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Wendell Willkie collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: S1411

Scope and Contents

This collection includes four letters written by Wendell Willkie (1936-1943); an early draft of a biography by Will Hays titled “Wendell L. Willkie: A Great Liberal” (May 1940); a typewritten copy of “Gentleman From Indiana,” an essay by Janet Flanner that was published in Harper’s Bazaar (September 15, 1940); other documents related to his 1940 presidential campaign; rough drafts of editorials following Willkie’s death (October 1944); carbon copies of letters written by John C. Rugenstein regarding “Willkiana”(1944-1945); and the funeral service book regarding Willkie’s October 17, 1944 service in Rushville, Indiana.

There are also oversize portrait prints of Willkie circa 1940 (OBD025).


  • 1936-1945


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 / Historical

Wendell Lewis Willkie was a lawyer, public utility executive, and a Republican nominee for president of the United States. He was born February 18, 1892 in Elwood, Indiana to Herman and Henrietta Willkie. He received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University (IU) in 1913 and taught school in Kansas for a time before returning to IU and earning a law degree in 1916. He practiced law with his father until he enlisted in the U.S. Army when the United States entered World War I. On January 14, 1918 he married Edith Wilk of Rush Indiana and following the war, he moved to Akron, Ohio to work in the legal department of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Not long after moving to Ohio, he left Firestone and became a partner in the Akron law firm that became Mather, Nesbitt, and Willkie. In 1929, he moved to New York City to work in the legal department of the Commonwealth and Southern Corporation and became the company’s president in 1933. Active in Democratic politics, he turned against Roosevelt’s New Deal and gained national prominence over his fight for privately owned utility companies against the federal government’s Tennessee Valley Authority. He became a Republican in the late 1930s and was the party’s nominee for president of the United States in 1940. Though he received more than 22,000,000 votes - the largest popular vote ever received by a Republican presidential candidate up to that time - it only garnered him 82 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 449. He again sought the Republican nomination in 1944, but withdrew from the race following his loss in the Wisconsin primary. He died on October 8, 1944 in New York City at the age of 52 and is buried in Rushville, Indiana.


Information found within collection.

Encyclopædia Britannica. "Wendell Willkie." Encyclopædia Britannica. Last modified October 4, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018.

“Life of Willkie, Home-Made Gentleman From Indiana, Ran Gamut, Rags to Riches.” Indianapolis Star (IN), October 9, 1944. Accessed November 14, 2018. ProQuest.


0.12 Cubic Feet (2 folders, 1 extra-large oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a purchase from Robert E. Black on 1961/12/18 and as donations from Harold F. Brigham in 1943/05, William Todd in 1947 and Miller Hamilton on 1991/01/24.


No further additions are expected.

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

L300: John Rugenstein collection

SP152: Wendell Willkie photograph collection

OH193: Wendell Willkie speech

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2018/11/14 by Laura Eliason. EAD finding aid created 2018/11/14 by Laura Eliason. EAD finding aid revised 2021/12/02 by Lauren Patton; 2022/11/14 by Brittany Kropf.
Wendell Willkie collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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