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John Lydenberg collection, 1931-2000

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: SC-23

Scope and Contents Note

The Collection on John Lydenberg includes documents from 1931 to 2000 that pertain to John Lydenberg, Professor of English and American Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges from 1946-1980. These documents are organized into four boxes, which include lecture notes, supplementary teaching materials, publications, and biographical information.


  • Creation: 1931-2000


Conditions Governing Access

Documents of a personal and confidential nature are closed to researchers in accordance with library policy. These include correspondence regarding the salary and benefits of Hobart and William Smith employees.

Biographical Note

John Lydenberg was born on March 22, 1913 to Harry Miller Lydenberg and Madeleine Day. His father was the director of the New York Public Library. John graduated from Scarsdale High School, and went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College in Ohio with a degree in English. He completed his Master's at Harvard University in 1938.

Before coming to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Lydenberg taught courses in American History at Bennington College. He moved to Washington D.C. during World War II to work for the War Production Board and the Department of State. He then returned to Harvard to complete his PhD in 1946. That same year, he and his wife Marion and their one year old son arrived in Geneva, N.Y. Lydenberg taught English and History at the Colleges, and was granted full professorship in 1954. He was instrumental in the founding of the American Studies program, the first interdisciplinary program available at HWS. Lydenberg also played a leading role in developing the Colleges' general education curriculum.

In addition to professorship at the Colleges, Lydenberg also took several opportunities to teach around the world. These include Associate Professor at Scripps College, visiting Professor at Stanford University, a year spent teaching at the University of Aix and the University of Strasbourg in France on a United States Educational Exchange grant, and another year in Provence on a second Fulbright Scholarship.

Lydenberg published several articles and book reviews, which appeared in a variety of esteemed publications. His articles were generally on American writers, including Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, James Gould Cozzens, William Faulkner, and John Dos Passos. Very involved in local politics, Lydenberg was elected First Ward Councilman for the city of Geneva. He also served as a delegate in the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago for Eugene McCarthy. He reported on the convention for The Geneva Times.

Lydenberg's wife Marion died in 1968. He later married Mary Jane Gindling Dee WS '67. John and Mary had eight children.

A significant achievement of Lydenberg's was his appearance in the 1970 edition of "Outstanding Educators of America". Lydenberg officially retired in 1980, however he continued to teach through the mid '80s. He died on November 10, 1987 at age 74.


2 Linear Feet ([3 boxes])

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Lecture Notes
  2. Supplementary Teaching Materials
  3. Publications and Reviews
  4. Biographical Information


Boxes 1-3: Archives Storage, Range 22A, Section 4


This collection was compiled by the staff of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Archives and Special Collections from materials in the collection relating to John Lydenberg. The provenance of the materials that comprise this collection is unclear. Some of the materials, such as Lydenberg's lecture notes and supplementary teaching materials (Series I and II), constitute his personal papers, and were likely donated by Lydenberg or a relative.

Lydenberg's publications and biographical information (Series III and IV) were moved to this collection from the main archives collection. These materials had been collected by archives staff over the years and include correspondence, publications, and Lydenberg's biography from the Distinguished Faculty Award ceremony.


John Lydenberg collection, 1931-2000: A Finding Aid
Lissa Mele WS '13 with Katie Lamontagne, Archivist
December 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Archives and Special Collections Repository

Warren Hunting Smith Library
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva New York 14456 U.S.A. US (United States)