Ernest R. Nichols papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk U1990.27

Level of description



Ernest R. Nichols papers


  • 1900-1909 (Creation)


15.00 Linear Feet, 9.00 Boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Ernest Reuben Nichols was born in Farmington, Connecticut on September 11, 1858 but raised in northeastern Iowa. He attended public school and at nineteen began teaching while attending the Iowa State Teachers College, where he received a Bachelor’s of Didactics in 1882. He later attended the State University of Iowa and in 1887 graduated with a Bachelor degree in Science. Nichols was then hired as an assistant professor of mathematics while working to get a Master of Arts, which he received in 1890.

In 1890 Nichols was elected as instructor of physics at K.S.A.C. and was placed as the head of the telegraph department, which was under liquidation. In 1891 he became professor of physics and in 1894 attended the University of Chicago to study physics and mathematics for a year and a half. By 1895 he returned to his position at K.S.A.C which he held until 1900. On July 1, 1899 Professor Nichols was made acting president of K.S.A.C., becoming the official President in June of 1900. Many things were accomplished during Nichol's time as president, including the first time in the college’s history to maintain a balanced budget. Allowances for salaries and other expenses were also gradually increased. Most notable were his successes in provisions for new buildings and a dramatic increase in attendance. In 1909, he was conferred an honorary Ph.D. from Kansas State along with the announcement that Nichols Gymnasium would be named in his honor. Following his leave from the Presidency, he managed the Thurston Teachers Agency and participated in various business ventures. Nichols died on November 26, 1938.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Ernest R. Nichols Papers, 1900-1909, cover the years in which Nichols was president of the Kansas State Agricultural College. He had come to KSAC in 1890 as an instructor in the Department of Physics. When Thomas E. Will was removed from the presidency in 1899, Nichols was appointed acting president until 1900, when he was officially given the position. He was considered a strong administrator and was able to control the financial business of the college, which had been left to the individual departments before. Because of the financial losses and debts accumulated by the college, it became unfeasible for the practice to continue. Because of the firm grip on spending, and the increasingly authoritarian style of Nichols administration, some members of the faculty began to complain about their loss of effective control in college matters. The resentment increased through the years, and played a part in the resignation of Nichols. He resigned in 1908, effective July 1909, due to controversies and personality conflicts between himself and the faculty and Board of Regents.
The papers are organized in four series consisting of nine cubic feet. The papers are arranged chronologically within the series. The first series is incoming general correspondence, the second is outgoing correspondence, the third consists of materials concerning the Board of Regents, and the fourth series is secretary's office and miscellaneous. Within each chronological unit, the papers are arranged alphabetically with materials in the folders organized chronologically under each letter.
The papers in the collection consist primarily of general correspondence, including the following categories: advertisements, inquiries and applications by prospective students, letters concerning payment on the YMCA building fund for which Nichols was treasurer, and applications from teachers agencies and private individuals concerning college jobs. On several occasions, Booker T. Washington and staff members at Tuskegee Institute wrote Nichols, inquiring about candidates for openings at Tuskegee. Other areas included in the correspondence are Board of Regents, the Experiment Station at Hays, Farmers Institutes, discipline of students, pay raises, and letters from former faculty members, written in friendship, or occasionally in regards to payment delays.
The collection's strengths are limited to giving insight to student and faculty life at the turn of the century as well as a look at the material goods available at the time, evidenced by the many advertisements. Administrative paper work is included in one box, the material pertaining to the Board of Regents. Student and faculty grievances are interspersed throughout the collection, as are letters from minority students and graduates. The materials are not extensive concerning events, rather the papers tend to make short references to them.
Inconsistency is also a problem. The years 1905-1909 are nearly complete, however the early years of the collection, 1900-1904, are incomplete. The only major administrative problems documented in great detail are included in the Board of Regents materials. Prominent or recurring correspondence was received from Albert Teaching Agency, W. E. Blackburn, H. W. Calvin, Arthur Capper, M. A. Carelton, Wm. R. Carter, E. B. Cowgill, E. T. Fairchild, Harry Freese, J. G. Haney, Governor Hoch, H. G. Maxwell, J. S. McDowell, J. H. Miller, G. W. Owens, Capt. P. M. Shaffer, Governor Stubbs, A. M. Thurston, Dr. TenEyck, Albert Todd, J. O. Tulloss, Booker T. Washington, H. Z. Wilber, Davies Wilson.

System of arrangement

The papers are housed in nine document boxes. They are divided into four series: 1) incoming correspondence, 1900-1909; 2) outgoing correspondence, 1906-1909; 3) Board of Regents, 1900-1907; and 4) secretary's office and miscellaneous, 1904-1909.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction:  All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The collection was accession as number 267 (new accession number U1990.27).

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Office of the President
Acqusition Method: Transfer

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


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Specialized notes

  • Citation: [Item title] [item date], Ernest R. Nichols papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Processing Info: Processing of the papers was completed in December 1990.  Archon processing by Edward Nagurny, graduate research assistant, April 2015.

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Physical storage

  • Box: Boxes
  • Box: Box 1,
  • Box: Box 2,
  • Box: Box 3,
  • Box: Box 4,
  • Box: Box 5,
  • Box: Box 6,
  • Box: Box 7,
  • Box: Box 8,
  • Box: Box 9,
  • Cubic Foot box: Box 10, A83412039184