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Verl Lewis papers

Identifier: SW0171

Scope and Content

The Verl Lewis papers contain notes from courses that he took and taught, teaching materials, correspondence and minutes from various committees, and documentation (including raw data) from several research projects. Some personal information is also included. Some material is included from his early years in the field (1935-1954). However, the majority of the papers are a result of his years as a faculty member and dean (1954-1974).

Box 1 contains most of the personal materials in the collection. These include copies of speeches, correspondence regarding the publication of articles, and personal correspondence. Appointment books for several years are also in this box.

Box 2 is contains materials related to Lewis' early work in South Dakota and materials related to work in Oregon and California. The most interesting South Dakota-related material is contained in the report and supporting documentation of his survey of socioeconomic conditions in four counties on the Standing Rock Reservation (1935). Also included are monographs and documents about the indigenous people of South Dakota collected in the 1960's, when he apparently considered doing a follow-up study on the same reservation. Material from Lewis' time in Oregon and California includes documents related to courses he was teaching as well as data from a study of a juvenile detention facility in Woodburn Oregon. While working in public welfare, he complied extensive case records on six families, some of whom were followed for 5 years. Two folders document his termination from the American Red Cross for union activity and subsequent appeal to the AASW.

Box 3 contains documents and course materials related to Lewis’s M.A. and D.S.W. programs. The material related to the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration contains items from a course on Social Insurance taught by Grace Abbott in 1938 or 1939. The box also contains notes on reading and lectures, course materials and student papers. Also included are clinic records from the adult and child psychiatry clinic at University Hospital, where Lewis was working to complete requirements for a certificate in Psychiatric Social Work.

Boxes 4, 5 and6 contain documents dating from 1954 to1960, when Lewis was in Connecticut. Box 4 contains materials related to his faculty work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Boxes 5 and 6 focus on research projects and community activities during that time. Box 5 contains materials from several research projects including the New Haven General Assistance Study, the Hartford General Assistance Study and work leading to the publication of “Connecticut Town Relief.” The papers also include three folders of documents reflecting Lewis' time on the National Association of Social Workers Social Policy Commission. In addition to background material on several studies of children’s services, Box 6 contains documents related to Lewis’s relationship with a young psychiatric patient that he met during a study at the Connecticut State Hospital. Lewis continued to correspond with the patient during his trips in and out of the hospital from 1958 to 1966.

Box 7 focuses on Lewis’ dissertation, "The Charity Organization Movement in the U.S. 1875-1900." Although recognized as an important source of information about the early formation of the charity organization societies, this manuscript was never published as a book. Several articles did result from the work. In addition to a hand-edited draft of the dissertation, this is correspondence with individuals to collect data for the study as well as correspondence regarding its publication. Box 7 also contains notes on other historical research projects. These include studies of early social welfare organizers such as Reverend Stephen Humphreys Gurteen, Frederick Howard Wines and Franklin B. Sandborn. The papers in this box also include minutes, records of membership dues, library subscriptions, financial reports and clippings documenting the emergence of the Social Welfare History Group. Lewis was one of the organizing members and served as treasurer from 1956 to 1964.


  • 1930-1973

Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Most of the papers are open for use in the Archives reading room. A small number of case records, study data, and related documents are restricted. Please contact the Archivesfor more information about using restricted material.


Please contact the Archivesfor copyright information.

Biographical Note

Verl Lewis was a social work educator, welfare administrator, and historian of the social work profession. Lewis studied social work at the University of Chicago and at Case Western Reserve University. During his career he was a professor of social work at the University of Oregon (1949-1952), University of Connecticut (1955-1959), and University of Maryland (1959-1974). He also served as a public relief worker in South Dakota; public welfare administrator in Portland, Oregon; and staff member with the American Red Cross in California. Lewis was also a founding member of the Social Welfare History Group.

Verl Lewis was born in rural South Dakota in 1910 and received his undergraduate education at Huron College in South Dakota. He took social work courses for a brief period at the University of Minnesota before becoming a public assistance worker in South Dakota. Initially he was employed under the Federal Emergency Relief Act and assigned to survey the socioeconomic conditions on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. From 1937 to1939, he attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration.

After graduating with his master’s degree, Lewis moved to rural eastern Oregon where he was one of the first child welfare workers in the state under the newly organized public welfare commission. Lewis became the administrator of public welfare in Multnomah County (Portland) Oregon. During World War II, he was recruited into the American Red Cross, eventually moving to California with that organization. In 1947, he was fired after trying to organize the American Red Cross social workers into a unit of the UOPWA (United Office and Professional Workers of America). For two years after this event, he worked as a field instructor for the University of California at Berkeley.

Lewis served as an assistant professor of sociology (and eventually social work) at the University of Oregon in Eugene from 1949 to 1952. Although the University of Oregon had no social work program, Lewis’s appointment was intended to be the first step in that direction. He returned to graduate school at Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio) in 1952, and received his D.S.W. in 1954 with a dissertation on the early development of charity organization societies in the United States.

From 1954 until1960, Lewis was a professor in the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, teaching research and casework courses. In 1960, he moved to the University of Maryland as the first Dean of the new School of Social Work. He remained in that position until health problems resulted in his return to the teaching faculty and retirement in 1974. Throughout this time, he taught courses in casework, social policy, administration and community organization, and supervised both masters and doctoral research projects.

Verl Lewis was also an active in a number of national and local organizations including the Board of Education in Glastonbury, Connecticut and the Unitarian Church. He was a founding member and first treasurer of the Social Welfare History Group.


8.75 Linear Feet


Verl Lewis was a social work educator, welfare administrator, and historian of the social work profession. The papers document Lewis' graduate social work education at the University of Chicago and at Case Western Reserve University and his subsequent professional career, primarily as a professor of social work at the University of Oregon (1949-1952), University of Connecticut (1955-1959), and University of Maryland (1959-1974). There are also records of his work as a public relief worker in South Dakota; public welfare administrator in Portland, Oregon; and staff member with the American Red Cross in California. Research materials include a study of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, dissertation research on the charity organization movement, and involvement as a founding member of the Social Welfare History Group. Topics represented in the collection include senior citizens, corrections, professional social work, social policy and community planning, undergraduate social work education, and Native American indigenous groups.

Arrangement of the Records

The Verl Lewis papers are arranged into 10 series:
  1. Series 1. Personal and Biographical
  2. Series 2. South Dakota
  3. Series 3. Oregon and California
  4. Series 4. School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
  5. Series 5. Ph. D. Program, Case Western Reserve University
  6. Series 6. University of Connecticut, School of Social Work
  7. Series 7. Research Projects and Community Boards
  8. Series 8. Dissertation
  9. Series 9. History Research Projects
  10. Series 10. Social Welfare History Group

Other Finding Aid

Unpublished inventory available. Please contact the Archivesfor more information.

Acquisition Information

The Social Welfare History Archives received the Verl Lewis papers as a gift from Verl Lewis in June, 1974.

Processing Information

The Verl Lewis papers were processed in April of 2003 by Nancy Orolof and David Klaassen.
Verl Lewis papers, 1930-1973
June 2004
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Social Welfare History Archives Collecting Area