William Theodore Evjue Papers, 1905-1969

Scope and Content Note

The Evjue Papers, 1905-1969, are comprised of an alphabetical research file formed from several such working files maintained at different times during Evjue's career as editor of the Capital Times. Evjue included both personal and business matters in the same file, so the researcher will find several types of material within each folder.

  1. Correspondence - The correspondence includes letters between Evjue and an individual and/or letters from readers of the paper to the “Voice of the People” column about an individual or subject.
  2. Clippings - The clippings are chiefly from the Capital Times and also serve as a subject index to Evjue's editorial opinions. A chronological arrangement of his editorials is included in the microfilm edition of the Capital Times in the Library.
  3. Memoranda - The memoranda include notes written by Evjue from information obtained through personal conversations and telephone calls and reports prepared by staff writers about investigations.
  4. Financial Material - The financial records and correspondence, both personal and business, are scattered throughout the collection under the appropriate headings. In most cases the documentation is incomplete.
  5. Secondary Material - The printed and near-print material includes campaign material and form letters.

The Evjue Papers document the period of Evjue's personal guidance of the Capital Times, with the majority of the collection dating from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. Prior to this period, record keeping was frequently haphazard, and the materials concerning the establishment of the paper and the records of its early editorial research are spotty. As Evjue's involvement in the paper declined during the 1960s, the material relating to that period becomes chiefly personal in nature.

Interfiled within the papers are several smaller special files originally entitled miscellaneous and personal. The miscellaneous file is located at the conclusion of the subject files for each letter of the alphabet, and consists of letters from subscribers about issues in the paper and from organizations and individuals of some prominence where Evjue felt the bulk of the correspondence (usually a single letter) did not warrant establishing a separate folder heading. The personal file filed under “Evjue, William T.,” includes correspondence, financial records, scrapbooks, and writings. The correspondence includes letters dating from his term in the Wisconsin legislature and congratulations on various anniversaries and awards. The researcher should note that correspondence of a personal nature is also filed throughout the collection under the appropriate designations. The writings include drafts of speeches and several draft chapters of his autobiography.

The collection documents many aspects of Wisconsin history, and while the subject matter varies greatly, it is united by the direction given by Evjue's particular interests. An energetic crusader for any issue perceived to be in the public interest, Evjue gave journalistic support to clean government, co-operatives, public utilities and municipal ownership, freedom of speech and inquiry, and the rights of labor and farmers. The occasional narrowness of his vision of the public interest is indicated by his advocacy of prohibition and his campaign against slot machines, while the depth of his understanding is illustrated by his early realization of the dangers of McCarthyism and one-party control of the media. Although the scope of his concern was state-wide, and in some cases, national, Madison was a prime concern to Evjue. There the stamp of his personal style of journalism was particularly evident; campaigns against Police Chief Bruce Weatherly and for construction of a civic center are two prime examples.

Evjue's defense of the public interest was most ardently pursued in the area of politics, and a list of his correspondents and personal acquaintances is a Who's Who of Wisconsin and national political figures for over a fifty year period of involvement. “Old Progressives” with whom he corresponded included Robert M. La Follette Sr., William Jennings Bryan, George Norris, W. T. Rawleigh, J.J. Blaine, Henry Allen Cooper, and John M. Nelson. During the 1930s he associated with Philip La Follette and Robert M. La Follette Jr., Thomas Amlie, Ralph Immell, Herman Ekern, and corresponded with members of the New Deal in Washington including Leo Crowley, James A. Farley, David Lilienthal, Arthur Altmeyer, William O. Douglas, and President Roosevelt himself. After the transformation of the Democratic Party he was a frequent correspondent of Gaylord Nelson, William Proxmire, James Doyle, Carl Thompson and Howard McMurray. His prominence on the national political scene in the 1950s is reflected in letters from Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Millard Tydings, Estes Kefauver, Wayne Morse, and Hubert Humphrey.

The high regard in which Evjue was held by his colleagues is reflected in correspondence with a large number of prominent journalists and writers including Robert Allen, Drew Pearson, Hans Kaltenborn, Carl Sandburg, John Gunther, August Derleth, Irving Dillard, Morris Rubin, Herbert Block, Arthur Brisbane, Zona Gale, Henry Greenspun, and James Wechsler.

Evjue's acquaintance with the intellectual and cultural figures in Wisconsin was broad. Professors at the University of Wisconsin with whom he corresponded included John R. Commons, Einar Haugen, Max Otto, William G. Rice, Harold Groves, Donald Lescohier, and the Raushenbushes. Other important figures with whom he corresponded included Frank Lloyd Wright and Jens Jensen.