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Topical Files

 Series

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The papers and artifacts of Benyaurd B. Wygant fill 21 boxes and span the period 1898 through 2005, with most items dating from the period 1917-1945. The collection documents in great detail Wygant’s life and career as an officer of the United States Navy. Wygant’s diaries and correspondence afford an intimate look at Wygant’s military responsibilities and the execution of his duties. Those forms of record, as well as more formal writings, also reflect his thoughts on naval strategy, fleet operations, organization and distribution of personnel, and military training. Noteworthy are Wygant’s materials associated with naval service during World War I and his association with Admiral William S. Sims. Of particular significance regarding military training and documenting the Navy’s efforts to commission reserve officers for service during World War II, are Wygant’s extensive records associated with the Navy V-7 program based at Northwestern University’s Abbott Hall between 1940 and 1945.

The Wygant collection is organized into the following major categories: correspondence; diaries; a scrapbook; Wygant’s lectures, publications, speeches, and writings; photographs; topical files; and artifacts.

Correspondence is maintained according to Wygant’s original order: incoming letters are arranged separately from outgoing items. Thereafter, correspondence is arranged in reverse chronological order. There are occasional lapses in strict chronology when, for example, Wygant fastened to each other letters of different dates but with shared topical pertinence.

Diaries are maintained in holographic format and date between 1919 and 1960. Wygant’s entries, in addition to providing commentary on naval assignments and related observations, reflect his thoughts on national and world affairs as well as document personal concerns and family activities.

A scrapbook records, largely through newspaper clippings, United States Naval Service Radio Service and Naval Service messages, activities of the Navy’s destroyer squadron – of which Wygant was an officer – based at Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland during World War I. Wygant won his Navy Cross for distinguished and hazardous service during this phase of his military career.

Wygant was an interested, professional observer of naval affairs, organization, tactics, and history. An effective communicator, he wrote, lectured, and delivered public addresses on such matters before both military and civilian audiences. His many lectures, publications, speeches, and writings are organized alphabetically by key word of title. Wygant’s several works in verse are arranged first according to the heading of “poem” and thereafter alphabetically by title.

Photographs are arranged by physical format, with oversized and large, rolled photographs segregated into their own box. The photographs include formal portraits of Wygant, photographs associated with the United States Naval Academy, photographs from Navy V-7 activities, images of Navy ships on which he served or was otherwise associated, and shots of fleet operations.

Topical files form a significant portion of the collection, are concentrated in date between 1898 and 1947, and are arranged alphabetically by their headings. These files include much biographical information relating to Wygant and to members of his family. The files reflect his membership in clubs and organizations, document his military decorations and honors, and account for some of his participation in public events and speaking engagements. Of particular significance are Wygant’s files relating to the United States Navy, particularly to the ships with which he was associated, and to his work as commanding officer of the United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School (Navy V-7 program) at Abbott Hall, Northwestern University, during World War II. The Abbott Hall files, especially when supplemented by the information found in Wygant’s correspondence files and in his diaries, afford a detailed record of the workings of that important training program. Wygant’s addresses to the program’s officers, staff, midshipmen, and graduates form an interesting record of military training and preparedness during a time of crisis.

Colorful artifacts of Wygant’s Navy service and from American naval history complete the collection. Included are elements of Wygant’s formal dress uniform, a silverplate urn presented to Wygant in recognition of his command of the Navy V-7 training program at Northwestern University, and relics from the storied USS Constitution, Old Ironsides.

Dates

  • 1898-2005, undated

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Boxes 1-21 are stored off-site and require two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at specialcollections@northwestern.edu or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Extent

From the Collection: 21 Boxes

From the Collection: 2 folders

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Contact:
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US
847-491-3635