Fred L. Steers Papers
Scope and Contents
The collection includes manuscripts, printed matter, clippings, and memorabilia preserved by Steers over the course of his career as an athletics administrator. Most items date from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s. There are collections of materials saved by Steers from his trips to the Summer Olympic Games of 1928, 1932, and 1936; these include clippings and other items relating to the U.S. women's track and field teams, personal ephemera and souvenirs, informational material provided to the U.S. delegations, and Games-related publications like programs, rulebooks, and guides. There are clippings, correspondence and other items on the proposed U.S. boycott of the Nazi Olympics of 1936. Also relating to the Olympic Games are papers and publications deriving from Steers' USOC membership during the postwar period, 1940s to 1960s. A second major component of the collection relates to Steers' long involvement in the AAU. Some of this pertains specifically to the Central Association, and some to affairs at the national level. There is a good deal of correspondence (mostly incoming, some personalized and some consisting of informational material sent out to the membership). There is also AAU-related printed matter of many kinds. There is little in the collection that does not have a bearing on athletics.
- Creation: 1916-1967
Conditions Governing Access
There are no access restrictions on this collection.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Biographical / Historical
Fred Llewellyn Steers was born in Chicago on 27 May 1887, the son of W. B. and Lily Steers; his father worked as a clerk in a department store. He was a graduate of Englewood High School (1906) and the University of Notre Dame (LL.B., 1911). After being admitted to the Illinois Bar he opened a law office in Chicago (1 May 1913); he would maintain his Chicago practice for many decades. On 8 July 1914 Steers married Maye Miller of Chicago. The couple established a residence in Beverly Hills on Chicago's South Side; Steers would remain in Beverly for most of his life, serving as president or officer of numerous local organizations (the Beverly Improvement Association; the Ridge Civic Council; the Beverly Hills University Club; and the South Area Safety Council of the Chicago Motor Club). He was also extremely active in Notre Dame alumni affairs, serving on the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association and as president of the Notre Dame University Club of Chicago (1917-1919).
At Notre Dame Steers earned three letters in track, running the mile and half-mile. This interest in athletics would manifest itself in a long career in sports administration, most notably within the heirarchy of the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States. From its founding in 1888 into the 1970s, the AAU was among the most important umbrella organizations in American amateur athletics. Its influence extended from the playground to the highest levels of amateur sports, where it interacted (or came into conflict) with organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the United States Olympic Committee. It claimed jurisdiction over numerous sports, major and minor, including track and field, swimming, basketball, boxing, and gymnastics. It established rules and regulations, instituted championship competitions, kept records; and always, strove to enforce codes of amateur standing. (One realm in which the AAU never achieved the autonomy it sought was college athletics, where it ran up against the NCAA and its member colleges). The national AAU was made up of regional associations of amateur clubs, organizations, and other groups. Steers made his name in the Central Association of the AAU, which comprised, in the mid-1920s, most of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. From 1920 or 1921 to the 1960s Steers was a representative of the Central Association on the national AAU's Board of Governors. From 1923 to 1925 he was Central AAU president, and Secretary-Treasurer from 1929 to 1946. Steers' rise within the amateur sports hierarchy coincided with that of another Chicagoan and Central Association representative, Avery Brundage, future president of the AAU, the American Olympic Committee, and the International Olympic Committee. Steers also served as fourth, third, second, and first vice president of the national AAU, the latter term of office coming prior to and during World War II.
Among the AAU's more notable functions was the management of tryouts for the U.S. Olympic team. Steers was a member of the American Olympic delegations in 1928 (IX Olympiad, Amsterdam), 1932 (X Olympiad, Los Angeles) and 1936 (XI Olympiad, Berlin). In each instance he was chairman of the AAU's Women's Track and Field Committee, charged with organizing the Olympic trials in women's athletics and selecting the personnel who would make the trip to the Games. In these same Olympiads he also served as manager (or administrative head) of the women's track and field team. Track and field events for women were introduced to the Olympic program in 1928; Steers' team, chosen in final tryouts held at Newark on 4 July, included 19 athletes in 5 events. The 1932 team, performing at home and featuring the great Babe Didrikson, won gold medals in five of six events. The 16-athlete 1936 team was less successful, winning two of six events. From the 1930s to the 1960s Steers also served as a member of the American Olympic Committee and its successor, the United States Olympic Committee.
In 1935 Steers played a visible role in one of the most contentious issues in American Olympic history: the proposed boycott of the 1936 Winter and Summer Games in Germany. In October 1935 AAU president Jeremiah T. Mahoney organized the Committee on Fair Play in Sports, whose letterhead bore the motto "No American Participation in the Olympic Games under Nazi Auspices". Leading the advocates of participation was Avery Brundage, former AAU president and current president of the American Olympic Committee. The matter came to a head at the AAU convention at the Hotel Commodore in New York in December; delegates voted 58.25 to 55.75 in favor of participation. (The decision was technically the prerogative of the AOC, but an AAU vote to boycott would have made it all but impossible, politically and financially, to send teams to Germany). Steers spoke at length to the assembled delegates at the Commodore just before the vote, passionately supporting Brundage and claiming that only one of 140 U.S. athletes he had polled was in favor of a boycott.
Steers remained active in amateur athletics into the 1960s. He died in Chicago on 7 November 1967, at the age of 81.
8 Cubic Feet (6 containers, 1 flat storage container, and 2 bound items. )
Language of Materials
The athletic papers and attendant printed matter of Chicagoan Fred L. Steers, deriving from his years of administrative service to the Central Association of the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, the national AAU, and the American Olympic Committee. The collection includes substantial materials on the Olympic Games of 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles), and 1936 (Berlin), all of which Steers attended as manager of the U.S. women's track and field team.
The collection is arranged into five series, as follows: 1) Fred L. Steers Biographical Materials; 2) Olympic Games; 3) Amateur Athletic Union of the United States; 4) Central Association of the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States; 5) Miscellaneous.
Materials in Series 2, Olympic Games, are sequenced as follows: IX Olympiad, Amsterdam (Folders 6-19); X Olympiad, Los Angeles (Folders 20-59); XI Olympiad, Berlin (Folders 60-90); Miscellaneous Papers (Folders 91-119); Fred L. Steers Correspondence (Folders 120-131); Miscellaneous Printed Matter (Folders 132-142); Pan-American Games (Folders 143-150); and XVII Olympiad, Tokyo (Folder 151).
Materials in Series 3, Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, are sequenced as follows: Miscellaneous Papers (Folders 152-185); Printed Matter (Folders 186-203); Newspaper Clippings (folders 204-209); and Fred L. Steers Correspondence (Folders 210-221).
Materials in Series 4, Central Association of the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, are sequenced as follows: Miscellaneous Papers (Folders 222-237); Fred L. Steers Correspondence (Folders 238-249); and Printed Matter (Folders 250-253).
Materials in Series 5, Miscellaneous, are sequences as follows: Newspaper Clippings (Folders 254-263); Fred L. Steers Correspondence (Folders 264-269); Fred L. Steers Personal Notes and Essays (Folders 270-274); Printed Material (Folders 275-289); and Ephemera (Folder 290).
- Fred L. Steers Papers
- George Rugg
- July 2013
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