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Metropolitan Board for Conscientious Objectors Records

Identifier: SCPC-DG-060

Scope and Contents

Frieda Langer deposited the records of the Board in the SCPC in 1966, 1976 and 1989, and Martin Goldwasser gave a small amount in 1999. The material includes meeting minutes, correspondence, policy statements, literature and case files about individual COs. Meeting minutes and other material were removed from the Abraham Kaufman collection (CDGA) in March 2007 and incorporated into the Metropolitan Board collection.

Correspondents include Allen Barr, Purnell Benson, R. Boland Brooks, Julien Cornell, Harrison DeSilver, Esther Frankel, Martin Goldwasser, Edward Gottlieb, Abraham Kaufman, Frieda Langer, Ruth MacAdam [later Smith; she married CO Ernest Allyn Smith], Morris Milgram, A.J. Muste, Arlo Tatum, Evan Thomas, Roland Watts, and Norman Whitney.

Some material, having more to do with Frieda Langer’s personal work with COs than that of the Board, was transferred to other collections, namely folder/s re: her involvement with the War Resisters League’s Conscientious Objector Problems Committee (as chair), ca. 1944-1946 [see CDG-A: Langer, Frieda], and with the Workers Defense League [see CDG-A: Workers Defense League]


  • Creation: 1940-1980


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Physical Access Note

All or part of this collection is stored off-site. Contact Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff at at least two weeks in advance of visit to request boxes.

Conditions Governing Use


Historical Note

The Metropolitan Board for Conscientious Objectors was established by the United Pacifist Committee on July 1, 1940, and become a separate entity early in 1942. Its purpose was to assist conscientious objectors to war with their problems related to refusal to register, difficulties with draft boards because of classification, the Civilian Public Service (CPS) option, and other matters. It was non-sectarian and free of charge, and in the course of its existence gave counsel, and at times legal advice, to nearly 10,000 COs. Its office was located in New York City, first at 2 Stone Street, and later at 5 Beckman Street (Sept. 1944) and 170 5th Avenue (Oct. 1944 - ).

Harrison DeSilver was the first Director/Secretary of the Board, succeeded by Ruth MacAdam when DeSilver was drafted and sent to a CPS camp. MacAdam served from 1944 (or December 1943?) -1945, followed by Lila Rogers. Evan Thomas was the first Chair of the Board of Directors (July 1940 – 1952?), succeeded by Herman Alderstein and Martin Goldwasser. Members of the Board of Directors included R. Boland Brooks, Marion Code, Julien Cornell, Esther Frankel, Edward Gottlieb, Martin Goldwasser, Rabbi Isidor Hoffman, Jessie Wallace Hughan, Abraham Kaufman, Leonard Lazarus, Ruth MacAdam, Tracy Mygatt, Frank Olmsted, Frank Ortloff, Stephen Siteman, Evan Thomas, Frances Witherspoon, and DeWitte Wyckoff.

The work of the Board rose and fell accordingly when Selective Service requirements were enforced during World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars, and again in 1980. The Board disbanded in 1980.

Much of the material in this collection came from Frieda Langer [Lazarus]. She counseled many of the COs who came to the Board for help, and worked diligently on the issues surrounding conscientious objection. She helped to found the Board, and was its secretary for many years.


7.5 linear ft. (7.5 linear ft.)


The Metropolitan Board for Conscientious Objectors was a non-sectarian, free advisory service for conscientious objectors to war and military service. The MBCO was set up to provide counseling and legal aid in metropolitan New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and established by the United Pacifist Committee in 1940. The group disbanded in 1980.

Custodial History

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these records.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Frieda Langer [Lazarus] and Martin Goldwasser, 1966-1999.

Legal Status

Copyright to the records created by the Metropolitan Board for Conscientious Objectors 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.

Processing Information

Collection re-processed and checklist revised by Anne Yoder, August 2002.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2018: The file list was standardized in Summer 2017 by Min Cheng in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace. Tessa Chambers added the notes in Fall 2017. This finding aid was updated by Wendy E. Chmielewski, April 2019.

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Swarthmore College Peace Collection Library

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