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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used extensively by Norman D. Wilensky in "The Republican Old Guard during Insurgency: 1908-1912" (Yale University, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 1961), a revision of which was published asConservatives in the Progressive Era: The Taft Republicans of 1912, University of Florida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.

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
Related Names
Hilles, Charles Dewey, 1867-1949
Language of Materials