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A Finding Aid for the Woodbridge N. Ferris Collection Records. 1873-1925

Summary Information

Repository: Ferris State University Archives and Records Management Program

Creator: Ferris, Woodbridge N., (Woodbridge Nathan), 1853-1928

Title: Woodbridge N. Ferris Collection

Identification: UA 1.1.2

Dates: 1873-1925

Extent: .5 Cubic feet. 1 hollinger box box

General Physical Description Note: 1 hollinger box.

Language: English

Abstract:This collection contains material discovered in a house in Chevy Chase Maryland about Woodbridge N. Ferris. It includes correspondence, writings and phrenology reports.

Biographical Note

Woodbridge Nathan Ferris was born in Spencer, New York on 6 January 1853. His father John Ferris owned a hemlock forest which he transformed into a farm. Ferris and his six siblings, five sisters and one brother, were sent to the district school and expected to contribute to the work of the farm as well.

Ferris' early education was obtained in schools in Spencer, Candor, and Oswego, New York. He began his teaching career at the age of 16. After teaching for a few years, Ferris spent three years at the Oswego Normal and Training School in Oswego, New York where he met Helen Frances Gillespie. He next west to the University of Michigan where between 1873-1874, he studied medicine. This would conclude Ferris' formal education.

From 1874 to 1875, he was the principal of Spencer Academy in New York, one of his alma maters. He was next appointed principal of Business College and Academy, Freeport, Illinois, (1875-1876); a professor in Rock River University, Dixon, Illinois (1876-1877); principal of Dixon Business College and Academy in the same town (1877-1879); and superintendent of schools in Pittsfield, Illinois (1879-1884).

In 1884 he founded the Ferris Industrial School in Big Rapids, Michigan. The original class had fifteen students and occurred in a few rented rooms in downtown Big Rapids. The school was later known as Ferris Institute (incorporated 1900) and is presently called Ferris State University (renamed 1987). Ferris believed that practical training should be given to students to enable them to earn a living, but the arts and culture should not be neglected. This combination of practical vocational training and classical studies rapidly drew growing numbers of students. Ferris was president of the school until his death.

The growing reputation and influence of the Ferris Industrial School brought recognition to its president. Ferris was a lecturer much in demand in Michigan and surrounding states on educational topics. Ferris was also influential in community activities. He became the president of the Big Rapids Savings Bank in 1901. Ferris was also increasingly active with the Democratic Party. Ferris ran his first political campaign as an unsuccessful congressional candidate. He later ran twice and lost as a candidate for superintendent of public instruction. However, he was elected Governor of Michigan serving from 1913-16. The people of Michigan nicknamed him the "Good Grey Governor." In 1922, Ferris became the first Democratic United States Senator elected from Michigan in 62 years. While in political office he worked for school and bank reform as well as prohibition. Ferris served as senator until his death on 23 March 1928 but retained his position of President for Ferris Institute. In Washington D.C. , Ferris died of bronchial pneumonia. He was interred at Highland View Cemetery in Big Rapids (Mich.).

Ferris had the assistance of his wife Helen F. Gillespie of Fulton, New York, a former classmate and experienced teacher-in his endeavor to form a school. Married in December 1874, the pair taught together in the various schools they were stationed at until Mrs. Ferris' declining heath forced her to retire. Three sons were born to the couple: Carleton (1876-1961), Clifford (died in infancy in 1881), and Phelps (1889-1935). Helen Ferris died 23 March 1917. Ferris married his second wife, Mary Ethel McCloud, a music teacher from Indianapolis, Indiana in 1921. They had no children.

Scope and Contents Note

This collection was located in a house in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The materials may have been brought home by a staffer or Phelps Ferris from the Senate office following his death in March 1928. The materials are a mixture of personal correspondence (including some from his time on the speaking circuit, writing to his parents after leaving Oswego Free Academy to his Senate years, reflecting on issues of mortality. It also contains phrenology reports done both of Woodbridge Ferris, and his son Phelps Ferris. It also contains some newsclippings, documents and a few photos of grandchildren.

Arrangement Note

This collection is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Ferris State University Archives and Records Management Program.

Conditions Governing Access Note

The Woodbridge N. Ferris Collection are open to all researchers in accordance with the University Archives and Records Management Program access policies. Copyright to the Woodbridge N. Ferris Collection is not held by Ferris State University. Copyright to materials found in the collection not authored by Ferris are held by the individual and his/her heirs. Any questions regarding copyright should be directed to the University Archivist.

Conditions Governing Use Note

This collection is open for research. There are no restrictions on reproduction.

Preferred Citation Note

Footnotes and bibliographic references should use the following format:

[Item], Folder, Box. Woodbridge N. Ferris Collection. Ferris State University Archives. Big Rapids, Michigan.

Acquisitions Note

This collection was donated by Diana Jamieson, Chevy Chase, Maryland. The papers had been found in a neighbors attic and appear to have been personal papers of Woodbridge Ferris. They were donated to the University Archives in July 2014.

Processing Information Note

The Woodbridge N. Ferris Collection was processed to the folder level by Melinda McMartin Isler in December 2015. A finding aid was prepared and converted to EAD 2.0, utilizing the Archivists Toolkit. A collection level MARC-format record was prepared and placed in the library online public access catalog. Description was based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2004).

Related Materials

Related Archival Materials Note

Woodbridge N. Ferris Papers. (UA 1.1)

Separated Materials Note

None specified.

Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements Note

This collection consists of paper based materials. No specialized software or hardware is required for viewing.

Collection Inventory

Series 1. Subject files. 1873-1925.

Arrangement Note

This series is arranged alphabetically by topic.

Scope and Contents Note

This series contains a mixtures of primary source material including correspondence, notes, writings and documents.

Contents Box Folder

Biography. Undated.

1 1

Calling cards. Undated.

1 2

Ferris, Carleton. Correspondence. 1925.

1 3

Ferris, Woodbridge N. Correspondence. 1873-1874.

1 4

Life insurance. 1904-1925.

1 5

Negatives; photos. Undated.

1 6

Newsclippings. Undated.

1 7

Notes; writings. Undated.

1 8

Phrenology reports (both Woodbridge Ferris and Phelps Ferris). 1901-1917.

1 9

Poetry. Undated.

1 10

Reflections. 1925.

1 11