Ted Carlson Papers – Scope and Content Note & Container List

OK, the next element of the Ted Carlson Papers finding aid is the Scope and Content Note and the Container List. This is a little unique, because I have been working on digital scans of the original artifacts. Note that I’ll also be working to refine the earlier elements of the finding aid, to make this as effective as possible. Watch for more info on that…

Scope & Content Note

The Ted Carlson Papers, dated 1943-1949, contains personal letters, records of Carlson’s higher education and early professional career, and official documents related to his military service. Correspondence to and from Ted Carlson comprise a majority of the material. The letters depict the life of a university student, professional and serviceman during this period. Official military records portray the experiences of a chemist and member of the Manhattan Project.

Container List

Series I: Correspondence with Family (1944-1949) – This series includes letters received from and addressed to Ted Carlson’s parents. The letters contain personal reflections, details from each of their lives, and information about Ted’s educational and professional experiences. In addition, Ted shares his experiences in the Manhattan project along with how those experiences shaped his personal and political views.

Series II:  Correspondence with Friends and Colleagues (1943-1945) – In the correspondence with friends and colleagues series are letters exchanged with Rog, Bob, Sam and Arvid. These letters details the movements of the individuals, and their daily experiences. These individuals were introduced in either educational settings or through the military service.

Series III: Education and Career (1944-1946) – This series contains correspondence with administrators at Wesleyan University and Iowa State University, regarding admission and graduation. There is a professional newsletter that includes writing about Ted Carlson’s political activity. Additionally, there is a variety of pragmatic documents, including an ID card from Iowa State University, a timecard from Iowa State University, and an employee inter-plant pass.

Series IV: Military Service (1944-1946)- This series contains a variety of official documents related to Ted Carlson’s military service. Included in this series are official orders, various service-member passes, verification of services, and correspondence requesting clarification of policies or discharge.


Ted Carlson Papers – Abstract and Description

This is the first post in a series focused on a new project! The Ted Carlson Papers are a collection of documents that I will be exploring as part of the Archives and Manuscript course!


For this first step, I was given a set of 71 PDFs, and asked to pull together an abstract and description, which will eventually be incorporated into the EAD (encoded archival description).

The trick… I was not allowed to do any outside searching. The abstract and description that are included below came only from my scouring the 71 documents! I have to admit that as I was looking through the collection, I was very curious about the whole story. I felt like I had only part of the story… and I definitely wanted to know more!


The collection is comprised primarily of personal letters to and from Eric T. Carlson (a.k.a. Ted Carlson), a chemist who worked on atomic energy during World War II. During the time covered by the collection (February, 1943 – December, 1949), Carlson was affiliated with Wesleyan University, Iowa State University, Cornell University, the Manhattan District and Monsanto Chemical Company.


In 1943, Eric T. [Ted] Carlson was planning his future. He had applied to medical school and was completing his studies in Chemistry at Wesleyan University. The Ted Carlson Papers highlight the struggle of an academic, who tried to obtain a deferment from military service. Just one month after his graduation from Wesleyan University, Ted was ordered to report for service. He successfully avoided joining the army until July, 1944 when he received an order to report for induction in Aimes, Iowa. Ted had been working as a graduate student at Iowa State University.

During Ted’s time in the Army, he continued to correspond with his parents and friends. The letters provide insights into life as a researcher in the military. Ted shares his political insights, his experiences with friends in social situations, and he talks of his stamp collection, among other topics.

Ted’s skills as a chemist were deployed in the “Manhattan District.” Readers are given a glimpse into a scientists view of the atomic bomb research. He believes the atomic research should be a deterrent for war, and hopes the bomb will cause humanity to walk away from war for good.