Art Danforth papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk P1988.36

Level of description



Art Danforth papers


  • 1961-1986 (Creation)


1.00 Cubic Feet, 2.00 Boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Arthur Louis Danforth junior, known to most as “Art,” was born to Arthur Louis Danforth senior and Grace Landers (Ward) Danforth in New York in 1912. Art began what became a lifelong commitment to cooperatives with the successful organization of a student dining co-op while a student at Cornell Law School. After graduating with his law degree in 1938, he managed small and medium co-op stores and subsequently provided central accounting services for consumer co-ops in both New England and New York. He then worked for the relief agency CARE (the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, now renamed the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) in New York and Hawaii, before relocating to California in 1950 with his wife, Ruth Evelyn (Henley) Danforth, and their two daughters.
During the next 17 years, Danforth worked with co-ops in Berkeley and Palo Alto, serving on various committees as well as on the Berkeley Board. He was a member of Berkeley’s management team for two years, and served as Palo Alto’s Education Director. Offered a position with the Cooperative League of the United States as its Secretary-Treasurer in 1967, he and Ruth moved to the Chicago area where they lived for five years in New York Center Community Cooperative.
Danforth became the League’s specialist in working with consumer cooperatives and provided counsel and assistance to the scores of new emerging food co-ops. He also became one of the country’s most prolific writers on consumer cooperative topics, producing scores of books, booklets and pamphlets on accounting, organizing, legal problems, incorporation, board responsibilities, history and philosophy.
After retiring in 1967 to Falls Church, Virginia, Danforth continued to write and consult with cooperatives. He co-authored a new history on the American consumer cooperative movement, wrote an annotated comprehensive model consumer cooperative act and a study of cause of specific consumer goods cooperative failures. He also helped draft the National Consumer Cooperative Bank Act and lobbied successfully for its enactment. He was also active with the Group Health Association, Greenbelt Cooperative Inc., and Consumer Alliance.
Art Danforth died May 10, 1987, at the age of 74. His last book, in tribute to his late wife, Ruth, was directed at helping the families of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Items in the collection span 1961–1986 and include informative pamphlets, leaflets, guidebooks, and research relating to consumer interests and consumer behavior.
Illustrated pamphlets published by the Bay Area Neighborhood Development address consumer issues such as signing contracts, buying food and appliances, and paying rent. Several pamphlets are in Spanish. Booklets offer advice to co-ops on campaigning, organizing, running, and reporting to owners, and include three authored by Mr. Danforth. One file labeled Center for Consumer Research contains flyers, research materials, newsletters, and correspondence. A publication titled <emph render='italic'>To Tell the Truth</emph>, published by the Cooperative League of the United States, provides an “illustrated outline of some of the consumer information and protection activities of American cooperatives.” Copies of KONSUM, the League’s newsletter, span 1972–1977. A newsletter towards the end of the run noted a lack of adequate funding for the League and stated budget cuts would limit the number of newsletters distributed.  The collection has publications from Frontier Cooperative Herbs and Midland Cooperatives, Inc. as well as a copy of the Golden Jubilee Journal and Kazan Memorial publication from the Amalgamated Housing Corporation (also listed as the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative). The Journal contains historical and biographical information about the co-op from 1951–1977, as well as congratulatory letters from Presidents Carter and Ford. Interestingly, there is a 1979 research paper about growth in consumer cooperatives from 1960–1980 by Ann Hoyt, an instructor in the Department of Family Economics at Kansas State University, in the collection. No tie to K-State is evident.
It should be noted that the majority of Mr. Danforth’s papers were sent to the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives. However, in 1988, Mae Gellman Danforth and other members of the Art Danforth Cooperative Education Fund Committee selected the Consumer Movement Archives as the appropriate place to hold these particular items, as Mr. Danforth was a passionate consumer advocate.

System of arrangement

This collection consists of one series, with folders arranged alphabetically by title.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restrictions: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English
  • Spanish

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

It received accession number P1988.36.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Mae Gellman Danforth
Acqusition Method: Donation, 1988.
Acqusition Date: 19880726

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


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Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Related descriptions

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Preferred Citation: [Item title], [item date], Art Danforth papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Consumer Movement Archives, Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Processing Info: Patrick C. Dittamo, graduate student at Kansas State University, processed the collection, and archivist Jane Schillie reviewed it, in July 2017.
Publication Date: 2017-07-28

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