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Will H. Hays collection

Identifier: L560

Scope and Contents

The collection includes Will H. Hays' correspondence, speeches, scrapbooks, notebooks and photographs, principally from the period of 1914-1954. His political papers include correspondence and other papers regarding his work as Indiana and National Republican Party Chairman; his work with the State Council of Defense during World War I; his efforts to unite the liberal and conservative wings of the Republican Party for the 1920 election, including his correspondence with Theodore Roosevelt on the party's future (1918-1919); his efforts to attract women voters to the party by working with woman suffrage organizations and the Anti-Saloon League; his work on behalf of Warren G. Harding's presidential campaign, including papers regarding campaign finances, the support of interest groups, and the operations of state campaign committees; his work as United States Postmaster General, including papers regarding postal appointments, post office policies, air mail, rural mail service, and other postal operations; and his involvement in Republican Party affairs from the 1920s to the 1950s, particularly the 1940 National Convention and his support of Wendell Willkie.

His papers as president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) include minutes of meetings; policy statements, including censorship policies; MPPDA financial statements and reports; Hays’s annual reports as president (1926, 1932-1945); his speeches regarding the motion picture industry ; and papers regarding issues before the MPPDA, including conduct of movie personnel, distribution monopolies and unfair competition, taxes on the film industry, the distribution of American films abroad, copyright protection, the motion picture industry during World War II, and the use of motion pictures for educational purposes. Also included are correspondence, transcripts of hearings, and photostats of exhibits related to a 1947 case involving American film companies' claims against French distributors for royalties owed form the period of 1939-1945, in which Hays served as arbitrator.

Also included are Hays' papers regarding his business interests in the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad (C E and I Railroad) during 1922-1954, the Bedford Stone Company, various coal companies in southwestern Indiana, the United States Potash Company, and banks in Sullivan, Indianapolis, California, and New York; personal correspondence, including letters from his father, John T. Hays, while Hays was attending Wabash College (1896-1900), and correspondence with friends and relatives in Sullivan, Indianapolis, and other Indiana cities; papers regarding Hays' work with cultural and charitable institutions, including Wabash College, Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, the Near East Relief Commission (1920-1930s), the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association, the Red Cross, and the Presbyterian Board for Ministerial Relief, which worked to rebuild Presbyterian churches and missions in Asia and the Pacific after World War II. The collection also includes scrapbooks of clippings, press releases, speeches, and other items dealing with Hays' career, and with Republican Party affairs, the United States Post Office, and the motion picture industry; outlines, notes, and drafts of his autobiography, published as Memoirs (1955).

Correspondents include George Ade, Ingrid Bergman, Albert J. Beveridge, Oscar E. Bland, Eddie Cantor, Homer Capehart, John C. Chaney, Calvin Coolidge, Cecil B. DeMille, Stoughton A Fletcher, James P. Goodrich, Warren G. Harding, James A. Hemenway, Ted Herron, Herbert Hoover, Charles Evans Hughes, Joseph P. Kennedy, Henry Cabot Lodge, Medill McCormick, Warren T. McCray, Harry S. New, Meredith Nicholson, Theodore Roosevelt, Delavan Smith, Harlan F. Stone, William Howard Taft, Thomas Taggart, Booth Tarkington, Albert Vestal, Booker T. Washington, James E. Watson, Henry Lane Wilson.

There are also five panoramic photographs in the collection (OBF006). There are four photographs, two copies of two scenes. The first scene depicts "Most Representative Gathering of the 'Film Folk' Ever Seen," showing people from the movie industry at the Hollywood Bowl on July 29, 1922 for Will H. Hays Inaugural Address. One of the photographs has an inscription and autograph from film producer Jesse L. Lasky. The other scene was taken at the same location. The fifth photograph was taken by Keystone Photo of L.A. on July 6, 1926, showing attendees of a luncheon at the Writers' Club in Hollywood, which included delegates to the National Editorial Association convention and film industry people. Will Hays is standing on a raised stand to the left above the crowd with several other men, including California Governor Friend William Richardson, and one woman, most wearing medals or ribbons.


  • 1857-1957


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 "Will" Harrison Hays was born on November 5, 1879 to John Tennyson Hays (1845-1919) and Mary Cain Hays (1857-1919) in Sullivan, Indiana. He had one brother, Hinkle C. Hays. Hays received his B.A. from Wabash College in 1900 and his M.A. in 1904. Hays received a Lincoln Memorial College, Honorary LL.D. in 1919; Mount Union College, Honorary LL.D. in 1926, and Wabash College Honorary LL.D in 1940.

Hays married Helen Louise Thomas on November 18, 1902 and they had one son, William Harrison Hays, Jr. (b. 1915). He divorced Helen on June 20, 1929 and received custody of William Harrison Hays, Jr. Hays then married Jessie Herron Stutesman on November 27, 1930, the widow of James F. Stutesman, a former United States minister to Bolivia.

ays was admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1900 where he became a partner of the Hays and Hays law firm in Sullivan, Indiana. He was the Republican Precinct Committeeman, 3rd Precinct, in Sullivan, Indiana from 1900 to 1901; chairman of the Sullivan County Republican Committee from 1904 to 1908; member, Republican State Advisory Committee, 1904-1908; chairman, Speakers' Bureau, Representative State Committee, 1906-1908; city attorney of Sullivan, Indiana, 1910-1913; district chairman, 2nd District, Representative State Committee, 1910-1914; chairman, Republican State Committee, 1914-1918; chairman, Indiana State Council of Defense, 1917-1918; chairman, Republican National Committee, February 1918-June 1921; presidential campaign manager for Warren G. Harding, 1920; United States postmaster general, March 5, 1921-March 4, 1922; president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, 1922-1945; and advisor to the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, 1945-1950.

Hays was the director of the Peoples State Bank in Sullivan, Indiana; director of the Fletcher-American Bank in Indianapolis, Indiana; director of the Continental Bank Corporation; director of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad; director of the Utilities Coal Company in Sullivan, Indiana; partner to the Red Raven Investment Company, Sullivan, Indiana; president of the Jackson Hill Coal Mining and Transport Company in Sullivan, Indiana; elder of the Presbyterian Church; chairman of the Layman's Committee, Presbyterian Board for Ministerial Relief; and chairman of the American Red Cross and Near East Relief, an appointment of President Harding during October 1922.


68.45 Cubic Feet (270 boxes, 2 small card catalogs, 1 extra-large oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged in the following series and subseries:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1857-1954

Subseries 1.1: General correspondence, 1857-1954 Subseries 1.2: President Warren G. Harding and Will H. Hays correspondence, 1921

Series 2: C E and I Railroad documents, 1922-1954, undated

Series 3: Wabash College documents, 1909-1953

Series 4: Phi Delta Theta documents, 1902-1951

Series 5: Scrapbooks, 1920-1939

Series 6: "Chaney Digest" materials, 1914-1949

Series 7: Subject files, 1902-1957

Series 8: Photographs, circa 1890-circa 1950

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation by Will H. Hays, Jr. on 1984/11/01.


No further additions are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digitized materials from the collection are available online in the ISL Digital Collections:

Processing Information

The collection's correspondence was processed and a finding aid was created in August 2010 by Jessica Combs. The remainder of the collection was processed during 2017 and completed on 2017/10/30 by Bethany Fiechter. EAD finding aid was completed on 2017/10/30 by Bethany Fiechter. EAD finding aid revised 2018 December by Bethany Fiechter; 2022/03/12 by Brittany Kropf.
Will H. Hays collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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