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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the William S. Kenyon Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1911-1933
Creator: Kenyon, William S. (1869-1933)
Extent: 6.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0506
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: U.S. senator from Iowa and U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. Papers relating to his political and judicial careers. Correspondence, subject files, speeches, and clippings document Kenyon's positions on many issues of the day, including the Teapot Dome scandal, prohibition, and WWI.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: This collection was given to the University of Iowa by Mike Doyle and Robert D. Kenyon in 1998.

Preferred Citation: William S. Kenyon Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

William Squire Kenyon was born on June 10, 1869, to the Rev. Fergus Lafayette and Harriet Squire Kenyon in Elyria, Ohio. His family moved to Iowa in 1878. Although his father had hoped that he would go into the ministry, William Kenyon chose to study the law. He attended Grinnell College, and received an LL.B. from the University of Iowa in 1890. The following year he was admitted to the bar. Kenyon began his legal career in Fort Dodge, Iowa where he married Mary Duncombe, in 1893. Two years after graduating from law school he became the prosecuting attorney for Webster County. At age thirty-one he was elected District Court judge, a position from which he resigned after two years because of the low salary. He next became the general counsel for the Illinois Central Railroad.

It was his service as special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General George W. Wickersham prosecuting packing houses and railroad rebate cases that placed him in the political spotlight. In 1911, Kenyon was appointed to fill the unexpired term left in the U.S. Senate following the death of Jonathan P. Dolliver. Kenyon was twice reelected to the Senate as a progressive Republican. He was one of the senators that opposed U.S. entry into World War I. However, after war was declared and our troops mobilized, Kenyon became an ardent supporter of the U.S. war effort.

In 1922, Kenyon resigned his senate seat to accept an appointment by President Warren Harding to serve on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals bench. His most famous judgement involved revoking the Teapot Dome oil leases (part of the infamous Teapot Dome scandal). President Coolidge twice offered Judge Kenyon posts in his Cabinet and the judge declined both times in favor of remaining on the bench. He was also seriously considered for the Vice Presidency. In 1929, President Hoover appointed him to the National Commission of Law Observance and Enforcement (Wickersham Commission).

Judge William Squire Kenyon died of a heart attack on September 9, 1933.

The papers of William S. Kenyon consist of six linear feet of manuscripts dating from 1911-1933. Upon Judge Kenyon's death in 1933, his papers were boxed and shipped to Fort Dodge, Iowa where they were subsequently rediscovered more than sixty years later when the judge's nephew sold the family home. Robert Kenyon donated the Kenyon papers to the University of Iowa in 1998.
The collection is arranged in five series: 1) Correspondence, 2) General subject files, 3) Speeches, 4) U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and 5) Clippings. The correspondence series is arranged chronologically and dates from 1911-1933. It includes several letters from Presidents Taft, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, as well as letters from such Iowa notables as Martin J. Wade, J.R. Howard, N.E. Kendall, John Hammill, and Charles A. Rawson. The general subject files contain a cross section of topics ranging from the Wickersham Commission to political cartoons. Kenyon's speeches make up the third series. He also spoke on a lyceum circuit and some of those programs can also be found in this series. Series four documents Judge Kenyon's career on the bench of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals with all of his court assignments and related correspondence. Twenty six folders of clippings make up the final series of the collection.

Browse by Series:
Series 3: SPEECHES

  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1911
    Including letters from: William H. Taft.
  • Correspondence - 1914-1919
    Including letters from: Charles Curtis, Walter H. Page, William G. McAdoo, and Charles F. Horner.
  • Correspondence: January-September - 1920-1921
    Including letters from: J.R. Howard, F.E. Haynes, and Martin J. Wade.
  • Correspondence: October 1-12 - 1921
    Including letters from: G.W. Clarke, J.R. Howard, John Hammill, and Claude G. Bowers.
  • Correspondence: October 13-December - 1921
    Including letters from: Keith Vawter, Louis J. Alber, and C.C. Pugh.
  • Correspondence: January - 1922
    Including letters from: Dan Turner, J.R. Howard, Walter A. Jessup, Verne Marshall, and Martin J. Wade.
  • Correspondence: February 1 - 1922
    Including letters from: L.H. Pammel and Clifford Thorne.
  • Correspondence: February 2-3 - 1922
    Including letters from: Kenesaw Landis, Charles A. Rawson, Bernard M. Baruch, John Hammill, and B.F. Keith.
  • Correspondence: February 4-6 - 1922
    Including letters from: Louis A. Alber, N.E. Kendall, and Charles A. Rawson.
  • Correspondence: February 7-12 - 1922
    Including a letter from Kenesaw Landis.
  • Correspondence: February 13-28 - 1922
    Including letters from: Harvey Ingham, James I. Dolliver, Martin J. Wade, Henry A. Wallace, and Warren G. Harding.
  • Correspondence: March-December - 1922
    Including letters from: Henry S. Conard, Smith W. Brookhart, Warren G. Harding, William H. Taft, and Charles A. Rawson.
  • Correspondence - 1923-1928
    Including letters from John M. Grimm and N.E. Kendall.
  • Correspondence: January-July - 1929
    Including letters from: Herbert Hoover, William S. Hart, John C. Lewis, and Charles E. Hearst.
  • Correspondence: August - 1929
    Including letters from: N.E. Kendall, B.F. Shearer, I.A. Nichols, John C. Lewis, and H.R. Gross.
  • Correspondence: September-December - 1929
    Including letters from: N.E. Kendall, Ed H. Campbell, and Don L. Berry.
  • Correspondence - 1930-1933
    Including letters from: Ray Lyman Wilber, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, John Hammill, Martin J. Wade, John M. Grimm, Smith W. Brookhart, F. Dickinson Letts, Arthur Capper, and Truman S. Stevens.
  • Correspondence and newspaper articles written by Kenyon while abroad during World War I - 1917
    Including a letter from W.C. Jarnagin.
  • Box 2:
  • Biographical sketch - 1914
  • Cartoon by Art Young. "The Greatest Show on Earth."
  • Election results, primary - 1912
  • Grinnell College -- Phi Beta Kappa - 1913, 1924
  • Mellon Report controversy - 1921-1924
  • National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (Wickersham Commission): Appropriations and financial records - 1929-1931
  • Wickersham Commission: Clippings - 1929-1931
    2 folders
  • Wickersham Commission: Final report - 1931
  • Wickersham Commission: Minutes of meetings - 1929-1931
    4 folders
  • Obituary of Judge Kenyon - 1933
  • Original Index of Kenyon Papers
  • Prohibition. Statements by Kenyon and others.
  • Series 3: SPEECHES
  • Box 2:
  • Agriculture. Given in Colorado.
  • Bremer County Farm Bureau picnic - 1921
  • Creston, Iowa.
  • Disarmament - 1921
  • "Industrial Code" - 1922-1923
  • The Kingdom of "If."
  • "Law Enforcement." Given in Fort Dodge, Iowa, May 31 - 1931
  • "Law Observance." Given in Des Moines, Iowa, March 10 - 1927
  • League of Nations. Speech in the Senate of the United States, September 10 - 1919
  • Mediapolis Iowa's Chautauqua Association - 1914
  • Michigan's senatorial election of Truman H. Newberry - 1921
  • "Mother's Day."
  • Presidential campaign - 1924
  • Programs from assorted speeches and lyceums - 1925-1926
  • Springfield speech.
  • "Struggle for Place."
  • Miscellaneous speeches.
  • Miscellaneous. Incomplete speeches, notes, and research.
  • Miscellaneous. Research clippings.
  • Box 3:
  • Correspondence relating to case assignments - 1922-1925
  • Correspondence relating to case assignments - 1926-1928
  • Correspondence relating to case assignments - 1928-1930
  • Correspondence relating to case assignments - 1930-1933
  • Washington conference - 1924
  • Series 5: CLIPPINGS
  • Box 3:
  • Agricultural bloc - 1921-1923
  • Campaign - 1912
  • Kenyon's judgeship - 1921
  • Kenyon's judgeship - 1922
  • Michigan's senatorial election of Truman H. Newberry - 1922
  • Presidency and miscellaneous - 1922-1927
  • Presidential appointments. Cabinet positions, etc. - 1924
    2 folders
  • Senatorial campaign - 1930
  • Supreme Court appointment - 1930
  • Teapot Dome scandal - 1926-1929
  • Vice-presidency - 1924, 1931
  • Box 4:
  • Miscellaneous clippings - 1911-1933
    14 folders