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Identifier: MC 992

Walter E. Weyl Papers


  • Majority of material found in 1862-1956, 1911-1919

Scope and Content Note

The 2.1 cubic feet of documents comprising the papers of Walter E. Weyl date from 1894 to 1919, although a small quantity of family and other items included with the papers dates as early as 1862 and as late as 1956. The bulk of the collection actually falls within a nine year period, 1911 to 1919, and consists of diaries, note cards, clippings, correspondence relating to writings and notebooks.

Weyl used his diaries to record both intellectual and personal material: they include comments on diet and exercise, ideas for short stories, notes on dramaturgy and literary style and analyses of the author's financial investments. From 1911 until the middle of 1913, the diaries provide a detailed chronological record of his life, written in lined notebooks and often indexed by subject or theme.

Although the diaries from 1915 and 1917 record Weyl's wartime trips abroad, no other day-to-day diaries are included for the period between 1913 and 1918. In the latter year, apparently moved to rationalize his work habits, Weyl began to keep notes and records in a series of looseleaf notebooks. The seventeen notebooks in the collection, each marked with a number, letter or key word, include clippings from magazines, typewritten drafts of articles, ideas and sketches for articles or books and personal material, all arranged primarily by subject, not chronology. In addition, some of the notebooks include diary entries from 1918 and 1919.

Also in the Weyl papers, largely undated, are note cards, manuscripts of articles, both published and unpublished, and extensive notes on the philosophy and structure of a novel about the life of Christ, entitled "The Visionary," which Weyl worked on sporadically. Subjects treated in these miscellaneous writings include feminism, the class war, manifest destiny and the new Soviet government.

Weyl corresponded with many of the eminent politicians and political thinkers of his day. Letters from Theodore Roosevelt, Louis Brandeis, Walter Lippmann, Jane Addams, Lincoln Steffens and Robert La Follette are included in the collection, as are printed reviews of Weyl's major books and published comments on his articles. Missing are personal letters, material from the years preceding 1911 (with the exception of some certificates and a very few letters) and -as noted above -diaries for most of the period between 1913 and 1918.


2.1 Cubic Feet (5 manuscript boxes and 1 phase box)

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions.


The 2.1 cubic feet of documents comprising the papers of Walter E. Weyl date from 1894 to 1919, although a small quantity of family and other items included with the papers dates as early as 1862 and as late as 1956. The bulk of the collection actually falls within a nine year period, 1911 to 1919, and consists of diaries, note cards, clippings, correspondence relating to writings and notebooks.

<emph render="bold">Biographical Sketch</emph>

Walter Edward Weyl was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 11, 1873. His father, Nathan Weyl, an emigrant from the German Palatinate, died when the boy was seven, and Walter was raised with his five brothers and sisters in the household of his maternal grandmother, the widow of Philadelphia merchant Julius Stern.

A precocious student, Weyl entered Philadelphia Central High School at the age of thirteen and four years later was awarded a scholarship to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which he entered as a junior and from which he was graduated with distinction at the age of nineteen. After briefly studying law, he was sent abroad by his family to do graduate work in economics at the universities of Halle, Paris and Berlin. Weyl's experiences abroad reinforced his interest in international economics, and in 1896 he returned to Wharton to complete the requirements for a doctorate, finishing his dissertation, later published as The Passenger Traffic of Railways, within a year.

In 1899, Weyl decided to leave the academic world, and he drifted aimlessly for several years. After doing settlement house work in New York, searching for mineral deposits in Mexico and conducting statistical surveys for the Bureau of Labor and the Treasury Department, Weyl was caught up in the excitement of the coal strike of 1902. He came under the influence of John Mitchell, the leader of the United Mine Workers, and subsequently helped Mitchell write his history of the trade union movement, Organized Labor: Its Problems, Purposes, and Ideals (1903).

Weyl spent the remainder of his life as a journalist and social economist. After achieving some success as a chronicler of the lives of the new immigrants in a series of popular magazine articles, he turned his attention to the larger questions of national resources and social policy. His first book, The New Democracy (1912), was widely regarded as a fresh and powerful statement of the Progressive Movement in American politics. In 1914, his role as a spokesman for economic reform was solidified when, with Herbert Clay and Walter Lippmann, he became a founding editor of the New Republic.

The outbreak of World War I renewed Weyl's interest in international questions, and he traveled behind the lines in Germany and Russia in 1915 to observe conditions and morale. Convinced that nationalist and imperialist sentiments would prevent the achievement of a lasting peace, he wrote and published American World Policies (1917) and The End of the War (1918), analyses of the causes of the conflict and the impediments to its successful resolution. In early 1919 he was again in Europe, during the Paris Peace Conference.

Weyl's interest in the rapid expansion of national power had led him to tour China, Japan and Korea in 1917. He was gathering the product of this trip, a series of articles on Japanese imperialism, into a book at the time of his death in November of 1919. Two years later, in 1921, a collection of his previously published essays was issued under the title Tired Radicals.

Weyl married Bertha Poole, a labor organizer, writer and settlement house worker from a wealthy Chicago family, in 1907. They lived most of the year in Woodstock, New York, and had one child, Nathaniel.

Arrangement Note

The documents in the Walter E. Weyl papers fall into five series, essentially although not entirely determined by form: DIARIES, CORRESPONDENCE, WRITINGS, PERSONAL AND FAMILY MISCELLANY and a SCRAPBOOK. When received, the papers had clearly been organized by their creator according to a personal classification system or systems which had changed several times during the years 1911 to 1919. Although it was not always possible to follow Weyl's thought processes or to maintain his organization, the series correspond roughly to the arrangement in which the materials were found.

The notebooks in the series WRITINGS were large looseleaf binders, marked on their spines in most cases with numbers, letters or key words. The material within the binders was subdivided by subject in some instances and by chronology in others. The contents of some of these notebooks resemble the DIARIES, but it seemed preferable to keep them within the context Weyl chose. Unused alphabetical dividers and blank pages were discarded when the notebooks' contents were transferred to folders.

The note cards, also in WRITINGS, were tied with string, with cardboard dividers interspersed. The original order of the cards has been maintained, with the cards grouped arbitrarily in separate small bundles for convenience. Unused dividers were discarded.

Two extraneous items found in the papers (a Confederate bond and a letter to Dr. Luther Gulick from Woodrow Wilson) are included at the end of PERSONAL AND FAMILY MISCELLANY.

Inventory to the Walter E. Weyl Papers MC 992
Edited Full Draft
Jean Ashton
September 2013
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.