Collection Opening: William J. Hartigan Personal Papers


by Jennifer Marciello, Processing Archivist

We are pleased to announce the opening of the William J. Hartigan Personal Papers.

William J. Hartigan was born in 1923 in Revere, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of the Beacon Institute of Podiatry, pursued pre-legal studies at Suffolk University, and took university extension courses at Harvard University and M.I.T. During World War II Hartigan served in the United States Army Air Corps as a member of the Flying Tigers in China (1942-1945).



Hartigan began his career in transportation with the airline industry (1952-1960) where he served as a cargo specialist; in this role he advised shippers on the development of faster and more economical means of transportation. Hartigan also worked as an account executive for domestic and international freight forwarders.

Active in national politics, Hartigan served as a delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention (DNC) and was the Director of Transportation for the DNC during the 1960 presidential campaign. On the local level, he served as Vice Chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee for four years. Hartigan was also Vice Chairman for the presidential campaigns of Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.



Delegate seating plan for the 1960 Democratic National Convention. View the entire folder here.



Questionnaire for the state of Indiana regarding the 1964 presidential election. View the entire folder here.


In 1961 Hartigan was appointed as a staff assistant to President Kennedy and performed advance work for presidential trips. In July of that year he was appointed as Assistant Postmaster General for the Bureau of Transportation, a position that he held until 1967 under Postmasters John Gronouski and Lawrence F. O’Brien.



White House press release announcing the nomination of William Hartigan as Assistant Postmaster General, Bureau of Transportation, 23 July 1961. View entire folder here.



Official Senate Resolution confirming William Hartigan as Assistant Postmaster General, 4 August 1961. View entire folder here.


As Assistant Postmaster General, Hartigan was instrumental in modernizing the agency with the use of airplanes for mail delivery service; of note, he rode on the last postal delivery made by dogsled in Alaska in 1963.



Report of Accomplishments of the Post Office Department during the First Year of the Kennedy Administration. View entire folder here.



Newspaper article from the Anchorage Times about the last dog sled mail delivery in Alaska. View entire folder here.


Hartigan’s papers contain a range of material: clippings related to his role in the Post Office and to departmental matters in which he was in charge; correspondence as Assistant Postmaster General (e.g., constituents seeking promotions or employment, letters of congratulation on his appointment and reappointment, as well as invitations to various events); and photographs of Hartigan (documenting trips, meetings, and various receptions, as well as official office shots and head shots).

A large segment of the collection consists of a variety of subject files: official Post Office Department reports; studies on airline safety; and Hartigan’s work on proposed economic measures in the White House. Of note in this section are files related to Hartigan’s roles on the Democratic National Committee (1959-1967), the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee, and in local politics. The last section of the series contains trip files maintained by Hartigan during his tenure as Assistant Postmaster General; these serve to document his travels to regional post offices and facilities as well as his work with international organizations such as the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the Consultative Committee for Postal Studies (CCPS).


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