Thomas Sovereign Gates, Jr. papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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
Thomas Sovereign Gates, Jr., was a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy during World War II, who went on to serve as the Secretary of the Navy (1957-1959), Secretary of Defense (1959-1961), and Ambassador to China (1976-1977). As a civilian he also pursued a career in investment banking at the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company (later J.P. Morgan & Co.).
Gates was born on April 10, 1906 in Philadelphia, PA. His father, Thomas Sovereign Gates, Sr., is known for being the first president of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an investment banker. After attending the Chestnut Hill Academy, Gates attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a degree in English in 1928. He followed his father's footsteps into investment banking, starting out with Drexel and Company, where he became a full partner in 1940.
Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Gates enlisted in the Navy, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and served until the end of World War II. In 1953 he was appointed Under Secretary of the Navy by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, becoming Secretary of the Navy in 1957. In 1959 he joined the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Deputy Secretary, moving shortly after to Secretary of Defense, a position he held until the end of Eisenhower's term in 1961.
Though serving a short term, Gates made important contributions, introducing a more active management style to the department and helping to modernize the American military in terms of both weaponry and thinking. He is also remembered for his handling of the U-2 controversy, in which American pilot Francis Gary Powers was gunned down by Soviet fighters during a secret reconnaissance mission. Gates, in two controversial moves, urged President Eisenhower to acknowledge responsibility for the flight and, in the wake of subsequent relations with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, issued a world-wide communications alert to the American military.
After serving in the Department of Defense for eight years, Gates returned to investment banking, working for the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company (later J.P. Morgan & Co.). In 1976, President Gerald Ford nominated Gates as Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing, just after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Gates was also referred to as the "Ambassador to China," though, at that time, there were no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Gates' activities extended far beyond the major positions listed above. He served as chairman of the Advisory Commission on an All-Volunteer Force under President Richard Nixon, and was also a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania from 1948 to 1983, to mention a few. He died on March 25, 1983.
The collection is divided into 10 series, which more or less follow the path of Gates' career. After a general correspondence series, there are series for his Naval service, as well as his service as Under Secretary and Secretary of the Navy, Deputy Secretary and Secretary of Defense, and Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing (also known as "Ambassador to China"). After his military and government papers there follow series for his banking career with the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company (later becoming "J.P. Morgan & Co."), personal files, and family material. Gates' remarkable collection of photograph albums and scrapbooks documenting his government service form their own series, followed by a final series of miscellaneous material, which includes his awards and medals, as well as many photographs (some inscribed to Gates) not collected in the scrapbooks or albums. In general, the below series are arranged with the more unique items towards the front, followed by items that are available elsewhere, and otherwise follow alphabetical or chronological within that, when possible.
The General correspondence series includes all correspondence, whether personal or business related, except for a few items that have been kept separate according to the original grouping of the material. These latter include correspondence related to Gates' time as Ambassador to China, as well as some miscellaneous correspondence about Vietnam, and about his successor as Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. Researchers are encouraged to check the correspondence of other series as well, since there may be some overlap. The letters date mostly from the 1950s to 1970s and most notably contain ten years' worth of letters to and from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, under whom Gates served in the Department of Defense. Given the length of his career, however, and the many projects with which Gates was involved, the existing correspondence, which fits into just two boxes (including correspondence from other series), likely represents only a small portion of Gates' total communications.
The Naval service series documents Gates' participation as a lieutenant commander during World War II. The most unique documents are the books of handwritten night orders under Admiral C. T. Durgin, plus the code book of naval maneuvers and action report, that provide a window into the life of a naval ship during this time. There is one folder of memoranda from this period, as well as a sampling of official documents relating to Gates' assignments, training, awards, etc., plus some clippings and miscellaneous items. Gates enlisted in the National Guard prior to joining the Navy, and a single folder relating to his service there is included in this series as well.
Though much of Gates' time as Under Secretary and Secretary of the Navy (from 1953 to 1959) is documented in the scrapbooks and photograph albums, a small amount of items have been collected into a series of loose documents. These include complete runs of daily logs from 1955 to 1959, as well as speeches delivered by Gates (and others), and memoranda from the Office of the Secretary, as well as a few other miscellaneous files--the speeches, perhaps, being the most substantive. Also included is a copy of Gates' book "The United States Navy: Its Influence On History!"
Gates' term as Deputy Secretary and Secretary of Defense is likewise featured in many of the scrapbooks, but related loose material is arranged in this series. Items of note include a diary and speeches by Gates, as well as a range of reports. The series also includes items from after Gates' departure from the Department of Defense, but which relate to his service as Secretary. These include the documents relating to Gates' successor, Robert McNamara, specifically concerning a public disagreement between the two. This is reflected in newspaper clippings as well as letters.
For a brief period from 1976 to 1977, Gates served as Ambassador to China and Chief of the United States Liaison Office in Beijing. Following the original grouping, correspondence from this period has been kept in this series with the rest of the China material. Because of this, there may be some overlap with the general correspondence and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company correspondence. Researchers are encouraged to check these other series as well. Congratulatory letters follow the more substantive correspondence, as well as Gates' "diary-letters" describing his time there, briefing material on China and other informative material about the country, events memorabilia, clippings, and other miscellaneous items.
In addition to his military and government service, Gates led a long career as a civilian in investment banking, beginning with Drexel and Company and later working with the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company (J.P. Morgan & Co.). Despite working in banking for many years, few items remain from this part of Gates' life in the collection. There is a small amount of correspondence, some papers relating to a meeting with the Bank of China, and a run of Annual reports. Some correspondence (especially with Ellmore C. Patterson, has been included as per the original grouping with the correspondence in the Chief of the United States Liaison Office in Beijing series, since these letters were received by Gates during that time). Researchers interested in Gates' banking related communications are encouraged to check that series as well as general correspondence, as there may be some overlap.
The Personal files, while they do include items from Gates' private life, mostly collects items that did not directly relate to any of Gates' official positions in the above series. There are few items that are truly personal--it is unclear if this is because Gates was mostly concerned with recording his public life, or because the more personal items were not donated. In any case, the bulk of this series relates to Gates' activity as a public figure, especially in the period between leaving the Department of Defense and becoming the Ambassador to China. There are transcripts of oral interviews with Gates, speeches, correspondence about the Vietnam War, files from his involvement with the Republican party, as well as miscellaneous memorabilia, holiday greeting cards, etc. There are also many reports and published items kept by Gates. The end of the series contains a run of clippings, sometimes relating to Gates directly, other times simply items that he saved for some other reason.
The Family series includes items relating to his father, Thomas Sovereign Gates, Sr., who was the first president of the University of Pennsylvania. Items include correspondence, obituaries, memorial resolutions, and perhaps most interestingly, a collection of letters from famous Americans (such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Albert Einstein) to the students of the University of Pennsylvania, commissioned by Gates, Sr. in 1935. Included as well are detailed genealogical accounts of branches of Gates' family, produced in the late 1920s.
One of the most impressive features of the collection are the 37 Photograph albums and scrapbooks documenting in great detail, and often in large format, Gates' many achievements. In addition to photographs, they include newspaper clippings as well as pieces of correspondence and memorabilia (invitations to events, etc.). They extend all the way from Gates family photographs in 1902, through Gates' naval service from 1943 on, to the end of Gates' service in the Department of Defense in 1960. Together they provide a comprehensive overview of Gates' career that complements the files saved in the above series.
The Memorabilia series contains Gates' awards, citations, honorary degrees, medals, inscribed photographs, miscellaneous photographs, cartoons, and other gifts and miscellaneous items.
Gift of Millicent Anne Brengle Gates, 1983, 1985.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Ben Rosen
- Finding Aid Date
- 2015 November 4
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.