William Benton: A Public Life

Willam Benton

Exhibition curated by Lamar Riley Murphy, Ph.D. Student in American History.

William Benton (1900-1973) was a dynamic man of broad interests and innovative flair who achieved distinction in many fields. This exhibition, based primarily on the William Benton Papers in the University of Chicago Archives, examines the range and substance of Benton's contributions within a number of distinct but interlocking spheres: founder of Benton and Bowles, vice-president and trustee of the University of Chicago, pioneer in educational films and radio, owner and publisher of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Muzak entrepreneur, unofficial advisor to the isolationist America First Committee, charter member and vice-chairman of the Committee for Economic Development, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, founding delegate to UNESCO, liberal Senator from Connecticut, opponent of Joseph McCarthy, and creator of the Benton Foundation for philanthropy in education and communications.

The exhibition highlights Benton's lifelong devotion to ideals of education and public service, family legacies instilled at an early age and reinforced during his early years at the University of Chicago. Benton's role, often behind-the-scenes and thus underrated, was instrumental in insuring the success of the many enterprises to which he was committed. AS important as his purposeful and creative energy was his ability to sustain and use an extensive network of loyalties, obligations, and interests.

Exhibit Publications & Documents

Catalogue 39p., $4
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