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Arthur D. Little, Inc. records

Identifier: MC-0579

Scope and Contents

The collection is composed of records of Arthur D. Little, Inc. The dates of the records in the collection span the years 1909 to 2000, though the bulk was created between 1940s and 1993. The records encompass all aspects of research and consultant services and demonstrate the growth of the company within the consulting world. There are no original papers of the founder, Arthur D. Little, himself. His papers are located at the Library of Congress. Papers of the other directors are few and cover the period 1926 to 1969.

Material in Series 8, Decision Resources, consists of research reports and comment letters produced by the organization to provide independent insight on industry dynamics and technology and business market forecast.

There are two major strengths in this collection: one in the Consulting Technical Reports (Series 4), the other in the History files (Series 7).

History Files

The History Files (Series 7) reflect the creation of documents over a span of almost forty years. They contain a substantial amount of background information on the company’s growth and development, including detailed description of some of the company’s divisions. The files include interview transcripts with long-time employees (e.g., Bruce Old, Benjamin Fogler, Harry Wissman, Raymond Stevens). The material was compiled through the years for the publication of books, articles, and brochures and for anniversary celebrations. The series also documents the planning process for centennial events and activities, although it does not contain much information about the activities themselves. Series III, Publications, and Series VI, Publicity, also contain much historical information.

The collection includes scattered photographs, drafts, notes, newsletters, clippings, publications, correspondence, memoranda, donor agreements, wills, bequests and building plans documenting the activities of the company as a consulting firm from its inception in 1886 through the mid-1980s. Handbooks and manuals from the late 1960s through the early 1980s contain information about company policy and procedures.

The Administrative Files (Series 1) not only document the activities of the company, such as its history and growth, including employee services and benefits, but also illuminate programs, buildings, and funds that were established to benefit others. Of special interest are notes from recipients of scholarships and charitable contributions.

Consulting Reports

The Consulting Technical Reports (Series 4) reflect much of the consulting work and research approach of ADL, Inc. with various companies and businesses, nationally and internationally. These reports convey the development of scientific and technical research, and cover a period of over sixty years (1928 to 1990). While some are comprehensive reports on industry studies and product development, others are reviews of literature and product marketing. Some reports are available on paper; a more complete set may be found on microfilm.

Most reports consist of a transmittal letter, summary, introduction, theoretical discussion, experimental work, conclusion and recommendations, and appendices. Only a handful contain photographs. The reports are listed individually by company name followed by the date the work was initiated. Because a large number are bound reports for a particular company, they may be found in several boxes. Therefore, it is recommended to examine the entire list to locate all reports associated with a company. Two kinds of reports are found in the early part of this series worth noting: Special Report A and Special Report B. The A reports are generally on one subject, and the B reports on various subjects to the same client.


  • 1909 - 2000
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical Note

This account is drawn from various historical pieces in the collection, many of which were written in preparation for anniversary celebrations and can be found in Series 3, boxes 1-3, and in Series 7.

Arthur D. Little, Inc., for many years one of the largest and most diversified consultancies in the world, was founded in 1886. The firm had its origins in a partnership formed by two chemists, Arthur D. Little and Roger B. Griffin. Little attended MIT 1881-1884, where he studied chemistry and edited the student newspaper, The Tech. Leaving MIT in 1885 he went to work at the Richmond Paper Company in Rumsford, Rhode Island, the first sulfite paper mill in the United States. He was hired as a chemist, but was soon made superintendent and became expert in the new sulfite process for making paper. Griffin, a graduate of the University of Vermont and an analytical chemist, was hired to replace Little when he was sent to start up a second sulfite pulp and paper mill in North Carolina. When Little returned, the two men worked together and in a short time began their own business.

Little and Griffin opened an office and laboratory at 103 Milk Street, Boston, with Griffin as the lab man and Little in charge of sales. The company's initial activities were largely in chemical analyses and testing, and consultation on papermaking. Both men were interested in what they referred to as “investigations for the improvement of processes and the perfection of products,” and Little tried hard to find potential customers for long-term applied research.

Although hardly prosperous, the business did survive. Much of their work was routine analysis, but it was a few paper mill clients that kept them alive, and each year their income and reputation grew. Twice the firm moved to bigger quarters and built up a small staff of carefully chosen specialists. Together Griffin and Little worked on the manuscript for The Chemistry of Paper-making, for many years the authoritative text on the subject. But the book was only partially completed when Roger Griffin was killed in a laboratory accident in 1893. Little carried on the business alone for a number of years.

During these years Little founded the Cellulose Products Company and demonstrated that cellulose acetate could be used in producing nonflammable wire insulation and artificial silk. The venture was not a financial success, but its accomplishments were considerable. When the firm was dissolved, its results were distributed among several firms: Eastman Kodak purchased the patents for the first nonflammable motion picture film, and the Lustron Company bought the artificial silk patents and was, for many years, the only American manufacturer of acetate silk.

In 1900 Little formed a second partnership with William H. Walker, instructor in analytical chemistry at MIT. The new partnership moved to 7 Exchange Place in Boston, and the firm of Little & Walker continued for five years. In 1905, however, when MIT opened its Research Laboratory of Applied Chemistry with Dr. Walker in charge, Walker left to assume full-time duties at the Institute and the partnership was dissolved. Little was again on his own, and in 1909 the firm was formally incorporated as Arthur D. Little, Inc. (ADL).

As the scope of the company's activities broadened, specialists were added to the staff and departments were formed. More significant than actual size was the increased diversity of work done. One of the earliest outstanding assignments outside of routine testing and analysis was for General Motors Corporation in 1911 when ADL organized, staffed, and put into operation General Motors' first centralized research department.

Among the more interesting projects of the period were several which unmasked hoaxes. One of these involved a scheme to generate electricity directly by the oxidation of carbon electrodes. Some $5,000,000 had been committed to the venture which, in theory at least, seemed plausible. The apparatus turned out a respectable amount of power, but it also turned out that the inventor had bypassed a number of technical difficulties by drawing his power, through ingenious attachments on the “bushings” of the generator, from the regular power lines.

In 1916 ADL undertook for the Canadian Pacific Railway a series of surveys of the natural resources of Canada and their industrial potential. This activity was one of the earliest in that field. An office was opened in Montreal, and Arthur D. Little Ltd. of Canada came into being. Before the work was over, 165 separate studies had been completed and, in a sense, ADL had become an international operation.

In 1917, ADL moved again, this time to a building of its own at 30 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, alongside the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By 1918 the company had conducted 16,287 investigations. Most of these were analytical in nature, but some also involved entire processes, for example, the production of alcohol from wood waste and the recovery of turpentine and rosin from pine stumps.

The growth of research-based industry, which had been stimulated by the First World War, and had continued during the twenties, was slowed down by the depression. Arthur D. Little remained head of the company until his death in 1935. After his death the company continued along the paths Little had developed, with Earl P. Stevenson as president.

During World War II the staff of ADL worked on projects as varied as the design of a compression still for distilling water (Kleinschmidt still), flame throwers, incendiary bombs, protection against attack by flame, wound healing ointments, surface coatings, and food modifications.

After the war, the company continued its research and engineering activities and expanded its interests in new directions. Primary among these were the investigation and evaluation of overall technological aspects of various industrial situations. This work led the company into the broad area of systems research and analysis. The company continued to carry out consulting contracts for industry, state and federal agencies, and many foreign governments, especially those in the developing countries. Its interests ranged from pure science research through engineering to the systematic planning of large economic developments in all their technological, social, and political aspects.

Beginning in the 1960s, as part of research for the Apollo program, ADL developed much of the instrumentation for the lunar experiments. The company continued to assist NASA on projects designed to expedite the commercialization of space and further assert its leadership in exploiting opportunities in space.

ADL also advanced American objectives in other countries through economic development by transferring technology in a variety of ways, including the operation of an accredited graduate school of business management, the Arthur D. Little Management Education Institute, Inc., directed to the needs of developing nations.

Around 1972, staff members with common professional interests were organized into new or consolidated professional units such as energy economics, transportation and management economics, telecommunications systems, environmental services, and organization development. The company's multi-disciplinary approach typically led it into a wide range of projects, and also into unusually thorough explorations of subjects. For example, one ADL team found a way to store energy, which led to the formation of a team of ADL construction engineers who adapted the technique so that it could be used to heat and cool residential and industrial buildings. This development, in turn, led to the formation of a third unit that analyzed the government's options as to a future solar energy policy.

At any specific moment, the company had approximately 1,000 cases or projects under way. Some of the projects required only a few employees while others required the work of as many as fifty scientists, engineers, technicians, and other supporting staff. It had a wide range of disciplines. From bio-environmental systems to telecommunications sciences, statistics to energy economics, operations research to literature research. By the 1980s the company saw the need to exploit technology to solve problems created by pollution and also the lack of energy resources and the need to conserve energy.

ADL's affiliated and subsidiary companies included Arthur D. Little Decision Resources; ADL Management Education Institute, Inc.; Arthur D. Little Program Systems, Inc.; Delphy Associates, Inc.; Opinion Research Corporation; Pilgrim Health Applications, Inc.; the S. M. Stoller Corporation; and Uranium Supply Service Corporation.

Internationally, the company was represented by Arthur D. Little of Canada Limited; Arthur D. Little Limitada in Latin America; Arthur D. Little International, Inc., throughout Europe and the Middle East; Cambridge Consultants Limited in England; and in the Far East, Arthur D. Little, Inc.

During the 1970s and 1980s Arthur D. Little, later ADL Decision Resources, provided client corporations access to the insight and expertise of ADL on the businesses and technologies of the future. Their publications, Spectrum and DR Reports, presented analyses and forecasts of industries, products, markets, and emerging opportunities.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, however, a change in the business environment and a slowdown in the management and technology consulting industry hit Arthur D. Little, Inc. On February 5, 2002, the firm filed for bankruptcy and its assets were sold to five separate companies. Global Management Consulting and Global Environment & Risk divisions of Arthur D. Little were sold to Altran Technologies of France; Chemical and Energy Ventures to Charles River Associates of Boston; Technology and Innovation to TIAX; Public Sector Program Management to IRC Consulting; and Advanced Energy Systems to Navigant Consulting, Inc. of Chicago.

Arthur D. Little made numerous contributions to the consulting industry in the 1880s. His operating principles stressed technical excellence, commitment to the client's success, leadership in areas of expertise, and a challenging and fulfilling work environment for the company's staff. The company gained an unmatched reputation for excellence by devising novel solutions to challenging problems, developing new techniques, and leading the way in management systems development.


123.6 Cubic Feet (80 record cartons, 123 manuscript boxes, 3 flat boxes, and 1 tube)

Language of Materials


Arrangement note

The collection is organized into eight series: Series 1. Administrative Files; Series 2. Directors’ Files; Series 3. Company Publications; Series 4. Consulting; Technical Reports; Series 5. Visitors and Educational Programs; Series 6. Publicity Material; Series 7. History Files; Series 8. Decision Resources.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Related Archival Materials note

An Arthur D. Little collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress includes both Little’s personal papers and company records. A register is available online at

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Guide to the Records of Arthur D. Little, Inc.
Silvia Mejia
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 July 9: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements and to remove aggrandizing terms in the historical and scope and content notes description.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US