Skip to main content

Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration Records

Identifier: SCPC-DG-054

Scope and Contents

From their origin until 1962, these records of the Lake Mohonk Arbitration Conferences were stored at the Lake Mohonk Mountain House. About 111 linear feet of material (78 boxes of correspondence files, 6 standard filing drawers, 21 wooden crates, 30 cardboard cartons of files, 9 bound letter files, and 28 bound scrapbooks) was brought to Swarthmore in November 1962. The collection was donated by A. Keith Smiley, Jr. Eight additional cartons were received in September 1966. In 1988, another 6 cartons (approximately 5 linear feet) of material relating to the 1911 Lake Mohonk Arbitration Conference, and one carton of material from the files of H.C. Phillips, Secretary of the Conferences, was donated by Smiley Brothers, Inc. Jane Rittenhouse Smiley donated smaller accessions of books and pamphlets over the years. It is assumed that no other conference papers exist.

Records include correspondence (1895-1937), books and leaflets, extensive reference files, a card catalogue of the conference library, circulars and other materials sent to business and to educational institutions, periodicals issued by the Conference including reports of its annual meetings (1895-1916), scrapbooks and loose folders of newspaper clippings, photographs, both individual and group, and engraving blocks. Although the last Arbitration Conference was held in 1916, correspondence about international arbitration continued to be written and received by staff at Lake Mohonk until 1937.

Hal Doty wrote: "There are certain sections of the correspondence files which might, at first glance, seem candidates for discard, since their primary data are summarized elsewhere. These are the sections dealing with the accepting or rejecting of invitations to attend the annual conferences. Since these have been epitomized in the secretary's notebooks and workbooks, an archivist's rule of thumb in dealing with space problems might suggest their discard. In this case, however, those invited generally are figures of such importance upon the American scene, and many of their answers (whether yea or nay) are so indicative of their attitudes to international arbitration, that I would urge that all such correspondence be retained.... Presidents of the United States are there, as well as cabinet members, ambassadors, senators, military and naval leaders, authors, editors, pillars of the business community, and leaders of every 'respectable' part of American society.... [T]here is rare and valuable material here for the study of patterns of influence in our society" [Report "Appraisal of the Records of the Lake Mohonk Conferences on International Arbitration" in SCPC Office File].

Correspondents include: Lyman Abbott, Hannah J. Bailey, Fredrik Bajer, Nicholas Murray Butler, J. Allen Baker, Richard Bartholdt, E.W. Blatchford, Cephas Brainerd, P.P. Claxton, John Clifford, Theodore L. Cuyler, W. Evans Darby, W. Moore Ede, Charles W. Eliot, Paul d'Estournelles de Constant, Mary Frost Evans, John W. Foster, E.M. Gallaudet, John B. Garrett, Edwin Ginn, George Gray, Edward E. Hale, Edward A. Horton, Alfred H. Love, Edwin D. Mead, Eduard de Neufville, Robert Treat Paine, Frederic Passy, Joseph W. Pease, George Perkins, Harry Clinton Phillips, Hodgson Pratt, F. Siegmund-Schultze, F.W. Simoleit, Albert K. Smiley, Daniel Smiley, A.R. Spofford, Heinrich Steiner, Benjamin F. Trueblood, and Herbert Welsh.


  • Creation: 1895-1937
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1895-1918


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.

Historical Note

The Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration was founded in 1895 for the purpose of creating and directing public sentiment in favor of international arbitration, arbitration treaties, and an international court.

The first Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration was held in June 1895, at Lake Mohonk in Ulster County, New York. Fifty eminent American men were convened by Albert K. Smiley, a Quaker and the owner of the Lake Mohonk Mountain House, one of the most prestigous summer resorts of the day. The annual conferences soon grew to attract 300 leaders of government, business, religion, the press, and education. After Albert Smiley's death in December, 1912, his place as host of the Conferences was taken by his half-brother, Daniel Smiley. The last conference was held in 1916. Plans for a 1917 conference were made, but it was never held.

The scope of the conferences gradually increased over the years to include: 1) the promotion of arbitration among leaders of the American business community, particularly through trade associations; 2) holding national college essay and oratorical contests on the issue of arbitration; 3) supplying libraries and other educational institutions with information about arbitration and the Lake Mohonk Conferences; 4) creation of a type of Mohonk membership called "correspondents." These individuals received regular mailings of materials and were invited to report to Mohonk about their own activities. These programs ceased after 1917.

Hi Doty wrote in 1963: "The conference was a striking success in terms of favorable attention and persuasiveness, and it soon grew to be an annual meeting of 300. But whatever its size, each year it was a gathering of the elite of American power and influence, leaders of government, business, the church, the press, and the universities. As a deeply concerned Quaker, as a leader in moral and civic associations, as a respected figure in the business world, and as an impeccable host, Albert K. Smiley brought all of his gifts and influence into focus, through the lens of this conference, on the nation.... Smiley was single-minded on the subject of arbitration, and he made the conferences so. At first the enemy was indifference; sometimes it was factionalism; in some years it was the compelling fact of war; but each spring, whatever the difficulties, the Lake Mohonk Conference hewed to its own line, won new leadership for the cause, and sent that leadership back to lead" [Report "Appraisal of the Records of the Lake Mohonk Conferences on International Arbitration" in SCPC Office File].


101.5 linear ft. (101.5 linear ft.)


This collection documents the annual conference (1895-1916) held at Mohonk Mountain House, Ulster County, New York; conference for 1917 was planned but not held; at their height, the conferences attracted 300 leaders of government, business, religion, the press, and education; the purpose of the conferences was to create and direct public sentiment in favor of international arbitration, arbitration treaties, and an international court.


These papers were given a preliminary sorting at Lake Mohonk by Professor Warren F. Kuehl (Department of History, Mississippi State University) who also imposed some order on the collection. In his report, Professor Kuehl states: " will take considerable effort to put [the papers] in workable shape. The material was moved at least twice, transferred from box to box in which some of it was just 'dumped'...the correspondence section is an imponderable." Minimal sorting was done shortly after the papers arrived at Swarthmore.In 1982, most of the papers were re-housed into new acid-free boxes. Analysis of the papers in 1982 and 1994/1995 found difficulties and inconsistencies in the arrangement of this collection. There were many boxes in which the chronology was completely out of order, and boxes in which the contents were quite miscellaneous. At times an alphabetic sequence was interrupted, or simply not completed.

Many of the books and pamphlets received as part of this accession had already been incorporated into the Peace Collection library. No list of these books remains. Duplicate books removed in 1994/1995 are noted in the checklist.

In 1994/1995, an attempt was made to restore boxes to approximate chronological order, which was clearly the order preferred by the administrators at Lake Mohonk. It is important to note that the boxes were never numbered until the processing work of 1994/1995. Every effort was made to retain the original order of the papers, not only out of respect for the administrative decisions originally made at Mohonk, but also because there is a card file (Series IV) which makes reference to various categories established as part of the Mohonk filing system. Much of the correspondence for 1911 and 1912 was received in a 1988 accession, much later than the bulk of the material. The 1988 accession clearly came as an entity, as it is labelled sequentially from "Drawer 1, box 1" to "Drawer 9, box 39." It was considered preferable to keep this material together, rather than integrating it chronologically into Series III. Series V is still quite confusing. It may be properly sorted at some later date.

The labels on the boxes contained no reference to the filing system, nor did the folders within them. Some papers were coded with a letter or letters, indicating their place in the filing arrangement. These include: B = businesses / businessmen / Chambers of Commerce C = correspondents [people who agreed to be on their official correspondents list] G = general L = libraries M = miscellaneous N = newspapers P = Pugsley Essay/Prize Contest U = universities and colleges However, some files contain a miscellany of codes.

It is important for the researcher to understand that, while much work has been accomplished, much remains to be done. There were many discontinuities and irregularities in filing in the papers as they were received from Mohonk which could not be addressed at this time.

Note: Later processing (2003- ) included re-foldering contents, rearranging material in and between boxes, and, at times, creating new folder titles to reflect the contents better. When original boxes were too full, new boxes have been added. This may mean that the card file is no longer as useful in matching names etc. with box and folder numbers/names. See older checklists for how 1994/1995 arrangement of boxes related to Lake Mohonk's drawer filing system, which will no longer match up the same. Even the Series titles no longer make complete sense. USE THIS CHART TO FIND MATERIAL WITH CATEGORIES.

Also note that correspondence in Series III was sorted by the SCPC archivist into collective folders, for persons whose last names began with the same letter (such as "A"), or into individual folders, if there were enough letters to/from a person to justify it. Some of these individuals were particularly important in the peace movement of the time, but this is not necessarily true for all. Also, there many have been enough letters to/from an individual in one box, but not enough to/from the same individual in another box to make a separate folder for him/her.

All of this collection is in off-site storage (except for some periodicals). A request for retrieval of boxes must be given to the Curator at least two weeks in advance of a visit to the Peace Collection.

Custodial History

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of A. Keith Smiley, Jr., Jane Rittenhouse Smiley, Smiley Brothers, Inc.

Related Materials

Lake Mohonk: miscellaneous material (CDGA)

Separated Materials

Items removed: Photos were removed to the Photograph Collection. Scrapbooks sent off-site. Engraving blocks were removed to the Memorabilia Collection.

Materials originally in Series VIII, Boxes 159-167 containing materials from organizations other than the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration, were disbanded and the contents housed in the Peace Colleciton's collected documents groups or the Subject File.

Bibliographic References

Guide to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 2nd ed., p. 37.

Legal Status

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Processing Information

Processed by Barbara Addison; checklist prepared April 1995; preservation work done and checklist revised by Anne Yoder, May 2003 - October 2016.

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

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

500 College Avenue
Swarthmore 19081-1399 USA US
610-328-8544 (Fax)