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Gilbert Bettman Papers

Identifier: US-71-01

Scope and Content

The Gilbert Bettman Papers consist of 25 linear feet of material, dated 1872-1943. The material is divided into two major categories: Personal Papers and Professional Papers. Personal Papers are contained in 14 Hollinger boxes and include correspondence, photographs, correspondence of Gilbert Bettman, Jr., and miscellaneous material. The earliest correspondence dates from Gilbert's year at school. While at Harvard he corresponded frequently with his mother and brothers, Milton, Irvin and Alfred. His father operated a clothing business in St. Louis and corresponded infrequently with Gilbert. This early correspondence reveals much about Gilbert's student life and family relationships. Correspondents during the period 1907-1942 include Gilbert's wife; his mother; relatives in New York, California, and Connecticut, including the Chauncey Hands, the Arthur Sulzbergers, Adolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, and Dr. Selina Bloom; as well as personal friends.

The fall of 1934 marked the beginning of Gilbert Jr.'s stay at Harvard. For the period 1934-1941 there is a wealth of correspondence between Gilbert, Sr. and his three children. The letters are especially interesting because they provide insight into Gilbert's personal philosophy and aspirations for his children. He was frank and honest with his children and had a warm relationship with them. It is apparent that he considered his family very important. In his correspondence with personal friends, Bettman discussed the effects of the Depression. Another important group of letters written during these years were to Iphigene, who spent time traveling. Following the correspondence, there are three groups of photographs. The first includes those that picture Gilbert with and without family and associates. There are a few family photographs, which he used for campaign purposes. This section also contains a series of photographs of a sailing trip, which were sent to Gilbert in 1937 by Iphigene's cousin in New York, Arthur Sulzberger. The second group of photographs are primarily of Iphigene and her associates. There are 18 folders of photographs of Iphigene and the staff of her New York radio show entitled "What's On Your Mind?" There is also an 1872 picture of Rebecca Bloom Bettman, a 1928 photograph of Iphigene, 2 unidentified photographs and photographs of Gilbert's headstone. The third group of photographs are those belonging to Gilbert Bettman, Jr. They date from his service in the United States Army 1942-1944.

The next group of materials in the collection is correspondence of Gilbert Bettman, Jr. This section includes letters written in 1933 and 1935 by Gilbert, Jr. and his brother Alfred to Iphigene and personal letters to Gilbert, Jr. The bulk of the material is dated 1942-1944 and consists of the correspondence between Gilbert, Jr. and Iphigene.

The final group of material in the Personal Papers is miscellaneous. This section includes three trip diaries, a diary written by Rebecca Bloom Bettman during the last illness and death of her son Milton, memorial letters written by Rebecca Bettman honoring Milton, a medical treatise written by Milton, the will of Gilbert Bettman, a sketch of his headstone and the linen tracing of its lettering. There is also a folder of biographical material regarding Gilbert, most of which was written by associates and personal friends after his death.

The Professional Papers are contained in 8 Hollinger boxes, 39 bound volumes and 25 scrapbooks, and consist of files, bound volumes and newspaper clippings.

Correspondence, speeches, and press releases are grouped together within the files section and are arranged chronologically beginning with Bettman's Harvard Law School commencement address. Material dated 1920-1928 contains information regarding Bettman's participation in Cincinnati civic affairs. There is information about his role in the American Legion for the period 1920-1923. There are also excerpts from his 1924 debates with his brother, Alfred Bettman. Bettman's first major political campaign resulted in his election as Attorney General of Ohio in 1928. Details regarding the campaign are found in this section of the Professional Papers. For the period 1929-1932 some matters receive special attention. In April 1930 the Ohio State Penitentiary burned, resulting in hundreds of injuries and many deaths. The Governor launched a massive investigation. Bettman was involved in determining the causes of the fire. Another well-documented development is the planning in 1931 for the construction of a new State office building in Columbus. Bettman was re-elected Attorney General in 1930. In contrast to the campaigns of 1928 and 1932, there are only a few items to document this election. Bettman's campaign for the United States Senate in 1932 is well documented. Bettman won the Republican primary against Robert A. Taft but lost the election to the Democrat, Robert Bulkley. Prohibition was a major issue in the campaign and Bettman's opposition is clear. Bettman returned to private practice in 1933 and there is less material from the years 1933 - 1939. There are records of speeches he made during these years before various Republican groups. The records of law cases he handled during these years are in the bound volumes. Once elected to the Ohio Supreme Court, Bettman left his practice. The folders for 1940 contain materials regarding this last campaign. Bettman's judicial career was cut short by his illness in March of 1942 and his death in July.

The next series of Professional Papers is a set of bound volumes which contain not only a chronological run of legal records, but also similar series of correspondence and personal letters as well as press releases. These materials have been kept together because of their format. Most of the records of Bettman's legal cases are to be found in the first 24 bound volumes, which cover the years 1911-1940. There are two boxes of unbound records, which precede the bound volumes. Volumes 25-27 are labeled "Correspondence" and contain copies of letters written 1930-1933. This correspondence is perfunctory and consists largely of acknowledgements for letters of support. Volumes 28-34 are labeled "Personal Letters" and include material dated 1929-1932. The label is confusing since these letters do not relate to Bettman's personal life. They were written from the Attorney General's office and differ from the letters in the volumes labeled "Correspondence" in that they were written to those with whom Bettman was personally acquainted. Press releases, contained in volumes 35-39, cover the years 1929-1932. While releases in the professional files describe major events, these press releases deal with all events that Bettman was involved with as Ohio Attorney General.

Newspaper Clippings are the last section of Professional Papers. These are two boxes of clippings, dated 1928 -1932, which were found throughout the collection. Most of these clippings are dated 1930-1932. Many of these deal with the Ohio State Penitentiary fire and the development of plans for the new State Office Building. The clippings from 1942 contain notices of Bettman's death. Most of the newspaper clippings of the collection are found in the 25 subject scrapbooks. Most of the material in the scrapbooks is not duplicated by loose clippings with the exception of that dealing with the penitentiary fire and Bettman's death. Some of the scrapbooks contained loose clippings and ephemera. In each case these materials were gathered together in a folder and inserted into the scrapbook.

Both major divisions of this collection contain materials, which will be of use to a wide variety of researchers. The Personal Papers are particularly interesting because they reveal much about the activities and concerns of a professional family in Cincinnati in the 1930s. Bettman exerted a firm but loving control over his children and the family unit was extremely close. The Professional Papers reveal much about Bettman's political thought and activities. Unfortunately, there is little material documenting Bettman's private legal career, although briefs and records of cases are present.


  • 1848-1946


Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Biography of Gilbert Bettman

Gilbert Bettman, youngest of four sons of Louis and Rebecca Bloom Bettman, was born October 3, 1881. He was educated in Cincinnati and entered Harvard University upon graduation from Hughes high School. He graduated cum laude in 1903 and in 1904 received a Master's degree. He graduated with high honors from Harvard Law School in 1907. Bettman then returned to Cincinnati and joined the firm of Kramer and Kramer. He soon became a full partner in the firm and by the mid 20's had established his own successful practice.

In 1917 Bettman gave up his practice in order to serve as counsel for the War Risk Bureau. He was later appointed Captain in the United States Army and assigned to the General Staff as an Intelligence officer. Following the war, Bettman returned to Cincinnati and became active in public affairs. He was elected Vice Mayor of Cincinnati but gave up the position to become Ohio Commander of the American Legion. He was active in Legion Affairs and was one of the authors of the Adjusted Compensation Bill. Bettman also took an interest in the Y.M.C.A Evening Law School and was appointed to its faculty in 1919. He later became Dean. Bettman's first major political campaign was that for his election as Attorney General of Ohio in 1928. He was re-elected to that office in 1930. In 1932, he was the Republican candidate for the United States Senate. Following his defeat in this election, he returned to private practice. In 1940, he was elected Judge of the Ohio Supreme Court. He served in this capacity until his death in July 1942.

Bettman was married to Iphigene Molony in 1916. Iphigene was the daughter of Cincinnati lawyer James Molony and granddaughter of Isaac Meyer Wise, the founder of Hebrew Union College. Iphigene and Gilbert had three children, Gilbert Jr. born 1917, Carol Helen born 1918, and Alfred Milton born in 1922.


27 Linear Feet


Papers, 1848-1946, including scrapbooks, briefs, personal and business correspondence, speeches, and news releases of a Ohio Attorney General and Ohio Supreme Court Judge.

Statement of Arrangement

This collection is arranged into two series: Personal papers and Professional papers. The series are then sub-divided by material type and organized chronologically.

Physical Location

Archives and Rare Books

Finding aid for the Gilbert Bettman Papers, 1848-1946
Edited Full Draft
Finding aid prepared by Archives and Rare Books Library Staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Rare Books Library Repository

8th Floor Blegen Library
2602 University Circle
P.O. Box 210113
Cincinnati Ohio 45221-0113