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George Joseph Bates Papers

Identifier: M.2

Scope and Contents

The George J. Bates papers are of interest not only to those researching the career of the former State Representative, Mayor, and Congressman, but also to those examining early twentieth-century Essex County political history. The bulk of the collection consists of scrapbooks and photographs from his tenure as Congressman. The scrapbooks document his career on both the national and local levels, with an emphasis on the latter. They show Bates’ interest in the problems affecting local industries, such as the fisheries and shoe factories; they also document his battles with local unions. On the national level, Bates was interested primarily in military issues because of his tenure on the Naval Affairs and Armed Services committees. The bulk of the photographs consists of images taken during his numerous junkets with these two groups. The collection contains some of the bills introduced by Bates in Congress, though the majority of his legislative files have not survived. Most of the legislative issues in which Bates showed an interest were later taken up by his son William during his tenure as Sixth District congressman. Researchers would also profit by consulting that collection, also available at the George and William Bates Memorial Archives at Salem State University


  • Majority of material found within 1930 - 1950

Language of Materials

Materials are entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

George Joseph Bates was born in Salem, MA on February 25, 1891 to Thomas Francis and Annie Byrnes Bates. He attended the public schools in Salem and later attended night classes at the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance in Boston. Bates began his working life as an iron moulder; he held positions at the Locke Regulator Co., the United Shoe Machinery Corp., the Eagle Iron Foundry, and the Salem Foundry. Long interested in politics, Bates was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1918. In the House he served as chairman of the Committee on Municipal Finance and became known for his ready understanding of the budget difficulties faced by cities. This expertise, along with his general popularity among the people of his hometown, led to his election as mayor of Salem. He served in this position from 1924 -1937. During his tenure as mayor, Bates was known for his success at reducing the city’s debt and for his ability to attract funding for public works projects. Indeed, he was one of the first mayors in the country to obtain governmental approval for a WPA public works program. According to Thomas Lane (a fellow Congressman from Massachusetts), Bates was asked to run for the empty Sixth District Congressional seat in 1936 against John E. Taffe. He won handily and took his seat in the Seventy-fifth Congress in January of 1937. He was appointed to four committees during his first term: Naval Affairs, District of Columbia, Rivers & Harbors, and Expenditures in the Executive Departments. In 1939, when Republicans gained a significant number of seats in the House, he had to give up two of his committees. He remained on the Naval Affairs and the District of Columbia committees. In 1946, the Naval Affairs committee and the Military Affairs committee joined to form the Armed Services committee. Bates became a member of that committee and was the fifth ranking Republican when he died in 1949. He was the first ranking Republican member of the District of Columbia committee; he became known as the “Mayor of Washington” for his efforts to put the finances of that city in order. In 1945, he was appointed by the Speaker as a member of the Select Committee on Post War Military policy; he also served on the special House Naval Affairs committee to study the matter of the disposition of various islands in the Pacific areas not under control of the Allied Nations. In 1946, Bates was the ranking Republican member in the congressional delegation appointed to witness the two atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.

Bates remained popular in his home district until the end of his life; in his final election in 1948, he ran unopposed. On November 1, 1949, Bates, while at home in Salem, received a call to attend a meeting of the Armed Services committee. The ill-fated voyage ended with the collision of two planes over the Washington, D.C. airport. Bates and fifty-four others aboard the Eastern Airlines flight died in the crash. Thousands attended his funeral on November 5th in his hometown of Salem. Bates was married to the former Nora Jennings, with whom he had nine children: Thomas (died in childhood); Mary Louise (Sawtell); Catherine Teresa (Ginty);William Henry; Margaret (died in childhood); George Joseph; Raymond Henry; Carolyn Ann (Stanton); and Francis. His son, William Henry Bates, won a special election to fill his father’s seat in Congress.


2 Cubic Feet

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in 1970 by Pearle Jean Bates, widow of William Henry Bates.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Salem State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Archivist
352 Lafayette St.
Salem MA 01970 United States