Guide to the Richard C. Overton (1907-1988) Papers

Collection Title: Richard C. Overton (1907-1988) Papers
Dates: 1939-1998
Identification: 12/1/13
Creator: Overton, Richard C. (Richard Cleghorn), 1907-1988
Extent: 4 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: Richard C. Overton was born on November 9, 1907 in Montclair, New Jersey. He attended Williams College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1929 and a Master of Arts in Economics in 1934. From Harvard University, he received a Master of Arts and a Doctorate in History (1944).
The Richard Overton Papers fill 5 boxes and span the years 1940 to 1990, with the bulk of the papers dating between 1942 and 1955. Materials cover: biographical information; memberships; conferences; the Business History Department; teaching; research; speeches; photographs; professional invitations; publications; Mississippi Valley Historical Association.
Biographical materials (1944-1959) include C.V.s, personal data information, and a section of Overton's will. Correspondence (1940-1990) is arranged chronologically. Three folders of general correspondence primarily consist of personal letters as well as recommendation letters written on behalf of professional colleagues. There is also one subject-specific folder related to his membership in the Westerners, a historical association. Financial records (1946-1950) include correspondence and other records related to Overton's Northwestern-related expenses. Clippings (1943-1954) are arranged chronologically and include newspaper articles by or about Overton, as well as articles relating to railroad historians and railroad histories.
Acquisition Information: The bulk of the Richard C. Overton Papers were separated from the Howard F. Bennett Papers (Series 12/1/4) as Accession # 77-5, with the addition of materials from Accession # 80-37, donated to the University Archives by Harold Williamson in November 1975. Additional materials were also incorporated from the University Archives Biographical Files.
Processing Information: Chinedu Iloabachie; summer 2001. Amber Thessen; spring 2004.
Separated Materials: A small amount of duplicate and extraneous material was discarded. Nearly one cubic foot of Lexington Group correspondence was removed and added to Records of the Lexington Group (Series 55/40). Newspaper clippings relating to Herbert Brayer were added to his Faculty Biographical File in Archives Room 110.
Conditions Governing Access: Permission from the University Archivist is required for access to Box 2, Folders 1-2, 13.
Related Materials: Records of the Lexington Group (Series 55/40)Howard Bennett Papers (Series 12/1/4)
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Richard C. Overton was born on November 9, 1907 in Montclair, New Jersey. He attended Williams College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1929 and a Master of Arts in Economics in 1934. From Harvard University, he received a Master of Arts and a Doctorate in History (1944).

Overton worked for the Chatham Phoenix National Bank and Trust Company, New York, between 1930 and 1932. His teaching career began in 1928 as a part-time instructor in public speaking at Williams College. From 1932 to 1933 he taught French at the Hotchkiss School, and in 1933 taught American History part-time at North Adams State Teachers College. Between 1935 and 1938 Overton also taught at Harvard University and Amherst College while working on his Masters degrees. From 1939 to 1945, while pursuing his Doctorate, Overton worked for the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Co. In 1945 he accepted the position of Professor of Business History at Northwestern University.

Professor Vanderblue, Dean of the School of Commerce at Northwestern University, recruited Overton to help accommodate the school's postwar influx of students, and to modify the commerce school curriculum. In 1946 business history was adopted as an integral part of the academic curriculum for freshmen. This course was expanded from “Introduction to Business” to “American Business History,” and structured into a comprehensive three-quarter sequence. While he was at Northwestern University, Overton was Chairman of the Business History Department from 1949 to 1954. During Overton's career as Professor of Business History, his primary area of research was in railroad history and economics, and general business history. His interest in business history went well beyond the classroom. For example, he initiated a committee in 1949 to publish histories of particular business and industrial concerns in the greater Chicago area—this was known as the Business History Writing Project.

Overton's lifelong interest in railroad history was manifested in books, and articles published in the American Life History Series. His last book, "Perkins/Budd: Railway Statesmen of the Burlington" (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982), dealt with Charles E. Perkins and Ralph Budd, two former presidents of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Co. Overton was also involved in professional organizations like the Mississippi Valley Historical Association (now the Organization of American Historians), serving on the editorial board of the Organization's journal, the "Mississippi Valley Historical Review". He was also a founding member of the Lexington Group, which promoted the study of railroad history, serving as the Group's Secretary from its inception in 1942. A compilation of Overton's articles, edited by H. Roger Grant, was published by the Lexington Group in 1998 as "Richard C. Overton, Railroad Historian".

In 1954, Overton relinquished his position as Chairman of the Business History Department at Northwestern's School of Commerce to accept a similar appointment at the University of Western Ontario, where he remained until he retired.

Richard Overton died on September 30, 1988. He was survived by his wife, Nini, two sons, and a daughter.

Scope and Content

The Richard Overton Papers fill 5 boxes and span the years 1940 to 1990, with the bulk of the papers dating between 1942 and 1955. Materials cover: biographical information; memberships; conferences; the Business History Department; teaching; research; speeches; photographs; professional invitations; publications; Mississippi Valley Historical Association.

Biographical materials (1944-1959) include C.V.s, personal data information, and a section of Overton's will. Correspondence (1940-1990) is arranged chronologically. Three folders of general correspondence primarily consist of personal letters as well as recommendation letters written on behalf of professional colleagues. There is also one subject-specific folder related to his membership in the Westerners, a historical association. Financial records (1946-1950) include correspondence and other records related to Overton's Northwestern-related expenses. Clippings (1943-1954) are arranged chronologically and include newspaper articles by or about Overton, as well as articles relating to railroad historians and railroad histories.

Overton's membership in the School of Commerce's Committee on Research (1950-1954) is documented by memos, reports, recommendations, and meeting minutes relating to the work of the Committee. This Committee was part of a University-wide effort to coordinate information, policy, and resources relating to faculty research. Of interest is the recommendation that the School establish a Business Clinic.

The conferences (1942-1968) file comprises programs from conferences attended by Overton as well as those he helped plan, including a number of Mississippi Valley Historical Association yearly conferences.

The Business History Department (1945-1961) category is arranged chronologically and consists of personal memos to faculty of the Business History Department and Northwestern University, operational matters, and matters relating to Department organization. Folders related to Department and individual teaching associates are also included. One of these folders contains correspondence with Herbert Brayer, who was hired for the Business History Writing Project in 1949; two additional folders related to Brayer consist of letters, memos, reports and other materials documenting Brayer's troubled career at Northwestern.

Records of the Business History Writing Project (1949-1959) include memos to and from members of the Business History Writing Committee, as well as correspondence with clients that had their business histories written.

Overton's lecture and book notes (1946-1954) consist of notes from lectures he attended as well as his outline of George Taylor's "Transportation Revolution". His teaching lecture notes (1939-1967) are arranged alphabetically by course and lecture title, if available with most of the material dating from the 1950s. The folders contain fully written lectures as well as outlines and exam question drafts. There is also one folder containing course material for non-Northwestern classes that he taught.

The research (1946-1981) files include four separate lists of names of texts and publications relating to railroad history that Overton and others compiled. It also contains a folder listing the contents of the Cunningham-Overton Collection at the Burlington Archives in the Newberry Library.

Papers and speeches (1947-1976) are arranged chronologically and include speeches given by Overton as well as a small number of papers he wrote for presentation at history conferences.

The photographs (1943) category comprises pictures of old locomotives sent to Overton by a professional colleague.

Overton's involvement in the Mississippi Valley Historical Association (1942-1954) is documented by memos to and from the members of the Association, as well as letters to the members of the editorial section of the Association.

The professional invitations (1945-1949) category is arranged chronologically. This category contains invitations from the American Historical Society, Harvard Fund Council and Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. Also included in this section are invitations to honor the University President, and Mississippi Valley Historical Association notices.

Publications (1947-1998) include articles and reprints, as well as a copy of "Richard C. Overton, Railroad Historian", H. Roger Grant's 1998 compilation of Overton's articles. One folder contains correspondence between Overton and Harold (Hal) Williamson about Overton's book, "Perkins/Budd". A typescript of the book is also included.

Subjects

Corporate Name

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). School of Commerce--Faculty

Personal Name

Overton, Richard C. (Richard Cleghorn), 1907-1988--Correspondence

Overton, Richard C. (Richard Cleghorn), 1907-1988

Subjects

Business--History--Study and teaching (Higher)

Railroads--Economic aspects--United States--Study and teaching (Higher)


Container List / Contents

  • Correspondence
    • General, 1940-1949Box 1, Folder 3
    • General, 1950-1953Box 1, Folder 4
    • General, 1954-1990Box 1, Folder 5
    • The Westerners, 1947-1950Box 1, Folder 6
    • Financial Records, 1946-1950Box 1, Folder 7
  • Clippings
    • Business History, 1949, n.d.Box 1, Folder 9
    • Railroad Historians, 1943-1954, n.d.Box 1, Folder 10
    • Railroads, 1949, 1954, n.d.Box 1, Folder 11
    • Committee on Research, 1950-1954Box 1, Folder 12
    • Conferences - Programs and Misc., 1942-1968Box 1, Folder 13
  • Department of Business History
    • Correspondence, General, 1945-1960, n.d.Box 1, Folder 14
    • Correspondence, Administrative, 1948-1951Box 1, Folder 15
    • Correspondence, Faculty: Decisions and Recommendations, 1945-1953Box 1, Folder 16
    • Correspondence, Faculty: Brayer, Herbert, 1949-1952Box 1, Folder 17
    • Correspondence, Faculty: Day, Frank, 1950-1953Box 1, Folder 18
    • Correspondence, Faculty: Ernst, Joseph, 1952-1954Box 1, Folder 19
    • Correspondence, Faculty: Jones, C. Clyde, 1950-1953Box 1, Folder 20
    • Brayer, Herbert Records - Restricted (Folder 1), 1949-1952Box 2, Folder 1
    • Brayer, Herbert Records - Restricted (Folder 2), 1949-1952Box 2, Folder 2
    • Day, Frank, 1950Box 2, Folder 3
    • Jones, C. Clyde, 1950-1953Box 2, Folder 4
    • Navy V-12 Cost Questionnaire, 1945Box 2, Folder 5
    • Student, Graduate: Waugh, Eric Laid, 1953-1954Box 2, Folder 6
    • Student, Undergraduate: Lindsay, Donald, 1949Box 2, Folder 7
    • Travel Itineraries, 1959-1961Box 2, Folder 8
  • Business History Writing Project
    • General, 1949-1953Box 2, Folder 9
    • Correspondence, 1949Box 2, Folder 10
    • Correspondence, 1950-1959Box 2, Folder 11
    • Correspondence: Commerce Club, 1949-1950Box 2, Folder 12
    • Projects, 1950Box 2, Folder 13
    • Projects: Commerce Club Proposal, 1949-1950Box 2, Folder 14
  • Lecture and Book Notes
    • Notes on Lectures Attended, 1946-1954, n.d.Box 2, Folder 15
    • Notes on George Taylor's "Transportation Revolution", 1951Box 2, Folder 16
  • Teaching Lectures
    • A1: “Railway Labor”, 1954Box 2, Folder 17
    • A1: “Transportation, 1920-1954”, 1954Box 2, Folder 18
    • A2: “Progressive Period”, 1953Box 2, Folder 19
    • A2: “Railroads and the West, 1865-1900”, 1953Box 2, Folder 20
    • A2: Regulation of Business Lectures 1-6, 1953Box 2, Folder 21
    • A2: “Dred Scott and Party Politics”, 1953Box 2, Folder 22
    • A2: ”Immediate Background of the Interstate Commerce Act and the Act Itself”, 1954Box 2, Folder 23
    • A2: “Regulation of Business”, 1954Box 2, Folder 24
    • A2: “Railroads in World War I”, n.d.Box 3, Folder 1
    • A3 Outlines and Miscellaneous Notes, 1950-1958, n.d.Box 3, Folder 2
    • Business History Final Lecture: lecture, outline, and notes, 1951-1955, n.d.Box 3, Folder 3
    • Miscellaneous Notes and Outlines, 1939-1961, n.d,Box 3, Folder 4
    • Non-Northwestern Course Materials, 1958-1967Box 3, Folder 5
  • Research Materials
    • Bibliography of Railroad History, 1946-1951Box 3, Folder 6
    • Burlington Archives at Newberry Library: Cunningham-Overton Collection, 1949-1981Box 3, Folder 7
    • Papers and Speeches, 1947-1976, n.d.Box 3, Folder 8
    • Photographs/Negatives: Locomotives, 1943Box 3, Folder 9
  • Professional Associations: Mississippi Valley Historical Society
    • MVHA Bloomington, in Conference Program Drafts, 1945-1946Box 3, Folder 10
    • Correspondence, 944-1945Box 3, Folder 11
    • Correspondence, 946-1954Box 3, Folder 12
    • Correspondence, MVHA Review, 942-1945Box 3, Folder 13
    • Professional Invitations, 945-1949Box 3, Folder 14
  • Publications
    • Articles and Reprints, 947-1998Box 3, Folder 15
    • "Perkins/Budd" Correspondence: Harold Williamson, 979, n.d.Box 3, Folder 16
    • "Perkins/Budd: Railway Statesman of the Burlington": typescript, 1979Box 4
  • Biographical, 1944-1956, n.d.Box 1, Folder 1
  • Clippings, 1952-1959Box 1, Folder 2