Special Collections and University Archives is pleased to announce a newly published finding aid for the Edward Philip McKean-Smith collection of presidential autographs (CA M193). The finding aid is available on Archives West.
This collection was originally donated by Edward Philip McKean-Smith in 1956. A business man from Coos Bay, Oregon, McKean-Smith had personally purchased the majority of the collection. He chose to donate the letters to Special Collections and made further contributions as he acquired more signatures. Documents from the Wayne L. Morse papers (Coll 001) and William T. Faricy papers (Coll 030) were also combined into the collection (a process that Special Collections and University Archives no longer practices).
Since their acquisition, the papers have never been available to researchers. Any person who wanted to work with the papers were instead given photocopies. The originals were often displayed in the Reading Room in time with presidential elections, appearing for the first time in 1976.
The collection is comprised of mostly personal correspondence, but also includes affidavits, certificates, and autographs. The dates for each document can range from all points in a president’s careers, from before their presidency, during, and after.
Items of note:
- A letter from George Washington inquiries into discrepancies between two land deeds, dated during his time in office.
- A signed affidavit from Abraham Lincoln from his time as a lawyer.
- A letter from Theodore Roosevelt laments that, “Wilson has been the very worse President we have had since Buchanan; and I say this though I think that Taft was a very poor mad indeed.”
- A personal letter from Warren G. Harding to his Aunt Pricilla about the poor health of their Aunt Clara.
- A letter from Harry S. Truman to Wayne Morse, telling him to not worry about a drunk friend who had caused a commotion at a party they both attended. “We all have friends like that!”
- A letter from Ronald Reagan congratulating UO President Paul Olum on his recent promotion to the position.
Because the collection had never been opened to the public before, there had been little work done to make it presentable and available to researchers. This required a full-scale processing plan.
Furthermore, the nature of the collection called for additional levels of processing. Because each document is uniquely important, it was essential to create an itemized description of each record. Given that not every president was not known for their penmanship, this could at times prove to be challenging. A considerable amount of time was spent deciphering script and researching the content of the letters.
-Paige Kosa, Special Collections Intern