Guide to the Frank J. Wilmer Papers 1884-1947
Cage 208

Summary Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Wilmer, Frank J.
Frank J. Wilmer Papers
Cage 208
Date [inclusive]
3650.0 items.
General Physical Description note
7 linear feet of shelf space.
Correspondence, speeches, business records, legislative materials and other papers relating to activities as a state senator (1921-1933), primarily concerned with agriculture, education, highways and taxation; Washington State University Regent (1922-1933); farmer, banker, merchant and civic leader. Major correspondents include: A.W. Davis, F.W. Guilbert, H.E. Goldsworthy, Oliver Hall, Roland H. Hartley, E.O. Holland, Lon Johnson, D.V. Morthland, Homer L. Post, and J.W. Summers.

Preferred Citation note

[Item Description]. Cage 208, Frank J. Wilmer Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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Biographical/Historical note

Frank J. Wilmer was a native of Wisconsin who came to the territory of Washington in 1886. A man of wide-ranging interests an civic concerns, he became involved in many business ventures throughout the Pacific Northwest. Washington's entrance into statehood in 1889 signalled the beginning of its continuing growth and development, and F. J. Wilmer began to grow with the state and the region. In the next fifty years he was a farmer, a leading businessman and a significant political figure.

F. J. Wilmer (he preferred to use his initials rather than his full name) was born April 6, 1860 in East Troy, Walworth County, Wisconsin. His parents, J. George and Elizabeth Wilmer, had been farming in the southern Wisconsin area since the 1840s. He entered the State Normal School at Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1879 and graduated in 1882. He taught school for several years in Wisconsin until deciding to seek his fortune in the Pacific Northwest.

Arriving in Washington Territory in the Spring of 1886 he again taught school for two years in Walla Walla County. In 1888 he moved to Rosalia, in northern Whitman County, where he and a partner founded the Wilmer & Dwyer Hardware business. On November 10, 1888, in Spokane he married his business partner's sister, Margaret Dwyer. She too, came from a pioneer family of Walworth County, Wisconsin, and had been a graduate of the Whitewater Normal School. To them four daughters were born: Marie, Marguerite, Frances, and Eleanor.

In 1904, Wilmer went into the banking business. He served as president of the Whitman County National Bank (from 1919) and the Pine City State Bank (from 1929). As Rosalia grew, so too did Wilmer's interests expand. He became the president of the Rosalia Water Company, Secretary-treasurer of the Meuli Land Company, Director of the Liberty Loan Campaign Committee of Whitman County (1917-1918) during World War I, and State Senator from Whitman County (1921-1933).

It was at age sixty that he first secured elective office, capping a successful business career with an increased role in public service. In 1920 Wilmer made a spectacular entrance into political office. He had long served on the Whitman County Republican Central Committee's Executive Committee but in a special election held in order to fill a vacant seat in the state Senate, he failed to gain the nomination of his party. His friends throughout the County refused to let his candidacy die. In the campaign that followed, he received twice as many write-in votes as the Republican and Democratic nominees combined. His long years of commercial experience, and his recent work in the county on the Liberty Loan Campaign, had made numerous friends for him.

Upon becoming State Senator, Wilmer was able to use his new position as a forum from which he could further his numerous long-term interests. To this end, he served on legislative committees dealing with banking, taxes, education, agriculture and good roads. During this period he was also an organizer and president of the North Pacific Graingrowers, Spokane (1930-1931), Director of the Farmers National Grain Corporation (1930-1932), member of the National Wheat Advisory Commission (1930-1932), president of the Washington State Good Roads Association (1933), and a member of the State College of Washington (now Washington State University) Board of Regents (1922-1933), serving as President of the Board several times.

Following the redrawing of district lines, Wilmer resigned his senatorial position in 1932. Most of his public activities drew to a close about this time. He lived in semi-retirement until his death at Spokane in March 1947.

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Scope and Contents note

Although some of Wilmer's papers document his education and early business career, the major portion consists of materials derived from his tenure as State Senator. The collection is most extensive for the period 1921 through 1933. It reflects Wilmer's association with agriculture, highways, taxes, education, banking, Washington State University (then known as the State College of Washington), politics and legislative actions.

Frank J. Wilmer's papers include correspondence, notes, speeches, drafts, reports, business records, World War I Liberty Loan posters, newspaper clippings, special interest articles and publications, political and legislative proposals and other materials. The collection covers the period from the late 1880s to the mid 1940s and offers a detailed view of Wilmer as legislator, businessman, educator, farmer and wheat grower, politically active Republican, and husband and father. Washington politics for the half century from the 1890s through the 1940s is the subject which dominates the collection.

Also among the papers are notes, minutes, membership rolls and mailing lists from Mrs. Margaret Wilmer's presidency of the Spokane chapter of the American Red Cross (1917-1922).

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Arrangement note

The papers are arranged in twelve major series: Liberty Loan Campaign, 1917-1919; Politics, 1894-1933; Agriculture, 1894-1942; Washington State University, 1922-1942; Education, 1884-1931; Taxes, 1915-1935; Prison Industries Committee, 1922-1927; European Trip, 1929; Business, 1884-1940; Highways, 1912-1933; Other Papers, 1917-1947; and Ledgers, 1888-1904. The arrangement of the series into subject areas reflects the probable organization used by Wilmer. However, within each series, the papers have been arranged in chronological order.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries © 1976
Terrell Library
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, WA, 99164-5610

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The papers of F. J. Wilmer (1860-1947) were acquired by the Washington State University Library in 1954 as a gift from his daughters: Marie Kulzer, Marguerite Wilmer, Frances Schlaefer and Eleanor Teters.

Processing Information note

The papers were originally arranged soon after accessioning and then reprocessed by Ross Pegler from September 1975 through February 1976.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • University of Washington. Board of Regents

Personal Name(s)

  • Davis, Arthur William, 1873-1945
  • Goldsworthy, Harry Edgar, ca. 1884-1970
  • Guilbert, Frank Warburton, 1872-1945
  • Hall, Oliver R., 1852-1946
  • Hartley, Roland H.
  • Holland, Ernest Otto, 1874-1950
  • Johnson, W. Lon, 1882-1967
  • Morthland, David Vernon, 1880-
  • Post, Homer L., ca. 1875-
  • Summers, John William, 1870-1937
  • Wilmer, Frank J., 1860-1947--Archives


  • Government and Politics
  • Legislators--Washington (State)--Archives
  • Legislators--Washington (State)--Correspondence
  • Washington (State)

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Collection Inventory

Series 1: Liberty Loan Campaign. 1917-1919 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, directives and requests from federal authorities in charge of the campaign to Wilmer as chairman for the Whitman County Liberty Loan drive. Also included are various Whitman County accounts and lists of participants and contributors. Posters from this campaign were originally inserted in one of the ledgers in Series 12 (62), but have been separated.

Box Folder

 1917   105

1 1

 January-August 1918   60

1 2

 September 1918   120

1 3

 October 1918-July 1919   95

1 4

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Series 2: Politics 1894-1933 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, legislative proposals, reports, research materials, notes and drafts, speeches and legislation. There is also some material relating to Wilmer's 1924 re-election campaign.

Box Folder

 1894-1912.   55

1 5

 1920-1921.   125

2 6

 1922.   50

2 7

 1923.   85

2 8

 January-July 1924.   50

2 9

 July-December 1924.   190

2 10

 1925-1926.   60

3 11

 1927.   45

3 12

 1928-1929.   105

3 13

 1930-1933.   100

3 14

Speeches and proposed legislation undated   30

3 15

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Series 3: Agriculture 1894-1942 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, papers concerning wheat growers' organizations and associations, reports on the wheat growing situation, speeches, and legislative organizational material dealing with wheat growing.

Box Folder

 1894-1923.   185

4 16

 1924.   135

4 17

 1925 1928-September 1929.   95

4 18

 September-December 1929.   135

5 19

 1930-1931.   approx 120

5 20

 1932.   110

5 21

 1933-1942.   105

5 22

Speeches and other materials 1920-1940.   15

6 23

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Series 4: Washington State University 1922-1942 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, Regents' material, and state legislative measures in regard to W.S.U.

Box Folder

 1922-1924.   105

6 24

 1925-1927.   100

6 25

 1928.   80

6 26

 1929-1930.   70

6 27

 1931-1942.   50

7 28

Speeches and other papers undated   15

7 29

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Series 5: Education 1884-1931 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, legislative proposals concerning educational procedures, and materials relating to past teaching positions.

Box Folder

 1884-1927.   70

7 30

 1928-1931.   25

7 31

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Series 6: Taxes 1915-1935 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, legislative tax proposals, and materials of taxpayer organizations.

Box Folder

 1915-1922.   75

7 32

 1923-1926.   135

8 33

 1927-1928.   60

8 34

 1929-1935.   40

8 35

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Series 7: Prison Industries Committee 1922-1927 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, minutes, the final report and proposals, and investigative documents of the state legislature's investigative committee which Wilmer chaired.

Box Folder

 1922-1925.   20

8 36

 1926.   100

8 37

 1927.   30

9 38

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Series 8: European Trip 1929 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence and records from a European industrial recovery research trip.

Box Folder

European trip 1929.   15

9 39

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Series 9: Business 1884-1940 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence, records, statements and speeches on general business concerns and specific enterprises such as the Wilmer bank and hardware store.

Box Folder

 1884-1896.   75

9 40

 1897-1912.   45

9 41

 1913-1922.   15

9 42

 1923-1924.   70

9 43

 1926-1940.   30

10 44

Speeches and other papers undated   20

10 45

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Series 10: Highways 1912-1933 

Scope and Contents note

Correspondence and research materials on legislative actions and responses by citizen groups supporting adequate highways throughout eastern Washington.

Box Folder

 1912-1924.   75

10 46

 1925-1933.   75

10 47

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Series 11: Other Papers 1917-1947 

Scope and Contents note

Records of Mrs. F. J. Wilmer's chairmanship of the Spokane Chapter, American Red Cross; F. J. Wilmer's obituary and portrait; an eulogy for John E. Lawrence; a Rosalia citizens' petition; a World War II ration book; and newspaper clippings.

Box Folder

Mrs. F. J. Wilmer: Chairman, American Red Cross, Spokane 1917-1922.   20

10 48

F. J. Wilmer: Obituary March 14 1947.   1

10 49

F. J. Wilmer: Portrait undated   1

10 50

Eulogy (and preparatory material) for John C. Lawrence 1928-1929.   3

10 51

Rosalia [?] Fire Company Organization undated   1

10 52

Rosalia citizen's petition 1917.   1

10 53

Ration book 1943.   1

10 54

Newspaper clippings (primarily Wilmer's speeches and interviews) 1921-1933.   40

10 55

Miscellaneous date books, address books, and other publications 1892-1929.   7

10 56

Preliminary container lists ca 1956   typescript. 5 p.

10 57

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Series 12: Ledgers 1888-1934 

Scope and Contents note

A dozen ledger and collection books comprise Wilmer's early business records. At a later time these books also served as scrapbooks for newspaper articles, World War I Liberty Loan posters, correspondence and other papers.

Box Folder

Ledger 1888-1889 

OS 58

Collection Book 1889-1892 

OS 59

Ledger 1892-1894 

OS 60

Ledger 1895 

OS 61

Ledger (World War I Liberty Loan posters and newspapers originally inserted in this volume have been separated) 1895-1904 

OS 62

Ledger 1896 

OS 63

Ledger 1897 

OS 64

Ledger 1898 

OS 65

Ledger 1899 

OS 66

Ledger 1900 

OS 67

Ledger 1901-1902 

OS 68

Ledger 1903-1934 

OS 69

Newspaper pages and clippings (removed from ledger, folder 62) 1910-1918 

OS 70

Fight or Buy Bonds (poster) 1917 

OS 70

To Make the World a Decent Place to Live In (poster) circa 1918 

OS 70

"Shall We Be More Tender with Our Dollars Than with the Lives of Our Sons?" (poster) 1917 

OS 70

Good Bye, Dad, I'm Off To Fight For Old Glory (poster) 1918 

OS 70

Halt the Hun! (poster) circa 1918 

OS 70

Women! Help America's Sons Win the War (poster) 1917 

OS 70

My Daddy Bought Me a Government Bond (poster) 1918 

OS 70

My Soldier (poster) 1917 

OS 70

Buy Liberty Bonds (poster) circa 1918 

OS 70

Ring It Again (poster) circa 1917 

OS 70

Before Sunset (poster) 1917 

OS 70

Our Daddy Is Fighting at the Front for You (poster) 1917 

OS 70

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