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318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

An Inventory of His Papers

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Creator: Weidensall, Robert, 1836-1922.
Title: Robert Weidensall papers.
Date: 1844-1940 (bulk 1860-1920).
Collection Number: Y.USA.23
Abstract: Papers, primarily correspondence, diaries, and travelogs, of Robert Weidensall documenting his 54 year career organizing YMCAs, including state, county, college and railroad work. The collection includes correspondence from Weidensall's brother, Jacob, who was involved in the Civil War; as well as many local YMCA leaders documenting the evolution of state, county and college work of the YMCA.
Quantity: 23.9 cu. ft. (59 boxes)
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Robert Weidensall was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania on April 20, 1836. He graduated from Gettysburg College intending to be a minister. He attended seminary in Gettysburg, but was unable to complete his studies because of ill health. After teaching school for the better part of two years, he went to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1863, where he found work as a carpenter in the quartermaster's department of the army . Later that year he joined the railroad construction corps, serving six months with the Army of the Potomac and nearly a year with the army of Cumberland and Tennessee. In 1866, after working for a few months at blacksmithing in the Pennsylvania oil region, he returned to Hollidaysburg, where he helped to organize a YMCA. That same year he went to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was a superintendent in Union Pacific Railroad's car shops. While there he became active in the Omaha YMCA and was elected its vice president in 1868. Later that year he was made a YMCA employee as its first field secretary to organize YMCAs along the Union Pacific line.

In the course of 54 years of service, "Uncle Robert", as he was affectionately called, pioneered the movement in schools and colleges, proposed general secretaries associations and training schools for secretaries, canvassed the south, and developed state work in the Midwest. Rural work was a special object of his attention. Weidensall proposed and laid the foundation for successful county work and organized the first rural association in DuPage, Illinois in 1873. Weidensall died on September 13, 1922 in Yutan, Nebraska at the age of 86.


The collection includes both personal papers and records reflecting Weidensall's professional activities in the YMCA. Personal papers consist primarily of two major sub-series: biographical material on Weidensall by himself and others, and diaries and travelogs which cover his life from college to up to his death and document his extensive travels around the country organizing for the YMCA. Travelogs from his trip around the world (1905-1907), given to him as a gift for his work, are also found in this sub-series. Also included are mementos, clippings, Weidensall's will and other records concerning his funeral and the disposition of his estate, and considerable material preserved in conjunction with Weidensall's 50th and 80th birthday celebrations.

Records relating to Weidensall's professional life include annual reports from the 1870s and 1880s written by Weidensall to the International Committee, which document his work during those years, subscription books and other material relating to county (i.e. rural and small-town) and state work, various pamphlets, and other material. Additional information on Weidensall's YMCA work is found in the extensive series of business correspondence. This correspondence spans nearly the whole of his career, though the bulk dates from the later years when he was presumably more conscious of the historical importance of the work he was doing. Correspondence with several more well known individuals in the organization have been separated to their own folders.

A smaller sub-series of personal correspondence includes letters to and from his parents and siblings, as well as friends. Of particular note are letters Weidensall's brother, Jacob, who was involved in the Civil War.

The histories series consists of bound volumes of works by Weidensall which document his state, county and college work. Also included are collections of Weidensall's letters and related material from his trip to visit YMCAs around the world during the period from August 1905 to January 1907.


These documents are organized into the following sections:
Personal Papers.
Professional Materials.


Use of Materials:
This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.
Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here]. Robert Weidensall Papers. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
History of the Collection:
The bulk of the collection was originally compiled by Weidensall himself, who began to copy out important letters and documents with the aid of a stenographer. Weidensall donated this material to Jacob T. Bowne Historical Library of the YMCA, originally housed at the Springfield Training School. The collection was later moved, along with the Historical Library, to the YMCA headquarters in New York. In 1985, the collection came to the University of Minnesota when the Kautz Family YMCA Archives were established there. Additional material in this collection was formerly cataloged as part of the YMCA Biographical Files.
Processing Information:
Processed by: John Wrathall, Summer 1991; Chan Harries and Sara Ulman, February 2005.
Catalog Record ID number: 4501200


The following section contains a detailed list of the materials in the collection. To request materials, please note the corresponding box number.

Personal Papers

1 Books in Weidensall collection, undated.
Photocopies of book covers.
Index to photos in the Weidensall historical volumes, undated.
Address book, undated.
Autograph book, 1860-1901, 1906. 3 folders.
Book from Weidensall's first Sunday school teacher, 1844.
College work, 1877.
College work, history notes, undated.
2 Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee, 1897.
50th birthday invitation list, 1886.
80th birthday celebration materials, 1916. 13 folders.
3 80th birthday celebration materials, 1916. 4 folders.
Weidensall historical room, 1916-1919, 1928-1964. 2 folders.
Life of Robert Weidensall, Material:
3 Life of Robert Weidensall, correspondence, 1915-1922. 2 folders.
Life of Robert Weidensall, sketches by J. S. Hotton, undated.
Life of Robert Weidensall, sketches of Jacob Jr. and Jacob Sr., undated.
Life of Robert Weidensall, autobiographical sketches, undated.
Biographical Material:
Manuscripts and articles on Weidensall by various authors.
4 Mrs. L. W. Messer, undated.
I. E. Brown, 1917.
Richard Morse, 1910.
W. W. Vanarsdale, 1886.
"Outline Study of the Life of Weidensall as Related to Railroad Work," undated.
Gettysburg Challenge, 1921, 1922.
Selden Spencer, 1916.
A World Tour, undated.
These biographies are primarily speeches written by the named persons for occasions honoring Weidensall.
Clippings, undated, 1877-1907.
Reminiscences and testimonies, 1893, 1911-1920.
Reminiscence, 1904.
Coroner's commission, Jacob Weidensall, 1864.
Commission by the governor of Pennsylvania certifying the election of Weidensall's brother as coroner of Blair county.
Weidensall estate, undated.
Funeral-related material and correspondence concerning Weidensall's final illness, 1921-1922.
Will, 1921-1922.
Man's Needs and their Supplies, manuscript, undated.
U.S. Railroad Construction Corps, poem, undated.
The Land of Oil, 1866.
Poem written by Weidensall about the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania.
Notes, undated. 2 folders.
Notes from destroyed letters, 1867-1879.
5 Sizes of timbers used in the Union Pacific railroad car shop, 1865-1868.
Weidensall's notes on the dimensions of materials used in various types of railroad cars.
Diaries and Travelogs:
5 World travel materials, 1894, 1904-1907.
Holland and Belgium trip notes, undated.
Diary of U.S. Military railroad engineers construction corps, 1864.
Journal or reminiscences, poems, notes, 1859-1866.
Europe travelog, 1894. 3 folders.
World trip notes, September-December 1905. 2 folders.
6 World travelogs, August 1905 - January 1907.
World trip notes, January-February 1906.
Travel notes, January-April 1907.
Journal during hospital stay, 1910.
9 World trip notes, February-December 1906. 10 folders.
Diaries, 1854-1855, 1864. 3 folders.
10 Diaries, 1872, 1878, 1885-1886, 1888, 1891-1892. 7 folders.
11 Diaries, 1893-1897. 5 folders.
12 Diaries, 1898-1902. 5 folders.
13 Diaries, 1903-1905, 1907 - January 1908. 6 folders.
14 Diaries, 1908-1912. 5 folders.
15 Diaries, 1913-1917. 5 folders.
16 Dairies, 1918-1920, 1922. 4 folders.
Diary transcriptions, 1854-1855, 1872, 1886, 1888, 1892. 2 folders.
Typed transcriptions of selected entries from Weidensall's diaries.

Professional Materials

7 Biennial report, 1899-1900.
Annual report, 1885-1886, 1870-1877. 9 folders.
County work, 1863-1940. 4 folders.
County work overview, undated.
County work of the YMCA, undated.
The County Secretaryship as Life Work, 1903.
Subscription Books:
Books showing the amount pledged to YMCA work by individuals.
7 County work, 1903-1904.
8 Iowa, 1887.
The State Work: Its Importance and its Claims, 1893.
Memoranda of early state work, 1920.
State work, miscellaneous, undated, 1881-1903.
Railroad work, undated, 1876-1906.
17th secretaries conference notes, 1887.
Training institutes, 1872, 1885, 1904, 1910.
Training school historical notes, undated.
Work of the Corresponding Members of the Executive Committee, 1871.
Addresses, undated, 1892.
General secretaryship, musings, undated.
DuPage, Illinois YMCA history, 1905.
Pamphlets, 1892-1922.
Our Evangelical Basis: Its Relation to the Growth of Perpetuity of the Association, 1892.
The Volunteer Working Member: The Most Important Factor in the Association Work, undated.
Volunteer Work: The Strength of the Association; How can we Promote its Efficiency?, 1893.
Settlement principals in the work of the YMCA, 1896.
Note of thanks from the Japanese imperial administrator in China, 1905.
A New Opening for Co-operation, 1904.
George Williams room, 1916.
Materials concerning the construction of the George Williams room at the Chicago association.
Founding of the YMCA, correspondence, 1894-1895.
Manuscript and criticisms of L. L. Doggett's thesis.
Calling card, undated.


16 "Calendar of the Robert Weidensall Correspondence, 1861-1865," 1940.
Detailed inventory of Weidensall correspondence formerly available at George Williams College (now part of the Personal Correspondence sub-series below) compiled by the Illinois Historical Records Survey Project, a Works Projects Administration program.
17 Family letter excerpts, 1892.
Personal Correspondence:
60 Personal correspondence, 1862-1863, 1880, 1884, 1886, 1897, 1918. 4 folders.
17 Personal correspondence, 1854-1881. 17 folders.
18 Personal correspondence, 1882 - September 1896. 17 folders.
19 Personal correspondence, October 1896 - 1905. 15 folders.
20 Personal correspondence, 1906 - March 1914. 13 folders.
21 Personal correspondence, April 1914 - April 1916. 9 folders.
22 Personal correspondence, April 1916 - March 1918. 11 folders.
23 Personal correspondence, April 1918 - November 1918. 5 folders.
Personal correspondence, undated.
Business Correspondence:
60 Business correspondence, undated, 1870, 1878, 1883, 1886-1888, 1890-1891, 1894, 1897, 1900, 1903, 1906-1907, 1913. 12 folders.
23 Business correspondence, 1861 - December 1873. 7 folders.
24 Business correspondence, 1874 - May 1881. 16 folders.
25 Business correspondence, June 1881 - July 1884. 14 folders.
26 Business correspondence, August 1884 - January 1886. 14 folders.
27 Business correspondence, February 1886 - 19 April 1886. 12 folders.
28 Business correspondence, 20 April 1886 - 13 April 1887. 15 folders.
29 Business correspondence, 14 April 1887 - April 1888. 17 folders.
30 Business correspondence, May 1888 - August 1889. 15 folders.
31 Business correspondence, September 1889 - June 1891. 15 folders.
32 Business correspondence, July 1891 - December 1892. 14 folders.
33 Business correspondence, January 1893 - 21 December 1894. 15 folders.
34 Business correspondence, 24 December 1894 - July 1896. 15 folders.
35 Business correspondence, August 1896 - 12 January 1898. 14 folders.
36 Business correspondence, 14 January 1898 - June 1899. 15 folders.
37 Business correspondence, August 1899 - 26 September 1900. 16 folders.
38 Business correspondence, 27 September 1900 - March 1902. 15 folders.
39 Business correspondence, April 1902 - 13 April 1903. 15 folders.
40 Business correspondence, 16 April 1903 - February 1904. 17 folders.
41 Business correspondence, March 1904 - May 1905. 15 folders.
42 Business correspondence, June 1905 - December 1908. 14 folders.
43 Business correspondence, February 1909 - April 1912. 16 folders.
44 Business correspondence, May 1912 - March 1914. 15 folders.
45 Business correspondence, April 1914 - October 1916. 14 folders.
46 Business correspondence, November 1916-1922, undated. 15 folders.
47 Business correspondence, undated. 11 folders.
48/49 Business correspondence, undated. 4 folders.
Correspondence by Individual:
60 Cephas Brainerd, correspondence, 1870-1910.
48/49 Cephas Brainerd letters, undated.
Bound volume of transcriptions of correspondence from Brainerd to Weidensall, including an overview of the relationship between the two men.
Robert McBurney, correspondence, 1884-1898.
Richard Morse, correspondence, 1877-1913. 4 folders.
John Mott, correspondence, 1892-1918.
C. K. Ober, correspondence, 1887-1903.
Luther Wishard, correspondence, 1882-1905.


50 State work, 1912. 3 volumes.
Vol. 1: Nebraska; Vol. 2: Iowa; Vol. 3: Kansas
51 State work, 1912. 3 volumes.
Vol. 4: Missouri; Vol. 5: Wisconsin; Vol. 6: Minnesota
52 State work, 1912. 4 volumes.
Vol. 7: Michigan; Vol. 8: Indiana; Vol. 9: Illinois; Vol. 10: Kentucky
53 State work, 1912. 3 volumes.
Vol. 11: Tennessee (two copies); Vol. 1: Nebraska (duplicate)
54 State work, 1912. 3 volumes.
Duplicate copies of volumes 2-4.
55 State work, 1912. 3 volumes.
Duplicate copies of volumes 5-7.
56 State work, 1912. 2 volumes.
Duplicate copies of volumes 8-9.
County work, 1911.
57 The Origin of the Association of General Secretaries of the YMCA and The Early History of the Training Schools of the YMCA, 1911.
The First Field Work and Early Development of the YMCA Movement as Conducted under the International Committee and its First Employed Agent, 1912. 2 volumes.
58 Early History of the College Work of the YMCA, 1911.
Letters of Cephas Brainerd to Weidensall, 1868-1893, 1911. 2 volumes.
59 "Journey of Robert Weidensall 'Round the World to Young Men's Christian Associations", 1911. 2 volumes.
Two copies of a bound typescript with collected correspondence of Weidensall's world travels during the period August 1905 to January 1907.
"Visitation 'Round the World by Robert Weidensall to Young Men's Christian Associations", 1911. 2 volumes.
Two copies of a bound typescript with collected correspondence from Weidensall's world travels during the period August 1905 to January 1907. These volumes include a different set of correspondence than the "Journey" volumes.


An item level inventory of the portions collection transferred from the YMCA Historical Library in New York, can be found on file at the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.


This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Young Men's Christian associations -- Employees.
Young Men's Christian associations -- Administration.
DuPage County (Ill.).
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
Bowne, J. T. (Jacob Titus), 1847-1925.
Brainerd, Cephas, 1831-1910.
McBurney, Robert Ross, 1837-1898.
Morse, Richard Cary, 1841-1926.
Mott, John Raleigh, 1865-1955.
Wishard, Luther D. (Luther Deloraine), 1854-1925.
Weidensall, Jacob.
Weidensall, Robert, 1836-1922.
Union Pacific Railroad Company.
Types of Documents: