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Jacob D. Beam Papers

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Beam, Jacob D. (Jacob Dyneley), 1908-1993

Jacob Beam was born in Princeton, N.J. in 1908. As a young man he traveled to Europe with his father, a German language professor at Princeton, and visited his uncle who was an American minister to Yugoslavia. He attended the Kent School, and in 1929, received his B.A. from Princeton University. He studied languages in England for a year before joining the U.S. Foreign Service in 1931.

As his first assignment, Beam helped monitor the League of Nations in Geneva and was subsequently made vice-consul to the U.S. embassy there (1931-1934). From 1934 to 1940 he served as third secretary to the embassy in Berlin, and collected the embassy's first data on the Nazi movement.

An expert in European affairs and languages (he could speak Russian, French, German, Serbian and Polish), Beam was promoted to second secretary of the embassy in London (1941-1945), and was transferred back to Germany after the war to act as political advisor to the occupation forces (1945-1947). He was counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia (1949-1951) when it gained its independence from the Netherlands and served on a United Nations commission for the country. He was counselor also to Yugoslavia (1951-1952).

Though an important post, Beam's assignment as acting head of the Moscow embassy (1952-1953) offered little in the way of public glory. Because presidents and their advisors regularly bypassed the State Department during the Cold War, Beam was not given the authority that he might have had in another era. Furthermore, Soviet officials proved difficult to access and negotiate with. Thus, Beam's bemused, self-assured style was compatible with his position. He wrote humorously in his 40th Reunion book of how he helped bury Stalin in 1953: "For that event was named Special Ambassador for four hours so that the United States would not be at the end of the funeral procession. All other countries did the same, so ended up last in line." A supervisor once commended Beam on the willingness with which he had covered "more than one annoying assignment."

But Beam's easy-going appearance and ironic humor belied an often stubborn character, which was, according to the New York Times, "toughened in arguments and negotiations with Hitler's Nazis, Stalin's Russians and Marshal Tito's Yugoslavs, not to mention President Sukarno's Indonesians, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's Germans and General de Gaulle's Frenchmen." Named to Communist countries by such cold warriors as Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon, Beam gained the reputation of a tough-minded, "cool career diplomat," able to take the place of a generation of Sovietologists retiring from the State Department in the 1960s.

Beam earned his first ambassadorship in 1957, when Eisenhower sent him to the U.S. embassy in Poland. During the period of his assignment (1957-1961), Poland was the only official channel of communication between the United States and Communist China. He was also ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1966-1968) during the time of the Soviet invasion, and to the Soviet Union (1969-1973) during the Nixon-era rapprochement.

In addition to these assignments, Beam held a number of titles at the State Department in Washington, including head of the Central European Division and director of the policy planning staff (1953-1957).

Beam retired after fifty years of service, though he continued to give talks and write articles about the Soviet Union and arms control, and to supply researchers with anecdotes from his experiences. He also served as a director of Radio Free Europe (1974-1977). In 1978 Beam published his memoirs of Moscow, entitled Multiple Exposure: An American Ambassador's Unique Perspective on East-West Issues. The book, which one reviewer claimed was "well written despite the author's lifelong service in the bureaucracy," covered Communism and U.S.-Soviet politics from 1947 to 1973.

Beam died in 1993 at the age of 85.

The correspondence, filed chronologically and separated by decade, ranges from Beam's Foreign Service exam results to a letter from Nixon commending his book. Many of the letters are in appreciation of his service, hospitality and friendship sent by State Department figures and visiting dignitaries. (One typical note, addressed to Mrs. Beam, sends thanks for efforts and gifts bestowed, reading: "Our first American hose and toilet articles were especially appreciated.") Other correspondence includes official certifications and instructions. The later letters are denser, as Beam responds to researchers' queries with memories and analysis of Nazi Germany, the arms race, Communism, and other issues.

The Ambassador saved scores of newspaper clippings about himself, which trace his global movements; most express praise for his efforts and approval of his assignments. There is a separate file for clippings from Czech, Russian and German language papers, also pertaining to Beam's work.

The collection contains several reports written by Beam, plus related drafts, notes and correspondence. One study submitted to the League of Nations delegation discusses the "question of the Saar," a former French territory which France demanded from Germany as war reparation. Beam's research into the internal policies of the Nazis in prewar Germany, as well as later articles and speeches, are preserved in the collection.

Two boxes of photographs show Beam conducting the formalities of his office: plane disembarkments; embassy functions; conferences in Germany, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Poland; State Department gatherings, and presidential visits. There are several shots of Beam meeting with Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office, and others of Beam with the Nixons and Johnsons in less exclusive settings. The collection contains a few pictures of Beam in Cambridge and of his father at Princeton. Most were taken by official photographers, though some seem to be snapshots taken by Beam, including one of a Nazi rally in prewar Berlin. There is also a film of his arrival in Warsaw.

The "Invitations and Ids" file contains the dozens of souvenir receipts Beam kept from important dinner parties, receptions and conferences, as well as his passports and photo passes. Many of the paper slips are from the League of Nations, the International Military Tribunal, and the United Nations. Others are from events in prewar Germany. In addition to these ticket stubs, Beam collected Nazi memorabilia, such as Hitler postcards and stamps, swastika medallions, and Hitler's signature, as well as articles from other foreign posts and the United States, including an encased Nixon signature paperweight, a dog's certificate in Czech, papers from the London Zoo acknowledging his temporary adoption of the zoo's "Social Vulture," and a silver certificate inscribed, "Short Snorter Jake."

The collection contains correspondence, reports and articles by Beam, newspaper clippings, invitations and ticket stubs, photographs, a film, and assorted memorabilia, arranged in that order.

Margaret Beam, wife of Jacob D. Beam, donated the papers in 1994. (Accession number ML-1994-7)

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This collection was processed by Laura E. Burt in 1994. Finding aid written by Laura E. Burt in 1994.

No information about appraisal is available for this collection.

Publisher
Public Policy Papers
Finding Aid Author
Laura E. Burt
Finding Aid Date
1997
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

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Collection Inventory

Correspondence: Cambridge, Princeton, Geneva, Berlin etc, 1930-1940. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Correspondence: London and Washington, 1940-1950. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Correspondence: Washington, Moscow, Belgrade, Warsaw, 1950-1960. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Correspondence: Warsaw, Washington, Prague, etc, 1960-1970. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Correspondence: Washington, Nova Scotia, etc, 1970-1980. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Correspondence: Washington, 1980-1990. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Speeches, Articles, Reports (Detente, Salt II, Communism), 1960-1985. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Report to League of Nations on the Question of the Saar, 1933. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Report and related papers: Internal Policy of Nazis, 1936-1937. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous Documents: notes, press releases etc, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Newspaper Clippings of Beam and family, 1945-1980. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Moscow Papers: wire news, instructions, background, etc, 1953-1973. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Invitations, Passes and Ids, 1931-1987. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Souvenirs: cards, invitations, etc. from Moscow and Prague, 1950-1973. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Souvenirs: passes, postcards, propaganda, etc. from Germany, 1930s. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Beam at Princeton: Reunion material, honorary degree, etc, 1954-1987. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Biographical sketches, 1959-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Newspaper clippings of Beam from foreign language papers, 1950s. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Multiple Exposure: reviews, correspondence and mentions, 1978-1979. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Certificates, 1971-1985. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Poems, cartoons, postcards, and other artistic expressions, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Photographs and film, 1920-1980. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

Photographs, 1920-1980. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

Ephemera, 1920-1980. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

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