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Howard Belding Gill papers

Collection MS-1995-018: Howard Belding Gill papers


  • Creation: 1912 - 1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1929 - 1970

Scope and Contents

The Howard Belding Gill papers consist of the personal and professional papers of penologist Howard Belding Gill (1890-1989). These include artifacts, audiovisual materials, awards and certificates, clippings, correspondence, notes, photographs, photograph albums, scrapbooks, and typescript, manuscript, and carbon copy drafts of writings and speeches. The bulk of the materials document Gill’s professional career, with very little of a personal nature in the collection. A small selection of papers belonging to Isabelle Kendig, Gill’s wife, likewise pertain to her professional career as a psychologist.

The records of Norfolk Prison Colony are an integral part of this collection. From 1927-1934, Gill served as superintendent of this groundbreaking institution, and his years there are documented in administrative records, correspondence, clippings, scrapbooks, writings about the institution, and records of the investigation which cost him the position in 1934. Blueprints, photograph albums, and artifacts provide an interesting visual record of life at the prison. Gill had an ongoing interest in Norfolk, and records in this series continue until 1985 (with the bulk dating from 1929-1934). District of Columbia records include District Jail administrative correspondence, memos, and reports, the majority of which were compiled during an investigation into Gill’s tenure as Superintendent of Prisons from 1944-1946.

Audiovisual materials consist of taped lectures and complement the class materials, which include administrative records, correspondence, lecture notes, class plans and syllabi, and student papers. Class materials illuminate Gill’s career as both a student and a professor, consisting of his own papers and notes from his doctoral work in sociology at the University of Maryland (1948-1949); his administrative records and lecture notes from the University of Wisconsin, where he worked as a lecturer of sociology (1949-1952); and the substantial records of the Institute of Correctional Administration, which Gill founded and where he served as director from 1952-1970.

Gill was a popular consultant on topics relating to prisons, correctional training and education, and criminology for over six decades, and his consulting records include correspondence and memos, project proposals and reports, and survey instruments. He also wrote and spoke frequently on these topics, and the collection includes speeches and conference notes as well as writings in many formats. Gill’s subject files document his main areas of interest, including capital punishment, juvenile delinquency, and the history of penology, and contain clippings, printed materials, correspondence, notes, reports, syllabi, and bibliographies.

Biographical materials include drafts of Gill’s autobiography, resumes and curriculum vitae, transcripts of interviews, clippings, and a small amount of material related to Gill’s house in Nantucket, “The Wild Goose.” General correspondence dates from 1926-1987 and was arranged by Gill either by correspondent or by subject, an arrangement that has been retained. The majority of general correspondence is with other criminologists and penologists.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research; portions available digitally.

Selected student materials and prisoner records are closed due to privacy restrictions, including the entirety of the Institute of Correctional Administration student materials.

Recordings on audiotape reel are not available for playback due to format impermanence and have not been reformatted. Please let Reading Room staff know of your specific interest, and if possible, reformatting will be scheduled.

Roughly a third of this collection suffered water damage as well as insect and vermin damage. Materials have been surface cleaned, but legibility may be affected, and inactive mold may be present. Researchers sensitive to allergens may wish to wear gloves while handling these papers.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical note: Institute of Correctional Administration

Howard Belding Gill founded the Institute of Correctional Administration (ICA) at George Washington University in 1952. It relocated to American University in 1958. Just prior to Gill’s retirement from American University in 1970, the Institute was subsumed into American University’s Center for the Administration of Justice, overseen by law professor Dr. Nicholas Kittrie. The Institute provided training to correctional officers and administrators both in Washington D.C. and at various off-campus locations such as military bases and other universities.

Biographical note

Howard Belding Gill (1890-1989) was a nationally renowned penologist and prison administrator for over six decades. He is perhaps best-known as the first superintendent of the pioneering Norfolk Prison Colony, which aimed to prepare inmates for life in the outside world with vocational training and dormitory-style living arrangements. Gill was born in Lockport, New York, and graduated from Harvard University in 1913. He received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1914, and for the next ten years pursued a career in business, working in real estate development in the Larchwood and Coolidge Hill sections of Cambridge and serving as the Executive Secretary for the Massachusetts Board of Trade, and on the Board of Trade in Cambridge. A political Progressive, he campaigned with wife Isabelle Kendig for U.S. participation in the League of Nation’s World Court in 1923 and in 1924 campaigned for Progressive presidential candidate Robert La Follette. After the election, he remained in Washington D.C. and opened a consulting business specializing in research for commerce and industry. The federal Commission on Prison Labor commissioned a study of prison industries from Gill’s firm in the early 1920s. Although Secretary of State Herbert Hoover was reportedly displeased with their findings, Gill had attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and in 1927 he was appointed the superintendent of the Norfolk Prison Colony in Massachusetts. From 1927 to 1934 Gill served as superintendent, overseeing the design, construction, and innovatory social policies of the prison. Norfolk deviated from the usual radial cell-block design and instead featured dormitories around a quadrangle, with its own library, community center, hospital, chapel, and workshops. In April 1934, amidst charges that he was unable to maintain discipline and coddled prisoners, Gill was ousted from his position by Governor Joseph Ely and Corrections Commissioner Frederick J. Dillon.

Gill returned to D.C. as the assistant to the Director of Federal Prisons and continued to advocate for prison reform, serving as the Superintendent of Prisons in Washington D.C. from 1944 to 1946 and establishing the Institute of Correctional Administration (ICA) there in 1952. He led the ICA as director from 1952 to 1970 and published widely on the subjects of penology and criminology, which he also taught at George Washington University, American University, the University of Wisconsin, and others. Gill frequently guest lectured at Boston College, where his longtime friend Benedict S. Alper was Professor of Criminology. Gill was a consultant on prison architecture and programming for Panama and Puerto Rico, as well as for the U.S. Department of Corrections, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. He received the Presidential Citation of the American Society of Criminology, the Corrections Conference Award of the Welfare Council of Washington, and the Austin McCormick Award from the National Jail Association. In 1984, the American Correctional Association established the Howard B. Gill Award to honor his legacy. Gill died at his home in Chestnut Hill in 1989.

Isabelle Virginia Kendig (1889-1974) was a psychologist known for her work with social issues. She received her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin in 1912. Kendig and Gill married in 1915. In the 1920s, Kendig was a key organizer for the National Woman’s Party and spent six weeks in Mississippi in 1922 promoting women’s suffrage legislation. She was research secretary for the National Council for Prevention of War in 1923-1924 and also served in an administrative capacity for the League for Preventative Work.

After receiving her Masters and PhD from Radcliffe in 1933, Kendig used her maiden name professionally while working at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, and as a lecturer at George Washington University, Catholic University, and the Washington School of Psychiatry. When Gill taught at the University of Wisconsin in 1948-1949, Kendig served as the Chief Psychologist at the Veterans’ Administration hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin. She became Chief Clinical Psychologist of the VA hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in the early 1950s. From approximately 1959-1964, she worked as a research psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health. She and Gill had four children. Kendig died in Nantucket in 1974.


Fry, Amelia R. “Conversations with Alice Paul: Woman Suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment,” Suffragists Oral History Project, 1976. (accessed August 18, 2012).

“Howard Gill, 99, Dies; Authority on Prisons.” New York Times, April 12, 1989.

Isabelle V. Kendig Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. (accessed August 18, 2012).

Johnsen, Thomas C. “Vita: Howard Belding Gill: Brief Life of a Prison Reformer: 1890-1989.” Harvard Magazine (Sept.-Oct. 1999).

Prout, Curtis, and Robert N. Ross. Care and Punishment: The Dilemmas of Prison Medicine. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988, 21-40.

Taylor, Jerry. “Obituaries: Howard Belding Gill, Pioneer in Modern U.S. Penology; at 99.” Boston Globe, April 12, 1989, 55.


65.25 Linear Feet (117 containers)

71 Gigabytes (127 files with approximately 36.5 hours of audio)

Language of Materials



The Howard Belding Gill papers consist of the personal and professional papers of penologist Howard Belding Gill (1890-1989). These include artifacts, audiovisual materials, awards and certificates, clippings, correspondence, lecture notes, photographs, photograph albums, scrapbooks, speeches, and writings and publications. The bulk of the materials document Gill’s professional career, notably as superintendent of Norfolk Prison Colony (1927-1934) and as founder and director of the Institute of Correctional Administration (1952-1970). There are also materials relating generally to prisons, clinical criminology, and corrections.


This collection is arranged alphabetically in fifteen series: I. Artifacts; II. Audiovisual materials; III. Awards and certificates; IV. Biographical materials; V. Class materials; VI. Clippings; VII. Consulting work; VIII. District of Columbia records; IX. General correspondence; X. Isabelle Kendig papers; XI. Norfolk Prison Colony records; XII. Photographs; XIII. Speeches and public appearances; XIV. Subject files and research notes; XV. Writings and publications.

Series II. Audiovisual materials are arranged in three subseries: A. Audiocassettes; B. Audiotapes; C. Edison Voice Writer phonograph records. Series V. Class materials are arranged in three subseries: A. Institute of Correctional Administration; B. University of Maryland; C. University of Wisconsin. Series IX. General correspondence is arranged in two subseries, A. Named correspondents and B. Subject correspondence. Series XI. Norfolk Prison Colony records are arranged in eight subseries: A. Administrative records; B. Artifacts and artwork; C. Correspondence; D. Investigation records; E. Newsletters; F. Photographs; G. Scrapbooks and clippings; and H. Writings and studies about Norfolk.

Original order has been maintained where possible, reflecting Gill's particular thought processes and working methods.


Donated by Benjamin Gill, September 1989.

Existence of digital copies

Portions of this collection are available digitally. Links are included in the inventory.

Related Materials

Isabelle V. Kendig Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.

Massachusetts State Prison Colony records. Massachusetts Archives.

Processing Information

Two framed cork boards with charts appearing to pertain to Gill's Norfolk Prison Colony work were located after processing and are presumed to be part of Gill's papers. They have been added to Series XI. Norfolk Prison Colony.

  • Removed 20 blank diplomas recognizing graduates of the Institute of Youth Relations from the Institute of Correctional Administration series.
  • Norfolk Prison Colony records including correspondence, notes, copies of reports, and brochures. American University publications and correspondence.
  • Dust jacket for "We Call Them Criminals" by Ralph Banay, 1957.
  • Original mimeograph stencils for "Correction's Sacred Cows" in the speeches series.
  • Four pieces of miscellaneous junk mail.
  • Class photograph of the 22nd Institute of Correctional Administration.
  • The Colony, Vol 6 No 24, 1935 December
  • Junk mail (communication workshop brochure) and American University instructor's grade sheet (identifying student and grade for the course) removed from correspondence series.
  • Ad for textbook, "Prison Administration"
  • Blank audio materials, including thirteen Edison Electronic Voicewriter discs and two 7-inch Ampex sound tape reels.
  • Resumes and cover letters, some with Social Security Numbers.
  • Damaged copy of Gerald Fitzpatrick's address
  • Partial page of water-damaged notes.
Howard Belding Gill Papers
Stephanie Bennett, Alexandra Bisio, and Adrienne Pruitt
August 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States