Thomas E. Will papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk U2005.29

Level of description



Thomas E. Will papers


  • 1896-1909 (Creation)


2.00 Linear Feet. 1.00 Box

Name of creator


Biographical history

Thomas Elmer Will was born November 11, 1861 in Prairie Adams county Illinois. In 1880 he taught at a country school and in 1882 he entered the Illinois State Normal School, graduating in 1885. In the fall of 1888, he studied at the University of Michigan for one year. He then entered the senior class at Harvard College and graduated in 1890. On completing his university studies, he married Marie Van Velsor Rogers of Cambridge, Massachusetts and accepted the chair of history and political science at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. He held the position at Lawrence University for two years after which he went to Boston where he delivered courses of lectures on economics and wrote a series of sociological articles for the “Arena” publication for one year. Will came to Kansas State in 1894 to become the chair of Political Economy, serving in this role for three years before becoming President in 1897. Notable during Will’s presidency was the establishment of the first on-campus bookstore and dining hall, but these services were closed after his removal as president in 1899. Kansas in the 1890s was the center of political upheaval between Populists and Republicans, and issues surrounding Populism and the free silver combination led to the removal of President Will together with several other faculty members after Republicans gained control of the Board of Regents. He devoted six years following the close of his work at Kansas State Agricultural College to emphasize the principles taught in his lectures, addresses, and papers while President, including time at Ruskin College in Trenton, Missouri, and as president of the New Socialist College in Wichita, Kansas. He became well-known in the 1930s as an advocate for the development of the Everglades in Florida, and he helped found the settlement Okeelanta in Palm Beach County, Florida. This led to the naming of the Thomas Will Memorial Highway in his honor in 1941, four years after his death.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Thomas E. Will papers contain business correspondence, printed material, Board of Regents minutes, reports, legal documents, notes and drafts, and newspaper clippings from 1896 to 1909, some of which is connected to Will's time as president of Kansas State Agricultural College (KSAC) from 1899 to 1901. There are approximately 430 items in the collection, which is housed in one document box. The papers are divided into seven series: 1) correspondence, 2) minutes, 3) legal documents, 4) reports, 5) printed material, 6) financial records, and 7) notes and drafts.
Correspondence with Regents, KSAC executive department members, KSAC faculty and staff, and the governor of Kansas make up a large portion of the collection. Also among correspondence are letters between J. D. Walters and Will. Many of the letters deal with normal procedures at KSAC, however, some of the correspondence concerns the resignation of President Will. The series is contained in five folders.
Board of Regents minutes make up the second series and they are contained in a single folder. Among the minutes are reactions of Regents (especailly Carl Vrooman and Susan St. John) to the dismissal of President Will and other college professors. Legal documents are filed in one folder, and many of them are contracts written up by the Board of Regents for college faculty and staff. Some of the contracts are actually signed by the Regents, but many of them are blank forms. Other legal records consist of statements of college debts owed and changes within the Board of Regents.
Reports, the fourth series, concern the political controversies around populism that caused outrage in Manhattan and KSAC. The fifth series, printed material, makes up a large portion of the collection. Such items as programs and articles concerning KSAC, articles written by Will, a Kansas Supreme Court brief by G.C. Clemons, and newspaper clippings are included in this series. Financial documents include statements and expenditures concerning the treasury department of KSAC. Also included in this series are copies of the college deficits for the fiscal years 1886–1899. Notes and drafts make up the final series of this collection. The authorship of many of these handwritten items is unknown and they are difficult to read.

System of arrangement

The papers, consisting of approximately 430 items, are housed in one document box. They are arranged according to form of material in seven series: l) correspondence, 2) minutes, 3) legal documents, 4) reports, 5) printed material, 6) financial records, and 7) notes and drafts.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The processing of the papers was completed by Cindy Schneider in March of 1984. The collection is accessioned as PC 96, (revised number, UA 1988.43) and cataloged as MS 2.

The current accession number is U2005.29

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Lawrence E. Will
Acqusition Method: Donation
Acqusition Date: 19830101

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


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Specialized notes

  • Citation: [Item title], [item date], Thomas E. Will papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Finding Aid Author: Cindy Schneider
Processing Info: The processing of the papers was completed by Cindy Schneider in March of 1984. The collection is accessioned as PC 96, (revised number, UA 1988.43) and cataloged as MS 2. Archon processing by Edward Nagurny, graduate research assistant, April 2015.
Publication Date: 2015-04-01

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