Allen S. Olmsted II Papers
Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Allen Seymour Olmsted, 2nd, a lawyer and judge, was also an activist for civil liberties and pacifist causes. He was born on July 9, 1888, in Le Roy (New York), the son of John Bartow and Clara Morgan Olmsted. He attended Lafayette High School in Buffalo (New York), and then went to Harvard University, where he graduated cum laude in 1909. In 1912, he received a law degree from Harvard Law School. While a student there, he was president of the Harvard Men's League for Woman Suffrage. Following law school, Olmsted was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. Early in his career, he specialized in railroad rate cases, bringing them before the Interstate Commerce Commission and various state regulatory agencies.
Olmsted moved to Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) in 1915 and soon joined the law practice of Saul, Ewing, Remick, and Saul. In 1930, he moved his principal office to Media (Pennsylvania), but maintained a downtown Philadelphia office at Saul, Ewing as well. He enlisted and served overseas during World War I with the American Expeditionary Force as a sergeant major with the 14th Railway Engineers (1917-1919), and remained for a year after the war with the Sorbonne Detachment in Paris. Disillusioned by war as a solution to world disputes, Olmsted began to have a strong interest in pacifism. In 1921, Olmsted married Mildred Scott Olmsted, whose papers (DG 082) are also available at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. The couple had a son, Peter Scott, and adopted two more children, Enid Scott and Anthony Scott. Allen Olmsted supported his wife's peace activities by serving as counsel without fee for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and, later, for the Jane Addams Peace Association. Early in the 1920s, Olmsted served on the Council of the Pennsylvania branch of the American Birth Control Federation and was on the Council of the Philadelphia branch as well. He was President of Philadelphia Young Democracy in 1923. In 1927, as a member of the American Legion's Howard C. McCall Post #20, Olmsted stood trial for urging that an alien had the right to make pro-Communist remarks and should be defended accordingly; he was subsequently acquitted by the Legion for his "alleged seditious utterings." Olmsted served as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, and was a member of that organization most of his life. He was active in the National Council for Prevention of War. He served as Chairman and was active with the Philadelphia Peace Council (1926-1945), whose purpose was "to further international justice and good will by acting as a clearing-house for information and as a link for co-operation between organized groups working for World Peace." During World War II, Olmsted joined the Religious Society of Friends and served on the Conscription, Disarmament, and Rights of Conscience Subcommittee of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. On behalf of the Joint Peace Committee (of Chester and Providence (Pennsylvania) Friends Monthly Meetings), he helped to draft a proposal to stop the war without an unconditional surrender by Germany. In 1950, he helped raise funds for the Larry Gara conscientious objection case. He served as treasurer of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors in the early 1950s and was also on its Legal Committee. Olmsted was a member of the Rights of Conscience Committee of the American Friends Service Committee in 1955 and 1956. Allen Olmsted was also interested in politics. He ran for the legislature on the Democratic ticket in 1928, and for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1937, 1947, and 1949. In 1958, he was appointed Judge by Democratic Governor George Leader, and became the first Democrat ever named to be Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County (Pennsylvania). In a bid for election in Nov. 1959, Olmsted was defeated by Republican Thomas A. Curran. The Olmsteds resided in Rose Valley (Pennsylvania). Allen Olmsted died in December 1977 at the age of 89.
The bulk of the Allen S. Olmsted papers is correspondence (1898-1977). Most of these are carbon copies of letters dictated by Olmsted and filed in subject transfer files at his law offices in Philadelphia and Media (Pennsylvania) [note: there are also many letters from Allen Olmsted in the papers of his wife, Mildred Scott Olmsted (DG 082)]. Correspondents include Brent Dow Allinson, Gertrude Baer, Emily Greene Balch, Roger Nash Baldwin, Witter Brynner, Joseph S. Clark, Sophia H. Dulles, Caleb Foote, Frederick Fuges, Dorothy A. Hickie, Alan R. Howe, Dorothy H. Hutchinson, Agnes M. Irwin, Esther Everett Lape, Dr. Philipp Loewenfeld, Emily C.P. Longstreth, Walter C. Longstreth, Ruth Mellor, Agnes M. Morley, Ray Newton, Anne H. Price, Lyle Tatum, George Willoughby, Mary Winsor, Richard R. Wood, and C.H (Mike) Yarrrow. Also included is correspondence with German emigrés about affidavits in support of visas, and the transcript of Olmsted's dismissal hearing by the American Legion (1927). A biographical section of this collection contains newspaper clippings about Allen Olmsted (1958-1986), family history, scrapbooks from his high school and college years, academic memorabilia and essays, and a notable quantity of documents about the Harvard Men's League for Woman Suffrage (1911-1912). Diplomas and certificates were removed to the Oversized Items Collection: Documents. Photographs were removed to the Photograph Collection; sound tapes were removed to the Audiovisual Collection; and, memorabilia was removed to the Memorabilia Collection.
This collection was reprocessed and rearranged in 2006. At this time, Series designations were deemed no longer necessary; instead, underlined headings have been used to indicate the type of material that exists in the boxes.
Gifts of Allen S.and Mildred Scott Olmsted, 1975, 1987, 1989 [acc. 75A-070, 75A-079, 75A-085, 87A-143, 87A-147, 89A-129].
Processed by Martha Shane, 1992; reorganized by Anne Yoder, 2006; updated by SCPC staff 2015.
- American Friends Service Committee. Committee on Rights of Conscience
- Philadelphia Peace Council (1925-approximately 1932)
- Philadelphia Peace Council (1937-ca. 1943)
- Joint Peace Committee of Providence and Chester Monthly Meetings (Society of Friends : Media, Pa.)
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
- American Legion
- Peace -- Societies, etc. -- History -- Sources
- Practice of law -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Civil rights -- Societies, etc. -- History -- Sources
- Conscientious Objectors -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Quakers -- Pennsylvania -- History -- Sources
- Civil rights -- United States -- History -- Sources
- African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- Sources
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Refugees -- History -- Sources
- Loyalty oaths -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Freedom of speech -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Draft -- United States -- History -- Sources
- Judges -- United States
- Swarthmore College Peace Collection
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research use.
All or part of this collection is stored off-site. Contact Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff at firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks in advance of visit to request boxes.
- Copyright to the Allen S. Olmsted Papers created by Olmsted has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Copyright to all other materials is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
- Use Restrictions
includes some Allen Olmsted papers
includes Peter's statement re: being a C.O., ca. WWII
includes one re: woman suffrage
includes transcript of speech given by Allen S. Olmsted at Wellesley
includes diary (March 21, 1918 - March 6, 1919) and court-martial record for letter he wrote on September 3, 1918