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Lawrence Senesh papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 489

Scope and Contents

The Lawrence Senesh Papers (1949-2004; 11.25 cubic feet) documents the work of Lawrence Senesh. Types of materials include activity books, correspondence, phonograph records, problems books, resource guides, scriptbooks, and textbooks. Most of the materials in this collection pertain to Senesh’s work on the Our Working World textbook series developed and written for primary school students.


  • 1949 - 2004
  • Majority of material found within 1963 - 1974

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

This collection is open for research. The collection is stored offsite; 24 hours notice is required to access the collection.

Copyright and Use Information

Purdue University owns copyright to Senesh’s Our Working World publications and non-published materials in this collection.

Biographical Information

Born Szenes Laszlo on March 27, 1910, in Nagybecskerek, Hungary, Lawrence Senesh was a great innovator and developer of curricula, especially in the area of American primary education. Senesh received degrees in Economics and Law in the 1930s and worked as a freelance writer. In March 1940, he immigrated to the United States, in part to escape rigid censorship then prevalent in Hungary. After his arrival, Senesh worked in a lumber mill in Birmingham, Alabama. He joined the military after the United States’ entry into World War II and served as a rifleman and lumberjack in the U.S. Army. While on duty at Camp Carson, Colorado, Senesh met his future wife, Dorothy Marchus. In 1943, Senesh was sent to the Pacific theater, where he organized the U.S. Army’s Information-Education program, South Pacific Area. For this effort, Senesh received the Bronze Star. At the urging of Harry Fields, director of the National Opinion Research Center, Senesh became an assistant professor of Economics at the University of Denver and quickly developed new teaching methods for undergraduate instruction, particularly in the use of visual presentation and concept teaching, both very innovative for Senesh’s time. He continued with this work after joining the Joint Council on Economic Education as its first staff economist in 1952. Five years later, Senesh was asked by Emanuel Weiler to join Purdue University’s Krannert School of Industrial Management as the nation’s first professor of Economic Education Economics. In 1962, Senesh teamed up with first grade teacher and Purdue graduate student Frances Fitzgerald to write scripts for a series aired on WBAA radio as part of Purdue University’s School of the Air programing. Material for the series soon evolved into Families at Work, a first-grade level textbook published by Science Research Associates (SRA). The first addition of Families at Work was packaged with an accompanying activity book and an innovative Teacher’s Resource Unit (TRU), which contained a number of activities (discussions, art projects, role plays, etc.) that teachers could incorporate into their classroom lessons. Senesh followed up Families at Work with the second installment in his Our Working World (OWW) publications, Neighbors at Work (1965), a textbook aimed at second-graders. Teacher packets of Neighbors at Work included a textbook, TRU, problems book, and supplemental recordings. Contributors to Neighbors at Work included Purdue University sociologist Robert Perrucci and Nobel prize-wining scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. A grant from the Ford Foundation enabled Senesh to travel the globe in search of material for his third-grade textbook, Cities at Work (1963). OWW was expanded from a three-year to six-year series after Sensh left Purdue in 1969 to join the faculty of the University of Colorado as a professor of Economics. Regions of the United States (1972), The American Way of Life (1972), and Regions of the World (1973), were published for students in grades four, five, and six, respectively. Changes in public school curriculum and a parting of ways between Senesh and SRA, however, brought the OWW series to an end in 1976. Continuing his work at the University of Colorado until his retirement in 1982, Senesh developed, with funds acquired from the National Science Foundation, the Undergraduate Pre-Service Teacher Education Program (UPSTEP), to provide greater training to prospective teachers. He was also a founding member and co-president of the global Academy of Independent Scholars, founded in 1979. In 1977, Senesh received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Purdue for brining “a clear vision and boundless dedication to the education of children and scholars in a country he has chosen as his own.” Senesh’s ideas and concepts became mainstays in curricula developed by the Indiana Department of Education and public school systems throughout the United States. For his work and dedication to the advancement of education in the United States, Senesh received the Joint Council on Economic Education’s Marvin Bower Medal Award and a Fulbright Award in 1988, and was recognized by the Indiana Council for Economic Education in 1991. Professor Senesh died of natural causes on November 19, 2003.

Note written by John Michael Foster


11.048 Cubic Feet (Eight cubic foot boxes, five letter-size full-width manuscript boxes, two letter-size half-width manuscript boxes, one flat box, one phonograph box, and one unboxed artifact)


The Papers are organized into 3 series: 1. Printed Materials, Senesh and General, 1949-2004 (2.6 cubic feet) Correspondence and subject files comprising published articles, lectures, papers, grant proposals, programs, speeches, and miscellaneous publications created by Senesh and others. Publications authored by Senesh have been specifically identified in the below description with “Senesh” enclosed in parentheses near the publication title. Materials in the series are arranged by material type. Subject files remain in the same order they were found at the time the collection was organized and processed. Scott, Foresman Social Studies materials are arranged by material type, as are the publications comprising Boxes 5 and 6. 2. Printed Materials, Our Working World, 1963-1974 (5.8 cubic feet) Textbook chapter and activities drafts, textbooks, resource units and guides, activity books, recorded lessons, booklets, scriptbooks, review questions, problems books, and satellite kits authored by Senesh and published by Science Research Associates for the Our Working World textbook series. Materials in the series are arranged by material type. 3. Audio-Visual Materials, Our Working World, Etc., 1963-1981 (2.85 cubic feet) Phonograph , filmstrips, slides, cassette tapes, almost exclusively related to the Our Working World series. Materials in the series are arranged by material type.

Custodial History

Senesh estate to Jeff Sanson, Indiana Department of Economic Education and Department of Agricultural Economics, date unknown Jeff Sanson, Indiana Department of Economic Education and Department of Agricultural Economics, to ASC, June 20, 2013

Acquisition Information

Collection materials provided as a records transfer from Jeff Sanson, Indiana Department of Economic Education and Department of Agricultural Economics, 2014-08-06.

Related Publications

Harrington, Peter, and Joseph Rueff. Lawrence Senesh: His Life and His Legacy. West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue University, 2000.

Separated Materials

Two or three copies of duplicate items have been retained. Additional copies were discarded. Empty film real boxes found in the collection at the time of its organization were also discarded.

Processing Information

All materials in the collection are housed in acid-free boxes. Two or three copies of duplicate items have been retained. Additional copies were discarded. Empty film real boxes found in the collection at the time of its organization were also discarded. Box 1 contains and album of Senesh correspondence. The correspondence remains as found by ASC. Materials in the subject files (Boxes 2 and 3) remain in their original folders. Textbooks, resource units and guides, packets of review guides, and satellite kits in Boxes 7-13 (Series 2) remain loose in their respective boxes due to their size. Remaining materials in Series 2 were placed in acid-free folders. Complete album and box sets of phonograph records in Series 3 remain in their original housing. All other materials in the series have been re-housed in acid-free boxes (filmstrips, slides, cassette tapes) or sleeves (loose phonograph records).
Lawrence Senesh papers
In Progress
Amanda Rumba and John Michael Foster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition. Collection description completed 2013-09-12 by John Michael Foster.

Revision Statements

  • 2020-04-22: Collection description updated by Amanda Rumba to align with data entry standards.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States