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Benjamin Collins Papers

Identifier: mss-094

Scope and Content Note

The Benjamin Collins Papers is divided into four major sub-divisions. Each division is arranged alphabetically by topic. The arrangement of the divisions also reflects the chronological progression of Collins' career. The largest group in the collection is the Hoff Administration papers which spans Collins' tenure in the administration (1864-1968). The next series documents the Youth Project of Vermont (also known as the Vermont Youth Project, Vermont-New York Youth Project, and the New York City (or NYC)-Vermont Youth Project). This group contains manuscripts and photographs, as well as audio and videotapes from the two year experiment in racial understanding, begun in 1968 in response to the Kerner-Lindsay Report on Civil Disorder. Materials in the Hoff Senatorial Campaign subdivision relate exclusively to activities between January and November, 1970 during Hoff's campaign for the U.S. Senate. Collins' Personal material makes up the next series. The materials, mostly correspondence, cover a twenty year span, from Collins' years as a reporter to his tenure on the Goddard College administration, although much of the series focuses on his activities in the Hoff administration.

The collection covers a period of dramatic governmental growth and change in Vermont and reflect the reform spirit of the 1960's and of the Hoff administration. The collection is particularly strong in the areas in which Collins had the most responsibility: civil rights, economic opportunity, constitutional revision, employment and labor, and general administration. The collection also shows off his strength as a writer. He drafted most of Governor Hoff's speeches, and represented him at events across the state. Many of the speeches underwent several drafts as the chief executive and his chief administrator honed their liberal message for Vermonters.

The Hoff Senatorial Campaign and Personal subdivisions also reflect the ideological gap which developed between Collins and Hoff. In confidential memoranda and in his resignation letter from the Hoff senatorial campaign Collins appeared impatient with what he perceived as Hoff's shift from liberal to moderate democratic ideals.

The manuscripts in the Youth Project of Vermont subdivision complement the larger collection titled Youth Project of Vermont Records. The Collins papers contain project correspondence, reports and evaluations and administrative paperwork such as grant applications and documentation of everyday work. Films about the project as well as audiotape recordings of evaluation hearings, are included.

As in the larger related collection of Hoff gubernatorial papers, the Benjamin Collins Papers contain correspondence with noted state and national figures including: William Meyer, Robert "Bill" Daniels, Madeleine Kunin, Richard Snelling, John Daley, Winston Prouty, George Aiken, Robert Stafford, Hubert Humphrey, Edward M. Kennedy, John Kenneth Galbraith, Daniel Inouye, and more.

In the papers, researchers will find useful illustrations of a chief executive's relations with his staff, and the effects of rapid social and political change on small state governments.


  • 1955-1975



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.


Benjamin McVickar Collins was born in Rhinebeck, New York on April 16, 1928. Educated at the Oakwood School, he graduated in 1944 at age 16. Collins attended Haverford College, majoring in political science. After graduation in 1948 Collins entered the U.S. Army, serving until 1952, including seventeen months in Korea as an intelligence section chief for a military engineering construction group. Discharged as a master sergeant, he continued his education in the MSW program at Columbia University. After a short stint as a reporter for the Middletown (NY) Times Herald, Collins was hired in 1954 to serve as state desk reporter for the Burlington Free Press. During the 1958-61 legislative sessions he worked for the Vermont Press Bureau, providing legislative coverage for eight Vermont dailies. During the 1960 and 1961 sessions he was appointed Bureau chief. In 1961 he became managing editor of the Caledonian Record, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. During this period he also worked as the Vermont correspondent for Newsweek, and served as a regular panelist on "You Can Quote Me," a weekly Vermont news program on WCAX-TV. His work at the capital and his progressive political ideas caught the attention of freshman Governor Philip H. Hoff, Vermont's first democratic governor since 1853. Collins was appointed as special assistant to the governor in January, 1964, replacing state Democratic Party leader John Spencer who resigned his post for "health reasons." Collins quickly became the dominant voice in Hoff's "kitchen cabinet." Many journalists felt that Collins and Hoff shared a "co-governorship." He was chief liaison with the press and state administration; developed policy in coordination with the governor's staff; and led the movement within the Governor's office for rapid social and economic change in the state. At the end of Hoff's second term, Tom Kenney, Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs, resigned his post to resume a lucrative law practice. Collins became the logical successor. The Secretary traditionally served as the governor's chief aide; Collins followed the pattern. He supervised the governor's staff, served as chief liaison with all executive departments, coordinated the Vermont Youth Project in 1968, and became the administration's leading spokesman. In 1969, Collins was appointed executive director of the Vermont youth Project (Youth Project of Vermont, Inc.), which had become a private non-profit organization at the close of the Hoff administration. In early 1970 it became evident that the program would not receive major philanthropic support. Collins resigned his post and became director of Hoff's unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent Winston Prouty. Collins coordinated the campaign until September, 1970. He then accepted a position at Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont as vice-president for administration. Collins continued at Goddard until 1975. He was Executive Director of the Central Vermont Community Action Council in Barre from 1976 until his death from cancer in 1982. At that time the family consisted of a wife and seven children.


16.0 Linear feet (15 cartons, 5 boxes)

22 Linear Feet (15 cartons, 5 boxes, 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials



The Benjamin Collins Papers document his work as chief aid to Vermont Governor Philip H. Hoff including work in state government, ideology at a time of rapid social change, political campaigns, and the Youth Project of Vermont which Collins directed.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Alice Soule-Collins

Related Collections

The Benjamin Collins Papers within the Barre History Collection is held by the Vermont Historical Society. The Philip H. Hoff Papers, also at University of Vermont Special Collections, document the gubernatorial career of Philip H. Hoff. The Youth Project of Vermont Records, also at University of Vermont Special Collections more closely document the project.

Guide to the Benjamin Collins Papers
Finding aid prepared by Processor: K. Peterson.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)