Richard T. Ely papers, 1812-1963 (bulk 1882-1939)

Ely, Richard T. (Richard Theodore), 1854-1943


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Publication Details Click to collapse Cite/Export

  • Format Photos, Drawings, Prints; Microforms; Mixed Materials
  • Physical Details
    • 81.8 cubic feet (198 archives boxes, 3 cartons, 2 card file boxes, and 1 oversize folder)
    • 0.2 cubic feet of photographs (1 archives box), and
    • 191 reels of microfilm (35 mm); plus
    • additions of 0.6 cubic feet and
    • 42 photographs
  • ISBNs 0870202332
  • OCLC on1130231883, ocn613414985, ocn613430956
  • Finding Aids
    • Register. Also, a printed guide to the published microfilm edition of these papers is available; and an index to the correspondence is included in the microfilm


  • Papers, dating mainly 1882-1939, of Richard Ely, an economist, educator, reformer, and faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Wisconsin, and Northwestern University. Also included are genealogical information and records of several academic, patriotic, and reform organizations which Ely helped found, including the American Association for Agricultural Legislation, American Bureau of Industrial Research, Christian Social Union, Ely Economic Foundation, Institute for Economic Research, Institute for Research in Land Economics and Public Utilities, League to Enforce Peace-Wisconsin Branch, and Wisconsin Loyalty Legion. Personal photographs are also included.
  • During his long career Ely made numerous contributions to American life and also had significant contacts in Europe and in Japan. As a social scientist and an educator he was greatly influenced by the German higher education system. In this country he pioneered the seminar method of graduate education, was a founder of the American Economic Association, a frequent lecturer at Chautauqua, and a symbol of academic freedom. He established the areas of labor economics, labor history, agricultural economics, conservation, real estate, and land economics as fields of academic interest.
  • Ely corresponded with hundreds of individuals including many prominent in the social sciences and education, in the field of business, and in Wisconsin political, educational, and business circles. A prolific author and editor, Ely had frequent contacts with publishers and editors, especially those at the Macmillan Company. Ely is also widely recognized as a key figure in the development of the reform ideology which characterized the Progressive Era. He had many contacts with prominent political, reform, religious, labor, and socialist leaders. Ely received and wrote thousands of letters during his career; selected correspondents are noted in the subject headings below and a correspondent index was compiled for inclusion in the microfilm edition.
  • Additions received in 1991 consist primarily of family correspondence and miscellaneous professional papers.


  • Portions of this collection are also available on microfilm.
  • An extensive description of this collection appears in Guide to the Manuscripts of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Supplement Number One, by Josephine L. Harper and Sharon C. Smith (Madison : State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1957).
  • Presented by Richard T. Ely, 1943; with additional items presented by Margaret Ely, 1943 and 1959; Mrs. E. W. Morehouse, 1945; E. W. Morehouse and Ward Ely Morehouse, 1972; and Nancy M. Gordon, 1972 and 1981. 1991 additions purchased from Gene Povrik.
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