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Albert Galloway Keller papers

Call Number: MS 768

Scope and Contents

The Albert Galloway Keller Papers contain the writings, correspondence, teaching materials, financial records, and memorabilia of Albert Galloway Keller. The vast majority of these materials document Keller's professional and personal life between 1900 and 1956. Virtually no materials exist from his childhood. The Keller papers also include the records of the William Graham Sumner Club (1914-1949), an organization to which Keller was deeply committed.

Series I, Correspondence, is composed of approximately six thousand letters both to and from Keller. These letters chronicle his professional and private life from 1900 until 1956. This series also contains two hundred incoming letters not addressed to Keller but dealing with events in his life.

As a well-known sociologist Keller received letters from friends and former students who taught elsewhere. These scholars included Isaiah Bowman of Johns Hopkins, Henry E. Hawkes of Columbia, A.J. Todd of the University of Illinois, Lee D. McClean of Bowdoin, Frederick E. Lumley of Ohio State, J.E. Cutler, and C.W. Coulter of Western Reserve University. Each discussed people and events at their schools.

Discussion with other scholars, though, rarely touched on new sociological trends or theories. Because Keller saw himself as the protector of the "Sumner tradition," he sought little contact with sociologists who used different approaches to the discipline. Only F.L. Campbell, William E. Lawrence, and J.E. Cutler discussed substantive sociological issues in their letters.

Keller believed that Yale's presidents and faculty often treated him with "belittlement or at best indifference" for his support of Sumner. True or not, this belief prompted Keller to fight any change in Yale's curriculum, faculty, or budget which might lessen Sumner's influence. His greatest opponent was President Arthur T. Hadley who tried to prevent him from finishing Sumner's Science of Society. Keller also perceived this antagonism in Presidents James Angell and Charles Seymour. Other faculty members who discussed the internal politics and business of Yale were Frederick Jones, James Leyburn, Maurice R. Davie, Clarence Mendell, Chauncey Brewster Tinker, Alan Valentine, and Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr.

To preserve Sumner's ideas, Keller helped found the William Graham Sumner Club. Along with Keller, the moving forces behind the club were two brothers, Julius and William Peter. Both maintained an extensive correspondence with Keller on the club's finances, membership and publications. Others connected with the club in significant ways were James Leyburn, Arthur B. McGraw, Frederic Utley, and Alfred M. Lee. Keller's correspondence is also peppered with inquiries about or responses to club business and events. (For additional material, see Series IV, William Graham Sumner Club.)

Mark Granite, an ultra-conservative pamphleteer from New Hampshire, occasionally collaberated with the Sumner Club. Through his non-profit Granite Foundation, he regularly sent his publications to Keller and offered his foundation's support. Although Keller approached Granite's offers of aid warily, his correspondence reveals a close cooperation with him in an effort to fight the New Deal.

Clement Fuller, a high school and college friend of Keller's, never joined the Sumner Club but did offer incisive, critical comments about its membership and goals in the 1930s. He also entered into a long dialogue with Keller on the use of Sumner's name to oppose the New Deal and Roosevelt. Fuller insisted that he could "profess to believe in Sumner and still vote for Roosevelt."

Besides preserving the ideas of William Graham Sumner, Keller tried to preserve the memory of Sumner himself. Keller's correspondence is studded with discussions of his mentor's life and times. Harris Starr, Sumner's official biographer, discussed little of substance in his correspondence with Keller, but John R. Chamberlain, a journalist who seriously considered writing another biography of Sumner, received the full benefit of Keller's judgments and recollections. Maurice R. Davie compiled a comprehensive Sumner bibliography for Keller and often discussed textual problems with him. Charles Hine, secretary of the Connecticut Board of Education, evaluated Sumner's contributions to the board (folder 191), and G.P. Sawyer described a speech Sumner made in Buffalo during the 1870s (folder 489). Everett Meeks discussed Sumner's grading methods (folder 359), and Elizabeth Kellogg sent Keller two candid snapshots of Sumner relaxing on a yacht (folder 308). Two excellent accounts of Sumner's reaction upon receiving a Yale honorary degree came from Keller's wife Caroline and from Clarence Day, Jr.

Sumner's family also provided rare insights into his personality. His wife Jeannie and his son Graham explained on several occasions Sumner's attitudes and beliefs. Janet Camp Troxell, Sumner's niece, wrote a long letter to Keller describing her impressions of her uncle and her perceptions of tensions within the family (folder 541).

Keller's correspondence contains letters from many of his publishers, including Longmans, Green and Company, Ginn and Company, Macmillan and Company, and Alfred Knopf. However, Keller dealt most often with the Yale University Press which published many of his books, including his four volume Science of Society. Relations with the Press were generally cordial but occasionally rancorous. Keller's correspondence with the Press' editors and business managers, George P. Day, Norman Donaldson, Malcolm Davis, and R.V. Coleman, reflects this tension.

In addition to his professional correspondence, Keller wrote to close friends about events in both his professional and private life. One of his closest friends and steadiest correspondents was Yale classmate Clarence Day, Jr. With several exceptions, only Day's letters to Keller survive. Day frequently read Keller's manuscripts and made editorial recommendations, which Keller often heeded. Rarely did he examine Keller's ideas since he claimed no expertise as a sociologist; rather he commented on Keller's writing style. As class secretary of 1896 and as owner of the Yale Alumni Weekly, Day had a keen interest in the fortunes of the college, and often he and Keller discussed Yale's problems at length. Day frequently confided to Keller his private thoughts on religion, philosophy and life in general. He also did not hesitate to point out weaknesses as well as strengths in Keller's personality. Besides being well-written and witty, Day's letters to Keller contain drawings to illustrate comments in the body of the letters.

Carl T. Keller, Albert's cousin, was another friend with whom Keller felt free to discuss all subjects candidly. Albert's correspondence with Carl, both incoming and outgoing, begins in 1912, but there are few letters until 1932. Because Carl and Albert shared the same political beliefs, long discussions developed on the treachery of Roosevelt and the means by which the Sumner Club would oppose him. Albert's bitterness toward Yale went undisguised in his letters to Carl as did his contempt for other sociologists who used different approaches than he. Albert also wrote about his friendship with H.L. Mencken. Both discussed events in the lives of their families, and Albert even wrote openly of his unhappy childhood and the effects it had on his adult life.

Although Keller spent his entire career at Yale, he did take several leaves of absence. In 1918 he joined the military as a captain in the Morale Division of the Army's General Staff. Stationed in Washington, he and other sociologists wrote educational lectures for American troops in Europe. Correspondence with J.E. Cutler, Edmund L. Munson, Floyd Y. Keeler (folder 218), and E.C. Mateja (folder 358), reflect this experience.

In 1930 Keller again took a leave of absence and travelled to Europe. There he and his family met Selma Junkers and her husband, who ran a small pension in Munich, Germany. The two families became close friends and corresponded regularly with each other. Junkers (who signed her name as Mutter Nortland) and her husband (Vater Nortland) watched with anger and fear as Hitler rose to power. Their comments throughout the 1930s and late 1940s document the reactions of a German middle-class family to the rise of fascism.

Series II, Writings, has five sections: Published Books; Unpublished Books; Fiction; Essays, Lectures and Notebooks; and Miscellaneous Writings.

Published Books contains the manuscripts, typewritten copies, proof-sheets, and book reviews of Keller's published books. These include Keller's three main contributions to sociology: Homeric Society (1901), Societal Evolution (1915), and Science of Society (1927). This section also includes Man's Rough Road (1932), Keller's one volume trade version of Science of Society, as well as his polemical writings against the New Deal in Brass Tacks (1938) and Net Impressions(1942).

Unpublished Books consists of five manuscripts written between 1935 and 1952. Four of these, "Twilight of Common Sense" (1935), "Elementary Sociology" (1942), "Word Genealogy and Survivals" (1950), and "Pedagography" (1952) were rejected by publishers. The manuscript for "Clarence Day: The Journeyman Years" (1949) was accepted by Alfred Knopf, but Day's widow blocked publication in 1950.

Fiction contains three plays, three poems and three novels. None was published.

Essays, Lectures and Notebooks includes one hundred and sixty-seven essays. Both published and unpublished, these essays take the form of articles, book reviews and letters to editors. Their subjects range from sociology to politics, from education to eugenics. This section also contains forty-seven lectures. Twenty-five are lectures written by Keller while in the Morale Division of the Army's General Staff. Eighteen others take the form of notes taken by students in Keller's sociology classes, and four more are in Keller's own hand. Finally, this section contains six notebooks compiled by Keller while a Yale undergraduate.

Miscellaneous Writings holds a variety of manuscripts including Keller's recollection of a 1910 meeting with President Hadley at which Hadley tried to prevent Keller from finishing Science of Society. There is also a progress report on the Keller-Sumner magnum opus (1917) and a transcript of Keller's interview with Mussolini [1930-1931?]. In addition, this section has several bibliographies and lists concerning Sumner which were compiled by Keller.

Series III, Gradebooks and Examinations, is composed of Keller's one hundred and fifty gradebooks, spanning four decades of teaching (1900-1941). Most of the gradebooks were used in Keller's Anthropology and Science of Society courses. In all, nearly sixteen thousand names appear in these records. All gradebooks are restricted until 2016. This series also encompasses ten folders of examinations from Keller's courses.

Series IV, William Graham Sumner Club, contains the correspondence, bulletins, and financial records of the William Graham Sumner Club. The club was founded in 1914 by Julius Peter, William Peter and Russell Sullivan, all Yale alumni who wished to see Keller complete Sumner's work. Working in cooperation with Keller, they solicitated $10,000 to finance the publication of Science of Society.

The club's correspondence between 1914 and 1923 chronicles the campaign to secure $10,000 in pledges. Between 1923 and 1927 it deals with the club's efforts in cooperation with Yale Treasurer George P. Day to collect and disburse the funds. From 1927 until 1932 it records the club's negotiations with Yale University Press and others to bring out a popular version of Science of Society, Man's Rough Road(1932).

In 1932 the club's members reorganized themselves into a more formal organization with yearly dues, quarterly bulletins and special events. Their explicit purpose was to support and defend Sumner's approach to sociology. Their implicit purpose was to preach Sumner's social, political and economic ideas and apply them to the problems of the times. The club's correspondence during these years deals with the maintenance of the new organization as well as the planning of special events. For example, it documents the arrangements made for a testimonial dinner for Keller in 1937. At that dinner Keller's colleague presented him with a collection of sociological studies written by his students and admirers. (See: folders 1453-1459.) The club's correspondence also chronicles the preparations for celebrating Sumner's 100th birthday in 1940.

After 1940 the club tried unsucessfully to expand its membership, and by 1949 it had ceased to function. The correspondence follows this decline and ends in 1949. In all, the club generated over one thousand letters in its thirty-five year existence.

Series IV also contains a nearly complete set of the Bulletin of the William Graham Sumner Club. Edited at first by James Leyburn, the publication was taken over by Keller and William Peter in the early 1940s.

There are several folders of financial records and membership lists in this series, but they are incomplete and scattered.

Series V, Financial Records, contains four notebooks with incomplete records of Keller's personal finances, four folders of receipts for health care, insurance, fuel, books, and household items, and two folders of cancelled checks. There are also six folders of royalty statements from Keller's publishers and one publisher's contract.

Series VI, Memorabilia, has three sections: Writings of Others, Drawings and Photographs, and Tributes to Keller. Writings of Others contains one folder of printed material on William Graham Sumner and another folder of printed material on Clarence Day, Jr. In addition, this section has ten folders of miscellaneous writings by others between 1894 and 1955. Drawings and Photographs has one folder of sketches by Clarence Day, Jr. and another folder of photographs of Keller's friends and relatives. There is also a group photograph taken at the Sumner centennial in 1940. Tributes to Keller contains several folders of articles about Keller's career and several certificates, but the bulk of the material in this section deals with two testimonial dinners for Keller. At the first dinner (1937) Keller was presented with a collection of sociological essays by his students and admirers. This section contains the actual manuscript as well as the correspondence related to it. The second dinner, held in 1942, honored Keller upon his retirement, and this section includes the correspondence of the Keller Dinner Committee.

Keller papers exist in several other collections in Manuscripts and Archives. Papers of the Sociology Department (filed as part of a Yale Archives record group, consult with Reference Archivist) contain material on Sumner Today and departmental and correspondence files on Keller, 1924-1967. These files were accumulated, for the most part, by Maurice Rea Davie, and include material forwarded by Keller to Davie. A copy of the original preliminary inventory for these papers is kept in the complete register file for this collection.

The papers of Loomis Havermeyer (MSS Group 632) also contain Keller material including correspondence between Keller and Havermeyer and other material pertaining to a book on which the two men were to collaborate. The material dates ca. 1913-1919.

It will be noted on the folder list for Correspondence that the Keller Papers contain no correspondence with William Graham Sumner. All letters between Keller and Sumner were kept with the Sumner Papers (Group # 291A) when the original Sumner-Keller Collection was reorganized. Letters to Keller from Sumner will be found in box 35, a box containing all of Sumner's outgoing letters in chronological order. A list of Sumner's letters to Keller, copied from the Sumner register, has been added to this register as the appendix.

The Albert Galloway Keller Papers came to Yale in stages over a fifty-year period. It is therefore impossible to date the acquisition of every single item. It is, however, possible to give a general account of how and when large blocks of the papers arrived.

In 1914 the Sumner family gave Albert Keller control over all of William Graham Sumner's "notes, manuscripts, and other materials." Keller used many of these materials to write Science of Society (1927) and then gave them and his own manuscript to the Yale University Library. These materials formed the nucleus of the original Sumner-Keller collection. In 1943, Keller also donated the thousands of notecards he and Sumner had once used as well as manuscripts from his services as an Army officer in World War I. After his death in 1956, Keller's children donated most of his personal papers to Yale. Thereafter they continued to find and donate additional Keller items throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1961, Julius Peter donated the correspondence and writings of the William Graham Sumner Club, an organization to which Keller was closely connected.

All of these papers remained together as the Sumner-Keller Collection until 1976 when the collection was reprocessed to separate the papers of Sumner from the other papers. This reprocessing was completed in 1977, forming the William Graham Sumner Papers, MSS Group Number 291A, and MSS Group Number 768 for these Keller papers.


  • 1888-1956


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Gradebooks in this collection are restricted until 2016.

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

Gift of Albert G. Keller in 1927 and 1943; gift of Keller's children after his death in 1956. Additional papers were received from the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, in 1988.


Arranged in six series and one addition: I. Correspondence. II. Writings. III. Gradebooks and Examinations. IV. William Graham Sumner Club. V. Financial Papers. VI Memorabilia.


38.5 Linear Feet (71 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, writings, student and teaching files, and miscellanea documenting the personal life and professional career of Albert G. Keller, a sociologist, author, and student and colleague of William Graham Sumner. Keller frequently corresponded with individuals on the subject of Sumner, and Yale University figures such as Arthur T. Hadley, James Rowland Angell, and Charles Seymour often felt Keller's displeasure over the University's treatment of the Sumner legacy. He also corresponded with colleagues and former students, Sumner biographers, and family members. Files relating to the William Graham Sumner Club, which he helped found, are also included. Drafts of several published and unpublished writings and many student gradebooks detail his literary and teaching activities.

Biographical / Historical

Albert Galloway Keller was born in Springfield, Ohio, 10 April 1874, the son of Jeremiah and Laura Keller. Raised in Connecticut, Keller entered Yale College in 1892 and immediately fell under the influence of Yale economist and sociologist William Graham Sumner. Keller proved to be an exceptional student. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and after graduating in 1896 continued to study with Sumner as a graduate student in sociology. While in graduate school Keller met Caroline Louise Gussman, whom he married 7 July 1898. They had three children: Caroline, Deane, and Elsa.

In 1899 Keller received his Ph.D. Impressed with this young graduate student, Sumner secured a place for him on Yale's faculty. Keller remained there for the rest of his career, joining Sumner in espousing the "inductive" approach to sociology. They argued that the study of society could indeed become a real science if the institutions and behavior of many cultures were objectively compared and catalogued. Sumner died in 1910, but before his death he entrusted the completion of his mammoth work, Science of Society, to Keller. Keller accepted the assignment and dedicated his life to carrying on the sociological work of his mentor.

The years 1900 through 1927 were Keller's most productive years as a sociologist. He published many books, including Homeric Society (1901), Societal Evolution (1915), and the four volume magnum opus begun by Sumner, Science of Society (1927). He also edited several collections of Sumner's essays and spent a brief period in 1918 with the Morale Division of the Army's General Staff, writing educational lectures for the common soldier.

In addition to his research, Keller was very committed to his teaching at Yale. He became known as one of the most dynamic, albeit dogmatic, Yale professors of the early twentieth century and soon developed an enthusiastic following. At the time of his retirement Keller estimated he had taught sixteen thousand students.

Despite his popularity among students and alumni, Keller often clashed with Yale administrators. As early as 1910 Sumner's ideas were challenged by many in the profession, and Keller felt that Yale Presidents Hadley, Angell and Seymour made no effort to defend the "Sumner tradition." Relations between Keller and official Yale, as a result, were always strained at best.

While Keller devoted the first three decades of his career to academic sociology, he devoted his remaining years to political education. The cause of this shift was the New Deal. After 1932 he spent much of his time writing articles and books, denouncing the New Deal, and supporting such diverse leaders as Wendell Wilkie, Douglas MacArthur, Benito Mussolini and Joseph McCarthy.

This shift in Keller's career also influenced the policy of the William Graham Sumner Club. Founded in 1914 by Julius and William Peter, the club originally supported Keller's efforts to carry on Sumner's work. With its financial support Science of Society was published, as was Man's Rough Road (1932). But with the advent of the New Deal, the club under Keller's guidance became an instrument to oppose Roosevelt's policies. Never a particularly strong or wealthy organization, the club foundered in the early 1940s and disbanded in 1949.

Keller retired in 1942 a bitter man, angry at official Yale for allegedly disowning Sumner and angry at Roosevelt for instituting the changes of the New Deal. Following his retirement he concentrated on writing books. Keller died 31 October 1956.


It will be noted on the folder list for Correspondence that the Keller Papers contain no correspondence with William Graham Sumner. All letters between Keller and Sumner were kept with the Sumner Papers (Group # 291A) when the original Sumner-Keller Collection was reorganized. Letters to Keller from Sumner will be found in box 35, a box containing all of Sumner's outgoing letters in chronological order. A list of Sumner's letters to Keller, copied from the Sumner register, has been added to this register as the appendix.

Correspondence taken from the Sumner-Keller Collection

Outgoing: William Graham Sumner to Albert G. Keller

  1. 1896 Aug 21
  2. 1897 Aug 22
  3. 1897
  4. 1898 Aug 23
  5. 1899 Apr 15 w/envelope
  6. 1899 Apr 24 (postcard)
  7. 1899 May 29
  8. 1899 Nov 10
  9. 1900 Jan 27
  10. 1900 Mar 22
  11. 1900 Apr 2
  12. 1900 Jul 28
  13. 1900 Dec 4 (postcard)
  14. 1901 Apr 10
  15. 1901 May 7
  16. 1901 Jul 28
  17. 1901 Aug 3
  18. 1901 Aug 28
  19. 1901 Sep 10
  20. 1901 Sep 21
  21. 1902 Jun 22
  22. 1902 Aug 8
  23. 1902 Oct 7
  24. 1902 Nov 11
  25. 1902 Dec 13
  26. 1902 Dec 26
  27. 1903 Feb 2
  28. 1903 Apr 20
  29. 1903 May 5
  30. 1903 Jul 3
  31. 1903 Jul 16
  32. 1903 Aug 7
  33. 1903 Aug 29
  34. 1903 Sep 11
  35. 1903 Sep 20
  36. 1904 Jul 10
  37. 1904 Jul 13
  38. 1904 Jul 21
  39. 1904 Jul 22
  40. 1904 Jul 25
  41. 1904 Jul 26
  42. 1904 Aug 18
  43. 1904 Sep 2
  44. 1904 Sep 2
  45. 1904 Sep 11
  46. 1904 Oct 7
  47. 1906 Jun 29
  48. 1906 Jul 7
  49. 1906 Jul 25
  50. 1906 Aug 23
  51. 1906 Aug 24
  52. 1906 Aug 31
  53. 1906 Aug ?
  54. 1906 Sep 2
  55. 1906 Dec 16
  56. 1907 Jan 5
  57. 1907 Apr 11
  58. 1907 Jul 3
  59. 1907 Jul 17
  60. 1907 Jul 22
  61. 1907 Jul 23
  62. 1907 Jul 27
  63. 1907 Jul 30
  64. 1907 Jul 31
  65. 1907 Oct 20
  66. 1907 Sep 1
  67. 1907 Sep 16
  68. 1907 Dec 13
  69. 1908 Jun 8
  70. 1908 Jul 15
  71. 1908 Jul 22
  72. 1908 Jul 25
  73. 1908 Jul 29
  74. 1908 Aug 13
  75. 1908 Aug 15
  76. 1908 Aug 28
  77. 1908 Aug 31
  78. 1908 Sep 4
  79. 1908 Oct 10
  80. 1908 Dec 11
  81. 1909 Jan 8 (postcard fragment)
  82. 1909 May 8
  83. 1909 Jul 14
  84. 1909 Aug 11 w/envelope
  85. 1909 Sep 5
  86. 1909 Sep 29
  87. 1909 Oct 9 (postcard)
  88. 1909 Nov 23 (postcard)
  89. 1909 Aug ?
  90. n.d. 7 ALS and 1 postcard
Guide to the Albert Galloway Keller Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Peter Bollier
July 1977
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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