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Papers of William Edlin (1878-1947)

Identifier: RG 251

Scope and Content Note

This collection relates to Edlin’s position as the editor of The Day as well as his work with various Socialist, labor and Zionist organizations. It contains correspondence and other materials pertaining to individuals including Jacob P. Adler, Nathan Ausubel, Joseph Barondess, Herman Bernstein, Menachem Boraisha, Reuben Brainin, Abraham Cahan, Abraham Coralnick, Jacob de Haas, Eugene Debs, Celia Dropkin, Isadora Duncan, Ossip Dymow, Ilya Ehrenburg, Samuel Gompers, Moshe Leib Halpern, Alexander Harkavy, Peretz Hirschbein, Isaac Hourwich, Sol Hurok, Harold Ickes, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Yefim Jeshurin, Bertha and Jacob Kalich, Leon Kobrin, Herbert H. Lehman, Jack London, Joseph Margoshes, Louis Marshall, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., Paul Muni, Moshe Nadir, Shmuel Niger, M. Olgin, Mendel Osherowitch, Molly Picon, David de Sola Pool, Joseph Proskauer, John D. Rockefeller, Hillel Rogoff, Ludwig Satz, Jacob Schiff, Maurice Schwartz, Yente Serdatzky, Sholem Aleichem, Upton Sinclair, Alfred E. Smith, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, Nathan Straus, Jr., Samuel Untermeyer, Baruch Charney Vladeck, Felix Warburg, Chaim Weizmann, President Woodrow Wilson, Rabbi Stephen Wise, Aaron Zeitlin, and Dr. Chaim Zhitlowsky.

There is also correspondence and other materials relating to the Socialist Party and other organizations, among them the American Association for Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union (ICOR), American Jewish Congress, American Labor Party, American ORT Federation, Columbia University, The Day, Educational Alliance, Folksbiene, Morning Freiheit, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Jewish Agency, Jewish National Workers’ Alliance, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Joint Distribution Committee, Keren Hayesod, New York City Board of Education, New York Times, Social Democratic League, Workmen’s Circle, World Zionist Organization, Yiddish Culture Society, Yiddish Writers Union, Zionist Organization of America, and Zukunft.

There are also manuscripts by Edlin, including Edlin's translations into Yiddish of literary works, manuscripts of other writers, such as Peretz Hirschbein and Pinchas Friedlander, newspaper clippings of Edlin's writings, including his column "What is New in the Socialist World" and other articles, financial records, notices of meetings, photographs, a metal printing template for a business card, autobiographical materials, birthday greetings, visiting cards, family correspondence, fundraising appeals, programs, resolutions, minutes, announcements for lectures, reports, bulletins, and speeches. The addendum contains materials from many of the same organizations and individuals found elsewhere in the collection.

This collection would be particularly helpful for those interested in the history of The Day and Yiddish newspaper publishing, Yiddish theater in America, the history and development of various communal institutions, and WWI-era Socialism and Zionism. The collection dates from 1894-1948, with three items from 1960-1969.


  • Creation: 1894-1948, 1960-1969

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Yiddish and Russian, with some French, German, Hebrew, and Czech.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part of parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIO Archives.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

YIVO Archives, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

William Edlin was born in Priluki, Poltawa Province, Ukraine on May 3, 1878 to Paltiel Nochim and Miriam (Borodinsky) Edlin. He attended cheder until he was 12, at which point his family immigrated to the United States, settling in San Francisco in 1891. Edlin attended public evening school for two years and then enrolled at Stanford University, where he was greatly influenced by Socialist ideas.

At the end of 1896, he came to New York and began writing articles for English and Yiddish Socialist publications, including Abend Blatt (Evening Paper), as well as writing a book, The Coming Social Struggle (1897). He also was involved in the Socialist Labor Party, and was the assistant editor of The People in 1900. He became the manager of the Folks Tsaytung (Peoples Paper) in 1899 and later helped to found the weekly Social Democrat, for which he was the first editor, along with several other break-away members of the Socialist Labor Party, including B. Feigenbaum, Leon Kobrin, B. Weinstein, A. Kaspe, Morris Hillquit, as well as Abe Cahan and Morris Winchevsky. After the Social Democrat ceased publication, Edlin began working at The Jewish Daily Forward, where he was the editor from 1902-1903 and also wrote a weekly column about drama and music. He edited the Haverhill Social Democrat in Haverhill, MA, 1901, was the editor of the Capmakers’ Journal in Yiddish and English from 1902-1905, wrote for the Abendpost (Evening Post), the Jewish Daily Herald, 1903-1904, and the Morgn Zhurnal (Jewish Morning Journal), 1904-1913, for which he was also the drama and music editor.

Edlin helped to found the Workmen's Circle and was the General Secretary in 1913-1914. He supported Yiddish cultural activities and more widespread labor education through lecture tours and publications. He was later involved in the educational commission of the Workmen's Circle and served as the president. In late 1914, Mr. Edlin became city editor of Der Tog (The Day) newspaper and served as editor-in-chief from 1916 to 1925. He resigned from The Day in 1925 and became the National Executive Secretary of the Keren Hayesod in the U.S.A. from 1925-1928. He returned to The Day as editor-in-chief in 1929.

Edlin was also involved with music and theater. His book, Velt-Berimte Operas (World-Famous Operas) (1907) discusses and critiques popular Italian, French and German operas as well as music and opera in general. Der Yid (The Jew) was a four-act play, written with L. Cooperman in 1911, and was one of several plays Edlin wrote, including Mentshn in Keytn (Men in Chains), which was going to be performed in Jacob P. Adler’s People’s Theater with Adler playing a role in 1912, although this ultimately did not happen. Edlin was also president of the New York Foreign Film Critics, president of the I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers Union, a prominent member of the Zionist Organization of America, and a translator of various works of fiction and history, including Ellen Thomas’ two-volume History of the United States (1912).

Edlin married Sarah Boudianoff in New York City in 1901 and they were divorced in 1912. He married Pauline (Polia) Zeltzer in 1912 and their daughter Charmian was born 1914. William Edlin died in New York November 30, 1947.


7.5 Linear Feet


This collection contains the personal and professional papers of William Edlin, editor of The Day and a prominent Socialist. It includes correspondence with individuals and with organizations, newspaper clippings, manuscripts of works by Edlin and by others as well as translations done by Edlin, and some of Edlin’s personal documents. These materials relate to Edlin’s involvement with The Day, with the Socialist Party, the Workmen’s Circle, various labor and Zionist organizations, literary clubs and activities, and with music, art and drama.


David Wolfson arranged the collection and created an index, which he divided into three sections representing more of an intellectual arrangement rather than a physical arrangement. These sections were: correspondence with individuals; correspondence with organizations, institutions, schools, publishers, and correspondence by subject; and personal materials, including manuscripts and articles. Materials in the index are often cross-listed by both organization and by individual. The index lists the language of the materials as Y for Yiddish, E for English and R for Russian.

The physical arrangement of the collection is in five series and an addendum, which is not represented in David Wolfson’s index, and is arranged by subject. The correspondence is arranged in a general alphabetical order, as is the addendum.

  1. Series I: Personal Materials, 1896-1948
  2. Series II: Correspondence with Organizations, 1897-1947
  3. Series III: Family Correspondence, 1896-1947, 1969
  4. Series IV: Correspondence with Individuals, 1894-1943, 1960
  5. Series V: Manuscripts, 1900-1938, undated
  6. Series VI: Addendum, 1915-1948, 1962

Acquisition Information

Donated to YIVO by Mrs. Charmian Cohn, daughter of William Edlin, in 1949.

Other Finding Aids

There is an index created by David Wolfson in the front of the first box, which reflects an intellectual arrangement in three sections.

Related Material

The YIVO Library has Edlin’s book about opera and his book The Coming Social Struggle as well as many books and other materials about Socialism, Zionism and labor. Edlin’s correspondence and records of his activities as well as the activities of organizations with which he was involved can be found in Records of The Day-Morning Journal, RG 639; Records of the Workmen’s Circle, RG 575; Records of the I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers’ Union, RG 701; Papers of Abraham Coralnick, RG 321 and the personal collections of many Yiddish writers, particularly those who wrote for, or were otherwise connected with, The Day.

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Processing information

David Wolfson originally processed the collection in 1974. Additional processing was completed in 2012.

Guide to the Papers of William Edlin (1878-1947) 1894-1948, 1960-1969 RG 251
Processed by David Wolfson. Additional processing by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States