John F. Kennedy Library

The John F. Kennedy Library provides access to over a thousand fully transcribed and searchable interviews. These interviews are also categorized by subject term, and an initial survey of relevant subject terms revealed 10 interviews with significant regulatory content. There are likely more.

These interviews are most useful for understanding public/private partnerships in utilities markets, especially electrical power and emerging commercial satellite communications. In the realm of environmental regulation, policies under the purview of the Department of Interior such as mining and mine safety, forest management and fire responses, and the use of federal lands and resources to generate and transmit electrical power garner the most attention. Rural electrification and the structure of power “wheeling” agreements in the west receive much discussion.

Researchers interested in the regulation of the communications industries will also find interviews of interest. Some interviews provide extensive discussion of the FCC, the State Department and the development of the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) to provide and regulate multinational commercial satellite communications, as well as the development and regulation of cable television.

Other interviews examine the workings of the Federal Trade Commission and the role of the Council of Economic Advisors is shaping economic policy during the Kennedy Administration.

Summary by:  Elizabeth Brake

Dwight Eisenhower Library

The website of the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, is an access portal for oral histories of the administration that are available through multiple institutions, primarily the Eisenhower Library, the Columbia University Oral History Project, as well as other libraries with smaller collections. The library website provides detailed abstracts of linked interviews, but in most cases researchers must visit the repositories to access transcripts for audio files. (A limited number of transcripts are available online.) The full list of interviews is available at the Eisenhower library’s oral history page.

An initial survey reveals nineteen interviews with abstracts or transcripts available through the Eisenhower library that contain significant content pertaining to regulatory issues. These interviews provide a window on the evolution of the post-war American regulatory state, with particular attention to global contexts, including the Cold War, the Korean war, the development of the European Common Market, and advancements in and proliferation of nuclear energy technologies and weapons. The Atomic Energy Commission, the Federal Reserve, and the agricultural commodities trade (esp. sugar) receive particular attention in these geopolitical contexts. Domestically, post-war economic growth fostered renewed political debate over the federal government’s role in the economy and the continued utility of regulatory policies first instituted during the New Deal. Several interviews discuss the establishment of the Federal Aviation Agency (precursor to the Federal Aviation Administration) and the growth of the airline industry. Changes to the policy structures for the regulation of agricultural commodities are also a prominent themes. Many interviews cover issues related to  U.S. fiscal and economic policies and regulations. Several discuss the activities and internal politics of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors. Others discuss appointments, staffing, and regulatory actions by the Securities and Exchange commission and enforcement of anti-trust policy by the Justice Department.

Summary by:  Elizabeth Brake

Federal Trade Commissioners Oral Histories

Project description: The FTC catalogues oral histories with eight former commissioners. Only one of these interviews was conducted by the FTC; the rest were conducted for presidential libraries and universities.

Regulatory significance: Some of these interviews deal at length with regulatory issues at the FTC during the commissioners era and beyond—see especially the interview with Mary Gardiner Jones, and to a lesser extent, those with Stephen Spingarn and Lowell B. Mason. Others, such as the interview with Leon Higginbotham, deal mostly with Washington personalities and the longer political biography of the interviewee (particularly in connection with the presidents they served under).

Interview dates: Widely varied

Digital access: Transcripts are available online for interviews with Mary Gardiner Jones (1964-1973); Leon Higginbotham (1962-1964); Stephen Spingarn (1950-1953); Lowell B. Mason (1945-56).

Physical access: Interviews in various repositories, including presidential libraries and Columbia University.