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Charles Dewey Hilles papers

Call Number: MS 281

Scope and Contents

The Charles Dewey Hilles Papers (1885-1955) consists of correspondence, letterbooks, memoranda, speeches, press releases, clippings, and printed matter arranged in two series. There is also a section of oversize material.

The papers were accessioned and processed in three parts, with subsequent revisions. What follow are modified versions of the three notes on the scope and content of the papers drafted by the original processors to describe the three accessions. The first note relates mainly to the Incoming and Outgoing Correspondence, 1907-1915, and Letterpress Copybooks, 1911-1913. The second relates mainly to Correspondence, 1916-1955. The third relates to General Correspondence, 1885-1906, Family Correspondence and Miscellany (i.e. Topical Files).

The first accession of the Charles D. Hilles Papers consists of correspondence, letterbooks, clippings, scrapbooks, and printed matter from the period 1907 to 1915. About three-quarters of the letters relate to Hilles's service as secretary to President Taft (1911-1913) and chairman of the Republican National Committee (1912-1916). Most of the others are concerned with his work as First Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (1909-1911) and his continuing interest in the New York Juvenile Asylum, later the Children's Village, which he superintended between 1902 and 1909. His correspondence as Taft's secretary is especially important because it was originally part of the President's office files and therefore fills a gap in the Taft Papers in the Library of Congress. These letters were used extensively by Norman D. Wilensky in "The Republican Old Guard during Insurgency: 1908-1912" (Yale University, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 1961), a revision of which was published asConservatives in the Progressive Era: The Taft Republicans of 1912, University of Florida Monographs, Social Sciences, no. 25 (Gainesville, Fla., 1965). See also his sketch of the Taft years inThe Yale University Library Gazette(July 1961).

The second accession of the Charles D. Hilles Papers consists of correspondence, memoranda, speeches, press releases, and printed matter for the period 1916-1955. The majority of the items are concerned with the activities of the Republican Party on state and national levels, especially during the period of Hilles's service as Republican national committeeman from New York (1920-1937). The letters from the 1920s are mainly, though not exclusively, concerned with patronage matters. Those from the 1930s deal more with broad questions of party policy and organization.

The third accession of the Charles D. Hilles Papers spans the 1880s to the 1950s. The bulk of the items are in General Correspondence, 1885-1906, and Family Correspondence. Besides the letters there are several boxes of memorabilia, photographs, and clippings covering Hilles's entire career, all of which have been placed in Miscellany. This now makes up Series II. Topical Files.

General Correspondence, 1885-1906, was arranged alphabetically, with letters of important correspondents placed in separate folders. This section deals mainly with Hilles's work in the administration of the Ohio Boys' Industrial School (1892-1902) and the New York Juvenile Asylum (1902-1909). He was known for developing a system of competitive bidding for supplies and for successfully managing the "village system" of organization. Because his position in Ohio was controlled by political patronage, the letters deal also with the state's Republican politics. There is a list of principal correspondents in the Appendix. All non-family correspondence in the new accession written after 1906 has been interfiled with previous accessions.

Family Correspondence combines items from the new accession with letters removed from the general correspondence in the two previous accessions. The majority of the letters are to or from Charles Dewey Hilles, and these are arranged alphabetically by the name of his correspondent. Letters neither written nor received by him are filed by recipient, if known; otherwise, by author. The correspondence is especially rich for the fall of 1911, when Hilles was touring the country with President Taft, and the summer of 1912, just preceding his appointment as chairman of the Republican Party. Mrs. Hilles's letter to Bess Whiley McCracken offers a detailed description of her 1912 trip to Panama with her husband and the President.

Series II. Topical Files was created from this and previous accessions, and is arranged alphabetically by topic and/or record type. Position statements (perhaps meant as the basis for speeches) and notes on meetings, appointments, and phone calls are grouped together as Memoranda. Speeches and Writings form a separate category. Notes and printed matter related to various phases of his career are brought together in Reform School Work, Treasury Department, Taft's Secretary, and Republican Party Materials. Also included are business papers, photographs, memorabilia, clippings, and photocopies of Taft-Roosevelt correspondence (1908 Nov-1909 Mar). Refer to Appendix for a list of correspondents by subject. Note: In 1902 Hilles surveyed conditions in girls' industrial schools. Responses to his questions were received from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine and Massachusetts. These replies are filed under the name of the state.

The first two major accessions of the Charles D. Hilles Papers were the gift of Charles Dewey Hilles, Jr., Frederick Whiley Hilles, and Elisabeth Lee (Hilles) Reynolds. The third was donated by Frederick W. Hilles in July 1972.


  • 1823-1955


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Charles Dewey Hilles, Jr., Frederick Whiley Hilles, Elizabeth Lee Hilles Reynolds.


Arranged in two series: I. Correspondence. II. Topical Files.


63.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, memoranda, speeches, press releases, clippings, printed matter, photographs, and memorabilia documenting Hilles' activities as secretary to President Taft (1911-1913), as chairman and committeeman to the Republican National Committee (1912-1937) and as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (1909-1911). His correspondence as Taft's secretary is of special importance as being originally part of the President's office files. His work as administrator of the Ohio Industrial School (1892-1902) and the New York Juvenile Asylum (1902-1909) is also documented in the correspondence. Family correspondence is particularly rich for the fall of 1911 when Hilles was touring the country with President Taft, and for 1912 just before his appointment as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Correspondents of note include Charles Francis Adams, William Jennings Bryan, Nicholas Murray Butler, Andrew Carnegie, Josephus Daniels, Charles G. Dawes, Theodore Dreiser, Henry W. Farnam, Irving Fisher, Arthur T. Hadley, Warren G. Harding, Charles Evans Hughes, Frank B. Kellogg, Henry Cabot Lodge, Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root, Henry L. Stimson, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Booker T. Washington and George Westinghouse.

Biographical / Historical

Charles D. Hilles: insurance executive and politician; Chairman of the Republican National Committee, 1912-1937; Secretary to President Taft, 1911-1913; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, 1909-1911; administrator of the Ohio Industrial School, 1892-1902, and of the New York Juvenile Asylum, 1902-1909.

Hilles was an influential spokesman for the conservative wing of his party, and during the first two Roosevelt administrations he attained the stature of an elder statesman. In 1920 he supported Nicholas Murray Butler for the Presidency, but the Harding administration nevertheless acknowledged his prominent position in New York. A firm supporter of Coolidge, he headed the Eastern Headquarters in 1924. After the election he became the chief dispenser of federal patronage in New York and was prominent among advocates of a second candidacy in 1928. He joined with other conservative leaders in never fully accepting Hoover and his supporters; throughout his term they felt they had been pushed aside by young upstarts who knew little about running a political organization. Giving Hoover weak support in 1932, they anticipated the debacle, and after Roosevelt's victory the breach widened. Hilles came increasingly under attack for refusing to agree that the party needed thorough overhauling, and he retired from the National committee in 1937 with the admission that his post would be given to a younger man. From his retirement until his death in 1949, conservative leaders continued to seek his counsel.


A select list of correspondence by subject, 1885-1906

  1. Members of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Boys' Industrial School
  2. Beatty, William
  3. Cromley, T. E.
  4. Jennings, Malcom
  5. Jones, Richard
  6. Poe, E. W.
  7. Pugsley, J. J.
  8. Vance, John L.
  9. White, John
  10. Wydman, Byron
  11. Other Members of the Staff of the Boys' Industrial Scool
  12. Adams, C. B.
  13. Barrett, D. M.
  14. Hilles, William N.
  15. Mann, George
  16. Stirling, G. A.
  17. Members of the Ohio State Board of Charities
  18. Brinkerhoff, Rocliff
  19. Byers, Joseph P.
  20. Follett, M. D.
  21. Platt, Rutherford
  22. Members of the Ohio Legislature
  23. Archer, F. B.
  24. Barrett, D. M.
  25. Bright, S. H.
  26. Crafts, William H.
  27. Cromley, T. E.
  28. Doty, E. W.
  29. Duff, John
  30. Dunham, George
  31. Duval, M. N.
  32. McKinnon, A. S.
  33. Marchant, Thomas
  34. Maynard, John P.
  35. Middleswart, S. C.
  36. Moore, David H.
  37. Myers, J. C.
  38. Nippert, Carl L.
  39. Scott, H. E.
  40. Seese, C. F.
  41. Sharp, R. H.
  42. Shyrock, Charles
  43. Swain, C. L.
  44. Wydman, Byron S.
  45. Other Members of Ohio State Government
  46. Archer, E. H.
  47. Blackburn, Joseph E.
  48. Bushnell, Asa (Governor)
  49. Caldwell, John A. (Lt. Governor)
  50. Doty, E. W.
  51. Emerson, Lauson E.
  52. Ewing, George
  53. Gilkey, E. Howard
  54. Jones, John P.
  55. Jones, John W.
  56. McKinley, William (Governor)
  57. Malloy, J. W.
  58. Moore, Opha
  59. Nash, George (Governor to whom CDH tenders resignation as superintendent of BIS)
  60. Sheets, J. M.
  61. Taylor, Allen
  62. Thurber, Charles
  63. Reynolds, Calvin
  64. On Ohio Politics
  65. Dick, Charles
  66. Dover, Elmer
  67. Hanna, Mark
  68. Ohio Republican State Central and Executive Committees
  69. Vance, John L.
  70. Vorys, A. I.
  71. White, John
  72. New York Juvenile Asylum
  73. Carnegie, Andrew
  74. Garrabrandt, M.
  75. Higley, Warren
  76. Williams, Mornay
  77. Other State Reform Schools
  78. Fletcher, Bradley
  79. Mann, George
  80. Ohio Society of New York
  81. Mosier, E. O.
  82. Parker, Orrel A.
  83. Ruch, L. C.
  84. Ells, Warren
  85. On Hilles Personal Business and Finance
  86. Lummins and Parsons
  87. Smith W. F.
  88. Columbia Building, Loan and Finance Company
Guide to the Charles Dewey Hilles Papers
Under Revision
compiled by William E. Brown, Jr.
June 1985
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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