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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 6: John Paul Jones, Commemoration at Annapolis, 1906Add to your cart.

Program for 1906 program at the Naval Academy.

List of tipped in letters and manuscripts. (All items numbered consecutively in upper right hand corner)

1) Commodore George Henry Preble (Navy Yard, Boston) to Henry B. Dawson 1873: September 29. Complains at not receiving an issue of the `Historical' and explains the progress of his various writings. Includes photograph of the original flag of the Bonhomme-Richard. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pages.

2) Envelope, n.d. Captain John Barry to Thomas Wharton, Jr. (President of the Council of Safety), Philadelphia. Signed by John Paul Jones. (Possibly the envelope is a Jones letter to Barry)

3) Commodore Stephen Decatur to Commodor Richard Dale, Philadelphia. Washington May 1, [ ] explaining why his son has not yet been promoted. Autograph Letter Signed, 4 pages.

4) Robert Morris (Signer of the Declaration of Independence) to John Nicholson. 1799: June 25 (Marked No. 3) regarding some business matters. Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page.

5) Regulation of subsistence to be paid to every officer and soldier on the foregoing establishment. n.d. Incomplete. Statement and schedule of fees. Signed on each page by George III, King of England. 2 pages. A.D.

6) Document approving a U.S. cargo ship. In English and Dutch. 1833: August 12 Signed by various officials including Andrew Jackson (Pres.) Partially printed. 1 page.

7) Commodore Isaac Hull to Robert Smith (Secretary of the Navy) Norfolk, 1807: December 23 soliciting a navy agent appointment for his father. Autograph Letter Signed, 2 pages.

8) Pay order, State of Pennsylvania, 1785: April 8 for assembly attendance to Adam Orth. Signed by John Bayard, Speaker, Adam Orth and John Nicholson. Partly printed. 1 page.

9) Ambassadore Horace Porter, Secretary to President U.S. Grant to Moses H. Grinnell, Collector of Customs, 1869: Apr. 30, New York, introducing Edward Fitzgerald. Executive Mansion letterhead, with envelope.

10) Admiral D.D. Porter, Navy Department to John J. Almy, U.S.N., 1869: May 11 thanking him for his contribution to The Naval Monument Fund. Letter Signed, 1 page.

11) Peter Pontury Barton to Admiral Lord Shudham, Stoke, Blenheim, 1778: June 12 begging to be released from naval service. Relates how his ship was taken by the American Congress in 1778 at Charlestown, South Carolina. Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page.

12) Petition to the Judges of the Circuit Court of [Washington, D.C.] 1825: June 8 settling seizure of property of Franklin Wharton for debts by Ladd and John Wheelwright. Statement concerning by Francis Scott Key. Signed by parties in question and Francis Scott Key and lawyers. AD, 2 page.

13) G.[ ] Dade, Chief Engineer, U.S. N. to Captain [Edward] Preble. 1872: February 29 enclosing an affadavit for unidentified purpose. (Affadavit not included) Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page.

14) Jonathon Gumby, Collection Officer, Snow Hill, to O.H. Williams, Collector of Baltimore. [1792] August 30 concerning shipping regulations. Autograph Letter Signed, 2 pages.

15) Pay order, State of Pennsylvania, 1783: September 5 for assembly attendance to John Steinmetz. Singed by John Steinmetz, Jr., receiving on behalf of his father, Frederick Muhlenberg, Speaker, and John Nicholson. Partially printed D 2 pages.

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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