Joseph R. McCarthy Papers, 1930-1957 ACCESS NOTE
When they were deposited at Marquette in 1961, the Joseph R. McCarthy Papers were closed to research use at the request of the donor, Jean Kerr Minetti (McCarthy’s widow). Although the holdings comprised nearly 100 cubic feet, the collection contained no more than four feet of correspondence, memoranda, speeches, or other writings that would ordinarily be considered “personal papers.” The overwhelming bulk of the material consisted of congressional publications, newspaper clippings, and sound and film recordings of McCarthy’s speeches and broadcasts; none of it appeared to be “sensitive” or “confidential” as those terms are commonly understood.
Following the death of Jean Minetti in 1979, the legal status of the collection and the question of public access came under renewed scrutiny. Despite the urging of the Archives staff, Ms. Minetti had not executed a formal deed of gift. The University’s General Counsel concluded (1981) that Marquette was no longer legally bound by her request. However, her husband, G. Joseph Minetti, refused to release any of the McCarthy papers still in his possession unless the University maintained the “seal” until the year 2050.
Joseph Minetti finally relinquished the remaining papers, including McCarthy’s investigative files (9 cubic feet), in 1988. At that time he consented to the opening of all of the clearly “public” material, such as press clippings and recordings of speeches. The “private files” would “remain closed to all use for the life of Tierney Minetti [his daughter, whose adoption by Joseph and Jean McCarthy was in process at the time of the senator’s death].”
The bulk of McCarthy’s pre-senatorial correspondence (3 cubic ft.) is open and available for use. He deposited these papers with his sister before leaving for Washington in 1947; her son donated them to Marquette in 1990. Apparently saved in their entirety, they contribute significantly to our knowledge of McCarthy as judge and aspiring politician.
For more information, please contact:
Amy Cooper Cary, Head of Special Collections and University Archives