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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Adamson takes a job as secretary to Walter Lippmann

After a series of secretarial positions, Adamson began working as Walter Lippmann's secretary, and during her time with him, she helped type the manuscripts of two of his books, met a series of important people including Wendell Wilkie and Admiral Byrd, and learned more about America's political and social elite.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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While I was still there, a friend of a friend came to see me and said that her husband-somehow in the same Long Island society that Walter Lippmann and his wife had moved in and she knew-that he was looking for a secretary and had asked her if she knew anybody to recommend. She came to see me, and on the basis of a mutual acquaintance, she gave me an introduction to him. We made arrangements about my going down to Washington to interview him.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He was with the New York Herald Tribune, and he was the Washington correspondent?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
No, his newspaper column-"Today and Tomorrow" wassyndicated by the New York Herald Tribune. He had an office in the Herald Tribune building in New York, but he lived in Washington. So it was a matter of working in Washington and occasionally going to the office in New York City. He agreed to hire me,his contract with the Herald Tribune including their providing him with a secretary and a research assistant, so that I was on the payroll of the New York Herald Tribune. But I was really under the entire supervision of Mr. Lippmann. So he worked in the library in his home in Georgetown in Washington, and the research assistant and secretary had an office in a room built over the garage in the back.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who was the research assistant?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I beg your pardon?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You worked as the research assistant?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
No, he had two people working for him, a secretary and a research assistant. By that time, my shorthand was good enough so that I had no problems about that. I worked for him there for three and a half years. During that time, I had some very interesting experiences. The first summer that I went to work for him, they had rented Admiral Byrd's summer place up on Mt. Desert in Maine. So I went up there for that summer. I lived in a farmhouse close by and went over to work with him. The Lippmanns were always very civil to me. Well, that was it. He knew about social procedures, they knew how to behave correctly.They both, and I, liked to walk, and we were apt to go out, not walking together-we did not infringe on each other's territory although I was occasionally invited to stay for lunch when I was over there working. Anyhow, we did stay there. Then the other interesting trips that I had with him, I went to both of the national political conventions during the course of the time, one when Roosevelt was nominated in Chicago for his, it must have been, third term. I've forgotten about it. Anyhow, we were there for the entire time of the convention. Then when Wendell Wilkie was nominated by the Republicans in Philadelphia, we went to that trip also. Then in 1941, it was obvious about the war developing and that the United States was becoming more and more involved in it. He wanted to go on a trip on the west coast to see what the war installations, the war industry were. So I came with him because he was writing all of the time his column, you see, was. I've forgotten how long that trip was, about a month, I think. Anyhow, we were in the Pasadena-Los Angeles area and then on up to Seattle and Portland and back. It was a very interesting experience for me.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, this was the first time you had lived in Washington or attended political conventions? You were really sort of thrust into the mainstream of what was going on.
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
That's right. I remember my first vote was for Roosevelt. I registered and voted in New York, and I voted for him. But that was the extent of my knowledge of political affairs. I just had not been in any contact with them at all whereas in Washington Lippmann knew everybody. He wanted me to come down and work in his office there for a few days before we went to Maine so that I would be adjusted to it. I went down on a trip with him to Washington. I was quite thrust in the middle of things. He said that what he wanted to do on that day or two that he was going to be there was he wanted to see Roosevelt, and he wanted to see Dean Atchison who was Secretary of State- oh, Cornell Hull, I guess it was, the Secretary of State. But Dean Atchison was a friend, so he said to call up and see when he could come to get appointments (Laughter) . . . [END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B] [TAPE 3, SIDE A] [START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
. . . all three of the gentlemen, you see, did see him on that trip. He was an important person in Washington, and there was much talk that he was to be Secretary of State. Then there's been gossip-if you're at all interested in that period-that he got very cross with Roosevelt because he didn't get the appointment. I don't know what truth there was about it at all. Anyhow, he didn't favor the Roosevelt administration as it went along in the later part of it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you tend to see eye to eye with him politically?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
No. He had been a socialist at Harvard, as you know. You remember his background, that he was Lincoln Stephen's protege brought from Harvard. He was very sophisticated politically. He was not aligned at that time, so far as I know, in politics in any way. But I learned a lot from him. I typed the two books that he wrote during the time that I worked with him. When the research assistant would be away, I had to double as the research assistant, just as she had to double for me when I was on vacation. I learned a lot with him, and I was occasionally invited to their social gatherings-a couple of dinner parties, you know, the formal dinner parties kind of thing. They were nice. I got an orientation towards the political scene and the social scene that was very helpful to me.