MAYO, George Elton (1880-1949): sociologist

Scope and Content

The papers comprise personal correspondence between G Elton Mayo and his wife, Dorothea and his daughters, Patricia and Gael, 1913-1947. Dorothea Mayo expected her husband to write to her daily whenever he was away and the result is a series of diary style letters sent during their periods of separation. The fullest series are for 1922-1923 when Mayo visited the USA prior to settling in Philadelphia and for the period from 1929 to 1937 when Dorothea remained in England with their daughters.
The second series of correspondence comprises letters to his daughters while they continued their education at Bedales in England and during World War Two. The correspondence is mainly with his eldest daughter, Patricia, though there is some correspondence with Gael and also Patricia's first husband, Walter Goetz.
Both series of letters contain detail on Mayo's work and life at Harvard, including meetings with colleagues, lectures and research projects. In addition there is discussion of books, ideas and people which influenced his work and thinking. The World War Two letters include comments on the war from the USA and detail events leading to Gael's escape from behind German lines in France with her son and first husband.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Elton Mayo (1880-1949) was born in Adelaide, Australia. He was educated at Queen's School and the Collegiate School of St. Peter and began training in medicine. This was never completed and between 1903 and 1905 he spent time in West Africa and London where he taught English at the Working Men's College. In 1907 he returned to university in Adelaide, studying philosophy and psychology. He was appointed foundation lecturer in mental amd moral philosophy at the new University of Queensland in Brisbane and held its first Chair of Philosophy, 1919-1923.
Elton Mayo married Dorothea McConnel in 1913 and their daughters, Patricia and Gael were born in 1915 and 1921. Throughout their marriage they corresponded during their frequent and lengthy separations and a correpondence was also maintained with Patricia, while she was in England.
While at Brisbane, Mayo studied nervous breakdown and with T H Mathewson, and pioneered the treatment of shell-shock. Mayo's observation of the high level of industrial strife and political conflict in Australia led him to formulate an analogy between war neurosis and the psychological causes of industrial unrest. Arguing that the worker's morale depended on his perception of the social function of his work, Mayo believed that the solution to industrial unrest lay in sociological research and industrial management, not radical politics. Mayo travelled to the USA in 1922 where a Rockefeller grant enabled him as a research associate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School to investigate high labour turnover at a textile mill. The results of the work led to his appointment as associate professor at the Harvard School of Business Administration in 1926. Mayo became Professor of Industrial Research in 1929. While at Harvard Mayo was closely involved with the investigations into the personal and social factors determining work output at the Western Electric Company's Chicago Plant (the Hawthorne experiments). The results were groundbreaking studies in modern social research.
Mayo retired from Harvard in 1947 and retired to England were he died in 1949 in Guildford, Surrey.


The papers are divided into 3 series:
Mayo 1/1-20 Letters from G Elton Mayo to Dorothea Mayo, 1913-1937;
Mayo 2/1-12 Letters from G Elton Mayo to his daughters, Patricia and Gael, 1929-1947;
Mayo 3/1-3 Offprints and SSRC report on the Mayo papers at the Baker Library, Harvard.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposited by the family

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue available.

Archivist's Note

Sources: Copied from LSE Archives CALM database by Anna Towlson.

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