Papers of Lewis Mumford

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Correspondence between Lewis Mumford (12 letters) and William W. Mann (11 letters); articles by Mumford and by Otto Viking

Administrative / Biographical History

Lewis Mumford was born in New York in 1895 and studied at the City College there and at Columbia University. As a student he was greatly influenced by the visionary work of Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) and became passionately interested in city development. Mumford and Geddes corresponded but did not meet as Geddes was working in Palestine and India. Instead Mumford went to London on the invitation of Victor Branford to work as Acting Editor of The Sociological Review and learned from him about the doctrine of social reconstruction. W.W. Mann (1881-19??) was a member of their circle.

On Mumford's return to America in 1922 he wrote his first book The Story of Utopias and became involved in opposition to the official plan for the city of New York, helping to set up the Regional Planning Association of America. In 1923 this body invited Geddes to visit America and the two men met for the first and only time. Geddes saw Mumford as a possible fulltime collaborator and disciple who might take the place of the son he had lost in the First World War. Mumford, on the other hand, wanted Geddes to recognise his new and independent work. Both were disappointed.

Later, and particularly after Geddes' death, Mumford became his principle supporter and the chief advocate of Geddesian thinking. For many years Mumford wrote on a variety of subjects, making connections between literature, philosophy, architecture and town planning. He was connected with various official bodies in these fields including the International Federation for Housing and Town Planning of which he was a Vice President and W.W. Mann was Editorial Secretary. Lewis Mumford died in 1990.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/using/sc-using.asp for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs Joan Cragg

Note

This description was written by Gil Skidmore

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