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J. Warren Keifer Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: circa 1975

Biographical History

Joseph Warren Keifer (1836-1932), Civil War soldier, Ohio congressman, and Speaker of the House, was reared on his father's farm in Ohio. He attended Antioch College and, after admission to the bar, began the practice of law in Springfield, Ohio, in 1858.

After only a few years in the law, he enlisted in the Union army in April 1861. Keifer won successive promotions for his service in campaigns in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. By April 1865 he had fought in twenty-seven battles and had been commissioned as a major general. Keifer was wounded four times in the course of the war, most severely at the Battle of the Wilderness.

At the war's end, he returned to Springfield, where he resumed his law practice, and served in the Ohio state senate. In 1876 he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention at Cincinnati and was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he first served from 1877 to 1885. He was Speaker of the House for the Forty-seventh Congress (1881-1883). Keifer returned to active army service in 1898 and 1899 as a major general of volunteers in the Spanish-American War. Later he was commander-in-chief of the Spanish War Veterans. Between 1905 and 1911 he again served in the House of Representatives. The length and variety of his military and political service brought Keifer into contact with many of the notable figures in the period between the Civil War and the' First World War. For more than fifty years he served as a trustee of Antioch College. J. Warren Keifer married Eliza Stout in 1860, and they had four children. Keifer died in Springfield, Ohio, on 22 April 1932, one of the last of the surviving Union generals.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The J. Warren Keifer Papers consist of correspondence, the bulk of which is incoming amd primarily political in nature. There are 260 items, including letters sent as enclosures. The years 1881 to 1883, during which Keifer was Speaker of the House, are the most heavily represented, although there are letters from all but four of the years from 1874 to 1929. An index of the correspondents appears at the end of this inventory.

Keifer's correspondents include notable Americans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, among them five presidents of the United States, six other Speakers of the House, an odd-dozen cabinet officers, as well as congressmen, senators, and military figures. Presidents Hayes, Garfield, Taft, Harding, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the latter writing as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, are represented. Other political notables are James G. Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, "Uncle Joe" Cannon, Roscoe Conkling, Mark Hanna, Nicholas Longworth, and John Sherman. Many of his other correspondents were military figures, mostly former Union generals: Fitzhugh Lee, James Longstreet, William S. Rosecrans, Philip Sheridan, William Tecumseh Sherman, Daniel Sickles, and Leonard Wood. Other notable correspondents are Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, William C. Gorgas, Edward Everett Hale, Oliver 0. Howard, Robert Todd Lincoln, Whitelaw Reid, Elihu Root, and Carl Schurz.

In an 1881 letter written to Keifer as the Speaker of the House, Susan B. Anthony requests that the House appoint a standing committee on the rights of women citizens. A group of six letters, written to Speaker Keifer and to David Davis, president pro tempore of the Senate, concern arrangements for memorial services for the late President Garfield. One letter, dated May 1887, from William Tecumseh Sherman, offers Keifer some rather pungent advice for dealing with a political rival, while Warren G. Harding's letter of March 1917 contains his defense of the Senate's resistance to cloture rules. Other letters contain reminiscences of events of the Civil War: H. G. Wright's letter of 1893 gives an account of Lee's surrender, and the novelist and Civil War general Lew Wallace wrote about the Battle of Monocacy in a letter of 1897. In a letter of August 1907, FrederiAMcCormick, an Associated Press reporter in Seoul, Korea, describes Korea and Imperial Russia. As a group, these letters do not focus on any single issue, but reflect Keifer's interests and associations over many years.

Among the collection's few items of non-correspondence material is a program for a dinner in honor of General William Tecumseh Sherman's sixty-third birthday on 8 February 1883, autographed by Sherman, Keifer, and most of the other guests. There are also three petitions, presented to Keifer as Speaker of the House, two on behalf of a candidate from Oregon for membership on the Committee on Commerce, and one on behalf of a candidate from Kentucky.

Arrangement of the Collection



Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906.
Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893.
Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925.
Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947.
Garfield, James A. (James Abram), 1831-1881.
Hanna, Marcus Alonzo, 1837-1904.
Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923.
Hayes, Rutherford B., 1822-1893.
Keifer, Joseph Warren, 1836-1932.
Longworth, Nicholas, 1869-1931.
Reid, Whitelaw, 1837-1912.
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945.
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919.
Sherman, John, 1823-1900.
Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891.
Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930.
Wood, Leonard, 1860-1927.

Corporate Bodies

United States. -- Army -- Officers.


Legislators -- United States.


United States -- Politics and government, 1865-1933.

Genres and Forms




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

J. Warren Keifer Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents



Index to correspondence


Index to correspondence

All correspondence is incoming to Keifer, unless otherwise noted.