ELWYN B. ROBINSON DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
CHESTER FRITZ LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA 58202

JOHN M. HANCOCK PAPERS

COLLECTION: OGL #55

DATES: 1932 - 1956

SIZE: 23 linear feet

INTRODUCTION

ACQUISITION: The John M. Hancock Papers were deposited in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection. The acquisition records are unavailable.

ACCESS: Available for inspection under the rules and regulations of the Department of Special Collections.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

John Milton Hancock was born in Emerado, North Dakota, on February 2, 1883, to North Dakota pioneers Henry and Isabel (Irvine) Hancock. His father was a farmer who came from Canada in 1878, and founded the town in which his son was born. Henry Hancock also was a partner in the local hardware store and a realtor in the township. John Hancock’s immediate family included three sisters and a brother: Ethel, Edna, Maude, and Harry. In 1897, the family moved to Grand Forks where Hancock attended preparatory college courses at the University of North Dakota.

Once Hancock enrolled at the University, he was quick to involve himself in many of the activities available to him. He was a varsity member of the football team for three years until injuries forced him from the game in the fall of 1902. Even though football and track absorbed much of his time, Hancock still found time to be active in A.D.T, a newly founded literary society, and editor in chief of The Student. In 1903, he received an A.B. from the University.

After graduation, Hancock served as principal in a high school in Tower City, North Dakota, until 1904 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In that same year, Hancock married Ida Mary Buckingham in Grand Forks on June 23. The couple had two children, Ruth Laura and Ralph Henry.

Hancock entered the U.S. Navy as an ensign, serving as assistant paymaster in the Supply Corps. After training at the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, he served as the general storekeeper at the Olongapo Naval Station in the Philippine Islands. Soon after, Hancock went out to sea with the USS Galveston.

From October 1909 to March 1914, he did accounting tours at Navy yards in Boston, Philadelphia, and Puget Sound and then returned to the Philippines at the Cavite Naval Station. When World War I broke out, Hancock was on patrol duty aboard the USS Helena on the Yangtze River in China. He was soon ordered back to the United States, where he was placed in charge of the purchasing division of the Navy's Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. In this capacity, he obtained the rank of lieutenant commander in October 1916. This was followed by promotion to commander in January 1918.

As head of the purchasing division, Hancock made purchases of Navy supplies in excess of $2 million per day. He designed a system based on commodity sections: estimates were made to reflect as closely as possible the Navy’s material needs, and contact was maintained with the country’s industries. The Navy's newly legalized authority to award contracts based on profitability prompted the War Industries Board to form a price-fixing committee, of which Hancock was a member. From April to August 1917, he served on the General Munitions Board, and in 1919 accompanied Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to dispose of accumulated naval equipment overseas. Hancock also established organizations to settle claims against the Navy. Finally in 1919, lured by challenges in the private sector, Hancock resigned from the Navy at the rank of commander.

His accomplishments in the Navy resounded through the business world, generating numerous attractive offers, all of which Hancock turned down while still waiting for a challenge that befitted his skills and talents. A challenge did finally present itself when Herbert H. Lehman, a very good friend of Hancock’s, offered him a position with Lehman Brothers, investment bankers in New York City.

In October 1919, Lehman Brothers asked Hancock to undertake the reorganization of the Jewel Tea Company, Chicago, Illinois, which had been financed by them and was now deep in debt. The company had been operating at an annual loss of $2 million, along with a substantial debt of $4.5 million. Hancock came on board as vice-president and under his watch implemented corrective strategies: unprofitable branches were closed, low-volume routes were dropped, inventories were substantially reduced to provide badly needed cash, common dividends were canceled, and preferred dividends were deferred. After these changes were implemented, the result was a complete turnaround for the company. By 1924, the company's annual profit was $750,000. During Jewel Tea Company’s transition, Hancock was promoted to president in 1922. In 1924, the same year the Jewel Tea Company changed its financial course, Hancock became a partner in Lehman Brothers, a milestone since he was the first partner not to be a Lehman family member. In March, Hancock surrendered the presidency of the Jewel Tea Company to Maurice H. Karker.

The Jewel Tea Company’s new fortunes were an immense accomplishment from which Hancock reaped a reputation. He became director of many different corporations, including Sears Roebuck, Florsheim Shoe, Cluett, Peabody, Brunswick-Balke Collender, International Silver, Kroger Grocery & Baking Company, and American Stories.

Hancock was also involved in civil affairs, often serving the Federal government in an advisory capacity. In 1933, he was an executive officer of the National Recovery Administration and in 1939 was a member of the War Resources Board. In 1942, he and Bernard Baruch participated in a survey of the rubber industry. In 1943, following an appointment by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hancock assisted the director of the Office of War Mobilization in developing reconversion and post-war adjustment policies. From 1946-47, he again worked with Baruch when he served as general manager of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. He helped formulate an American proposal on international control of atomic energy.

Hancock has often been recognized for his achievements and contributions. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross by the U.S. Navy in 1919 and the U.S. Army Medal of Merit in 1948. In 1945, he was awarded the Henry Laurence Gantt Medal by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for “distinguished achievement in industrial management.” He was also recipient of honorary degrees from Hamilton College, New York (1950), and New York University (1950).

Hancock was also an active alumnus of the University of North Dakota. He served as a director of the UND Alumni Association, and led the efforts to build Memorial Stadium. During this process, he donated $25,000 to the cause. In 1932, the University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Hancock Hall was dedicated in his honor on October 24, 1952.

Even though Hancock was a distinguished alumnus of University of North Dakota, he spent most of his life outside the state of his alma mater. John Milton Hancock died on September 25, 1956 in White Plains, New York. He is buried in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.

Sources:

“Mr. Hancock and the Bomb,” Fortune: February 1947
Who Was Who in America, 1951-1960
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography,
v46, 1967
Various Articles from the Dakota Student and Alumni Review

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE

The John M. Hancock Papers date from 1932-1956, and consist primarily of material related to Hancock’s service to the United States Federal Government or on the behalf thereof. The majority of the material in the collection was arranged into three-ring binders either by Hancock or his secretarial staff.

Much of the material is from the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC), which was formed in 1946 following the very first resolution of the United Nations. The UNAEC sought the peaceful use of atomic energy, along with the elimination of atomic weapons. Hancock served as the General Manager of the United States contingent, which was led by Bernard M. Baruch. Baruch proposed a plan by which the United States would destroy its stockpile of atomic bombs, in exchange for an UN imposed prohibition on the future development of atomic weapons. The “Baruch Plan” passed the commission, but was vetoed by the Soviet Union in the Security Council.

UNAEC material is found in the first box, as well as boxes seven, eight, and nine. The material includes correspondence and memorandum, meeting minutes, subcommittee materials, press releases, governmental reports, and various subject files. An entire binder is related to the criticisms of the Baruch Plan held by then Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace. Four scrapbooks are included as well.

In 1942, Hancock participated in a special survey of the rubber industry in light of national defense priorities. Material from this survey includes correspondence and memorandum, subject files, governmental reports, and transcripts of meetings. A total of six binders are found in boxes two and three, each of which has an index at the beginning of the binder.

Hancock was also a member of the Office of War Mobilization, which was formed in 1943. He served in the Office of Contract Settlement, which was charged with the responsibility of settling terminated war contracts. Material is found in boxes three, six, and seven, and consists primarily of correspondence, memorandum, and governmental reports and manuals.

Hancock was also a member of the War Resources Board, which was the first federal agency to analyze mobilization options in light of possible entry into a war in Europe. A total of two binders in box six contain correspondence, reports, plans, and newspaper clippings.

Material in the collection also reflects Hancock’s career in investment banking and securities. Four binders deal with securities legislation, and include correspondence, governmental reports, and legislative text. A fourth binder documents Hancock’s service on a subcommittee of the Securities and Exchange Commission, while four scrapbooks contain newspaper and magazine clippings regarding profit and inflation from 1947-1954.

Hancock also chaired a special committee on behalf of the American Chemical Society, which sought to determine members’ opinions of the Society. Material regarding his relationship with the University of North Dakota is found in box ten, along with the text of some of his speeches. The last box also includes an undated history of U.S. Navy’s purchase division in the First World War, which was written by Hancock.

Five photographs were separated and added to the Orin G. Libby Photograph Collection, while nineteen scrapbooks were placed on the shelves adjacent to the collection. Please see the Separations Records for more information.

BOX AND FOLDER INVENTORY

Box 1
Volume

  1. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, 1946: A - C
  2. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, 1946: C - H
  3. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, 1946: J - M
  4. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, 1946: M - Z
  5. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, 1946: Henry Wallace

Box 2
Volume

  1. Rubber Survey Committee, 1942, Book I
  2. Rubber Survey Committee, 1942, Book II
  3. Rubber Survey Committee, 1942, Book III
  4. Rubber Survey Committee, Book IV
  5. Rubber Survey Committee, Book V

Box 3
Volume

  1. Rubber Survey Committee, Book VI
  2. Office of War Mobilization, Contract Settlement Book
  3. Office of War Mobilization, Contract Settlement Book
  4. Office of War Mobilization, Contract Settlement Book
  5. Office of War Mobilization, History of Contract Settlement
  6. Office of War Mobilization, Joint Army-Navy Termination Regulation
  7. Office of War Mobilization, Contract Settlement Action by Committee

Box 4
Volume

  1. Banking Act of 1935
  2. Securities Act and Exchange Bills: 1934-1940
  3. Securities Act and Exchange Bills: 1934-1940
  4. Securities Act and Exchange Bills: 1934-1940

Box 5
Volume

  1. Securities Act and Exchange Bill: 1934-1935
  2. Export-Import Bank: 1932-1934
  3. Committee on Atomic Energy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: 1946
  4. Army Industrial College: 1945
  5. United Nations News: December 1947 - September 1949
  6. American Export Lines, Inc.: 1938 - 1942

Box 6
Volume

  1. Hancock Committee Report to the American Chemical Society: 1946 - 1947
  2. Hancock Committee Report to the American Chemical Society: 1946 - 1947
  3. War Resources Board: 1939
  4. War Resources Board: 1940 - June 1943
  5. Office of War Mobilization: May - October 1943
  6. Securities and Exchange Commission, Sub-Committee of the Law Committee on the Segregation of the Functions of Broker and Dealer: 1935

Box 7
Volume

  1. Navy Special Committee Regarding the Supply System: 1945 - 1946
  2. Miscellaneous Government Reports and Publications
  3. Miscellaneous: 1943 (probably related to the Office of War Mobilization)
  4. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Meeting Minutes: 1946

Box 8
Volume

  1. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Meeting Minutes: 1946
  2. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Meeting Minutes: 1946
  3. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Sub-Committee No. 1, Meeting Minutes: 1946
  4. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Sub-Committee No. 2, Meeting Minutes: 1946

Box 9
Volume

  1. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Subject Files: 1946
  2. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Subject Files: 1946
  3. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Subject Files: 1946
  4. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission Official Records: No. 1 - No. 5
  5. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, Public Comment and Press Reaction to Public Comment: 1946
  6. Journal of the United Nations: 1946
  7. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: 1946

Box 10
Folder

  1. Speeches and Publications of John M. Hancock: 1944-1953
  2. “History of the Purchase Division, Navy Department, Washington D.C., During the World War, 1917-1918,” written by Commander John M. Hancock: undated
  3. UND and Wesley College Correspondence: 1936-1949
  4. UND and Wesley College Correspondence: 1950-1956
  5. Miscellaneous Personal Material Related to UND
  6. “Man and the Atom: A Report by the Mayor’s Committee for the Commemoration of the Golden Anniversary of the City of New York: 1949

SEPARATIONS RECORD

Five photographs were separated and added to the Orin G. Libby Photograph Collection.

OGL#55-1

Portrait of Hancock: undated (for possible use in The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography)

OGL#55-2

UND Alumni Board: June 1953

OGL#55-3

Hancock and choir, Emerado, North Dakota: June 7, 1953

OGL#55-4

Hancock and group of women, Emerado, North Dakota: June 7, 1953

OGL#55-5

Banquet, Emerado, North Dakota: June 7, 1953

19 scrapbooks were separated and placed on the shelves adjacent to the John Hancock Papers.

Scrapbook

  1. Profit and Inflation, 1947
  2. Profit and Inflation, 1948 - 1949
  3. Profit and Inflation, 1950 - 1951
  4. Profit and Inflation, 1952 - 1954
  5. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (v.1), 1945-1946
  6. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (v.2), 1946-1947
  7. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (v.3), 1947-1949
  8. United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (v.4), 1950-1954
  9. General Scrapbook, January - June 1946
  10. General Scrapbook, July - December 1946
  11. General Scrapbook, 1947 and Special
  12. General Scrapbook, January - June 1948
  13. General Scrapbook, July - December 1948
  14. General Scrapbook, January - June 1949
  15. General Scrapbook, July - December 1949
  16. General Scrapbook, January - June 1950
  17. General Scrapbook, July - December 1950
  18. General Scrapbook, January - December 1951
  19. General Scrapbook, January 1952 - 1954

 Original Donation  First Addition: 1903-1926
 Second Addition: 1919-1976  

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