Skip to main content

Full text of "Richard S. Childs : his contribution to American local and state government in the 20th century : [a selected bibliography of reference sources]"

See other formats







CJA^----^^^- J f 


«* Council of Planning Librarians Exchange Bibliography 

May 1977 


RICHARD S. CHILDS: His Contribution to American Local and State 
Government in the 20th Century 

Alva W. Stewart 

Associate Librarian, Earl Gregg Swem Library 

College of William and Mary in Virginia 

Mrs. Mary Vance, Editor 
Post Office Box 229 
Monticello, Illinois 61856 

The Library of the 

APR 26 1977 

University ui iiHIKIIS 
Bl H'hana-Chamoaign 

COUNCIL OP PLANNING LIBRARIANS Exchange Bibliography #1273 



Alva W. Stewart 

Associate Librarian, Earl Gregg Swem Library 

College of William and Mary in Virginia 

Williamsburg, Virginia 


For assistance in the compilation of this bibliography 
I am especially indebted to John Porter East, professor of 
political science at East Carolina University, and to Richard 
J. Stillman II, author of The Rise of the City Manager; A 
Public Professional in Local Government . In this book Stillman 
objectively traces the growth of the municipal management pro- 
fession in the context of American history and political 
thought and evaluates Richard Childs' contribution to this 

My profound gratitude is extended to the subject of the 
bibliography - a remarkable human being whose inexhaustible 
vitality and contagious enthusiasm for the council-manager plan 
and short ballot have truly been a source of inspiration during 
my research on this project. 

Two women deserve special commendation Tor their tangible 
aid .in making this bibliography a reality. First, my wife 
Barbara, who willingly took time from household duties to prepare 
numerous slips for the typist. Secondly, Irene Manning, who 
gladly volunteered her typing skill to prepare the manuscript 
for submission to the Council of Planning Librarians. 

2. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 


This bibliography contains more than 100 selected citations 
to books and articles by Richard Spencer Childs as well as 
monographs and articles relating to Childs. and his contributions 
to American municipal, county, and state government. 

Those references herein listed are not meant to be defini- 
tive; rather, they are intended to represent the principal 
ideas to which Mr. Childs has devoted his boundless energy during 
his long and extraordinarily constructive life and the practical 
application of those ideas in' city halls, county courthouses, 
and state capitals across the nation. 

By far the most frequently cited titles are the National 
Municipal Review , the official organ of the National Municipal 
League from 1912, when the journal was founded by Childs and 
several associates, to 1959 > and its successor the National 
Civic Review .* Childs has been an active member of the Editorial 
Board of both journals for several decades. 

The bibliography is divided into two sections. The first 
section contains a list of pamphlets, books, and periodical 
articles written by Childs during the period 1909-76; the second 
section is a listing of references about Childs and the concepts 
of government he has espoused during the past seven decades. My 
hope is that the bibliography will be of value to students of 
20th century state and local government in the United States and 
will stimulate further research on the man and the movements 
he has championed. 

^Beginning with the January, 1959 issue, the National Municipal 
Review changed its title to National Civic Review. 

3 # CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 


The intimate association of a man with a successful reform 
movement is not an unusual phenomenon in the annals of American 
government; however, the identification of one man with two 
successful reform movements is a notable achievement by any 
standard of measurement. 

Such an achievement can be incontrovertibly claimed by 
Richard S. Childs, a nonagenarian who is. still actively cru- 
sading for reforms in state and local government. 

The two movements with which his name is inextricably 
linked are (l) the short ballot, and (2) the council-manager 
plan of government. However, his efforts have been directed 
toward several other reforms during his long and productive life. 
These include replacement of an elected county coroner with 
an appointed professional medical examiner, non-partisan elections 
at the city and county level, and a unicameral (single-house) 
state legislature. As one observer has aptly noted, "To a 
considerable extent, especially at the local and state levels, 
Childs has made modern public administration possible." 

Born in Manchester, Connecticut in 1882, Childs grew up 
in a prosperous New York City business family and embarked upon 
an advertising career during the administration of President 
Theodore Roosevelt. Subsequently he held high-level executive 
positions with the Bon Ami Company and Lederle Laboratories. 
When he retired from the business world in 19U5» he converted 
his avocation of municipal reform into a vocation by accepting 
the chairmanship of the Executive Committee, National Municipal 
League, a position he held for 30 years in his words, "at a 
salary of nothing and well worth it." 

Public Administration Review (editorial), Vol. 22, September 1962, 
p. 172. 

U. GPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

His interest in good government, which, Childs admits; has 
been "the controlling factor in my life" since his 21st birthday, 
prompted him to promote . the short ballot, an antidote to the 
long ballot which he describes, as "the curse of the system of 
free elections" because it. inevitably leads to blind voting. 
His first article enumerating the merits of .the short ballot 
appeared in the periodical, Outlook in 1909*. 

Believing that only those offices, sufficiently important 
to attract and deserve public -examination should be elective 
at any .level of government, Childs was instrumental in founding 
the National Short Ballot Organization in 1909 and persuaded 
the late Woodrow Wilson, then: president of Princeton University, 
to serve as the organization's president. 

In his. role .as secretary, and treasurer of the NSBO, Childs 
was .the- guiding hand .in the publication of The Short Ballot 
Bulletin as well .as leaflets and press releases which reported 
the successes of the short ballpt movement. . During the second 
decade of- the 20th century, many local and state officials , 
adopted the short, ballot principle, which was enunciated in the 
platforms of the. Progressive Party, and Republican Party of New 
York State. When. the NSBO merged with the National. Municipal 
League in 1920, Childs shifted his energies to the League, a 
non-partisan citizens organization for. better government es- 
tablished in 189!;. 

Childs 1 major contribution to municipal reform, one for 
which he has campaigned diligently during the past 1 65 years, 
is the council^manager plan. The essence of this plan, which 
has been adopted by more than 2,500 towns and cities since its 
inauguration in Sumter, South Carolina in 1912, is appointment 
by an elected council of a chief administrative officer called 
the city manager, who serves at the pleasure of the council and 
is responsible for overall management of municipal affairs. 
A key concept of the plan, in Childs' opinion, is that the 
manager should administer, not govern. 

5. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

In his book The First 50 Years of the Council-Manager 
Plan of Municipal Government (New York, 1965), Childs cites 
three principal merits of the plan: 

(1) Better city councils - It widens the field of council- 
manic candidates by permitting persons of modest incomes to 
serve without extended absences from their jobs and individuals 
of large private interests to serve without sacrifice of valuable 

(2) Better administrations - It opens the choice of 
chief administrative officers to professional managers of 
demonstrated competence hired from anywhere in the nation. 

(3) Better political terrain - Through non-partisan 
election of council members, the plan excludes self-serving, 
corruptible political machines from participation in municipal 

Philosophically, Childs' appeal for council-manager govern- 
ment is based upon the belief that man is good, but community 
institutions are corrupt; therefore, he argues, the institutions 
should be reformed with the technique of manager government 
in order that the "good" can govern. Rousseau and Jefferson 
would undoubtedly feel a close intellectual kinship with Childs 
and his faith in the rationality of man, the virtue of humanity, 
and the benefits of local autonomy. Unquestionably the most 
thorough critical analysis of Childs' idealogy is found in John 
Porter East's Council- Manager Government: The Political Thought 
of its Founder, Richard S. Childs . 

Although he has frequently been called the father of the 
council-manager plan, Childs prefers to think of himself as 
"the minister who performed the marriage ceremony between the 
general manager plan as first conceived in Staunton, Virginia 
(in 1908) and the commission plan in Des Moines." The genius 
of the council-manager plan was a simple city charter drafted by 
Childs for the Lockport, New York Board of Trade in 1910. Although 
the New York Legislature rejected the charter and the plan of 
government it embodied, Childs generated considerable national 
press coverage in the process. 

6. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

In 1912 Sumter, South Carolina adopted the plan; the next 
year Dayton, Ohio followed Sumter's lead. Childs is fond of 
saying that politics went out the window when Dayton's first 
city manager blew in. 

The approval of its revised Model City Charter incorpor- 
ating the council-manager plan by the National Municipal League 
in 1915 > coupled with the support of eminent scholars like 
Charles A. Beard, Columbia University historian, and prominent 
political figures like Charles Evans Hughes and Hiram Johnson 
in the second decade of this century gave the manager concept 
a dramatic national appeal. By 1913 exactly 100 municipalities 
had adopted the plan. 

The plan experienced phenomenal growth during two periods - 
the post-World Wax I decade, when the number of manager muni- 
cipalities quadrupled - 100 to 1+00 - and the three post-World 
War II decades, when the increase in manager cities averaged 
65 per year. By January 1, 1976, no less than 2, 5U0 municipal- 
ities, including approximately 50 percent of those over 10,000 
population, were counted as manager cities and counties. By 
the year 2,000 Childs confidently predicts that an additional 
1,500 municipalities, or an average of 60 per year during the 
next 2k years, will be operating under this plan. 

Since the first decade of this century Childs has been 
actively associated with the National Municipal League. Prom 
1927-31 he directed League affairs as its eighth president.. For 
more than half a century he served as a member of the Council, 
the League's governing body. Even today, at 95, Childs commutes 
from his Brooklyn apartment to the League's Manhattan office 
two days a week and serves as an unpaid consultant. 

In Childs' view, democratic government is one which "caters 
to the sovereign people" and is free of bossism and self-serving 
cliques of politicians. The form of local government most likely 
to produce such government, he believes, is the council-manager 
plan with non-partisan elections and the short ballot. 

7. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

Childs has consistently recognized the significant role 
played by American women in shaping municipal reform. As early 
as 1921 he paid tribute to the National League of Women Voters 
as a valiant ally of the National Municipal League in its support 
of the manager plan, describing -NLWV members as a "fresh new 
civic army of women, armed abundantly with enthusiasm and well 
aware of the enemy." He perceives of League members as being 
"always on the side of the angels." In his own household, he 
was happily married to his wife Grace for k9 years (she died 
in 1961) and reared three daughters (one is now deceased). 

Don Marquis, an observer of the urban scene, has commented 
that "municipal government in America is honeycombed with 
honesty." One major factor accounting for this commendable state 
of affairs is the adoption of the council-manager plan by hun- 
dreds of American cities. In turn, a paramount reason for these 
adoptions is the unrelenting vigor and initiative of a single 
individual - Richard S. Childs. 

In 1927 Childs defined a reformer as "one who sets forth 
cheerfully toward sure defeat." Fifty years ago, only a small 
minority of American municipalities had adopted the council- 
manager plan, the short ballot was ridiculed by most politicians, 
and the idea of an appointed, county medical examiner had not 
been conceived. Then Childs may have felt with some justifica- 
tion that his innovative ideas to reform local and state govern- 
ment were doomed to failure. Today, still the reformer at 
heart, he recognizes that persistence has its rewards and em- 
bodies the truth that victory will ultimately come to supporters 
of a meritorious cause. 

8. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 


A. Books and Monographs 

Civic Victories; The Story of an Unfinished Revolution . New York: 
Harper and Brothers, 1952 . 

The First 50 Years of the Council - Manager Plan of Municipal 
Government . New York: National Municipal League, 196$. 

Short Ballot Principles . Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. , 1911. 

Unfinished Political Reforms . New York: National Municipal 
League, 1976. (Multilithed, 82p.)„* 

B. Periodicals and Serials 

"Along the Governmental Battle Front," National Municipal Review , 
19,. January 1930, 5-6. 

"Ballot is Still Too Long," National Municipal Review , 35, 
February 191+6, 67-70. 

"The Best Practice Under the City-Manager Plan," National 
Municipal Review , 22, January 1933, i+l-UU- 

"Best States for Murder Now Down to Ten," National Civic Review , 
Vol. 59, No. 1, January 1970, 37-38.. 

Childs, Richard S., et. al. "Professional Standards .and 

Professional Ethics in the New Profession of City Manager? 
A Discussion," National Municipal Review , 5> April 1916, 

"Citizen Organization for Control of Government," The Annals of 
the American Academy of Political and Social Science , 
293, March 1951+ , 129-35- 

"City Manager Government," National Municipal Review , 25, 
February 1936, 50-51. 

"The City Manager Plan Passes Its 'Exams'," National Municipal 
Review , 29, July 19U0, 14+3-1*7 <■ 

"The City Manager Plan V/ill Endure," American City , 55, May 19U0, 

"The City Manager Profession-Up to Now," City Manager Magazine , 
Vol. 7, No. 11, November 1925, 9-10. 

* Available from National Municipal League, i+7 East 68th Street, 
Now York, New York, 10021. 

9- CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

"Civic Victories in the U.S.," National Municipal Review , Uh, 
September 1955, 398-1+02. 

"Council-Manager Cities 1,000 Strong," American City , 66, January 
1951, 69-70. 

"Counties in the Metropolitan Area Problem," The County Officer , 
21, September 1956, 208-10. 

"The County as a Regional Government," American County Government , 
31, September 1966, 66-73. 

"County Manager Plan," American City , (Town and Country ed.), 11, 
December 191U, U57-61. ,.' 

"A Democracy that Might Work," The Century , Vol. 120, No. 1, 
January 1930, 11-17 . 

"Election Law Aids Crime?" National Municipal Review , 1+2, 
October 1953, U53-57. 

"The Enduring Qualities of a Successful Manager," Public 
Management , 1+5, January 1963, 2-U. 

"First Civil Service Sheriff," National Municipal Review , 
37, June 19U8, 293-97- 

"500 'Non-Political' Elections," National Municipal Review , 
39, June 19U9, 278-82. 

"Florida Completes Coroner Reform," National Civic Review , 
Vol. 59, No. 9, October 1970, 1+93-9U- 

"The Future of the Commission-Manager Plan," Modern City , 
August 1918, 19-21. 

"Government' 3 Model Villages," Survey , Ul, February 1, 1919, 

"Group Ownership of Housing," New Republic , Vol. 1U, No. 178, 
March 30, 1918, .257-9. 

"Half-Century of Municipal Reform," American Journal of Economics 
and Sociology , 15, April 1956, 321-26. 

"How the Commission-Manager Plan is Getting Along," National 
Municipal Review , U, July 1915, 371-82. 

"How the Commission-Manager Plan is Getting Along," National 
Municipal Review , 6, January 1917, 69-73. 

1G, CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

"How to Work for Charter Reform," American City , 8, February 1913. 

"Inside 100 State Parties," national Civic Review , 56, November 
1967, 568-71. 

"It's a Habit. Now in Dayton," National Municipal Review , 38, 
September 19U8, 1+21-27. 

"Judges Elected by Popular Inattention," National Civic Review , 
Vol. 56, No. 5, May 1967, 271+-75- 

"League's Second Stretch," National Municipal Review , 33, 
November 19UU, 5H+-19- 

"Local Government Reform Progresses in Britain," National Civic 
Review , Vol. 60, No. 9, October 1971, 561*. 

"Lockport Proposal' to Improve the Commission Plan," American City , 
k, June 1911, 285-87. 

"Looking Back at City Managers Twenty Years Hence," Public 
Management . Vol. 19, No. 3, March 1937, 80-82. 

"Medical Examiner. Developments in 5 States," National Civic 
Review , Vol. 55, No. 7, July 1966, U05-6. 

"A. New Civic Army," National Municipal Review , 10, June 1921, 

"New Idea for England," National Civic Review , Vol. 57, No. 7, 
July 1968, 352-5U. 

"The New Opportunity for the City Manager Plan," National 
Municipal Review , 22, January 1933, 593-95. 

"The New Profession of City Manager," New Republic , September 
9, 1916, 135-37. 

"No Tenure for City Managers," National Municipal Review , 
39, April 191-9, 167-70. 

"Our Ailing Parties," National Civic Review , Vol. 59, No. 6, 
June 1970, 298-302. 

"Our Ailing Parties," National Civic Review , Vol. 59, No. 7, 
July 1970, 365-70. 

"Peanut Politics and the Short Ballot," Harper's Weekly , 58, 
October 25, 1913, 22-23. 

11. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

"Place System Studied in Texas," National Civic Review , Vol. 5U, 
No. 9, October 1965, 512-13- 

"Politics Without Politicians," Saturday Evening Post , 182, 
January 22, 1910, 5-6, 35- 

"Principle of Wieldly Districts," National Conference for Good 
City Government, (Philadelphia, 1910), Proceedings , 3UO-U5- 

"The Principles Underlying the Plan," in Coi mission Government 
with a City Manager . New York; National Short Ballot 
Organization, 191U- 

"Program of County Government Reform," iJK--rican City , 1U» April 

1916, 337-UO. 

"Pulling Out the Coroner?, " National Municipal Review , 39, 
November 1950, l+OU-6. 

"Quest for Leadership," National Civic Review , 50, November 1961, 

"Ramshackle County Government," Outlook , 113, May 3, 1916, 39-U5- 

"A Reconstruction Program for City Managers," American City , 16, 
December 1913, i|63-61+. 

"Ridley's Era of Orderly Growth," Public Management , 38, July 
1956, 1U6-U7- 

"The Rise and Spread cf the. City Manager Plan," American City , 
I4.3, September 1930, 131-32. 

"75 Years of Citizens Union," Across From City Hall (Publication 
of New York Citizens Union), Vol. 27, No. 6, February /March 
1973, 1-7- 

"The Short Ballot," The Outlook , 92, July 17, 1909, 635-39- 

"Short Ballot and the Commission Plan," The Annals of the June ri can 
Academy of Political and Social Science , 38; November 1911, 

"The Short Ballot Movement and Simplified Politics," The Annals of 
the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences , 6I4., 
March 1916, 168-71. 

12. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

"A Theoretically Perfect County," The Annals of the American 
Academy of Political and Social Science , 1+7 > May 1913 » 

"Theories of Responsive Government Prove Practical," Public 
Management . 29, December 19U7, 353-57- 

"The Theory of the New Controlled-Executive Plan," National 
Municipal Review , 2, January 1913, .76-81. 

"We Learn to Manage Cities , " Review of Reviews , 83 , February 
1931, 52-3. 

"We Must Keep Ballot Short," National Municipal Review, 38, 
July 19U9, 328-3U. 

"What Ails Pittsburgh r" American City , 3, July 1910 , 9-12. 

"What the City Manager of Klebubudaydoc Did," in the City 

Manager Association Yearbook . Clarksburg, West Virginia: 
City Manager Association, 1921. 

"What to Expect of Political Reform," National M unicipal Review, 
21, June 1932, 3149-53. 

"Will Commission Government Succeed in Large Cities?" American 
City, k, February 1911, 79-82. 

"Woodrow Wilson Legacy," National Municipal Review , U6, January 
1957; 1U-19. 

C. Pamphlets 

The Charter Problem of Metropolitan Cities . New York: Citizens 
Union Research Foundation, Inc., i960. 

Childs, Richard S., Best Practice with the Manager Plan . 
New'Tbrk: National Municipal League, I963. 

Ramshackle County Government: The Plague Spot of American 
Politics . New York: National Municipal League,- 1925. 

The Storv of the Short Ballot Cities . New York: National 
Short Ballot Organization, 1911+. 

A Suggest ion for an Optional Second Class Cities Law. New York: 
n.p. , n.d.* 

13. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

A. Books and Monographs 

Beard, Charles A. A Loose-Leaf Digest of Short Ballot Charters. 
New York: National Short Ballot Organization, 1911. 

Current Biography Yearbook (Biographical Sketch of Childs). 
New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 16, 1955 » 118-120. 

East, John Porter. Council-Manager Government t The Political 
Thought of Its Founder. Richard S. Childs . Chapel Hill: 
University of North Carolina Press, 1965 • 

Griffith, Ernest S. A History of American City Government: 
The Progressive Years and Their Afte rmath T 1900-1920. 
New York: Praeger, 197U. (This book is dedicated to 
Richard S. Childs.) 

Patton, Clifford W. The Battle for Municipal Reform. Washington, 
D.C.: American Council on Public Affairs, 19^0. 

Stewart, Prank M. A Half Century of Reform: The History 

of the National Municipal League . Berkeley: University 
of California Press, 1950. 

Stillman, Richard J., II. The Rise of the City Manager: A 
Public Professional in Local Government . Albuquerque : 
University of New Mexico Press, 197U- 

Stone, Harold A., Don K. Price and Kathryn H. Stone. City 

Manager Government in the U.S.: A Review After Twenty-Five 
Years . Chicago: Public Administration Service, 19U0. 

Toulmin, Henry, Jr. The City Manager . New York: D. Appleton 
and Company, 1915. 

White, Leonard. The City Manager . Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1927 . 

Who's Who in America . (39th ed.). (Biographical Sketch of 
Childs.) Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, Inc., 1976-77, 
l'i 563. 

Willoughby, William P. The Government of Modern States . New 
York: D. Appleton and Company, 1919. 

Woodruff , Clinton R. , ed. A New Municipal Program . New York: 
D. Appleton and Company, 1919. 

111. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

B. Newspapers and Periodicals 

Anonymous. "The Businessman Who Brought the Pro to City Hall," 
Nation's Business , Vol. 59, No. 12, December 1971 i 30-32. 

Anonymous. "Childs* 80th Birthday "Observance , " (news article), 
New York Times , May 25, 1962, 25. 

Anonymous. "The Father of the Short Ballot," The Outlook, 
111, September 22, 1915, l61|-65- 

Anonymous. "Medical Examiners 'Honor Childs," National Civic 
Review . Vol. 57, No." 6, June 1968, 285. 

Anonymous. "Publication Series to Honor Childs," National 
Civic Review . Vol. 61, No, 6, June 1972, 273- 

Anonymous. "The Reformer," (editorial), National Civic 
Review . Vol. 61, No. 6, June 1972, 276. 

Anonymous. "Richard S. Childs, Live from New York," National 
Civic Review , Vol. 56, No. 5, May 1967, 21*6. 

Anonymous. "Richard S. Childs: Persuader .Unexcelled, " (edi- 
torial comment), Public Administration Review , 22, September 
1962, 172. 

Detzer, Karl. "Two Fellows Named Dick;. One, Inventor of Manager 
Plan," National Municipal Review , 37, April 19U8, 192-95- 

Price, Don K. "The Promotion of the City Manager Plan," Public 
Opinion Quarterly . Vol. 5, No. h, Winter l?Ul, 563-78. 

The Short Ballot Bulletin . New York: National Short Ballot 
Organization, 1911-1920. (Contains numerous articles 
relating to short ballot written by Childs.) 

Stewart, Alva W. "A Man Who Made Democracy Work," Municipal 
South . Vol. 23, No. 1, January /February 1976, 5« 

Stewart, Alva W. "Richard S. Childs: 'Good Government' Crusader," 
. Virginia Town and City . Vol. 11, No. 6, June 1976, 30-31. 

Willoughby, Alfred. "The Involved Citizen: A Short History of 
the National Municipal League ," National Civic Review , 
Vol. 58, No. 11, December 1969, 5l9-61|. 

Willoughby, Alfred. "Prophet is Honored," National Municipal 
Review . 36, September 19l|7, 1+27. 

15. CPL Exchange Bibliography #1273 

C. Pamphlets 

The Story of the City Manager Plan: The Most Democratic and 
Efficient Municipal Government . New York: National 
Municipal League, 193U- 

The Story of the Council-Manager Plan. New York: National 
Municipal League, 1967. 

COUNCIL OF PLANNING LIBRARIANS Exchange Bibliography #1273 


Additional copies available from: 

Council of Planning Librarians 
Post Office Box 229 
Monticello, Illinois 61856 

for $1.50