder contains op-ed drafts, some including a little introductory correspondence. Eisner frequently submitted the same article to many newspapers, and this is often indicated on the drafts. Correspondence relating to Eisner's appearance on radio and television programs is arranged separately. Eisner participated several times in radio and television broadcasts originating from Northwestern University as well as the University of Chicago, and was a guest on local radio programs on WGN, WBEZ and WBBM. He also appeared on local television programs, such as Kup's Show and WTTW's Chicago Tonight, and national programs, such as Firing Line, The McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and CNN's Moneyline, among others.

Eisner's frequent appearances in the popular media generated many responses from readers and viewers. Four thick folders contain readers' responses to articles written by Eisner, arranged chronologically and spanning the years 1958 to 1997. The responses to radio and TV appearances fill one folder and cover the same date range. Eisner was clearly dedicated to explaining economic theory to the general public and often sent thoughtful replies to both positive and negative comments.

Covering most of Eisner's teaching career, the Teaching Files span the years 1957 to 1993 and are organized by class number, arranged chronologically, and include syllabi, reading lists, tests and exams.

Speeches and Publications Files Note: Eisner's most recent CV (Box 1, Folder 3), dating from April of 1998, was used to identify and organize his publications (including articles, testimony, and other materials). Eisner divided his publications into seven categories and assigned a number to each item within each category. In the Papers, these materials are categorized and numbered according to Eisner's system, and arranged chronologically within each category: To locate a particular item, one can search the publications subseries by date, or examine Eisner's 42-page CV to find the identifying number and then locate the relevant item in the container list. Eisner's categories are as follows: Books; Articles; Notes and Briefer Comments; Newspaper and Popular Magazine Articles; Statements before Congressional Committees, Commissions; Reviews; Unpublished Manuscripts.

Speeches and testimony files include material related to Eisner's statements before congressional committees and commissions (spanning the years 1959 to 1995) as well as correspondence relating to speaking engagements.

Official published transcripts of testimony, as well as Eisner's prepared typescripts which he submitted to Congress, are interfiled, arranged in chronological order and labeled with E-numbers according to Eisner's CV. (The CV also lists the Government Printing Office numbers for published documents). Correspondence relating to these statements may be found within both the subject files on U.S. Government and those relating to individual members of congress. Also included here is Eisner's 1963 statement before the Federal Power Commission.

Speaking engagements files are organized chronologically and reflect Eisner's active interest in presenting economic issues to civic groups, alumni organizations, and other small seminars for laypeople. The correspondence may include documents relating to planning seminars or talks, choosing topics, arranging travel accommodations, and thanking participants. Published conference papers and unidentified texts of speeches or presentations are in the publications subseries.

The publications subseries, documenting Eisner's prolific writing career, contains article drafts and reprints, material related to Eisner's books, and book reviews. Official reprints and clippings, as well as typescripts of documents are interfiled.

The articles section is organized into four categories, and arranged chronologically within each of these. The first three categories are arranged according to Eisner's classification system: B-numbers (articles), C-numbers (notes and briefer comments), and G-numbers (unpublished manuscripts); the fourth category is comprised of unidentified drafts. B-numbered items include scholarly journal articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and papers published in books of conference proceedings. Occasionally there is accompanying correspondence related to the papers. C-numbered documents include published comments on articles, replies to comments on Eisner's articles, short articles from journals or other publications, rejoinders, discussions and notes. Many articles are quite short (under 4 pages) but for others, it is unclear why Eisner placed them here rather than the B section. Unidentified drafts, arranged chronologically, consist of texts of articles or speeches that are not recorded in Eisner's CV. These drafts may have been revised and published under different titles.

The books section includes correspondence with publishers, colleagues, and others as well as material relating to Eisner's books, book reviews written by Eisner (F-numbers), and published reviews of Eisner's books.

Research and Consulting Files document a number of specific projects. Eisner's association with the McGraw-Hill Company dated from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. Eisner was not employed by McGraw-Hill but conducted research based on the data collected annually by McGraw-Hill's Department of Economic Surveys. Eisner analyzed the results from a survey titled “Business' Needs for New Plants & Equipment,” which gathered annual expenditure data from many individual firms. Both Eisner's research assistants at Northwestern and employees of McGraw-Hill's economic department worked to convert a decade of survey data to computerized form (punch cards and magnetic tape) in order that it could be processed and analyzed. Eisner used this research as a basis for his book Factors in Business Investment (1978) as well as several articles published in the American Economic Review, including “Investment: Facts and Fancy” (1963), “A Permanent Income Theory for Investment: Some Empirical Explorations” (1967) and “Investment and the Frustrations of Econometricians” (1969).

The McGraw-Hill files consist of correspondence with several individuals involved in the project, as well as blank survey questionnaires and brochures produced by McGraw-Hill summarizing the survey results for each year.

Eisner was involved in several different court cases between the years 1956 and 1971. His participation ranged from expert witness to economic consultant. The material documenting Eisner's consulting work consists mainly of correspondence with the lawyers and state officials who hired him. The bulk of the material on Eisner's consulting work relates to antitrust lawsuits filed by the American Electric Power Company (AEP.) Over many years, Eisner was in contact with the leadership of AEP as well as their attorneys from the firm Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler (referred to as K-S in the files.) AEP is a holding company for many publicly owned utilities operating in several states. In the early post-war years, it was discovered that General Electric and Westinghouse had engaged in antitrust price-fixing conspiracies related to equipment used by the utilities. As an expert on depreciation, Eisner helped AEP analyze data and calculate damages.

Consulting files are arranged chronologically by case: Lanzit case, 1956-58; McLouth Steel Corporation v. Michigan Corporation & Securities Commission 1958-60; Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, 1960-63; Lexington, KY v. Federal Power Commission, 1960; American Electric Power Company v. General Electric and Westinghouse, 1961-71; State of Michigan and Michigan Utilities Rate-Payers Association 1962-68; Southern California Edison Company case 1966; Structural Steel Company case 1968-71.

Description of the Additions

The additions to the Eisner Papers fill six boxes and date from 1989 to 2004. The bulk of the material dates between 1994 and 1998 and documents Eisner's busy life after his retirement from Northwestern University. Since a number of files represent the continuation of work Eisner began before retirement, it is advisable to consult the container list for the first 46 boxes of the Papers in order to get the complete picture.

The addition contains an interview with Eisner conducted by Per Berglund, general and subject correspondence; and materials relating to Eisner's later publications.

Correspondence files are organized into categories found in the first portion of the collection: General Correspondence, Subject Files, Correspondence with Colleges and Universities, Northwestern University Correspondence, Correspondence Related to International Trips, Recommendations, Correspondence with Newspapers and Magazines, Correspondence Related to Appearances, Teaching Files, and Publications. General Correspondence is arranged chronologically, and Subject files are organized alphabetically by topic and chronologically within each folder.

Many of the Subject files carry the same titles as files in the earlier portion of the collection, with a difference in the dates of the correspondence. The subject files contain extensive correspondence and statements about the proposed balanced budget amendment in Congress. Spanning the years 1994 to 1997, this correspondence reflects Eisner's staunch criticism of the amendment and his vast influence on colleagues and government leaders.

Also of note are the files on the National Research Council's Panel on Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting. Eisner was appointed to participate in this panel from 1996 to 1998, giving his statements and participating in seminars about environmental protection and economics. The subject files contain the agenda books from the three panels as well as correspondence relating to and papers regarding the panels.

The subject files contain personal correspondence with local Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who Eisner supported. Schakowsky proposed a social security program during her campaign which was based on work done by Eisner.

Teaching files date from 1991 to 1994, augmenting the files included in the original 46 boxes.

Eisner continued to write for many newspapers and magazines up to his death. The addition reflects this, as it contains much correspondence relating to his articles in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times which date to 1998.

The addition also includes a draft of Eisner's last book, The Misunderstood Economy, as well as extensive correspondence with the Harvard Business School Press, the publisher of this book. Also under publications is correspondence relating to a chapter Eisner wrote for A Second Edition of the General Theory (Routledge, 1997), meant to serve as an extension of Keynes' The General Theory.


  • 1942-1998


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


52.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Robert Eisner was an American economist. Eisner joined Northwestern's faculty in 1952 and retired from the university in 1994. Eisner’s areas of specialization included the macroeconomics of business cycles and business investment, depreciation, federal budget deficits, monetary and fiscal policy, as well as the economics of social security and tax policy. The Robert Eisner Papers fill 46 boxes, spanning the years 1942 to 1998, and document Eisner's professional life, with the bulk of the Papers consisting of correspondence and publications. The Papers are arranged in seven major categories: biographical material, education, correspondence, teaching files, speeches, publications and research/consulting materials.

Arrangement Note

The Papers are arranged in seven major categories: biographical material, education, correspondence, teaching files, speeches, publications and research/consulting materials. Materials are arranged chronologically throughout the collection unless otherwise noted. Eisner’s most recent CV (Box 1, Folder 3), dating from April of 1998, was used to identify and organize his publications. Eisner divided his publications into seven categories and assigned a number to each item within each category.

Method of Acquisition

The Robert Eisner Papers comprise the following accessions:

Accession # | Date | Donated to the University Archives by

92-133 October 19, 1992 Robert Eisner

93-131 September 1, 1993 Robert Eisner

93-132 September 2, 1993 Robert Eisner

94-145 August 29, 1994 Robert Eisner

95-182 October 18, 1995 Robert Eisner

01-50 April 16, 2001 Dean Robert Coen

01-105 July 12, 2001 Dean Robert Coen (from Edith Eisner)

01-135 August 17, 2001 NU Department of Economics

01-191 October 5, 2001 NUL Gifts & Exchange (article off prints)

02-20 February 26, 2002 University Relations (clippings and press releases)

05-76 August 16, 2005 Edith Eisner (addition)

93-79 June 22, 1993 (unknown donor)

Related Materials

One folder relating to Robert H. Strotz was added to the Strotz Papers. See separations.

Separated Materials

Approximately 32 cubic feet of extraneous and duplicate material was separated from this series. Several photographs of Eisner were removed and placed in the University Archives' Photographic Collection photo files. One book was added to the University Archives' Faculty Authors Collection. One linear foot of materials relating to Northwestern University was added to the Archives' General Files. One folder relating to Robert H. Strotz was added to the Strotz Papers.

Addition: Approximately three cubic feet of duplicate and extraneous materials was separated and discarded.

Processing Information

Francine Keyes, 2005. Emma Maack, Summer 2005 (addition).

Guide to the Robert Eisner (1922-1998) Papers
Francine Keyes
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US