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Walter Dill Scott (1869-1955) Papers

Identifier: 3/15/1

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Scope and Contents

The Walter Dill Scott Papers provide a partial view of a pioneering psychologist interested in the classification of military and industrial personnel and a fairly comprehensive portrait of the administrative role of a university president who sought to integrate the disparate components of a university in crisis and develop for it a national reputation. They also illustrate some of the problems faced by an American university during the Depression. The Walter Dill Scott Papers are fall into two broad categories: personal papers and presidential papers.

Biographical materials relating to Scott include clippings, tearsheets, news releases, pamphlets, a carbon (15 pages) of "Military Record and Personnel Work of Walter Dill Scott During the War" (author unknown, Washington, 1919), a carbon (17 pages) of "President Walter Dill Scott and Educational Personnel Work" (author unknown, 1938?), and some of Scott's college records and biographical questionnaires. Also included are notes Scott made for an autobiographical sketch, (six pages) which began with the birth of his father in Nova Scotia (1833) and ended with his entrance as a freshman at Northwestern (1891), and typed copies of four letters (1949) from his sister Lou (Mrs. Donald K. Campbell, Bloomington, Illinois) making corrections and suggestions for changing parts of the sketch. This material was being prepared for J.Z. Jacobson's biography, Scott of Northwestern, published in 1951. Also included are reprints and photo-copies of several articles which deal with Scott's role as a psychologist.

Of special interest are the manuscripts (in several revisions) of Scott's memoirs of Charles Deering (The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, October 1927) and Roger Deering, and considerable correspondence with colleagues, friends, and relatives of the Deerings. Scott compiled, contributed to, and edited an autobiographical sketch of Walter P. Murphy (1952). Several versions of different chapters and much correspondence, personal notes and anecdotes from other contributors are also included, as well as notes of several interviews Scott had with Murphy.

Scott's personal papers include the typescripts (and some notes) of many of his addresses and formal statements.

Scott's work in developing classification schedules and programs for Army officers and enlisted men during World War I is documented primarily in the form of copies of pertinent letters, army orders, forms (several in various revisions) and published manuals and guides.

Scott's presidential papers consist primarily of official correspondence, reports, and memoranda. Scott also kept notes of important meetings and telephone calls.

Several subjects are of more than ordinary interest. The proposed merger (1933-1934) between Northwestern University and the University of Chicago is documented (Boxes 40-42) with extensive correspondence, drafts of proposals, committee reports, legal opinions, and newspaper clippings.

Scott's pioneering work in personnel counseling for students is reflected by correspondence and reports (Box 30, Folders 4-7).

Scott's fund-raising activities that supported the development of the McKinlock Campus (later renamed the Chicago Campus) is richly illustrated by files in Box 25 and Box 26, Folder 1-9. See also Box 21, Folders 8-10, for material relating to various University financial campaigns.

Scott's defense of Baker Brownell's invitation to Clarence Darrow to speak before his class is revealed by correspondence in Box 31, Folder 4. Scott also shielded Bernard De Voto from attacks after De Voto's article on Utah, the Mormons, and the University appeared in the March 1926 issue of American Mercury (Box 14, Folder 8). Scott defended Dean Leon Green of the School of Law although he strongly disapproved of Green's favorable comments on Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to enlarge the Supreme Court (Box 11, Folder 12). Earlier he had unsuccessfully attempted to support professors George P. Costigan, Jr. and Francis S. Philbrick in their controversy with Dean John H. Wigmore (Box 34, Folder 2). Scott defended free speech for students in the case of "The 38", a group of pacifist-minded students who in 1924 declared that they would not fight in any U.S. wars (Box 29, Folder 5-6).

Throughout his presidency Scott worked consistently toward integrating Northwestern's various schools and academic programs into a centralized university. Sometimes this created a furor as when the Board of Graduate Studies was reconstituted with broader faculty representation. Dean E.J. Moulton of the Graduate School resigned his post as a result since he felt that the new structure put control of advanced degrees in the hands of the professional schools (Box 23, Folders 2-3).

Scott's diplomacy and persistence in cultivating millionaire Walter P. Murphy (Box 3, Folders 2-9; Box 4, Folders 1-8; and Box 39, Folders 7-8) resulted in Murphy's gift of over $20,000,000 to establish and support Northwestern's Technological Institute. His most effective work with prospective donors can be seen in his relationships with the Deering family (Box 17, Folders 2-4; Box 2, Folder 9; and Box 3, Folder 1).

Scott's role in the formation of the General Alumni Association is documented in Box 7, Folders 8-15; Box 8, Folders 1-9. Material relating to the formation of the Associates in 1928 appears in Box 12, Folders 5-9. Scott's continuous desire for favorable and widespread publicity for the University, particularly by securing prominent individuals for commencement addresses and honorary degrees, is reflected by correspondence in Box 16, Folders 7-18.

Northwestern's failed attempt to merge with the Armour Institute is recorded in files in Box 19, Folder 5 and also in files relating to the Board of Trustees.

There is ample documentation pertaining to the formation of the School of Education (Box 32, Folders 1-2).

Football (as an undergraduate, Scott played left guard on the varsity team) played a visible although not always positive role in university life. In 1930 Northwestern and Notre Dame agreed to play their scheduled game at Soldier Field instead of Dyche Stadium as a benefit for Governor Emerson's Commission on Unemployment and Relief Fund (Box 9, Folder 2). The game was not held because of Big Ten Conference objections, but Northwestern nonetheless donated $100,000 to the Fund in December 1930. The 1931 game was moved from South Bend to Soldier Field, and the teams played to a 0 to 0 tie in miserable weather.

When Northwestern needed a strong football coach in 1921 they thought they had obtained the services of a young man named Knute Rockne, but this did not materialize (Box 8, Folder 13; December 30, 1921; January 6, 1922). Two football-related incidents aroused considerable discussion during Scott's presidency. Objections were raised by players and other students to Coach Dick Hanley's methods and philosophy, and despite eight very successful years, Hanley was forced to resign in 1934 (Box 8, Folders 12-13); this created an uproar, especially among alumni and fans. The "Tiny" Lewis case in 1926, in which Leland Lewis, a star fullback, who had been on probation and forbidden to play, was finally allowed to rejoin the team through Scott's personal intervention, caused considerable unfavorable comment (Box 9, Folder 5).

Materials relating to the "Leighton Mount Case" may be found in Box 29, Folders 7-9; Box 30, Folders 1-2.

Scott's outlook on relationships between black and white students is revealed in his belief that while it was acceptable for blacks and whites to play football together, blacks should not be allowed to compete with whites on swimming, wrestling, and basketball teams (Box 15, Folder 5; Box 31, Folder 3; Box 31, Folder 9; December 4, 1930). One of the black women students affected by this attitude was a freshman, Elizabeth Hill, who later became a physician well-known for her medical and hospital work for blacks.

Boxes 45-47:

This addition consists of 60 glass transparency slides (3.75 x 4 inches) and one associated wooden slide box documenting Scott’s work in developing the United States Army Classification System. The slides, made to illustrate an oral presentation, include charts, paperwork forms, and photographs which illustrate methods employed in placing appropriate personnel into Army jobs. The slides supplement those written records found at boxes 6 and 7 of the Scott papers and date from circa 1917-1920.


Two folders of correspondence between Walter Dill Scott and representatives of the Northwestern University Dental School, especially Dean Arthur D. Black, have been added to the series. The correspondence, arranged chronologically, dates between 1915 and 1930 and pertains largely to administrative concerns including, but not limited to the School's budget and other financial matters, construction of Northwestern's McKinlock Campus, curriculum, faculty salaries, and student scholarships.

Addition 2:

Comprised of miscellaneous correspondence.


  • 1891-1977


Conditions Governing Access

Addition: Dental school correspondence may contain sensitive materials; consultation with University Archivist required prior to use.


47 Boxes

Language of Materials



The Walter Dill Scott Papers provide a partial view of a pioneering psychologist interested in the classification of military and industrial personnel, and a fairly comprehensive portrait of the administrative role of a Northwestern University president who sought to integrate the disparate components of a university in crisis and develop for it a national reputation. They also illustrate some of the problems faced by an American university during the Depression. The Walter Dill Scott Papers are fall into two broad categories: personal papers and presidential papers.


Scott's presidential papers are arranged alphabetically by subject (from Alumni to University of Chicago proposed merger), and chronologically within folders. They retain their original order wherever it was still evident.

Method of Acquisition

Transferred to the University Archives prior to June 1, 1974.

Addition: Originally separated from the University Archives' general reference files as the Arthur D. Black papers (Accession #81-99).

Addition 2: Separated from Office of General Counsel papers (accession #98-143, reaccessioned as #98-188).

Processing Information

William K. Beatty, June 4, 1979-October 27, 1980.

Boxes 45-47: Kevin B. Leonard; July 16, 2019.

Addition 1: Kevin B. Leonard; October 20, 1989.

Addition 2: unknown.

Guide to the Walter Dill Scott (1869-1955) Papers
William K. Beatty
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

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