Arthur H. Vandenberg Papers

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Arthur H. Vandenberg Papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Arthur H. Vandenberg manuscript collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the online finding.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Republican U.S. Senator from Michigan; advocate of the United Nations and bipartisan foreign policy. This online collection includes digitized versions of analog sound recordings held by the Bentley Historical Library.

Arthur Hendrick Vandenberg was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on March 22, 1884, to Aaron and Alpha (Hendrick) Vandenberg. He graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1900 and studied for a year at the University of Michigan (1900-1901). Although he received numerous honorary law and other degrees later in life, this marked the end of his formal education.

Vandenberg first started out to be a journalist and author. He dropped out of college in 1901 to work full-time at the Grand Rapids Herald, where as a young man he had worked as a copy boy. For a short time he worked at Collier's Weekly magazine in New York, but returned home in 1905 to marry Elizabeth Watson. In 1906, he went back to the Herald, becoming its editor, and after 1919, its financial manager as well. During this period, Vandenberg wrote three books: The Greatest American: Alexander Hamilton (1921), If Hamilton Were Here Today (1923), and The Trail of a Tradition (1926). He remained at the Herald until 1928 when he left for Washington and the U.S. Senate.

In this first phase of his career, Vandenberg was both a newspaperman and a local political figure. He was a member of the Grand Rapids Charter Commission in 1910, a member of the Republican State Central Committee from 1912 to 1918, and chairman of the Republican State Convention in 1916 and 1928 In addition, the editorials he wrote, especially those relating to problems of local government, brought Vandenberg to the public's attention and he became a noteworthy figure in the state Republican party.

In 1928, Vandenberg was appointed to fill a Republican vacancy on the U.S. Senate. He was elected in his own right that same year and then re-elected in 1934, 1940, and 1946. When he died in 1951, he was still in office. During the 72nd Congress Vandenberg was chairman of the Committee on Enrolled Bills, during the 79th he was chairman of the Republican Conference, and during the 80th he was President pro tempore of the Senate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Three times his name came up as a possibility for President of the United States, in 1936, 1940 and again in 1948, although he was never nominated to run.

Although he had been a staunch isolationist, having opposed U.S. participation in the League of Nations during the 1930s, Vandenberg gradually converted his thinking to internationalism. In a speech he made to the Senate in January 1945, he committed himself to the idea of one world, stating that no nation could exist safely on its own and emphasizing that the United States had to be a leader in world affairs. After that speech, President Roosevelt named him a delegate to the charter conference for the United Nations, convened in San Francisco in 1945. Vandenberg also became a delegate to the first and second United Nations General Assemblies in London and New York in 1946. In 1947, he was a delegate to the Pan American Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was actively involved in getting bipartisan support for U.S. ratification of the U.N. Charter in 1945; in winning the Senate's approval of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan; and in forming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, authoring the Vandenberg Resolution which was approved by the Senate in 1948.

In 1906 Vandenberg married Elizabeth Watson, whom he had known for much of his life. Their three children were Arthur Jr., Barbara, and Elizabeth. She died in 1916 and Vandenberg married Hazel Whitaker in 1918. The second Mrs. Vandenberg died in 1950. The senator died of cancer on April 18, 1951, and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Grand Rapids, his lifelong home.

Please note:

Copyright has not been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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