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Collection William H. Taft Papers

About this Collection

The papers of William Howard Taft (1857-1930), twenty-seventh president of the United States and tenth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, consist of approximately 676,000 documents (785,977 images), which have been digitized from 658 reels of previously reproduced microfilm. Held in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, these papers constitute the largest collection of original Taft documents in the world. The collection contains family papers, personal and official correspondence, presidential and judicial files, speeches and addresses, legal files and notebooks, business and estate papers, engagement calendars, guest lists, scrapbooks, clippings, printed matter, memorabilia, and photographs dating from 1784 to 1973, with the bulk of the material dated 1880-1930.

Taft’s papers thoroughly document his public service career, especially his presidential administration from 1909 to 1913. The materials address the major issues that confronted his presidency, including tariffs, federal income tax, international arbitration, antitrust enforcement, conservation, Republican party politics, U.S. investment in Latin America, and the construction of the Panama Canal. Other phases of his career are documented as well, including the years he served as U.S. solicitor general, U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the Sixth Circuit, governor general of the Philippines, secretary of war under Theodore Roosevelt, professor of constitutional law at Yale University, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1921 to 1930. Taft’s chief justice files document his administration of the Supreme Court and federal court system, including his successful efforts to secure for the Supreme Court the right to control its own docket. The collection also contains substantial material on the Taft family and includes the papers of Taft’s father Alphonso Taft (1810-1891), who was a prominent lawyer, jurist, cabinet secretary, and diplomat

The Index to the William Howard Taft Papers was created by the Manuscript Division in 1972 after the bulk of the collection was microfilmed. The index comprises six volumes, each of which is available in searchable PDF and HTML versions. Volume 1 (PDF and HTML) provides alphabetical listings of presidential subject or case files in Series 5, Series 6, and Series 7, as well as legal case files in Series 12 and Series 13. The remaining volumes provide an alphabetical list of correspondents found throughout the collection: Volume 2: A-C (PDF and HTML), Volume 3: D-H (PDF and HTML), Volume 4: I-M (PDF and HTML), Volume 5: N-S (PDF and HTML), and Volume 6: T-Z (PDF and HTML). The information in these volumes is helpful in finding individual letters or documents in the online version. Items in Series 27, an addition to the collection, came to the Library after 1972 and are not included in the index.

A current finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the William H. Taft Papers is also available online with links to the digital content on this site.

Brief History of the Taft Papers

The William H. Taft Papers were acquired by the Library of Congress through deposit, gift, and purchase during the years 1919-2009. When Taft left the White House in 1913, he asked that his War Department and presidential files be sent to him in New Haven, Connecticut, where he would be teaching constitutional law at Yale University and working on writing projects. Taft had a judge’s regard for documentary evidence and had preserved his papers throughout his career. When the Library of Congress solicited his collection in 1919, Taft agreed to place his papers on deposit in the Library’s Manuscript Division. He himself returned to Washington two years later as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Taft made regular additions to his collection between 1919 and 1929 as more material was found in the White House, his home in Washington, and the homes of family members. After his death in 1930, his estate and members of his family continued to deposit material. His children Helen Taft Manning, Robert A. Taft, and Charles P. Taft converted the deposit to a gift in 1952. Additional items were acquired through gift and purchase between 1952 and 2009. Portions of the collection were loaned to Taft’s biographer Henry F. Pringle in the 1930s, and part of the collection was sent to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, for safekeeping during World War II.

A fuller history of the collection was prepared in 1972 for the Index to the William Howard Taft Papers, pp. v-x (PDF and HTML), and was subsequently reproduced in the finding aid. A version of it appears on this website under Articles and Essays.

Description of Series

The William H. Taft Papers are arranged in 27 series. A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the collection is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

Series 1: Family Correspondence and Related Items, 1805-1909 (Reels 1-22)
Chiefly correspondence exchanged among members of the Taft family before William Howard Taft became president.

Series 2: William Howard Taft-Helen Herron Taft Correspondence, 1882-1929 (Reels 22-28)
Primarily correspondence between Taft and Helen Herron Taft, including letters they exchanged before their marriage in 1886. Additional correspondence between Taft and his wife can be found in Series 7 (Presidential Series No. 3) and a few other series in the collection.

Series 3: General Correspondence and Related Material, 1877-1941 (Reels 29-319)
Chiefly incoming correspondence, together with related material and some outgoing correspondence, particularly during the periods when Taft was governor general of the Philippines (1901-1903), secretary of war (1904-1908), Yale University professor (1913-1921), and chief justice of the Supreme Court (1921-1930). Only six boxes of general correspondence are included for his presidential years. A few scattered letters by Taft, including notes in his handwriting and typescripts, are included in this series, as well as retained copies of letters written by Taft after the letterbook system was abandoned in 1921.

Series 4: William Howard Taft-Theodore Roosevelt Correspondence, 1897-1918 (Reels 319-322)
Correspondence between Theodore Roosevelt and Taft, as well as other correspondence addressed to Roosevelt and referred by him to Taft.

Series 5: Executive Office Correspondence (Presidential Series No. 1), 1909-1910 (Reels 323-353)
Numerical subject or case files covering roughly the first year of the Taft administration and consisting of correspondence relating to the functioning of the federal government. A numerical list of case files appears at the beginning of Series 5 and an alphabetical index of topics and names is provided in Volume 1 (PDF and HTML), pp. 1-16, of the Index to the William Howard Taft Papers.

Series 6: Executive Office Correspondence (Presidential Series No. 2), 1909-1913 (Reels 354-452)
A continuation of the federal government case files in Series 5, covering the last three years of Taft's administration. An alphabetical list of case files appears at the beginning of Series 6 and an alphabetical index of topics and names is provided in Volume 1 (PDF and HTML), pp. 16-33, of the Index to the William Howard Taft Papers.

Series 7: The President's Personal File (Presidential Series No. 3), 1909-1913 (Reels 452-461)
Correspondence and related items for the presidential period concerning personal and confidential matters, primarily relating to members of Taft's family, his cabinet officers, and other high government officials, foreign dignitaries, classmates, and very close friends. An alphabetical list of case files appears at the beginning of Series 7 and an alphabetical index of topics and names is provided in Volume 1 (PDF and HTML), pp. 33-35, of the Index to the William Howard Taft Papers.

Series 8: Letterbooks, 1872-1921 (Reels 462-562)
Bound letterbooks containing copies of outgoing letters that complement the incoming correspondence in other series, particularly Series 3: General Correspondence and Related Material. The following volumes are included:

  • Alphonso Taft & Sons, 1872-1877 (3 vols.) 
  • Solicitor general, 1890-1891 (1 vol.)
  • Philippine Commission, 1900-1901 (1 vol.)
  • Secretary of war
    • Personal letters, 1904-1909 (40 vols.)
    • Semiofficial letters, 1904-1908 (21 vols.)
    • Orders, 1904-1908 (7 vols.)
  • Presidential letterbooks, 1909-1913 (49 vols.)
  • Yale University letterbooks, 1913-1921 (105 vols.)

Series 9: Speeches, Articles, and Messages, 1850-1929 (Reels 563-593)
Addresses, articles, remarks, statements, memoranda, reports, editorials, interviews, messages, notes, and certificates by and about William Howard Taft; collected addresses, articles, messages, opinions, briefs, decisions, proclamations, extracts, statements, photographs, interviews, and news clippings concerning Republican political campaigns; and a set of published address and articles by Alphonso Taft.

Series 10: Professional Diaries, 1902-1918 (Reels 593-608)
Diaries and diary material concerning William Howard Taft's official and professional activities, including engagement books, letterbooks, address books, and guest lists.

Series 11: Family Diaries and Miscellaneous Personal Volumes, 1835-1930 (Reels 608-610)
Chiefly personal diaries, including a honeymoon diary kept by Taft and his wife, Helen Herron Taft. Other volumes include graduation books, docket books, commonplace books, a student register, a journal index, a financial ledger, a lecture book (partially in shorthand), a teacher’s instructional journal, an address book, a London album, a poetry book, a memorial book on the death of William Howard Taft, and a few related items of members of the Taft family.

Series 12: Legal Papers of Alphonso Taft, 1784-1889 (Reels 610-611)
Legal case files of Alphonso Taft.

Series 13: Legal Papers of William Howard Taft, 1880-1929 (Reels 611-616)
Legal instruments, cases, and other items. Includes appeals, abstracts, affidavits, agreements, applications, arbitration proceedings, awards, bills of particular, briefs, correspondence, court orders, decisions, dockets, fragments, exceptions, exhibits, extracts, memoranda, notices of deposition, notes, opinions, petitions, reports, shorthand notes, syllabuses, and transcripts.

Series 14: Legal Notebooks, 1887-1900 (Reels 616-617)
Notebooks kept by Taft while he was judge of the Superior Court of Ohio and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Series 15: Miscellaneous Legal Manuscripts, 1881-1930 (Reels 617-618)
Chiefly designations for district judges, together with scattered correspondence, agreements, opinions, reports, House and Senate bills, hearings, amendments, summaries, statements, suggestions, copies of decisions, drafts, a list of cases, memoranda, notes, petitions, resolutions, and fragments.

Series 16: Law Lectures and Related Material, 1897-1921 (Reels 618-623)
Law lectures and lecture notes, examination questions, record books of students' grades, and fragments relating to the periods Taft was dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School and professor of constitutional law at Yale University.

Series 17: Scrapbooks, 1879-1922 (Reels 623-626)
Chiefly newspaper clippings, articles, editorials, and speeches relating to Taft's political life up to the Supreme Court period. Also included are invitations, pamphlets, programs, menus, and other items relating to his personal and social life.

Series 18: Taft Family Financial Papers, 1800-1930 (Reels 626-635)
Bills and receipts; canceled checks and check books; U.S. Philippine Commission expenses; contributions, dues, and subscriptions; insurance policies and receipts; personal income taxes and tax forms; lists of figures and other expense notes; and miscellaneous items. Selectively microfilmed.

Series 19: Taft Family Financial Account Books and Related Material, 1831-1926 (Reels 636-637)
Chiefly financial account books relating to the Taft family, including bank books, a payroll book, and an estate book.

Series 20: Miscellaneous Correspondence and Related Material, 1797-1941 (Reels 637-640)
Chiefly miscellaneous correspondence, together with announcements, bills, statements, receipts, contracts, cards, clippings, suggestions, drafts, shorthand notes, transmittals, extracts, circulars, memoranda, notes, resolutions, and fragments.

Series 21: Special Correspondence, 1890-1909 (Reel 640)
Three bound volumes of correspondence including a volume of letters, 1890-1908, from Taft to Hiram D. Peck with whom he sat on the Ohio Superior Court; copies of correspondence, 1900-1901, between Taft and Elihu Root concerning the Philippines; and letters, 1909, from state governors to Taft concerning an invitation to inspect the Mississippi River following the Grand Isle Hurricane.

Series 22: Miscellaneous Addresses, Articles, and Related Material, circa 1807-1909 (Reel 641) Addresses, articles, messages, remarks, press releases, and an oration by persons other than William Howard Taft and Alphonso Taft.

Series 23: Miscellaneous Reports and Minutes, 1905-1929 (Reels 641-643)
Chiefly reports and minutes, as well as memoranda, announcements, lists, résumés, programs, dockets, and fragments.

Series 24: Miscellaneous Messages, 1908-1913 (Reel 643)
Mainly printed messages to Congress, together with some short transmittals. Only title pages of lengthy messages were filmed.

Series 25: Miscellany, 1831-1930 (Reels 644-650)
Programs, contracts, and miscellaneous documents relating to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; a list of cross-references, 1911-1913, to Case File 300 on politics in Series 6; shorthand notebooks and notes by Wendell W. Mischler; and deeds, leases, genealogical material, family portraits and other photographs, cartoons, sketches, clippings, and printed ephemera.

Series 26: Oversize Material, 1831-1929 (Reel 658)
Diplomas, certificates, passports, photographs, cartoons, and sketches, mainly of Taft and his family, together with blueprints, floor plans, newspaper clippings, and a map. Some of this material was transferred to other custodial divisions after filming.

Series 27: Addition, 1838-1973 (Not filmed; digital content not yet available)
Correspondence, notebooks, engagement books, business and property records, legal documents, certificates, diplomas, photographs, and genealogical material, as well as the papers of Alphonso Taft.

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