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Papers of Karl Augustus Menninger

Portions of this material may be available on Kansas Memory


Agency Classification

Organizations/Corporations. Menninger Foundation Archives. Family. Karl A. Menninger.


Date: 1713B - 1996 (bulk 1930-1990)

Level of Description: Sub-collection/group

Physical Description: Circa 275 cubic feet.

Unit ID: 223900

Descriptive Information

Abstract: This collection in the Menninger Foundation Archives consists of the personal papers of Karl Augustus Menninger. Dr. Karl's papers are as eclectic as his interests, studies, and personality, covering a diversity of topics and spanning his lifetime. They are divided further into two sub-collections: Professional and Personal.

The major focus of his papers is on his career, both in creating and working for the Menninger Clinic and Foundation and expanding its programs; and on his other professional activities, such as working with professional associations, acting as consultant and expert such as on government commissions, writing scholarly works and for the general public, and spearheading various outreach efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness in the popular consciousness. Topics that appear regularly regard prison reform, violence, and punishment systems; psychoanalysis--the history and philosophy thereof as well as research about it and various specific mental illnesses; suicide; death and grief; religion; and many more.

Dr. Karl's papers also include a great deal of information about his personal interests, such as in horticulture and botany, Native American affairs, and various socio-political interests; and his personal life, such as his family and his personal finances. Most materials found in Menninger's papers consist of memoranda and correspondence, article reprints or drafts of manuscripts, and other reference and research materials. Dr. Karl kept up a voluminous correspondence with a wide range of individuals throughout his life; some people he wrote to only once or twice, while others he wrote back and forth a great deal and/or for a long time. Dr. Karl also had a tendency to keep anything that interested him, no matter how tangential it may appear to the casual researcher.

While Dr. Karl's papers have been arranged into numerous series, in part due to processing procedures used by previous archivists and in part due to how his records were organized when he died, these series overlap in numerous ways, and materials regarding any particular topic will be found scattered throughout his documents. Materials in numerous foreign languages may also be found distributed throughout Dr. Menninger's papers, particularly in German and French.


Biog. Sketch (Full): Karl Augustus Menninger was born in Topeka, Kansas on July 22, 1893, the eldest of three sons born to Charles Frederick and Flo Knisely Menninger. Karl studied at Washburn College (later University) of Topeka, Kan., Indiana University, and the University of Wisconsin before graduating cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1917. He became interested in psychiatry and mental health during his internship at Boston Psychopathic Hospital, where he met his mentor, Elmer Ernest Southard.

Dr. Karl returned to Kansas and began practicing medicine with his father, C.F. Menninger; together the two opened the Menninger Diagnostic Clinic in 1919. By 1925, the two doctors opened the Menninger Sanitarium, a private facility that served as an alternative to state hospitalization. A few years after securing William Menninger, Karl's youngest brother, as another member of their group practice, the Menninger Foundation was created, offering a variety of mental health services and programs for both adults and children.

With the collaboration of the federal government, Dr. Karl extended the life of the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital in Topeka, initially established as a temporary Army hospital early in America's involvement in World War II. The hospital's potential as a training ground for students of psychiatry became the impetus for the creation of the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry in 1946.

Dr. Karl married Grace Gaines in 1916 , with whom he had three children: Julia Menninger Gottesman, Robert Gaines Menninger, and Martha Menninger Nichols. Karl and Grace divorced in February 1941. On September 9, 1941, Menninger married again, this time to Jeanetta Lyle. The two adopted daughter Rosemary Menninger in 1948.

Karl Menninger authored several books on psychiatry. His first, The Human Mind, published in 1930, became one of the first works of popular literature about mental hygiene and psychiatry. Dr. Karl's following works included Man Against Himself, Love Against Hate, The Vital Balance, and The Crime of Punishment, among numerous scholarly and popular articles and other writings.

Throughout his life, Dr. Karl was committed to many causes pertinent to mental health, outside of his involvement with the Menninger Foundation. He was a consultant on prison affairs as well as assisting in the development of the Stone-Brandel Center of Chicago. In 1964, he founded the Villages, Inc. organization, which provides housing for children who were abused, neglected, or abandoned. Dr. Karl was also an active member of 35 professional groups, including a term as president of the American Psychoanalytic Association from 1941 to 1942. He held a seat on the board of directors of 22 organizations and accepted professorships at six universities and training centers. For his dedicated service, Dr. Karl was recognized as the recipient of many major awards before his death on July 18, 1990, including the Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, from President Jimmy Carter.

(obituary, Topeka Capital-Journal, 7-19-1990; Menninger Clinic website: www.menningerclinic.com/about/early-history.htm)

Contents List

Items in this list may appear in the format Description (beginning year - ending year). Sometimes dates appear as part of the Description and the phrase [Date not given] appears in the date area.

Index Terms


  1. Menninger Clinic -- History
  2. Menninger Foundation -- History
  3. Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990 -- Archives
  4. Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990 -- Career in psychiatry
  5. Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990 -- Manuscripts
  6. Menninger School of Psychiatry -- History
  7. Psychiatrists -- Kansas -- Topeka
  8. Psychiatrists -- United States
  9. Psychiatry -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  10. Psychoanalysis -- United States -- History -- 20th century

Creators and Contributors

  1. Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990

The results displayed here have been compiled from a number of databases that may contain variations, inconsistencies, and inadvertent errors in the detailed information presented. For small collections and records series, only basic data is included at the present time. Other descriptions may be less complete than desired; however, we are working to improve them. For more information, please contact our reference staff.