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Bradley Buell papers

Identifier: SW 0023

Scope and Content

The collection consists of personal papers which, together with the oral history interview transcript, document Bradley Buell's involvement with the emergence of a professional association for social workers in the 1920s and the community planning and organization movement in the 1930s. Nothing in the collection relates to his subsequent activities as an editor of Survey Midmonthlyor as founder-executive of Community Research Associates.

Buell's participation in the founding and early development of the American Association of Social Workers is well documented. Correspondence, minutes, and reports deal with the development of the new association, its membership and promotional policies, and reveal internal tensions, particularly over financial policy -- wether it should rely solely on member dues or seek outside subsidies -- which ultimately let to Buell's resignation. The oral history transcript deals primarily with Buell's reminiscences of this period.

Buell's community planning activities with Community Chests and Councils appear in two forms. Notes, outlines, and texts of speeches he gave, together with copies of articles he wrote, discuss survey techniques, cooperative financing, joint hospital planning, and various other similar topics growing out of his Community Chests and Councils responsibilities. Community histories or, more accurately, "case diaries," consist of working notes kept by consultants (Buell, Thomas Devine, or Irene Farnham Conrad) called in to evaluate local community chest activities in several cities in 1930-1931.

Somewhat related to the survey techniques reflected in the community chest activities is a copy of the 1919 Russell Sage Foundation report of its study of the Cigar Makers International Union, a study in which Buell participated.


  • 1919-1942, 1966-1967

Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Open for use in Social Welfare History Archives reading room.


Please contact the Archivist for copyright information.

Biographical Note

Josiah Bradley Buell (usually known as Bradley or "Si"), social worker, author/editor, and community planning consultant, was born in Chicago on January 29, 1893. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1915 and completed his graduate training at the New York School of Philanthropy and Columbia University in 1918. While a student, he was employed part-time in the Division of Industrial Studies of the Russell Sage Foundation. After a term of military service during World War I he returned to the Russell Sage Foundation in 1919.

He worked under Frances Perkins on the New York State Industrial Commission during 1920. From 1921 through April 1923 he was on the staff of the American Association of Social Workers (known then as the National Social Workers Exchange), an organization in which he had already been active for a number of years. From 1923 until 1925 he was secretary of the New York City Council on Immigrant Education. In 1925 he began a lengthy association with the community chest movement, first as associate director of the New Orleans Community Chest. Later he moved to the national offices of Community Chests and Councils, Inc., where he was the field director from 1930 until 1943. He joined the staff of Survey Midmonthlyas executive editor, 1943-1947, and as contributing editor, 1948-1949. In 1947 he founded Community Research Associates, Inc., a profit organization engaged in research and consultation for local community problems. He was its executive director and, later, chief consultant until his retirement in 1972.

He wrote two books, Community Planning for Human Services(1952), and The Road to Solving Community Problems Has Been Paved with Good Intentions(1973).

Buell died on March 23, 1976, in Fort Meyers, Florida.

Organizational History: American Association of Social Workers

The first step toward the formation of an organization for social workers came in 1911 with the establishment of the Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations to provide information about jobs and careers for young women. Heave demand led to the creation of a separate department for social workers in 1913. In 1917 department leaders decided to form an independent agency, the National Social Worker's Exchange. Soon perceiving the need to be more than a job placement bureau, leaders of the Exchange formed a council to develop plans for a professional organization that could deal with issues such as education and training, standards of employment, and systematic recruitment of competent job applicants. This resulted in the establishment of the American Association of Social Workers in 1921. Thus Bradley Buell's position on the AASW staff, 1921-1923, involved him firsthand in the formative years of the association. The AASW attracted members from throughout the social work profession, but specialists in group work, medical social work, school social work, psychiatric social work, and community organization gave primary allegiance to their own associations, leaving social caseworkers as the principal constituency of the AASW. This situation remained until 1955 when the AASW merged with six other professional social work associations to form the present National Association of Social Workers.


10 linear inches


Bradley Buell (1893-1976) was a social worker, author/editor, and community planning consultant. He worked for Community Chests and Councils, Inc. and for Surveymagazines, and he founded Community Research Associates. His papers reflect his involvement with the emergence of a professional association for social workers (the American Association of Social Workers) in the 1920s and the community planning and organization movement during the 1930s. Included are correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, speeches and articles, and an oral history transcript that reflects his role in the early development of the social work profession.

Other Finding Aid

Unpublished inventory available. Please contact Archives for more information.

Acquisition Information

The papers were a gift from Bradley Buell. He gave them to the Archives in July 1973 with the stipulation that they be closed to research use until his death, which occurred on March 23, 1976. Included in the papers received from Mr. Buell was the transcript of an oral history interview with him conducted by Charles J. Birt of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Related Collections

Materials related to this collection will be found in the National Association of Social Workers records, for that collection includes records of its predecessor, the American Association of Social Workers. Some documentation of Buell's post-1942 career, absent in this collection, is available in other Social Welfare History Archives holdings. The Survey Associates records and the Paul Kellogg papers reflect Buell's editorial activities with Survey Midmonthly. For information on the nature of his work with Community Research Associates, consult the Community Research Associates records (consisting exclusively of reports of projects and surveys they completed) and the records of the St. Paul Family Centered Project, a demonstration project in which Community Research Associates was deeply involved.

Items Removed From Collection

Removed from the Buell papers and added to the book collection were two books written by Bradley Buell: Community Planning for Human Services(New York: Columbia University Press, 1952; and the The Road to Solving Community Problems Has Been Paved with Good Intentions(New York: Community Research Associates, 1973).

Copies of The Compass(newsletter/journal of the National Social Workers' Exchange / American Association of Social Workers), 1920-1925, were added to the periodicals collection.

Bradley Buell Papers
Luke Pederson
Language of description
Script of description
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Collecting Area Details

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