J. Randall Bergers Presidential Studies Collection
World-Class Presidential Book Collection
The Hauenstein Center’s J. Randall Bergers Presidential Studies Collection is a world-class resource — a one-stop shop for books written by American presidents. Held at Grand Valley’s Seidman House, the Bergers Collection consists of more than 750 original works by presidents — mostly first editions and many autographed by the author. The collection, which continues to grow, is the result of a seventeen-year effort by a local educator to catalogue and acquire every presidential publication. In combination with the Harvey Lemmen Abraham Lincoln Collection and other holdings, the Bergers collection makes Grand Valley a nationally significant presidential research center.
Also, our Don Markle Espionage Book Collection is one of the leading espionage and intelligence collections in the Midwest.
The Hauenstein Center Acquires Rare Book Collection Written by U.S. Presidents
(Originally published in the Winter edition of Grand Valley Magazine)
From Thomas Jefferson’s manual of parliamentary practice to General Eisenhower’s book, The War in 3 Pages, Grand Valley’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies was given a rare and valuable collection of books written by U.S. presidents. The permanent loan was made by J. Randall Bergers, former superintendent of the Ottawa County Intermediate School District and education consultant.The collection, totaling nearly 500 books, spans all 43 presidents and includes first-edition books and signed, limited-edition books, as well as first-person papers and speeches that were later printed. Bergers began collecting the books in the early 1990s from used bookstores around the country, and eventually utilized the Internet in his searches. He said he chose the Hauenstein Center because of its reputation for excellence and because of his family’s personal connection to Ralph Hauenstein.
“My father, James, and Ralph Hauenstein both served in World War II, were newspaper men before the war, and lived in the same retirement community,” said Bergers. “I am so impressed with the quality of the Hauenstein Center and its staff.” Hauenstein was a colonel and served under General Dwight Eisenhower as chief of the Intelligence Branch in the Army’s European Theater of Operations. James Bergers was a technical sergeant in the public relations department for the Army’s European Theater of Operations.
The collection includes a broad spectrum of published presidential writings including books, letters, speeches, diaries and reports. “Most libraries have specialized collections centering on one or two presidents,” said Robert Beasecker, GVSU libraries’ director of Special Collections. “We may be the only university to have a group of presidential writings of this magnitude in this format.”
Some of the scarcer writings include Thomas Jefferson’s memoirs published in 1829 and an expense account kept by George Washington from 1775-1783. There is also a rare book, The War in 3 Pages, written by General Dwight D. Eisenhower before he was president. Eisenhower asked his chief of staff to summarize World War II in three pages. He used their comments to write the book. There were only 85 of these books published, intended for his generals and friends. According to Beasecker, twelve other libraries own this book, and none in Michigan.
Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center, said: “The Bergers Collection is the mother lode of presidential writings. It is yet another foundation stone that makes the Hauenstein Center one of the preeminent centers of its kind in the nation. We are privileged to have these key books in American history. Nowhere else can a researcher access all the presidents’ words in one convenient place. This is a world-class resource for any student of the presidency.”
After learning about the Bergers collection, Richard Norton Smith, a nationally recognized authority on the American presidency and former director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library, said, “The Hauenstein Center is a jewel in the crown of Michigan.”
Other pieces in the collection include a book of poems by John Quincy Adams, published five years after his death, title, “Poems of Religion and Society,” and a published 1808 letter written by Adams to Harrison Gray Otis. The pages are uncut and only six other libraries in the world have a copy.
A two-volume set of the personal memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant is included. He wrote his memoirs in 1885 as he was dying of cancer. “He finished it two weeks before he died,” Beasecker said. “He was determined to finish the manuscript so that the income from royalties would support his family. The book not only did that, but also turned out to be a literary masterpiece.”
The first book written by John F. Kennedy is in the collection. “Why England Slept” was written when Kennedy was 23 and is an examination of why the British were not prepared at the start of World War II. Books, speeches and policy statements from President Nixon are also included.
The collection is being housed in Seidman House on the Allendale Campus and stored under controlled temperature and special humidity controls.
“Most paper manufactured before 1860 was made from cotton and linen rags and is chemically stable,” said Beasecker, “But paper made after that date was manufactured from wood pulp which is very acidic; light and elevated temperatures tend to hasten its deterioration.” Students, faculty, staff and others outside of the university can have access to the writings under supervision, as is common practice for all of the materials at Seidman House.
Bergers compiled a bibliography from the Library of Congress and said there are about 150 additional books written by U.S. presidents that he’d like to find and add to the collection.
“This collection will serves as a resource for students, faculty and scholars throughout the country,” said Ralph Hauenstein. “I express my thanks and gratitude to the Bergers family.”