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John Rugenstein collection

Identifier: L300

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials assembled by John Rugenstein regarding the presidential campaign of Wendell Willkie. Included in this collection is campaign memorabilia such as buttons, literature, poetry, postcards, music, stickers and phonograph records. Also included is the correspondence of the various state and local Willkie Clubs, founded in 1940 to promote and support Willkie in his campaign. These items are divided geographically. There is information on the national (Associated of Willkie Clubs of America), state (Indiana Willkie Clubs) and Indiana county level organizations. After Willkie’s defeat in the election, these clubs reorganized to form the Independent Clubs of America, of which some correspondence is also included. Correspondents include Homer J. Capehart, J. Edgar Hoover, James Frenzel, H. C. Stimson, Willis Coval, Charles Trowbridge, Lew Wallace, Jr. and Charles Halleck.

Correspondence from other organizations that supported the Willkie campaign effort is also included. These organizations include the National Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government and the Indiana Republican Committee. Correspondents include Arch N. Bobbitt, Walter Sundlum, James Bradford and Amos Pinochot.

In 1940, the city of Elwood, Indiana held a notification ceremony in which Wendell Willkie received the official Republican nomination as the presidential candidate. This collection contains the correspondence that was involved during the ceremony planning process. Also included is the Nutzum family correspondence. Clara Nutzum, her father J.M. Nutzum, and their family lived in Elwood, Indiana and were heavily involved in planning of the notification ceremony. These letters include correspondence between Clara and J.M. Nutzum with other members of the Nutzum clan in other parts of the state and country. This collection also contains some memorabilia from the ceremony such as a Willkie fan and a souvenir program.

This collection was put together through the efforts of John Rugenstein and includes some of his correspondence used to acquire some of these materials. He created an inventory of the items that he collected as well as bibliography of books and articles related to the life and campaign of Wendell Willkie.

There are also photographs, newspaper/magazine articles, valentines, and letters written by Willkie to James Frenzel. In addition to the typed bibliography, Rugenstein also created a newspaper index of Willkie-related items during the campaign. Items are arranged chronologically. In some cases, copies of the articles have been placed in envelopes in the index. There are also 2 oversize folders of Willkie materials (OBC010).


  • 1879-1959


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

John Rugenstein was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 9, 1889, the son of Carl and Dorathea (Lembke) Rugenstein. Early in his life he worked for the Indianapolis News as a paperboy. In 1903, he was promoted to office boy, under the direction of O.R. Johnson, business manager for that newspaper. Within a few years he was again promoted, this time to credit manager of the Indianapolis News, a position he held until 1930 when health problems forced him to retire. Rugenstein was heavily involved in civic activities and was a member of many local organizations, such as the Indianapolis Humane Society, the Indiana Historical Society, the Marion County Historical Society and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He was an avid collector of historical documents and memorabilia, particularly of Abraham Lincoln, James Whitcomb Riley and Wendell Willkie. Rugenstein married Florence Meyer on January 1, 1910. They had two children together, Dorothy and Donald. John Rugenstein died on November 20, 1970.


Wendell Willkie was born on February 18, 1892 in Elwood, Indiana. He was the fourth of six children born to Herman Francis and Henrietta (Trisch) Willkie. In 1913, Willkie graduated from Indiana University. Lacking the funds to immediately continue on to law school, he moved to Kansas where he worked as a teacher and saved money so he could continue with his education. He left his job in November 1914 to work as a chemist in a Puerto Rican sugar factory. By 1915, this lucrative position made it possible for him to return to school. Willkie graduated with a law degree from Indiana University in 1916. After graduation, Willkie returned to Elwood, where he worked in his parent’s law office. Within a year, war broke out in Europe and Willkie voluntarily signed up to serve. Before his departure overseas in 1918, he married Edith Wilk of Rushville, Indiana, with whom he would eventually have one child. After returning from the war in 1919, Willkie was employed by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, where he worked as part of the legal staff.

Over the next twenty years, he held a variety of important positions in large companies, such as Northern Ohio Power and Light Company and Commonwealth and Southern Corporation, which helped him to become well known throughout the business community. In 1940, Willkie, frustrated by the politics of Franklin Roosevelt, decided to run for the presidency in the upcoming election. Willkie won the Republican nomination, but eventually lost the general election. After the loss, Willkie wrote political columns in newspapers and magazines. In 1943, he decided to try again for the presidency, but left the race early after a disappointing response by voters in the Wisconsin primary in April 1944. In September of that same year, Willkie began suffering from heart problems. He died of a heart attack in October 1944.


1.56 Cubic Feet (3 manuscript boxes, 1 card file, 1 large oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by subject.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from John Rugenstein in 1967.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed in 2004 by Jennifer Duplaga. Finding aid revised 2015/11/24 by Lauren Patton and 2016/07/26 by Bethany Fiechter. EAD finding aid created 2018/05/02 by Lauren Patton. EAD finding aid revised 2021/09/15 by Lauren Patton.
John Rugenstein 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.