Processed: December 2000
By: Mary Hopper
5 boxes (4.3 cu. ft.)
The American City Planning Institute (ACPI) was the first organization for professional city planners in America. It was founded during the Ninth National Conference on City Planning held in Kansas City, May 7-9, 1917. Some participants in the conference believed that something more was needed to advance the science of city planning, so they formed this organization and Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. (1870-1957) became the first president. The institute under went a major reorganization and changed its name to the American Institute of Planners (AIP) in 1939 (see Appendix A. Founding and History). This organization then later joined with the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO) in 1978 to form the American Planning Association (APA).
This American Institute of Planners was primarily concerned with public policy and legislation in city planning, and its influential opinion was sought regarding planning legislation at local, state and national levels. It was also preoccupied with defining the nature of the profession of city planning through enforcing strict criteria for membership and developing guidelines for regarding various professional issues. Today, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), The American Planning Association's professional and educational component, continues this role by certifying planners, providing continuing education, and promulgating a code of ethics. This is now the group that provides national certification for city planners through the combined qualifications of work experience, training and passing of a written exam.
There were particularly strong connections between this organization, MIT and the emergence of city planning as a recognized profession. This was primarily due to the efforts of the MIT faculty members Frederick J. Adams and Flavel Shurtleff.
Adams activities in this organization closely paralleled his role at MIT. It was primarily through his efforts that planning education evolved from a branch of landscape architecture or civil engineering to an interdisciplinary field. He was editor of The Planner's Journal (1935-1943), a board member (1937-1940), Secretary-Treasurer (1944-1945), Vice President (1946-1947) and President (1948-1949). Meanwhile, he was the first head of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (1932), the nations second planning department (the first was at Harvard). His efforts also led to MIT offering a Masters in City Planning (1935) and founding the City and Regional Planning Program (1937). He was the first department head of the Department of City and Regional Planning (1947) and remained on the faculty until 1964. During this time, he authored the key report on the state of planning education at that time, Urban Planning Education in the United States (1954) (see MC 307 - Frederick Johnstone Adams Papers, 1931-1978).
Shurtleff also played a major role in the development of the profession of city planning and contributed to programs at MIT. Early in his career, he wrote Carrying Out the City Plan (1914), the first general and widely utilized american textbook on city planning (1914), co-founded the American City Planning Institute (1917) and served as executive secretary for over ten years (1918-1934). He then joined the MIT Architecture faculty in 1938 and remained with the department until 1951.
Scope and Content Note
The collection contains the records of the American City Planning Institute (ACPI, 1917- 1938) and its successor, the American Institute of Planners (AIP, 1939-1978). The records were maintained by Secretary-Treasurer and MIT faculty member Flavel Shurtleff (1917-1935), Executive Secretary Howard K. Menhinick (1935-1937) and Executive Secretary Harold W. Lautner (1937-1943). The bulk of the dates are for the years in which there are administrative records, which are years 1935 to 1939. However, membership and meeting records span years 1925-1940. The collection consists of the records of executive offices and committees, finances, membership, The Planners' Journal, institute meetings and records concerning a variety of other activities.
This collection will be of value to anyone interested in the history of local, state and national planning policy. The records of the committees contain extensive information about the central role this organization played in particular policy decisions. The records of the committees and institute meetings may also include previously unpublished reports. This collection will serve as a useful record of the history and development of city planning as a profession. In addition to detailed information about the active and deliberate role this organization played during this early period in the professions development, there are also records of correspondence both to and from well-known figures in the field. Finally, the collection includes records regarding the organization's name change in 1934, subsequent reorganization in 1939, publication of The Planners' Journal and production of the film The City which was shown at the New York World's Fair in 1939.