The Arlen Specter Senatorial Papers are housed at Archives & Special Collections in the University of Pittsburgh Library System). The collection documents 30 years of Congressional service, in addition to a small amount of information on Specter’s pre-Senatorial career. At approximately 1,300 boxes of archival material, the collection offers a wealth of information for researchers of all disciplines.
As part of a partnership with Thomas Jefferson University-East Falls campus (formerly Philadelphia University), the Papers were processed over the course of four years and were made available in 2018. While the content of this website focuses on some of the major legislative highlights of Specter’s career, the volume of the physical papers make them an invaluable tool for study and research. Containing briefing books, background research, memos, chronological files, press releases, speeches, newsclips, photos, audio-visual material, memorabilia and much more, the Papers document not only the Senator’s career, but the workings of a Congressional office and the unique political environment of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Researchers wishing to access the Papers are encouraged to review the collection guides, which detail the content of the ten groups of materials within the collection. Patrons wishing to review a large amount of material are encouraged to visit the University of Pittsburgh’s Archives & Special Collections, but smaller amounts of material can be made available in Philadelphia at Thomas Jefferson University’s Gutman Library. For any additional questions, please contact us to learn more.
Pre-Senatorial Career Files
The Pre-Senatorial Career Files contain information on select portions of Specter’s career prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1980. The majority of the material focuses on his time as district attorney of Philadelphia from 1966 to 1974, but also includes a small amount of information on the Warren Commission, the Peace Corps, and his semesters spent teaching seminars at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Legislative Files constitute the bulk of the collection, and include files related to Specter’s legislative activities between 1981 and 2011. During his 30-year tenure in the U.S. Senate, Specter was a member of a number of Committees, most notably the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees. In addition to background research and materials prepared as part of his role on these committees, the office also kept files on a number of topics of specific interest to the Senator and his constituents, including foreign affairs, healthcare, and campaign finance Also included here is information on Specter’s participation in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, as well as a history of his voting records and floor statements.
Personal, Political and Official Files
The Personal, Political and Official Files include information on various aspects of Specter’s career outside of his legislative work. In this group, researchers will find information illuminating the Senator’s daily activities, including chronological files, invitations, and schedules. Also included here is correspondence between the Senator and VIPs, from local Pennsylvania business owners all the way to fellow Senators and five sitting Presidents. There is also a section on more personal correspondence and files, as well as information detailing Specter’s relationship with the Republican Party.
Office Administration Files
The Office Administration Files focus on the routine daily functions of Specter’s congressional office. Of particular interest in this series are memos between staff members and the Senator, as well as files of a number of administrative assistants. There are also a number of trip files that document both Specter’s foreign and domestic travel, whether as part of an international Congressional Delegation or a Pennsylvania county visit.
Constituent Services Files
The Constituent Services Files are largely comprised of letters and mailings sent to the Senator during his time in office. Pennsylvanians wrote to Specter urging him to take legislative action on a variety of topics, from healthcare to transportation issues. These files provide a snapshot of both local and nationwide concerns over the course of 30 years. Also included here is information on local grants facilitated by the Senator’s office, as well as information on specific community services and programs of interest to Specter.
Public Relations and Media Files
The Public Relations and Media Files focus on press outreach and public appearances made by Specter during his time as Senator. A significant portion of this group has been digitized in its entirety, including the speeches and press releases. There are also additional files documenting the work of the press staff members working for the Senator, as well as a number of accumulated newsclips. A series on publications focuses mainly on two of Specter’s autobiographies: Passion for Truth and Never Give In. This group is also home to a number of media files, which include C-SPAN recordings of legislative sessions, news programs, floor sessions, town halls, and other public appearances.
The Campaign Files document Specter’s history of political campaigns, from his first Senatorial run in 1976 through his last successful race in 2004. While the focus in mainly on his Senatorial races, material on his brief 1996 campaign for President is a particular highlight, as it focuses on both his opposition to the Clinton presidency and more conservative Republican platforms. The 1992 race is of particular significance due to the aftermath of Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination, while the 2004 files demonstrate the growing trend of polarization within the Republican party.
Awards and Memorabilia
Awards and Memorabilia contains hundreds of items documenting Specter’s career, awards received, places visited, and gifts given. This group includes everything from plaques to signed legislation to tickets admitting the bearer to the impeachment trial of President Clinton. A full inventory of this group can be obtained by contacting Archives & Special Collections at the University of Pittsburgh.
The Photographs group contains images of the Senator with a number of individuals. From poses with former and sitting presidents, to foreign heads of state, to constituents on a central Pennsylvania dairy farm, these photos document the many different sides of Specter. A number of these images are oversized and still in frames; please contact Archives & Special Collections for a complete inventory. Additional photos hang in the Arlen Specter Center at Thomas Jefferson University- East Falls campus.
The Electronic Records in the Specter Papers primarily came off of two hard drives coming from the Senator’s offices. The material here reflects the contents of the paper collection; researchers will find legislative files, constituent mail, and photographs. Much of the material here documents the latter third of Specter’s time in office, though many items prior to 2000 were also scanned. A small amount of material was also recovered from disks found within the papers themselves. For more information, including instructions on how to access this content, please contact Archives & Special Collections.