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.
Nichols, Ernest R.