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Carl S. Coan, Sr. Papers

Identifier: MSS-027

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Carl A. S. Coan Collection in Housing and Urban Affairs contains the personal papers, manuscripts, and materials related to Mr. Coan's work as staff director for the Democratic members of the Senate Subcommitte on Housing and Urban Affairs, a position he held for over twenty five years. The correspondence and materials found in Coan's papers are largely concerned with the legislation enacted over the period 1961-1976 to promote federal housing project programs.


  • Bulk, 1961-1975 1954-1976
  • Majority of material found within 1961 - 1975

Collection-level Access Restrictions

All rights reserved by Georgetown University Law Library unless otherwise noted.

Biographical note

A career housing specialist, Carl A.S. Coan advised members of the subcommitee and Senate on legislative proposals pertaining to housing, urban development, and mortgage credit, playing an influential role in the writing of legislation that affected both domestic and international housing projects.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Coan (1911-1976) attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, earning his degree in economics. He did his graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and the American University in Washington, D.C., specializing in mortgage banking. Much of Coan's professional career was spect as a public servant working on the issues of housing and community development. He began his government service in 1939 with the Works Progrss Administration, specializing in economics and housing research. He went ot serve on the staffs of the Census Bureau and Public Housing Administration before joining the staff of the Senate Subcommittee of Banking, Currency, and Housing in 1957. There he acted as research director until he was appointed staff director for the Democrats in 1961, a position that he would hould until his death. In his role as staff director, Coan not only worked closely with subcommittee members in the writing of domestic housing policy, but soon came to play a valued role in the development of U.S. policy onthe funding of international housing projects. In his role as policy advisor on international housing issues, Coan traveled to over forty countries as U.S. representative to meet with foreign officials and participate in international housing conferences. In addition to his work with the Senate, Coan was a frequent speaker on housing issues to private groups and assumed an active role in regional housing matters, maintaining a life-long association with the Potomac chapter of the National Associaiton of Housing and Redevelopment officials, serving as its president in 1957. He was honored for his work by the National Housing Conference in 1973, when he was presented with its man of the year award.

In many ways, Coan's career closely paralleled the creation and administration of a national housing policy. Although the call for public housing first emerged at the end of the nineteenth century, gaining prominence under the reform efforts of the Progressives, it was not until the Great Depression that this issue became part of the national dialogue. The collapse of the nation's economy during the 1930s effected many industries, none more than housing. A number of factors contributed to its hardships -- a bust in the real estate market together with a precipitous decline in housing starts, the rising number of home foreclosures, and an increase in bank failures persuaded many government officials of the need for a federal interventionist program that would both stimulate the housing industry and protect home financing. These two objectives became the cornerstone of the national housing policy that emerged during this time period and would structure the government's response to this problem for over the next fifty years. Meaures to protect the nation's financial system can be found in the establishment of the Federal Home Loan Bank (1932) and the Housing Act of 1934, both of which helped to create a federally regulated housing finance and mortgage guarantee system that insured depositors' accounts and restored confidence to both borrowers and lenders. The protection that was provided in such an environment together with teh economic boom of post-war America revitalized the housing industry and saw home ownership in this country grow at an unprecedented rate. Not all of the federal government's efforts were successful, however. The concept of federal subsidized housing was controversial when it was first proposed in the 1930s, and has remained so ever since. Originally viewed as a way to stimulate the nation's economy while providing decent housing to the country's growing population of ill-housed and underhoused citizens, this program soon became restricted to serving the nation's urban poor and associated with the concept of slum cleareance. The nation, and the Congress, remained divided over the issue of public housing during its early years, and it was not until the 1960s, under the Johnson Administration, that the issue of public housing was seriously addressed as part of the Great Society program.

Coan was married to his wife Flora for forty three years and together they had nine children. They resided in the Washington area until his death in 1976. In recognition of his service to the housing field, the National Housing Conference established an annual award in his memory for the individual who has performed outstanding service to the issues of housing and community development.


21 linear feet

Language of Materials


General Physical Description note

Total: 14 boxes

Finding aid for the Carl S. Coan, Sr. Papers MSS 027
Finding aid prepared by Georgetown University Library Special Collections Research Center
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts Repository

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