Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Willkie mss., 1934-1945, are the papers of Wendell Lewis Willkie (1892-1944), corporate lawyer and Republican nominee for president in 1940. Willkie was born in Elwood, Indiana in 1892, where his parents, Herman and Henrietta, were both lawyers. Willkie graduated from Elwood High School and then matriculated to Indiana University, where he earned an A.B. degree in 1913 and a L.L.B. in 1916. (He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from IU in 1938.) He joined the family law practice, but in the spring of 1917 entered the First World War with the 325th Field Artillery, which was stationed in France but did not see combat. After his discharge Willkie moved to Akron, Ohio, first working in the legal department at Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and later joining a private practice. In 1918, he married Edith Wilk (1890-1978), a librarian in his hometown of Elwood. They had a son, Philip (1919-1974).

In Akron, Willkie's skill as a public speaker and his activities in the local Democratic Party brought him into the public eye. Meanwhile, his case load was largely on behalf of utility companies and in 1929 he found himself in New York City representing the Commonwealth & Southern Corporation. Newly formed, the timing was unfortunate as the stock market crashed several months after his move. Nevertheless, Willkie became president of the company in 1934 and, through his plans, revenues increased.

Willkie opposed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's TVA projects, stating that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to be involved in running utility businesses. This outspoken criticism of FDR's New Deal legislation to abolish holding companies resulted in Willkie's defection from the Democratic Party and helped him capture the 1940 GOP nomination for president. Although ultimately unsuccessful in his run for the presidency, he received more votes than any previous Republican candidate. FDR and Willkie did agree on America's need to end its isolationism and in August 1942 Willkie embarked on a 50-day airplane trip around the world at FDR's request to promote international cooperation during the Second World War. The trip resulted in Willkie's hugely successful book One World, in which he advanced the idea of a world government, and received further political recognition.

Willkie also worked tirelessly on issues concerning civil rights and civil liberties and even defended a member of the Communist Party before the Supreme Court late in 1942. Willkie again sought the Republican nomination in 1944 but lost to Thomas E. Dewey. Both Roosevelt and Dewey were seeking Willkie's endorsement when he died on October 8, 1944 after suffering a series of heart attacks while traveling from Indianapolis to New York City on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Willkie was 52 years old.

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Campaign 1940; III. Diaries; IV. Calendars; V. Commonwealth & Southern Corporation; VI. Photographs; VII. Speeches and Writings; VIII. 1940 Republican National Committee and Convention; IX. Political Issues (1941-1944); X. Trip Files; XI. Subject Files; XII. One World; XIII. Clippings; XIV. Printed; XV. Scrapbooks; XVI. Realia; XVII. Miscellaneous; XVIII. Index Cards; XIX. Audio-Visual; XX. Artwork; XXI. Additions.

Correspondents include: Raymond Buell; Robert P. Burroughs; Ralph Harlan Cake; Winston Churchill; Norman Cousins; Gardner Cowles, Jr.; John Cowles; Bartley C. Crum; Russell W. Davenport; Thomas E. Dewey; Gano Dunn; Virginia Foster Durr; Max Eastman; McIntyre Faries; J. William Fulbright; Charles Halleck; Charles Frederick Higham; Herbert Hoover; Cordell Hull; Stanley Isaacs; Henry Cabot Lodge; Claire Booth Luce; Henry R. Luce; Charles L. McNary; Joseph W. Martin, Jr.; Roland B. Marvin; Richard Nixon; Edgar Monsanto Queeny; Eleanor Roosevelt; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.; David O. Selznick; Norma Shearer; Booth Tarkington; Sinclair Weeks; Clara Willkie; Edith (Wilk) Willkie; Edward E. Willkie; Faye Willkie; H.F. Willkie; Julie Etta Willkie; Philip Willkie; Robert T. Willkie; Wendell Willkie; Frank Lloyd Wright; Darryl L. Zanuck. The Correspondence series also includes numerous letters, cards, and telegrams of condolence following Wendell Willkie's unexpected death on October 8, 1944.

The Campaign 1940 series includes correspondence, pamphlets, train tour schedules, and ephemera pertaining to Wendell Willkie's campaign for the presidency in 1940. Photographs include images of Wendell Willkie, Edith Willkie, and other members of the Willkie family, as well as campaign and press photos. Speeches and Writings cover the years 1930-1944 and include Wendell Willkie's acceptance speech for the 1940 Republican Party nomination, as well as numerous campaign speeches and his seminal 1940 Fortune article, "We, the People," at the time the most comprehensive statement of Willkie's worldview. Trip Files include materials regarding Willkie's tours of England and China during World War II, expeditions that would later shape the political and social philosophy of Willkie's book One World.

The One World series includes drafts and related correspondence to Willkie's 1943 bestselling travelogue, along with Willkie's diplomatic passport. Scrapbooks include Souvenir of the 1940 Campaign, an album of correspondence, clippings, memorabilia, and signatures of supporters from Willkie's presidential run; as well as "The American Battle Monuments Commission," an album to Edith Willkie containing prints of monuments and cemeteries dedicated to World War II soldiers. Realia includes political buttons, awards and degrees, gavels and mallets, posters, yearbooks, busts of Willkie and Chiang Kai-shek, Willkie's hat and neckties, and a life-size cardboard cutout of Wendell Willkie. Artwork includes sketches, portraits, and political cartoons. The Miscellaneous series includes materials from Wendell L. Willkie's funeral service on October 17, 1944, and other items regarding Willkie's memorialization.

An inventory is available.

Also see the Willkie Clubs mss.

Acquired: 1975, 1976

Collection size: 500,000 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.