Skip to main content

Correspondence, 1915-07 - 1915-12

 File — Box: 6, Folder: 6
Identifier: Folder 6

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Baker Brownell Papers comprise seventy-eight boxes arranged in eight major categories: biographical material; financial and legal records; correspondence; materials pertaining to Brownell's teaching career; conference and convention material; writings; research files; and miscellaneous notes. The most important components of the collection include the thirty-nine boxes of Brownell's correspondence and the twenty-one boxes of material relating to his literary endeavors, organized under the general rubric of "writings." The present arrangement was imposed upon the collection because much of Brownell's original arrangement was neither clearly discernable nor conducive to easy access by researchers.

I. Biographical Materials, Boxes 1-3

The Biographical Materials encompass a broad variety of items including a personal profile of Brownell written by a student who often waited on him in the faculty cafeteria. Also included are various autobiographical materials, including a Northwestern University Golden Reunion hard given to Brownell in 1960; Who's Who entries; faculty questionnaires; a folder of newspaper clippings (1912-1965), including obituaries; press releases, programs, membership cards, awards, certificates, grade reports; newspaper clippings relating to the Brownell family and Brownell's acquaintances, and three folders of Brownell's appointment calendars (1911-1954).

Seven folders of genealogical materials reflect Brownell's interest in family genealogy.  Several letters (1837-1896) and manuscripts trace his parents' descent from a pre-revolutionary English lineage that included the Burr, Edwards, Beecher, Foote and Percy families. Also included is a folder of Brownell's sister's (Mrs. George Wilcox) applications for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and two folders of genealogical research done by Brownell and Mrs. Wilcox.

The Brownell family papers include one folder of personal materials, including cancelled checks and a land patent; a folder of Adelaide Howard Brownell’s papers, inc1uding her lecture notes, and a folder of Helena Maxwell Brownell's papers, containing typescripts of a number of her writings.

II. Financial and Legal Records, 3-5

The Financial and Legal Records include Brownell’s bank account books; a folder of correspondence regarding his teaching appointments and several folders containing bills and receipts (1907-1961); royalty statements from his publishers and publishing contracts; and one box of book orders, invoices and related correspondence.

III. Correspondence, Boxes 5-43

The Correspondence, 1904-1968, consists of 43 boxes of both incoming correspondence and copies of outgoing letters.  Brownell was a prolific correspondent who regularly wrote to his family, friends, colleagues, publishers, and students.  The correspondence, which is arranged chronologically by day, reflects all facets of Brownell's diverse career - his early studies and travel in Europe, his teaching, research and literary interests, his involvement in "small community'' projects in Montana and at Southern Illinois University, and his interests and activities during his retirement years.

Correspondence between a number of Brownell's relatives, including Lulu B. Wilcox and Etta Wilcox; and Lulu Wilcox and Mrs. Eugene A. Brownell together with several letters to Adelaide Howard Brownell from George Santayana have been integrated into the collection.

The correspondence falls into three general periods: Brownell’s pre-Northwestern career, (1904-1921); his association with Northwestern University, (1921-1953); and his post-Northwestern career, (1953-1965).

Correspondence: 1904-1921

There is considerable correspondence during this period between Brownell and several of his relatives, and with a number of publishers and editors to whom he submitted verse, such as Harriet Monroe of Poetry, and the editors of The Dial and The New Republic. Also included is a substantial amount of correspondence with Harry F. Harrington, Director of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern.

In addition, smaller amounts of correspondence exist with professional colleagues, officials of the Fisk Teachers Agency, and representatives of the United States Army and Navy.

A few letters written during World War I reflect Brownell's views on economic and political questions. Several of his letters, for example, concern the women's suffrage amendment.

Correspondence: 1922-1953

Much of the correspondence from this period consists of relatively mundane letters inviting various public figures, writers, artists, educators, scientists, and others to lecture in Brownell's Contemporary Thought classes.

A substantial amount of correspondence exists with Eugene MacDonald, president and founder of Zenith Corporation, concerning Brownell and MacDonald's cruise to the Galapagos Islands aboard the “Mizpah." Brownell also corresponded extensively with Ralph Borsodi, founder of The School of Living in Suffern, New York; his first Wife, Helena Maxwell Brownell, who lived abroad in France and Germany; Lamar Warrick, his assistant in the Department of Contemporary Thought; Dean Ralph Heilman of Northwestern's School of Commerce; and Carl Beecher, a colleague at Northwestern.

There is also a small amount of correspondence between Brownell and various editors and publishers such as George Soule of The New Republic, and representatives of W.W. Norton & Co., the Abingdon Press, Charles Scribners, Henry Holt & Co. and the Macmillan Company. Brownell also corresponded with Walter Dill Scott, Northwestern's President; Addison Hibbard, Dean of Northwestern's College of Liberal Arts; and Colonel Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune.

Additionally the correspondence includes letters of recommendation for students and colleagues, and exchanges with readers of Brownell's published writings. Much of the correspondence in the 1940's was generated as a result of Brownell's duties as supervising editor for Harper & Bros. and concerns various literary projects by such individuals as: Morris Llewellyn Cooke, Philip Murray; Frank Knight, Thornton W. Merriam, Ralph Borsodi, O.E. Baker, M.L. Wilson, Paul H. Douglas, Leon Green, Ernest O. Melby, Charles M. MacConnell, T.V. Smith, Leonard D. White, H.G. Wells and Eugene MacDonald.

A substantial amount of correspondence concerns the Montana Study Project and other experimental projects involving the "small community", funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Included is correspondence with David Stevens and John Marshall of the Rockefeller Foundation and Ernest O. Melby, Chancellor of the Montana University System, who had previously been Dean of the School of Education at Northwestern.

There is a large amount of correspondence with Arthur E. Morgan, chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and later President of Antioch College.

In 1937 Frank Lloyd Wright and Baker Brownell co-authored a book entitled Architecture and Modern Life, which occasioned an exchange of correspondence between Wright and Brownell including invitations to visit Wright's home at Taliesin in Wisconsin. Attached to a letter from Wright dated February 24, (1936?) is a three page typescript by him entitled "Sweetness and Light"--a commentary on modern youth.

A small amount of correspondence exists with Northwestern University Professor of Journalism Curtis D. MacDougall and Senator Paul H. Douglas (D-Illinois) regarding the 1948 Illinois Senatorial campaign. Brownell also corresponded with the writer A.C. Spectorsky, Franklyn B. Snyder, President of Northwestern, Henry Wallace, Granville Hicks, John Chancellor and Robert Gard. A small amount of correspondence also exists between Brownell and one of his students, Lauren Wispe, who was serving time in a Chicago prison for draft evasion.

Correspondence: 1953-1965

Much of the correspondence generated during this period concerns Brownell's association with the Area Services Division of Southern Illinois University.

Brownell also corresponded with Ordway Tead, Charles B. Fahs of the Rockefeller Foundation, T.V. Smith, Lloyd Wendt, Granville Hicks, John Chancellor and Robert E. Gard during this period.

IV. Course Materials, Boxes 44-52

Brownell's Course Materials are arranged chronologically. The first two boxes contain notebooks and papers from courses in philosophy, logic, ethics, botany and English, which Brownell took from Professors Bliss Perry, Santayana and Royce at Harvard. One folder contains Brownell's assignments (1909-1911) for a philosophy class, along with typed comments by George Santayana. Included in this section are several of Brownell's diaries, dating from 1909-1915 which contain notes for his doctoral dissertation, poetry, philosophical writings and a European travel journey. Also included are folders of news briefs and editorials written by Brownell's students and other materials from writing courses which Brownell taught at Kansas State Normal School and the University of Idaho.

The most comprehensive body of materials in this section pertains to Brownell's Contemporary Thought course. They include class descriptions, notes by Brownell for Contemporary Thought lectures, original drafts of his lectures, and bound lecture syllabi and outlines. There is also a folder of programs which list speakers for each course session.

In 1926 Northwestern and radio station WMAQ sponsored Brownell's “The New Universe” radio lectures.  Programs and typescripts of his lectures are included in this section.

In the 1940’s Brownell directed the Council on the Future, comprised of 25 Northwestern faculty members and administrators, each one with an undergraduate research student, who were brought together to contemplate the probable nature of civilization as it would develop in the future.  Bound volumes of class outlines and lectures generated by the Council are included in this section.

Other course-related materials in this section include outlines, booklists , syllabi, and miscellany from various philosophy, writing and literature courses, short courses and summer courses taught by Brownell at Northwestern, the University of Utah, the University of Kansas City, Garrett Biblical Institute, the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin; three folders of student papers and exams; newsclippings, 1930-1937, relating to the Contemporary Thought course; and teachers grade books, 1923-1953, for all of the courses taught by Brownell.

V. Conferences and Conventions Material

The Conference and Conventions Materials which comprise two boxes are arranged chronologically.  Brownell participated in several conferences as a speaker, consultant, or member of a panel and the materials in these boxes include outlines, manuscripts and typescripts of his speeches, transcripts of discussions, agendas, programs, reports and other miscellaneous materials.

Also included in this section are six folders of Brownell’s lecture materials, arranged chronologically, including radio talks and addresses; and four folders containing reports, minutes, notes and other materials for The College in the Hills, The School of Living and other institutions with which Brownell was associated.

VI. Writings

The Writings Section includes 21 boxes of outlines and notes for articles and books; initial and subsequent drafts of articles and books; annotated carbon copies of transcripts; and copies of his published works. His writings are arranged alphabetically by keyword title of each article or book. Within each folder, the material is generally arranged in the following sequence: notes, outlines, manuscripts, and typescripts, all in the chronological order of their preparation, followed by carbon copies and published works, if extant. If the title of a work had been changed, it is filed under its published title.  Copies of books authored by Brownell have been separated from the collection and are shelved with the "Faculty Collection" located in the University Archives reading room.

Brownell kept careful records of all of his manuscripts, usually dating each revision.  Brownell also kept a “Manuscript Record" from 1917-1923 in which he recorded each piece he wrote by title, noting where he submitted it, the date it was returned or accepted for publication and the amount of payment received.

Brownell’s intellectual curiosity and imagination are evident both from the diversity of his interests and the various media which he utilized to convey his ideas. He wrote plays, fables, poetry, and narrative prose fiction in addition to more academically-oriented articles and books. Brownell also reviewed, edited and commented upon works submitted to him by his colleagues, and wrote editorials for major newspapers. He kept copies of published and unpublished editorials he wrote for the Chicago Tribune from 1919 to 1921, many of which are critically annotated.

VII. Research Files

Brownell’s Research Files include materials related to his two major research projects, the Montana Study (1944-1947) and his investigation of community life in southern Illinois (1952-1954). The Montana Project files include clippings, budgets, field research notes, progress reports and a scrapbook. The Montana Project resulted in publication of Life in Montana (1954), and The Human Community (1950). The Area Services Project at Southern Illinois University, which resembled the Montana Study in its focus on the importance of art and leisure activities in a small community, resulted in the publication of Life in Southern Illinois (1953) and The Other Illinois (1958).

VIII. Miscellaneous Notes, Boxes 77-78

Brownell's extensive Reading and Miscellaneous Notes reflect both his diverse intellectual interests and activities and his conscientiousness as a scholar and teacher. He attempted, for example, to systematically read and annotate the classics. The final section of the collection includes both his notes on books he reviewed and critiqued, and his notes on a wide range of topics related to his research and teaching.


  • 1915-07 - 1915-12


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


From the Collection: 78.00 Boxes

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US