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Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight: Addition to the Mathematical Association of America Records

Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight: Addition to the Mathematical Association of America Records

By Kristy Sorensen

Almost two linear feet of historical materials from the Mathematical Association of America Headquarters have recently been donated to the Archives of American Mathematics as part of the Mathematical Association of America Records. The materials range in date from the late 1890s to the 1960s, and primarily consist of files from H. E. Slaught, H. M. Gehman, Walter B. Carver, and W. D. Cairns.


Charter of Incorporation, for the Mathematical Association of America with the Secretary of State of Illinois September 8, 1920. From the Mathematical Association of America Records, Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

These papers were found almost a year ago by Executive Director Tina Straley in the basement of the MAA Headquarters building as it was being cleaned out for some planned renovation work. Dr. Straley immediately recognized the importance of the records and arranged with Don Albers to have them sent to the Archives of American Mathematics.

Highlights of the records include:

  • Original charter of incorporation, state of Illinois (1920)
  • Pre-MAA correspondence relating to the American Mathematical Monthly, including correspondence between founder B. F. Finkel and managing editor H. E. Slaught
  • Correspondence debating and establishing the Mathematical Association of America as a distinct organization from the American Mathematical Society
  • Early meeting minutes from the Board of Governors (1920-1928)
  • Membership lists and lists of officers


Receipt for a subscription to the American Mathematical Monthly, dated February 10, 1897 made out to Lewis Newkirk, and signed by the journal's founder Benjamin Finkel. From the Mathematical Association of America Records, Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

A brief history lesson may help put this addition in context. The American Mathematical Monthly was established in 1894 by Benjamin F. Finkel as a journal for teachers of mathematics, primarily at the high school level. By 1913, he had teamed up with H. E. Slaught of Chicago and gained the financial support of a consortium of fourteen Midwestern universities. Because this financial support was not permanent, Slaught raised the possibility of the Monthly becoming an official journal of the American Mathematical Society in 1915. This was a hotly contested issue at the time, as many felt expanding the mission of the AMS was a bad idea. The AMS eventually declined to sponsor the Monthly, but gave their support to the creation of a new professional organization that would focus on broader mathematical issues. The Mathematical Association of America was established at a December 1915 meeting of 108 interested persons in Columbus, Ohio, presided over by E. R. Hedrick.


Ribbons from the 1950 ICM, which was held at Harvard. The initials, HMG and MBG, at the tops of the ribbons suggest that they belonged to Harry M. Gehman and his wife Marion B. Gehman. Harry Gehman was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the MAA in 1948, and served in that capacity until 1960 when he was appointed the MAA's first Executive Director. At that time the MAA office was located in Gehman's office on the campus of SUNY Buffalo. Given Gehman's leadership position within the MAA in 1950, it seems likely that the ribbons belonged to him and his wife, who were in constant attendance at mathematics meetings. Marion Gehman also worked for the MAA in that early period processing (by hand) membership forms. Sources: The Mathematical Association of America: Its First Fifty Years, by Kenneth O. May; Conversation with Raoul Hailpern on December 2, 2004’Don Albers. From the Mathematical Association of America Records, Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

In 1920 the MAA was incorporated under the laws of the state of Illinois. The MAA has certainly expanded and evolved over the years, but the Monthly is still an integral part of the organization. These records help to document the early history of the Mathematical Association of America, and will be critical in our understanding of the history of the organization.

These papers will be inventoried and incorporated into the general finding aid for the Mathematical Association of America Records, available online at: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/00328/cah-00328.html.

The Archives of American Mathematics is located at the Research and Collections division of the Center for American History on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Persons interested in conducting research or donating materials or who have general questions about the Archives of American Mathematics should contact Kristy Sorensen, Archivist, k.sorensen@mail.utexas.edu, (512) 495-4539. The Archives web page is located at:http://www.cah.utexas.edu/collectioncomponents/math.html

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