Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Hays mss., ca. 1895-1954, consist the papers of William Harrison Hays, Sr., the namesake of the Hays Code for censorship of American films. Will H. Hays was born in Sullivan, Indiana on November 5, 1879, to John T. Hays and Mary Cain Hays. Hays served as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1918-1921, managing the successful campaign of Warren G. Harding for the presidency in 1920. Following Harding's election, Hays was appointed Postmaster General in 1921, a post he held until 1922, when he resigned in order to become the first President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). Hays retired from the post in 1945, returning to Sullivan where he died on March 7, 1954.

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Memoirs; II. Writings; III. Photographs; IV. Chaney Digest; V. Diaries; VI. Genealogical Materials; VII. Personal and Professional Files; VIII. Correspondence; IX. Articles; X. Audio-Visual Materials; XI. Miscellaneous. Memoirs includes drafts, notes, research materials related to The Memoirs of Will H. Hays (published in 1955). Writings include those of both Will Hays, Sr. and Will Hays, Jr. (born December 11, 1915, also in Sullivan, IN), including an unpublished draft based on their relationship written by the son. (Will Hays, Jr. became involved in the movie business as well: His musical You're My Everything was produced in 1949, and he wrote numerous scripts for the television show This is Your Life.) The Chaney Digest was compiled by Dirrelle Chaney, a longtime associate of Hays and owner of the Sullivan Union, a weekly newspaper in Sullivan, IN, who worked for Hays when he was Postmaster General. The Digest summarizes important events and Hays' activities. Diaries include Hays's Postmaster General calendar. Genealogical materials include charts of the Hays family tree. Miscellaneous materials feature a Ball State University dissertation, "Will H. Hays: Republican Politician," written by Richard Joseph Cinclair.

Correspondents include John Boettinger, Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Edison, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Henry Cabot Lodge, Benito Mussolini, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and a photograph of the first manned flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, 17 Dec 1903, autographed by Orville Wright.

Hays also received numerous photographs from Hollywood movie stars. Autographed portraits include Jimmie Adams, Mary Astor, Viola Banky, Warner Baxter, Noah Beery, Monte Blue, Clara Bow, Mary Brian, Clive Brook, Neal Burns, Eddie Cantor, Lon Chaney, Sr., Syd Chaplin, Ruth Clifford, Ronald Colman, Virginia de Corbin, Maria Corda, Dolores Costello, Bebe Daniels, Dorothy Devore, Billy Dooley, Billie Dove, Jack Duffy, Louise Fazenda, W. C. Fields, Lillian Gish, Lawrence Gray, Corinne Griffith, Raymond Griffith, Bill Hart, Raymond Hatton, Lloyd Hughes, Bill Irving, Emil Jannings, Osa Johnson, Leatrice Joy, Alice Joyce, Buster Keaton, Donald Keith, Doris Kenyon, Natalie Kingston, Lupino Lane, Harry Langdon, Dorothy Mackaill, Tim McCoy, Victor McGlagen, Tom Mix, Jack Mulhall, Charlie Murray, Molly O'Day, Mary Pickford, William Powell, Esther Ralston, Carroll Reece, Donald Reed, Irene Rich, Will Rogers, Chic Sale, Malcolm Sebastian (a.k.a. "Big Boy"), Vera Steadman, Gloria Swanson, Constance Talmadge, Estelle Taylor, Shirley Temple, Virginia Valli, Bobby Vernon, Paul Vincenti, Count Felix vonLuckner, Alice White, Loretta Young, and Adolph Zukor.

An inventory is available.

Acquired: 2009

See also: Hays, Will H. papers at Indiana State Library, Manuscript & Rare Books Division.

Collection size: 10,000 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.