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Alfred F. Young Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Young

Scope and Content of the Collection

Mainly Young’s research working files and notes, together with his manuscripts of his writings, correspondence, and the works of historian colleagues. Most of this material focuses on Young’s research into the lives of everyday people, especially in Boston and New England. His correspondence with historians, graduate students, and others reveals his importance to many as a professional colleague and mentor.

Young’s research working files are boxed alphabetically by major topic as they were kept by Young. The research files also contain correspondence and writings of Young and his colleagues, also as they were kept by Young. Elizabeth Young, a daughter of Young, corresponded semi regularly with her father on historical matters. Folder titles placed in quotation marks signify titles of Young's that are considered harmful or outdated in today's culture. Where these titles cannot be changed, they have been included in their original form.


  • Creation: 1930-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 1990



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Alfred F. Young Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Alfred F. Young Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Alfred F. Young

Alfred Fabian Young was born in New York City in 1925 to Gerson Yungowitz and Fanny Denitzen. His parents divorced when he was young and he was mainly raised by his mother. After graduating high school at 16, Young enrolled in Queens College for his undergraduate, graduating in 1946. In 1952, Young married Marilyn Mills, with whom he raised three daughters.

Upon completing his Master's degree at Columbia, he moved on to Northwestern, eventually earning his PhD. He began his career at Northern Illinois University in 1964. During his 25-year career there, he became one of the institution’s most influential scholars, redefining the study of America’s founding by emphasizing the role of ordinary people. His widely acclaimed published works include The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Beacon Press, 2000), Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (Vintage, 2005), and Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution (NYU Press, 2006).

In addition to his academic duties, Young also promoted history among the general public. During the nation’s 1976 Bicentennial, he took his slideshow about Revolutionary era artisans on the road, and years later worked on an American Social History Project video about Boston shoemaker George Robert Twelves Hewes. Young also co-curated “We the People,” a Chicago Historical Society exhibition that ran from 1987-2005.

Young spent much of his retirement as a Senior Scholar in Residence at the Newberry. There he helped create a vibrant scholarly community and assisted in founding the library’s Early American History Seminar, one of the Newberry’s longest continuously running scholarly gatherings.


11.5 Linear Feet (11 cartons and one media box)


Research working files, correspondence, and writings of Alfred F. Young, prominent historian of the ordinary people of the American Revolution and mentor to a whole generation of younger scholars. Young taught for over 25 years at Northern Illinois University and after his retirement was a senior research fellow at the Newberry Library.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence and Personal Papers
Box 1
Series 2: Research Files
Boxes 1-10
Series 3: Works
Boxes 10-11
Series 4: Audiovisual Materials
Media Box 1

Collection Stack Location

1 41 7


Donated by Marilyn M. Young to the Newberry Library in 2015.

Processed by

Emily Richardson, 2020.

Inventory of the Alfred F. Young Papers, 1930-2012, bulk 1960-1990
Emily Richardson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States