Skip to main content

Reuben Abel papers

Identifier: NA-0003-01


These papers document the academic career of Reuben Abel (1911-1997), beginning with his undergraduate study at Columbia College and doctoral philosophy studies in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, through his professorship at the university. It includes course notes and syllabi, and material documenting his student activities, such as his role as founder and editor of the New School student magazine, 12th Street: A Quarterly.

Abel's papers reflect his position within the Graduate Faculty, consisting of correspondence with colleagues and deans, appointment letters, faculty minutes, and committee documents; in addition to his role as instructor and advisor to students, consisting of lecture notes, thesis committee work and doctoral exam requirement reviews. Contains one annotated typescript of his work, Man Is the Measure.


  • 1927 - 1995
  • Majority of material found within 1936 - 1995



2.6 Cubic Feet (2 boxes, 3 folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

These papers consist of course notes, exams and other documents stemming from courses taken and taught by Abel; academic papers and articles authored by Abel and others; conference proceedings, correspondence, and committee records documenting his administrative role at the New School for Social Research; and a manuscript for Abel's work, Man is the measure. Some of Abel's original folder titles have been maintained while others have been expanded and revised for clarity. This collection does not contain papers of a personal nature, nor does it contain records of his career as a department store buyer (1929-1948) or president and treasurer of the Atlas Bedspread Company (1948-1961).

A notable component of Abel's papers is documentation on lectures offered at the New School for Social Research by prominent faculty members and visiting scholars, many outside of Abel's concentration in philosophy. Abel appears to have been attracted to lectures on the arts, psychology, and sociology, but attended lectures on endocrinology, mathematics, and housing reform in addition to an array of other topics. The predominantly handwritten notes were contained in two bundles (an additional folder was added during processing) often accompanied by typed bibliographies. The following is a semi-comprehensive list of lecturers with a selection of lecture titles included:

Rudolf Arnheim, Max Ascoli ("After the New Deal"), Adolf A. Berle, Marcel Barzin, Ernest Sutherland Bates, Gregory Bateson, S. B. Boudin, Arnold Brecht, Kenneth Burke, V.F. Calverton, George DeSantillana, De Sloovere, L.C. Dunn, Arthur Feiler, Emil J. Gumel, Charles Hartshorne, Selig Hecht, Eduard Heimann ("Nature and History of Capitalism"), Will Herberg, Sidney Hook, Karen Horney, Erich Hula, Edgar Johnson, Horace Kallen, Edward Kasner ("The New Mathematics"), Felix Kaufmann, Paul Keller, Otto Klineburg, Alexandre Koyre, A.P. Lerner, Max Lerner, Alexander Lesser, Nino Levi ("The Sociology of Law"), Karl Lowith, Bronislaw Malinowski, William Marias Malisoff, Charles Morris, Ernest Nagel ("Philosophy of Science"), S. Nathan ("Concepts of Mathematics"), Franz Oppenheimer ("Economic Theory"), Talcott Parsons ("Role of the Professions"), Alexander Pekelis, Kurt Riezler, Lindsay Rogers, Albert Salomon ("Philosophy of Freedom"), James Sand, Paul Schrecker, Alfred Schutz ("Problems of Social Knowledge"), Charles Seeger, Meyer Shapiro ("Theories of Modern Art"), Hans Speier ("Hero Worship"), Max Wertheimer ("Psychology of Learning"), Ernst Karl Winter, Fritz Wittels ("Psychiatry and Social Services").

Hook's and Kaufmann's lectures are particularly well represented within the notebooks. Some lectures appear to have been part of the New School for Social Research's General Seminar. According to the Spring 1934 course catalog, the General Seminar consisted of lectures given by the Graduate Faculty as a group: "Each session will be opened by one of the members of the faculty with an analysis of the scope of the problem before the group. The discussion will then be taken up informally by other members of the faculty and by students." (Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science Supplementary Announcement, 1934, unpaginated).

Of additional interest is documentation on the creation of a student journal. 12th Street: A Quarterly was initially published by the Magazine Committee of the New School Student Assembly, a student-led organization established in the mid-1940s. At the time, the New School for Social Research's only building was located at 66 West 12th Street in Greenwich Village. 12th Street was a literary and scholarly endeavor rather than a typical college newspaper. At this time, the New School for Social Research primarily served an adult population (Abel was in his early thirties in 1944 when the first issue was published). The editorial staff, with Abel as editor-in-chief (Jean Rhys served as associate editor), sought original contributions from current New School students as well as alumni in the social sciences, the arts, and creative writing.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Note

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical note

Reuben Abel (born 25 November 1911 in New York City, died August 1997) received degrees from Columbia University (AB, 1929), New York University Law School (JD, 1934), and the New School for Social Research (Master of Social Sciences, 1943; PhD, 1952). He served as a graduate assistant for Horace M. Kallen's "Dominent Ideals in Western Civilization" course; as a teaching fellow of philosophy and psychology; and as a lecturer in the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science. He was appointed adjunct associate professor, Department of Philosophy (1960-1992); chairman of Humanities, Adult Division of the New School for Social Research (1965-1984) and professor emeritus (1992). His name appears in university course catalogs through 1994. Abel began pursuing master's degree work in his late thirties while employed as a buyer for a department store, and received his doctorate when he was in his early fifties.

While a graduate student, Abel co-founded and edited the New School student periodical, 12th Street: A Quarterly (1944). Later, he served on the executive board of the Graduate Faculty Alumni Association (1952) and was a charter member of this organization. Abel was secretary-treasurer of the Conference on Methods in Philosophy and the Sciences while earning his doctorate at the New School for Social Research. Over the next few decades, he would serve as a member of the executive committee and as conference chairperson. This organization was closely associated with the New School for Social Research since its founding in 1937, with Horace Kallen, John Dewey and Sidney Hook as conference co-founders. Abel authored The pragmatic humanism of F.C.S. Schiller (1955) based on his dissertation and Man is the measure : a cordial invitation to the central problems of philosophy (1976).

Although he enrolled in the New School for Social research under the name Reuben Ablowitz, he changed his surname to Abel sometime in the early 1940s. Additionally, New School publications sometimes incorrectly list his first name as Ruben.

Researchers should keep in mind significant divisional name changes. The university now known as The New School was originally founded in 1919 as the New School for Social Research and was solely dedicated to adult education. In 1933, a graduate division was added. The graduate division was called the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, while the original adult education division was called the New School for Social Research or, simply the New School. After Abel's retirement, the Graduate Faculty was renamed the New School for Social Research, while the university as a whole became The New School.

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged in three series: 1. General, 1932-1995 2. Faculty papers, 1950-1998 3. Student papers, 1927-1952

Custodial History

Donated to the Raymond L. Fogelman Library of The New School by Elizabeth Abel and Richard Abel, Reuben Abel's children, 2011.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from Raymond Fogelman Library to the New School Archives and Special Collections, 2012.

Related Materials

Reuben Abel's dissertation and a more complete run of 12th Street: A Quarterly are available for consultation by making a Special Collections appointment.

Processing Information

Processed by Jennifer Ulrich.

Guide to the Reuben Abel papers
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
May 25, 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • October 10, 2018: New School Archives staff added Other Finding Aids note.