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William Wheeler Thornton papers

Identifier: L159

Scope and Contents

This collection contains William Wheeler Thornton's manuscript for a book of political documents, principally from 19th century America; his manuscript of a biography of early Indiana jurist Isaac Blackford; articles on the judicial system of Indiana and the Northwest Territory; an essay on French General Michel Ney in America; correspondence regarding politics and his legal and historical writings (1871-1903) and regarding Judge Blackford (1930-1931); and a copy of Isaac Blackford: The Indiana Blackstone by Thornton and edited by Douglas Fivecoat and published as part of the Indiana Supreme Court Legal History Series (circa 2005).


  • 1877-1931, circa 2005


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

William Wheeler Thornton was born on June 27, 1851 near Logansport, Indiana. His parents were John Allen and Ellen (Thomas) Thornton. He grew up on a farm in Cass County, Indiana, where he attended the local schools and Smithson College, a Universalist educational institution. He studied law at the law firm of his uncle, Henry C. Thornton, before attending the University of Michigan where he received an LL.B. degree in 1876. Thornton then returned to Logansport where he practiced law until 1880. In January, 1882, he married Mary F. Grove. Mary died on July 22, 1905. Thornton married nearly six years later on June 20, 1911. His second wife was Irene Blackledge.

Thornton was appointed Indiana deputy attorney general by Daniel P. Baldwin in 1880 and served a two year term. He resumed his private law practice in Crawfordsville, Indiana (1883-1889) and then Indianapolis (1893-1914). While in Crawfordsville, Thornton also served as city attorney for two years. On September 1, 1889, Thornton was appointed librarian of the Indiana Supreme Court. He left private practice when he became judge of the Marion County Superior Court in 1914, a post he maintained until 1932. Thornton was also the author of numerous books and articles on the law and was considered one of the most prolific and authoritative writers on the subject. He died on January 21, 1932.


Thompson, Donald E., comp. Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1917-1966. Crawfordsville, IN: Wabash College, 1974.


1 Cubic Feet (3 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically by subject.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from Mrs. William Wheeler Thornton on 1938/06/03 and Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard on 2006/08/10.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2005/11 by Christina Baich. EAD finding aid created 2005/11 by Christina Baich. EAD finding aid revised 2015/10/30 by Bethany Fiechter. EAD finding aid updated 2017/04/27 by Laura Eliason.
William Wheeler Thornton papers
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.