Herbert Kellar Papers, 1887-1955

Scope and Content

The bulk of the original manuscripts in the Herbert Kellar Papers date from 1898 to circa 1955. However, some original manuscripts, and copies of some materials pertaining to Cyrus Hall McCormick and the reaper, date back to the 1810's.

As curator for the McCormick Collection, Kellar corresponded with numerous persons, particularly historian Ulrich B. Phillips, in his search for collateral papers relating to the McCormicks, the growth of industry, and the history of agriculture. Kellar gathered information preparatory to his supervision of the restorations at “Walnut Grove,” the McCormick ancestral home in Virginia; made reports on the progress of the McCormick Historical Association; and in 1923 completed a three-volume manuscript called “The Life and Times of Mr. C. H. McCormick, 1835-1844” (unpublished).

As an historian, Kellar became associated with many projects, organizations, and libraries interested in preserving historical records. A large portion of the papers demonstrates his work with these organizations, particularly with the Agricultural History Society of which he was president from 1922 to 1924; the American Association for State and Local History and its council; the American Council of Learned Societies; the American Historical Association; the national advisory committee of the Historical Records Survey under the Works Progress Administration, for which he was chairman of the national committee and adviser to the Illinois survey; and the Mississippi Valley Historical Association.

As a collector, Kellar not only acquired documents and manuscripts for the McCormick Collection, but also accumulated materials in which he was himself professionally interested, especially those concerning Robinson, agricultural editor for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, and Edwards, senior agricultural historian for the United States Department of Agriculture, 1920-1945. The papers contain Edwards' personal letters and those written as editor of the department's publication, Agricultural History; and typewritten notes used by Lewis Cecil Gray in writing Gray's two-volume History of Agriculture in the Southern States to 1860 (1941).

The collection is as diversified as Kellar's interests. He had a penchant for preserving everything (six copies of everything) which could in the foreseeable future be of historical or research value. And he apparently foresaw social and intellectual history's great gains, for his collecting activities transcended the needs of political or military history. Unfortunately, much of the extensive research done by Kellar and his associates for a projected definitive biography of Cyrus Hall McCormick and a history of agriculture, is in a form which is of limited value for the researcher. Kellar gathered materials and facts throughout his career, but did not find time to assimilate them. At his death, the possibility of anyone realizing the potential of much of this research ended. In some instances, e.g. the Bibliographic References, notation is simply made of where references to Cyrus Hall McCormick and the reaper may be found. Almost all of the research notes would require Kellar's interpretation to be useful.

Kellar's papers have been arranged in eight series. The first is a file of Kellar's personal papers including his personal correspondence, the papers of other members of his immediate family, autobiographical materials, financial records, materials documenting his education and teaching career, and his writings and speeches. The second group of papers relate to the McCormick Historical Association of which Kellar was curator (1915-1931) and later director (1931-1951). In effect they are his business papers. This series is sub-divided into correspondence reports and dockets, financial records, general information regarding the McCormick collections themselves and the operation of the association, materials relating to the Virginia collections of the association, and research and reference materials. The third series is comprised of the papers collected by Kellar relating to the many historical and library associations and organizations of which he was a member. Series 4 is a file of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) concerns incumbent upon Kellar. In the fifth series are the correspondence and papers, biographical materials, essays for festschrifts, letters of recommendation, and miscellany of historians and agriculturists contemporary with Kellar. Miscellaneous items are filed in series 6. Series 7 is titled the Everett Eugene Edwards Papers. Edwards; an agricultural historian with the United States Department of Agriculture (1927-1952) and editor of Agricultural History, the journal of the Agricultural History Society (1931-1952); was a life-time friend of Herbert Kellar. His papers include Edwards' papers and correspondence collected by Kellar throughout the years of friendship between the two men, as well as Edwards' own papers including his correspondence with Kellar and others and his collected “Notes of Lewis Cecil Gray” (agricultural economist) on Southern agriculture. The eighth and final series is a compilation of Kellar's research notes and collected materials, and copies of the writings of Solon Robinson, for the two volume Solon Robinson, Pioneer and Agriculturist, compiled and edited by Kellar c. 1936.