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Benedict Solomon Alper papers

Collection BC-1994-104: Benedict Solomon Alper papers


  • Creation: 1926 - 1992

Scope and Contents

Benedict Solomon Alper papers primarily document his Boston College scholarship and teaching on the topics of juvenile deliquency and the United States penal system. To a lesser extent the papers cover the experience of his family during World War II and his own as a staff member during the early years of the United Nations.

Academic work in criminology includes Alper's drafts of papers and conference talks, lecture notes, and Boston College correspondence. His writing focuses on corrections for juvenile offenders and the roles of age, race, and social class within the criminal justice system, as well as the economics of spending on corrections rather than public health and human services initiatives.

Alper's photographs of Europe and North Africa along with letters from his wife chronicle the family's experience of World War II during his enlistment. A small number of Army personnel forms included with his personal correspondence show his enrollment, promotion, and discharge from the U.S. Army at the end of the war.

Professional correspondence from the United Nations Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention Unit and materials from the United National Administrative Tribunal, Joint Appeals Board, and Staff Association combine to document Alper's work immediately following his military service and the controversy surrounding a wave of contract terminations, including his own, in 1950-1951.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research. Audio recordings on cassette have been digitally copied; all original media were retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room. Audio recordings on reel are not available for playback due to format impermanence and can not be reformatted by Burns Library at this time. Please let Burns Library Public Services know of your specific interest; when it becomes possible we will schedule reformatting.

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.

Biographical Note

Benedict Solomon Alper, son of Morris and Fredericka (Klatschen) Alper, was born on June 28, 1905, in Revere, Massachuesetts. He was the third of six siblings: Abraham, Theresa, David, Marcus, and Emma. He attended Boston Latin, earned his BA from Harvard College in 1927, and attended the Harvard Institute of Criminal Law 1932-1933. In 1935, he married Ethel Machanic (daughter of Barnet Machanic and Sarah Levin, born September 23, 1908 in Burlington, Vermont), who was a graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (1932). They settled in Brookline, Massachusetts and had one daughter, Fredrika "Rika" Clara, in 1947.

From 1933 to 1935 Alper interned as a probation officer in the Boston Juvenile Court. In the later 1930s he served as research director of the Massachusetts Child Council, following which he worked for the New York State Legislature Committee on the Courts (1941), the American Parole Association (1942), and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In 1943 Alper enlisted in the United States Army and served in World War II. He served 27 months in both North Africa and Italy, and he eventually earned the rank of Major. Among his duties were the administration of five Prisoner of War camps. He later published a book of his experiences, Love and Politics in War Time: Letters to My Wife, 1943-1945 (University of Illinois Press, 1992).

After the war, Alper was the first chief of the United Nations Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention Unit and was active in the creation of the United Nations Staff Association, which advocated for employee rights. His was one of a group of contracts that were not renewed by the United Nations in 1950 without clear cause, and was among the cases that went before the United Nations Administrative Tribunal as the precursor to the loyalty purges of the communist scares that followed the War. The Tribunal reviewed only the question of whether the U.N. Secretary General had to give cause for non-renewal of contracts, and their judgement decided in favor of the United Nations.

From the early 1950s until the early 1960s, Alper was employed by his brothers' food brokerage company, Morris Alper and Sons. In 1965 he returned to working in criminology, first teaching at the New School for Social Research in New York. In 1966 Alper accepted an adjunct faculty position in the Sociology Department at Boston College. In 1971 he became the Visiting Professor of Criminology, a title he held until his retirement in 1993.

Alper published extensively on criminology after returning to academia, including reports, articles, and conference talks. According to the Boston College Chronicle, "Alper was regarded as a pioneer in advocating alternatives to traditional methods of punishment for juvenile offenders." His books included Halfway Houses (1970), Crime: International Agenda: Concern and Action in the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (1972), Prisons Inside-Out (1974), and Beyond the Courtroom: Programs in Community Justice and Conflict Resolution (1981, with Lawrence J. Nicholas).

Alper served on numerous councils and committees. Among these were the American Corrections Association; The Brookline Town Democratic Committee; Massachusetts Governors Committee on Law Enforcement, Correctional Planning, Violence and Crime; and the National Council on Crime and Deliquency.

Alper retired from Boston College in January 1993 due to injuries sustained when he was hit by a car. He was named a professor emirtus. He died in 1994; his wife Ethel predeceased him in 1989.


"Benedict Solomon Alper." Harvard College: Class of 1927 Fortieth Anniversary Report. Harvard University Printing Office, 1967.

Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930.

Smith, Sean. "Long Term Faculty Member Alper Dies." Boston College Chronicle. Vol. 2, No. 9, January 20, 1994.

State of Vermont. Vermont Vital Records, 1871–1908. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

Stephen, Christopher. "BC criminal justice expert Alper dies at 88" The Heights. Vol 75, No 1, January 18, 1994.


12 Linear Feet (17 containers)

10 Gigabytes (13 files with approximately 5.5 hours of audio)

Language of Materials



These papers document the scholarly work of Boston College sociology professor Benedict Solomon Alper, a specialist in criminology. Composed of professional and family correspondence, lecture notes, newspaper clippings, articles and conference papers, photographs, and memorabilia. The majority of the articles pertain to juvenile delinquency, the economics and psychology of crime, and prisons. The papers also include World War II correspondence between Alper and his wife, Ethel, and photographs of war-era Italy and North Africa. Additionally, the papers document staff-relations issues at the newly-formed United Nations in the early 1950s.


Organized into six series: I. Biographical; II. Boston College; III. Personal Correspondence; IV. Photographs; V. United Nations Administrative Tribunal; and VI. Writings.


Gifts of Joshua Alper (1994) and Joan Wallach Scott (1995).

Related Materials

Howard Belding Gill papers, MS.1995.018, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Ethel Machanic Alper papers, Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Benedict Solomon Alper Papers
Lynn Moulton
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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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