End of the Paper Trail

Main Content

When the Dewey Center receives letters, either by request or donation, part of the process of accessioning, transcribing, and publishing includes obtaining permission.  Since the Center for Dewey Studies holds the Dewey literary copyright, letters written by John Dewey need only the physical property rights permission. However, if the letter is written to Dewey, permission from the author of the letter or the author's representative must be secured. 

In the course of securing literary rights permission The Center for Dewey Studies is sometimes given access to people who, as young children or young adults, met or were associated with Dewey or the Dewey family.  This is a marvelous opportunity to gain first-hand information about a man none of us ever had the privilege of meeting. 

 The Staff have had the opportunity to talk with people such as Frank Brandeis Gilbert, grandson of Louis Brandeis. In response to a request for permission to publish a letter Louis wrote to Dewey, Gilbert telephoned and shared some recollections he had of Dewey and of Dewey's second wife, Roberta. We have published part of this conversation in the correspondence.

"Gilbert met JD in Chatham, Cape Cod, in the summer of 1944 (Roberta introduced JD to Chatham), and the families forged a friendship. Gilbert recalls JD's and Roberta's visiting his grandmother and JD's autographing a photograph of himself in a Life Magazine article about the 1937 Leon Trotsky hearings in Mexico.  Gilbert recalls that later in 1944, Dewey (a member of the National Educators for Roosevelt Committee) spoke about his participation in the election eve national broadcast by the Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign. Along with other national figures, Dewey said that here is another vote for Roosevelt from John Dewey."  [See 1952.02.19 (12892) Frank B. Gilbert to John and Roberta Lowitz Grant Dewey.]

In other cases, people have responded to requests for permission with additional tidbits of their experiences or memories of Dewey.  In 2007 Roy P. Fairfield wrote the following memories in a letter: "My understanding of John Dewey's educational philosophy grew out of my American Studies Ph.D at Harvard in 1953.  Also, while co-teaching a summer course with Dr. Otto Krash at the School of Education at Hofstra University in 1957 where the major topic was Pragmatism vs. Idealism. . . ."

"I won the Fulbright to Greece to teach at Athens College.  In addition to that fact, I also traveled around the country as a messenger of the US Office of Information speaking in some 29 cities and villages, using slides as a medium and being chauffeured and translated by one George Guises, a native of Greece with a great sense of humor.

Upon one occasion in May, 1954, after spending the previous evening doing lectures on the Thessaly Plain, George suggested that we visit a school in nearby Drahia, a village on the coast that he wanted us to see.  So we drove there.  I do not recall whether or not George had made previous arrangements for the visit, but the teacher received Maryllyn, George and me warmly.  He wanted me to discuss the educational philosophy of John Dewey.  And that I did for perhaps 30-45 minutes.  We had good give and take with the teacher; he and George translated.  As the accompanying photo, of school, teacher and students reveals, the teacher was middle-aged and the students were 10-12 years of age.  The teacher was comfortable with the notion that he was getting them to 'learn by doing,' a classic cornerstone of Dewey's viewpoint."
[See 1963.02.08 (21016) Roy P. Fairfield to Roberta Lowitz Grant Dewey.]

The Center welcomes any memories, no matter how small.  Through the words of those who knew Dewey, we are able to have a fuller picture of one of America's greatest philosophers/educators.