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William K. Bixby Papers


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Personal papers

Washington University Papers

Burns Club Papers

Autographs and related items

Eugene Field material

John Paul Jones, Commemoration at Annapolis

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William K. Bixby Papers, 1678-1931 | MS Manuscripts

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Collection Overview

Title: William K. Bixby Papers, 1678-1931Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1678-1931

ID: MS/MS/ms013

Primary Creator: Bixby, William K., 1857-1931

Extent: 19.0 Boxes

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The William K. Bixby Collection includes a variety of materials, ranging from Bixby's personal correspondence relating to his collecting interests, through his connection with Washington University and the St. Louis Burns Club, and including many items from his manuscript collection.

The correspondence in each series is arranged chronologically. Items in other subseries are arranged alphabetically. The correspondence in Series I relates primarily to Bixby's collecting interests, publication of items in his manuscript collection, and his work on the Capitol Decoration Committee of Missouri, 1921-1927, 681 items. Series II contains items relating to gifts made by Bixby to Washington University, 1913-1927, 66 items. Series III contains items relating to the Burns Club of St. Louis but is in no way a complete archive of the Club's activities or of Bixby's relation to it, 80 items. Series IV contains autograph letters and related documents of notable individuals, primarily of significance in American and English literature and history, 891 items. Series V concerns Eugene Field and includes correspondence, numerous original manuscripts, editorial materials, printed items, and miscellaneous personal items, 281 items. A list of the correspondents included in each series preceeds the section of the register devoted to that series. Included at the end of the register is a list of 15 items relating to John Paul Jones tipped in U.S. Congress. Joint Committee on Printing. John Paul Jones commemoration at Annapolis... (Washington, 1907).

Collection Historical Note

William Keeney Bixby, 1857-1931, was born in Adrian, Michigan, the son of Alonzo Bixby, a lawyer native to Batavia, New York. His father's interest in the South seems to have been a determining factor in his career. The senior Bixby, Adrian's prosecuting attorney, had lived in Texas and fought with the Texas Rangers at Reseca de la Palma, Monterrey, and Buena Vista. He became intensely Southern in his sympathies and was considered a “copperhead” during the Civil War.

In 1875, after graduation from high school, William Bixby went armed with a letter from Jefferson Davis to the Governor of Texas, a Confederate veteran, who got the sixteen-year-old a job as night watchman and baggageman for the International Great Northern Railroad at Palestine, Texas. An Algerish touch to this story is the part played by the roughly dressed old man who frequently dropped around at night and pestered the boy with apparently idle questions about railroading. Because the boy was courteous and intelligent, at the end of a year the old man revealed himself as H. M. Hoxie, president of the railroad. The result was promotion to the post of general baggage agent in San Antonio for young Bixby. Now he could afford to marry Lillian Tuttle who was visiting her brother in San Antonio, from Bolton, New York. Mr. Hoxie's benign influence was not over. When he became president of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the couple moved with him to St. Louis, where Bixby became printing and stationery buyer for all the Gould lines.

After several years in St. Louis, William McMillan, president of the Missouri Car and Foundry Company, offered the rapidly rising young man a still better job. Within the now-traditional year he again attracted signal attention to himself. His employers had made a ruinous contract for the purchase of pig iron and by his direct honesty Bixby renegotiated the contract, making a long-range, profitable ally for his company. At the age of thirty-one he became vice-president and general manager.

Soon the company became such a large factor in freight-car building that it found it advantageous to merge with the Peninsular Car Company, the first step in a series of mergers out of which came the American Car and Foundry Company, of which Bixby became President, and soon thereafter was elected chairman of the board. At the age of forty-eight, in 1905, he retired.

His aesthetic appreciation had always been keen and he was a voracious reader, reading books by the paragraph and the page rather than the sentence. He now devoted himself to collecting books, autographs, and paintings, with the same avidity with which he had pursued his business career.

Inevitably he accumulated duplicates of his books, and, in combination with Henry E. Huntington, he disposed of these by auction in 1916 and 1917. In 1918 he sold his English and American autographs to Huntington. Hardly slowed down, he started collecting again in 1920 and in 1929 sold the new collection to Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach.

Among his better-known treasures were the Mary Wollstonecraft copy of Queen Mab, the manuscripts of Burns's To Mary in Heaven,Kipling's Recessional,Thoreau's Walden,AndrÉ's Journal,Burr's Journal,Reade's The Cloister and the Hearth,Shelley's Note-Books, Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture.

His art collection was no less impressive. It included a fine Rembrandt, several paintings by Corot, a Franz Hals, and a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

Mr. Bixby was a quiet but vigorous supporter of educational and charitable foundations in St. Louis, Washington University being a particular beneficiary. He was also generous in making available to scholarship his manuscript material. Thus the Bibliophile Society reproduced twenty-eight manuscripts, the Franklin Club of St. Louis reproduced two, the Society of Dofobs of Chicago two, and the Burns Club of St. Louis one. At Christmas he frequently distributed facsimiles of his manuscripts to his friends. The considerable rare book collection at Washington University had its basis in gifts from Mr. Bixby.

After his retirement as Chairman of the Board of the American Car and Foundary Company, Mr. Bixby's life seems to have been fuller than ever. He was a very active director of the St. Louis Union Trust Company. He served for a while as president of the Laclede Gas Company of St. Louis and later, in 1909, as receiver of the Wabash Railroad. From June 1928 to June 1930 he was president of the Washington University Corporation in St. Louis. While president of the City Art Museum he had a large part in persuading the city of St. Louis to set aside a portion of each tax dollar for support of the Museum. When president of the Missouri Historical Society he gave that organization Thomas Jefferson letters, the original Burr-Hamilton correspondence, Eugene Field letters, autograph material relating to the activities of Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston. He was a director of the St. Louis Public Library, an original incorporator of the American Red Cross, vice-president of the American Federation of Art, and a director of the National Gallery of Art. He spent part of his time in foreign travel, which included big-game hunting in Africa and lacquer and jade hunting in China. However, most of his time and energy were devoted to the promotion of art, education and literature.

Howard S. Mott

Administrative Information

Repository: MS Manuscripts

Access Restrictions: Open

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)

Acquisition Source: Gift of William K. Bixby

Acquisition Method:

Accession number 820. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lehmann, April 11, 1967.

Accession number 908. Laid in materials, April 8, 1968.

Accession number 1197. Laid in materials, June 2, 1970.

Accession number 1198. Laid in materials, June 9, 1970.

Accession number 22967. Unknown.

Preferred Citation: Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Personal papers],
[Series 2: Washington University Papers],
[Series 3: Burns Club Papers],
[Series 4: Autographs and related items],
[Series 5: Eugene Field material],
[Series 6: John Paul Jones, Commemoration at Annapolis, 1906],

Series 2: Washington University PapersAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 2.1: CorrespondenceAdd to your cart.
The letters concern gifts which Bixby made over the years to Washington University. Items often include lists of books and manuscripts. Correspondents include Bixby, Frederic A. Hall, Winthrop H. Chenery, and James A. McMillen. One letter apparently from McMillen to Edward Caldwell of McGraw-Hill Publishing Company includes a list of Eugene Field materials presented by Bixby to Washington University.
Box 8Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Correspondence., 1913: May 22-1923: December 20Add to your cart.
(21 items, 41 pages)
Folder 2: Correspondence., 1924: February 6-[no date].Add to your cart.
(24 items, 82 pages)
Sub-Series 2.2: Book and manuscript listsAdd to your cart.
Box 8Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Washington University Libraries, St. Louis. Lists of books and manuscripts presented to Washington University Libraries by William K. Bixby., [circa 1925]Add to your cart.
Typescript and typescript [carbon] copies of 12 lists. (12 items, 41 pages)
Folder 4: Washington University Libraries, St. Louis. Washington University duplicates for exchange. Typescript copy with prices annotated in pencil., no dateAdd to your cart.
(1 item, 8 pages)
Sub-Series 2.3: MiscellanyAdd to your cart.
Box 8Add to your cart.
Folder 5: News releases as follows:Add to your cart.
2 items, 4 pages
Item 1: Chenery, Winthrop H. Announcing a gift of books from William K. Bixby. Signed., 1927: June 3Add to your cart.
Item 2: No author. Announcing gifts of books from William K. Bixby and C.F. Sparks., no dateAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: Copyright assignments made by The Bibliophile Society, Boston, to William K. Bixby and in turn to Washington University. Items include Thoreau, Henry David, First and last journeys [essay], volumes I & II, and unpublished poems by Wm. Cullen Bryant and H.D. Thoreau.Add to your cart.
(5 items, 8 pages & card.)
Folder 7: Washington U., St. Louis. Alumni Bulletin, Washington University. Containing an article about a gift from William K. Bixby, 1932: FebruaryAdd to your cart.
(1 item, 8 pages)
Folder 8: Materials originally laid in books given to Washington University by Bixby.Add to your cart.
(3 items)
Item 1: Typescript [carbon] letter, signed, from Bixby to F.W. Lehmann concerning gify copy of a book he has had privately printed containing the inventory of George Washington's Estate, Mount Vernon, in 1810. Bixby provides an interesting account of the history of the original document. The book was complied and introduced by Worthington C. Ford, President of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Letter also mentions background of Martha Washington's will., 1909: October 28Add to your cart.
Originally laid in Inventory of the Contents of Mount Vernon, 1818. Accession 1198. (Typed [carbon] letter signed, 1 page)
Item 2: Typescript letter, signed, from Bixby to F.W. Lehmann concerning gify copy of a book he has had privately printed containing the a letter written by Maria (White) Lowell to Mrs. Nathaniel Howthorne, a letter by William Black and an article about the letters by Frank B. Sanborn. Another edition was published earlier by the Bibliophile Society of Boston., 1913: May 22Add to your cart.
Originally laid in Letter of Maria White (Mrs. James Russell) Lowell to Sophia (Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne). Accession 1197. Typed letter, signed. 1 page.
Item 3: Autograph letter, signed, from Katherine N. Rhodes (?) to Bixby thanking him for writing Charles Freer, the American art collector, regarding Bixby's visit to the grave of Ernest Fenollosa, the American Orientalist. The letter contains no reference to Young's Night Thoughts., 1920: April 9Add to your cart.
Originally laid in Night Thoughts by Edward Young. Accession 1693. Autograph letter, signed. 1 page.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Personal papers],
[Series 2: Washington University Papers],
[Series 3: Burns Club Papers],
[Series 4: Autographs and related items],
[Series 5: Eugene Field material],
[Series 6: John Paul Jones, Commemoration at Annapolis, 1906],

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