Josephus Daniels papers, 1904-1954

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Daniels, Josephus, 1904-1954
11.6 Linear Feet
22,300 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The papers of Josephus Daniels span the period 1904-1954. However, the bulk of the material begins in 1913, while he was Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration, and continues until 1942 just after he resigned as Ambassador to Mexico.

The majority of the Daniels papers (approximately 330,000 items) are located in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. There are, therefore, gaps in Duke's collection. For example, although the Letterbooks, Telegrams, and Pressbooks series cover the period 1913-1921, when Daniels was Secretary of the Navy, there are many months which are not represented in the collection.

The correspondence series covers the period 1917-1951, but primarily dates from 1929 to 1942. It includes personal and business correspondence on a variety of topics. Several letters are from the period when Daniels was U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and relate to claims negotiations between the United States and Mexico. Most of the correspondence from this period, however, relates to Daniels' resignation as ambassador (1942 Jan. 20), with many letters expressing regret at his decision. One such letter (1941 Oct. 31) is from President Roosevelt. There are also a few scattered notes from Eleanor Roosevelt indicating the warm relationship the Daniels family had with the Roosevelts.

Other correspondence concerns the management of the News and Observer and reflects Daniels' political views and civic interests. It also includes correspondence relating to his assistance in securing military commissions, the naming of ships, and other causes. Both the Correspondence and Clippings series contain information about a 1942 editorial in which Daniels condemned the military policy whereby privates were not allowed to date nurses, who were commissioned as second lieutenants. Several people wrote to Daniels applauding this viewpoint.

Also of note are a few letters (1924) from Atlee Pomerene, special counsel for the government, during the period he was investigating major figures in the Teapot Dome oil scandal. There are also many tributes in 1947 paid to Daniels upon his 85th birthday, including a telegram from Harry S Truman, and letters of condolence upon the death of his mother and wife.

Daniels' correspondents, in addition to those mentioned above, include a wide range of public and elected officials including governors, congressmen, cabinet members, and newspaper editors.

The Letterbooks (34 volumes), Telegrams (2 volumes) and Pressbooks (4 volumes) comprise the bulk of the collection (ca. 17,000 items) and cover the period when Daniels was U.S. Secretary of the Navy. Many are official communications stemming from his position, but there are a few personal letters as well. Most of the communiques relate to naval policies, procedures, personnel, and practices. Included are letters relating to Naval Academy appointments, Civil Service jurisdiction, the commissioning and naming of ships, and various naval ceremonial occasions.

Correspondents routinely include President Wilson, his secretary Joseph P. Tumulty, cabinet members, congressmen, and naval officers. Many letters written to the White House and to congressmen concern specific individuals and their requests for naval promotions, commissions, or recommendations for the Naval Academy.

The earliest material in this series concerns events surrounding the American occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914, including lists of the dead and wounded, as well as information regarding ship movements. Speeches and excerpts from Daniels' speeches are also found in some of the press volumes.

Issues reflected in Daniels' correspondence while U.S. Secretary of the Navy include general strengthening of the Navy, particularly on the West Coast; a dispute (1916-1917) regarding the Armor Plate Board and the building of naval vessels at navy yards; naval oil reserves (including a letter of 1917 June 29 to Edward Doheny); Daniels' general concern with the moral welfare of sailors and soldiers as reflected in his efforts to have liquor sales and brothels forbidden in places where men were training for naval service; and a dispute in 1917 with the Navy League regarding the commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard.

Personal letters relate primarily to Daniels' active involvement in the Democratic Party and the management of the News and Observer. Daniels served as publicity chair for the campaigns of both William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson. There are numerous letters and telegrams referring to the presidential campaign of 1916 and an analysis by Daniels of why the Democrats lost the 1920 presidential election.

Letters near the end of his tenure as Secretary of the Navy indicate that Daniels would assume more responsibility for the newspaper once he was back in Raleigh. In early 1921, he began to solicit information from naval officers primarily regarding their view of how the Navy functioned in various areas during World War I. He wrote that he was planning to write a series of articles for the National Newspaper Service of Chicago about the Navy's efforts during the war. Among the people to whom Daniels wrote frequently were Secretary of War Newton D. Baker and Senator Benjamin R. Tillman of South Carolina.

The Speeches, Writings, and Related Material, Topical Series, Clippings, Miscellany, and Photograph Series comprise the remainder of the collection.

The "Mexico" subseries in the Topical Series contains information about the relationship between the United States and Mexico on a number of issues, including the petroleum industry, commerce, and a "Memorandum for the Ambassador" outlining steps that may have been taken by the United States government during the early months of 1917 to determine where Mexico would stand in the event the United States entered World War I. Information for this memorandum was taken from Embassy archives and is undated. There are also some papers in this series relating to his tenure on the Board of Trustees Executive Committee at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Photograph Series contains: views of Mexico; pictures of Daniels; Lee Slater Overman, Senator from N. C., 1903-1933; Major General Smedley Darlington Butler; Martin H. Glynn, Gov. of New York; and other unidentified persons.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1862, May 18
Born, Washington, N.C.
Edited newspapers in Wilson, Kinston, and Raleigh, N.C.
Attended University of North Carolina summer law school; passed bar examination (never practiced)
State printer for N.C.
Married Adelaide Worth Bagley
Chief of Appointment Division, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Editor, Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer
Member of the Democratic National Committee from N.C.
Publication of The First Fallen Hero. a Biographical Sketch of Worth Bagley. Ensign, U.S.N. (Norfolk, Va., S. W. Bowman.)
Completed purchase of the controlling interest in the News and Observer
Chief, Publicity Bureau, Woodrow Wilson campaign
U.S. Secretary of the Navy
Publication of The Navy and the Nation; War-Time Addresses (New York, G. H. Doran Co.)
1921 - 1933
Editor, News and Observer
Publication of Our Navy at War (Washington, Pictorial Bureau.)
Publication of The Life of Woodrow Wilson. 1856-1924 (Philadelphia, J. C. Winston Co.)
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
Publication of Tar Heel Editor (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.), first volume of memoirs
Publication of Editor in Politics (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.) second volume of memoirs
Editor, News and Observer
Publication of The Wilson Era: Years of Peace. 1910-1917 (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.)
Publication of The Wilson Era: Years of War and After, 1917-1923 (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.)
Publication of Shirt-Sleeve Diplomat (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.), third volume of memoirs
1948, Jan. 15
Died, Raleigh N.C.
Acquisition information:
The papers of Josephus Daniels (1904-1954), Secretary of the Navy, Ambassador to Mexico, and editor of the Raleigh News and Observer were acquired through purchase from 1954 to 1981.
Processing information:

Processed by: Janie C. Morris

Completed November 20, 1987

Encoded by Stephen Douglas Miller

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

Terms of access:

The status of the copyright interests in the papers of Josephus Daniels is unknown. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Rubenstein Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], The Papers of Josephus Daniels, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.