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Leo A. Lerner Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: GDG
Date: Jul 1966

Biographical History

Leo Lerner (1907-1965) was an American newspaper editor and publisher. Born in Chicago on September 20, 1907 (the eldest of ten children), he attended the Chicago Public Schools, Crane Technical High School and Northwestern University, finishing there in 1928 with the help of a scholarship. In 1929 he married Deana Duskin, with whom he had three children, Louis, Robert and Rosanne.

In addition to their home on Marine Drive in Chicago, the Lerners owned the Kettle Moraine Farm in North Lake, Wisconsin.

Leo Lerner's career in the newspaper business began while he was still attending Northwestern University, when he was Night Editor of the Daily Northwestern for two years and Drama Editor for a like period. During the period 1924-28, he filled various editorial positions on the Morton Grove News, the Lincoln Belmont Booster and the North Side Sunday Citizen. He then became a co-partner of A. O. Caplan in the management of sixteen papers, which included most of the earlier group and were known as the Myers Newspapers, with a total circulation at that time of 219,000. Other papers were slowly added. By 1949, after more reorganization, Lerner was President and Treasurer of the group ever since known as the Chicago Northside Newspapers. Growth continued, and by 1958 Lerner was President, Editor, and Publisher, controlling the Myers Publishing Co., the Lincoln Belmont Publishing Co., the Times Home Newspapers (J. L. Johnson Publishing Co.) and the Neighbor Press of Chicago. The following is a list of papers published by the various divisions of the Chicago Northside Newspapers:

Booster Newspapers:
Times Home Newspapers:
Myers Newspapers:

Lerner was deeply involved in public service throughout his life and was active in many social and civic organizations in the Chicago area. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Chicago Public Library on November 13, 1936, and remained until 1947, serving as Director after 1943 and greatly expanding and improving the service. In 1940-1941 he was President of the Citizens Schools Committee, which was instrumental in combating corruption and raising the educational standards in Chicago. He was a member of the Americans for Democratic Action, a founder of the liberal Independent Voters of Illinois (1943), a director of the Lincoln-Belmont YMCA, and a member of various hospital improvement groups. During World War II he sponsored and aided a number of European refugees to the United States. He was a member of the Cancer Prevention Center of Chicago from 1958 until his death, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1962.

Lerner also helped found Roosevelt University, and taught a journalism course there. From 1950 to 1960 he served as president of its Board of Trustees. In 1960 he joined the Board of Trustees of the Scandinavian Seminar, a plan providing nine months of study in any Scandinavian country for qualified students. In 1962, Lerner became a member of the Board of the Chicago Better Business Bureau, and in March of that year he was appointed to the Illinois Parole and Pardon Board. In 1964 President Johnson invited him to join the Citizens Advisory Board of the Community Relations Service.

Active in professional organizations, Lerner was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Commission in 1955, the Illinois Press Association, National Editorial Association, American Political Science Association, and the Institute of General Semantics. Much in demand as a speaker and author, he also wrote a large number of speeches and articles, and four books: Continental Journey, written during his 1947 tour of Europe, The Itch of Opinion (1956), The Italics Are Mine (1960), and The Truth Ripens, finished just before his death. In addition, he was co-author of Lincoln of the Ages (1960).

Lerner was recognized many times for his contributions both to journalism and to the civic and social life of Chicago. He was the only neighborhood newspaperman accredited by the State Department to cover the United Nations Conference at San Francisco in 1945, and the following year he received the Decalogue Society of Lawyers' Annual Award of Merit. 1961 brought him the Chicago Medal of Merit, presented by Mayor Daley. In 1937 he received the first Editorial Award presented by the Illinois Press Association. He also was the recipient of the National Herrick Award in 1951 and the Publisher of the Year Award in 1953.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Leo A. Lerner Papers consist of correspondence, general subject files, manuscripts and other writings, memorabilia, published materials, and tape recordings. Part of the collection is a separate accession which has not been integrated with the main collection; this material is identified by "(1979 addition)."

Main Collection

The main part of the collection consists of general subject files, personal files, manuscripts, published materials, and tape recordings.

General subject files consists of correspondence, brochures, clippings, reports, memoranda and some housekeeping records. The papers relate to such subjects as business, politics, city, county, state, national and international affairs, colleagues, universities and schools, and religious organizations. Especially noteworthy are the files concerning the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, the Cancer Prevention Center of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Education and the Citizens Schools Committee, the Elmer Gertz folder (for its inclusion of news clippings and correspondence on the Chicago censorship case of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer), the Illinois Parole Board, Roosevelt University, Stevenson for President, and the United Nations.

Personal files consists of correspondence, a subject file and journals. Correspondence concerns personal affairs and includes related clippings, mementos, etc. The folders are arranged chronologically. The subject file consists of materials relating to books, trips, and tours, awards, photographs, homes, automobiles, letters to his wife and misc. unidentified papers and notes. The letters to his wife were written during his participation in the 1945 United Nations Conference and contain impressions of people and events. Journals consist of undated personal notebooks and pocket calendars for 1944-1964.

Manuscripts contains speeches, articles, editorial material and misc. materials relating to these manuscripts.

Published materials consist of articles by Leo Lerner, articles about Leo Lerner and miscellaneous published materials.

Tape recordings consist of five tapes made for radio broadcasts. One bears the date 1961 and the remaining four are undated.

1979 Additions

The 1979 additions consist of correspondence, memorabilia, printed material, and writings. Correspondence section includes business, congratulatory and personal subheadings which range from 1927 to 1966. Within this period there is a typed letter signed by Adlai Stevenson and photocopied letters signed by Senator Claude Pepper, Mayor Daly, and Franklin Roosevelt. Memorabilia consists of awards, memorial material of Mr. Lerner and several photographs. Printed material covers a large variety of subjects, and includes four of Mr. Lerner's books, a wide range of editorials, some tape recordings, and other miscellaneous written material.

Arrangement of the Collection

Manuscripts are arranged chronologically by year, 1941-1962, with some undated materials located at the end. Published materials are arranged chronologically within each group, undated materials appearing at the end.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Lerner, Leo Alfred, 1907-1965 -- Archives.


Journalists -- United States.
Newspaper editors -- United States.
Newspaper publishing -- United States.
Newspapers -- Section, columns, etc. -- Editorials.
Publishers and publishing -- United States.


Chicago (Ill.) -- Archival resources.
Chicago (Ill.) -- Politics and government.
Illinois -- Politics and government.

Genres and Forms

Calendars (documents)
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Leo A. Lerner Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Leo Lerner, Feb. 17, 1966.

Table of Contents

General Subject File

Personal File


Published Materials

Tape Recordings

Correspondence (1979 addition)

Memorabilia (1979 addition)

Printed material (1979 addition)

Writings (1979 addition)