Dawn of Social Security in the United States

J. Douglas Brown

Brown was instrumental to the President’s “Committee on Economic Security” in drafting the original bill for the national pension system.

During the Industrial Relations’ Second Summer Conference Course, faculty and graduate students discussed topics of employment stabilization, unemployment benefits, pensions, and insurance. Francis Perkins was listed a speaker at this conference and later became the U.S. Secretary of Labor. As chairwoman to the President’s Committee on Economic Security, she was involved in the hearings that ultimately resulted in the Social Security Act of 1935.

The Social Science Research Council, founded in 1923 as an independent international nonprofit research organization, welcomed Brown to share his expertise at a conference to advance studies of policy in unemployment insurance and relief. Among the list of fellow conferees were several pioneers in social security and labor history: A.J. Altmeyer, Frank Bane, Harry Hopkins, and Isador Lubin.

The Committee on Economic Security had little time to formulate a comprehensive social insurance program and called on the expertise of others to help formulate and draft the legislation. Brown’s area of expertise was retirement annuities and old age pensions.

When applying for a position on the Social Security Board, Brown stated his personal and professional information. Native to New Jersey, Brown received all of his post-secondary education from Princeton University earning three degrees in Economics. The form also stated his salary as an instructor. The second side of the form listed his place of residence, as well as documenting his military service in the U.S. Army.