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Menninger Foundation Archives

Creator: Menninger Foundation

Date: 1644 - 2009 not inclusive (bulk 1925-2001)

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: Ms. Coll. 786

Unit ID: 218916


Documents containing identifiable information about individual patients or research subjects or restricted by statute or regulation: Access restricted.

Materials containing identifiable individual patient information, less than a century old, are restricted from general access. Other materials may also have been restricted or redacted due to their sensitive nature, such as personnel and student files, records containing Social Security Numbers, and for other reasons. Contact reference staff for assistance and with questions about accessing records and papers from the Menninger Archives.

Abstract: Records tracing the history of Menninger in Topeka, Kan., and its work in the field of mental health. Innovative approaches developed by Menninger staff for treating patients with various mental illnesses are documented in this collection. Menninger was one of the leaders in training psychiatrists and in working with veteran's hospitals & law enforcement agencies to incorporate information about mental illness into staff training. The collection also contains correspondence of various Menninger family members including Clinic founders Charles F. Menninger and sons Karl & William, Charles's wife Flo, and their grandsons Roy & Walter. The collection includes photographs and other audiovisual materials. Institutional records date from the 1920s but are strongest for the years 1940-1999 with a large quantity of the records being from the 1970s through the 1990s. Included are governing board, central administrative, and departmental records. The collection does not contain patient files. The Historic psychiatry collection includes documents pertaining to leaders in the fields of mental health and psychiatry and dates from 1774.

Space Required/Quantity: circa 2300 cubic feet

Title (Main title): Menninger Foundation Archives

Titles (Other):

  • Menninger collection.
  • Menninger Foundation collection.
  • Menninger archives.
  • Menninger ms. collection and supplementary research material.

Administrative History

Administrative History:

Charles Frederick, or C. F., Menninger married Flora Knisely in Holton, Kansas, in 1885. They had three boys: Karl, born in 1893; Edwin, born in 1896; and William Claire, born in 1899. C. F. worked on his medical studies in the late 1880s and developed a busy practice in Topeka, Kansas. His professional interests primarily in diabetes and internal medicine, C. F. enjoyed discussing medical issues with colleagues and wished to develop a group practice in Topeka with fellow physicians. After visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he particularly focused on persuading his eldest and youngest sons, who were following him into the medical field, to join him in such a practice. Through these beginnings the Menninger Foundation, a significant twentieth-century psychiatric institution in the United States, was founded.

In 1919, Dr. Karl Menninger returned to Topeka from the East Coast, where he had been studying and working. He joined his father in opening the Menninger Diagnostic Clinic. The clinic soon began focusing on psychiatric cases, Dr. Karl's particular interest. In 1925 Dr. Will Menninger began helping his father and brother in the outpatient clinic, and with the purchase of an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Topeka to house patients needing long-term care, the Menninger Sanitarium opened.

Clinical services grew in the following years, and the family opened Southard School for children, one of the first such institutions in the country to focus on child psychiatry. With the publication of The Human Mind in 1930, Dr. Karl Menninger became a household name as an expert in psychiatry. By the early 1940s, as grants from private foundations and the federal government became increasingly important for funding both clinical operations and research projects, the family and the Board of Trustees (mostly family members and their close friends) decided to incorporate a non-profit foundation to facilitate receiving and expending such grant monies. In 1946, Southard School was the last separate entity to incorporate under this foundation, becoming the Children's Division of the Menninger Foundation.

That same year the foundation under Dr. Karl's leadership was instrumental in turning the Winter General Army Hospital in Topeka into a Veterans Administration hospital. This facility gave the Menninger Foundation the opportunity to open the Menninger School of Psychiatry (later called the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Services). While Menninger staff had already been training and educating medical professionals at their clinic, this school revolutionized the training of psychiatrists in the United States, in the midst of a desperate need for such mental health professionals after the end of World War II.

The clinic expanded and remodeled in the early 1950s, becoming the C.F. Menninger Memorial Hospital in 1954, named in honor of Dr. C.F. after his death the previous year. By 1959, Dr. Karl persuaded the Board of Trustees to purchase a large parcel of property from the Security Benefit Association (SBA) located further west on 6th Avenue in Topeka, property on which the foundation would be able to expand its services and which would eventually become known as the West Campus, to differentiate it from the original East Campus facilities. The West Campus included the striking Tower Building, built by the SBA in the late 1920s and finished by 1930. This building was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and instantly became one of the enduring symbols of Menninger.

After the war, foundation activities continued to expand as clinical, research, and educational programs mushroomed. Menninger was progressive in many of its programs, such as in working with the Kansas state hospital system to modernize public mental health care services; in helping law enforcement officials; in educating psychiatrists using both practical clinical and theoretical in-class training; and in introducing psychiatric thought and philosophy into other professional fields, such as industry and law. New generations of Menninger family members continued to work for and lead in the foundation, notably Drs. Roy and Walt, who both served as President. By the 1990s, the institution employed over 1200 employees and had an annual budget in the millions.

Nonetheless, changing national medical trends and insurance policies spelled trouble for the foundation. Long-term in-patient treatment was increasingly becoming phased out, and medical care costs were only rising. Numerous tertiary and off-site programs around the country began seeking affiliations elsewhere or shutting down, and in the late 1990s the Board of Trustees started asking how and whether the foundation could survive without major transformations.

In 2001 the last class graduated from the Menninger School of Psychiatry. At the end of that same year, Dr. Walter Menninger stepped down as the last family member to hold the CEO position in the foundation, handing leadership over to John McKelvey. After numerous struggles and with negative publicity in the Topeka region, the Menninger Clinic announced its plans to relocate to Houston, Texas, in order to affiliate with Baylor Medical College. This move was accomplished in 2003, where the Menninger Clinic continues to operate.

Scope and Content

Scope and content:

The Menninger Foundation Archives are divided into three major sub-components: the corporate archives of the foundation as well as institutions and individuals affiliated with the corporation and its predecessor institutions, the personal papers of Menninger family members, and the Historic Psychiatry (Original Documents) collection that had been gathered by the Menninger Archives through donation and purchase.

The largest sub-component is the corporate archives of the foundation and its predecessor institutions. It includes records from Menninger's clinical, educational, and research efforts, as well as from the administration of the foundation overall and its Board of Trustees. This sub-component also includes records and papers from institutions and from individuals who were affiliated with Menninger, including professional faculty and staff, administrators, and some patients and former students.

The second largest sub-component includes the personal papers from Menninger family members. Karl Menninger's papers are the most fully represented, followed by Roy's and Will's. The collection also includes Charles Frederick's papers as well as papers from wives and other children. These personal papers largely focus on family members' professional work, for Menninger and otherwise; but these papers also document the personal lives of the family and may include diaries and family correspondence.

The final major sub-component of the collection are the Historic Psychiatry groupings. The majority of these are from significant individuals in the history of medicine and psychiatry and were for the most part purchased by the Menninger Archives.

Contents: Section 1. Menninger family archives -- section 2. Menninger Foundation corporate archives, 1920-1999 (bulk 1940-1999) -- section 3. Historic psychiatry collection.

Portions of Collection Separately Described:


No Locators Identified

Related Records or Collections

Finding Aids: Finding aids available from the Kansas Historical Society (Topeka) and on its website, http://www.kshs.org/p/menninger-foundation-archives/13787

Related materials:

The Kansas Historical Society's ms. collection also contains papers of other individuals associated with Menninger in Kansas (the Menninger Collecting Project), 1998-2002: http://www.kshs.org/archives/45898

Mrs. Flora V. (Knisely) Menninger Papers, [1899-not after 1939?] (collection no. 55); http://www.kshs.org/archives/40055

Phillip Menninger Papers, [ca. 1979-ca. 1991) (collection no. 844); http://www.kshs.org/archives/43061

Karl Augustus Menninger Papers, [not after 1938-ca. 1963] (collection no. 90); http://www.kshs.org/archives/40090

Papers and photos relating to and written by Dr. Karl Menninger, 1896-2007 (bulk 1940-1990), 2 ft. (4 boxes); http://www.kshs.org/archives/310029

Index Terms


    Menninger Clinic
    Menninger Foundation
    Topeka (Kan.)
    Menninger family
    Menninger, Charles Frederick, 1862-1953
    Menninger, Flo V., b. 1863.
    Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990
    Menninger, Philip Bratton, 1928-
    Menninger, Roy W., 1926-
    Menninger, W. Walter
    Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966
    Psychiatrists -- Kansas
    Psychiatrists -- Kansas -- Topeka
    Community mental health services -- Kansas
    Community mental health services -- Kansas -- Topeka
    Mental health facilities -- Kansas
    Mental health facilities -- Kansas -- Topeka
    Psychiatric clinics -- Kansas
    Psychiatric clinics -- Kansas -- Topeka
    Psychiatry -- History -- Sources
    Psychiatry -- Kansas

Creators and Contributors

Agency Classification:

    Organizations/Corporations. Menninger Foundation Archives.

Additional Information for Researchers


Documents containing identifiable information about individual patients or research subjects or restricted by statute or regulation: Access restricted.

Materials containing identifiable individual patient information, less than a century old, are restricted from general access. Other materials may also have been restricted or redacted due to their sensitive nature, such as personnel and student files, records containing Social Security Numbers, and for other reasons. Contact reference staff for assistance and with questions about accessing records and papers from the Menninger Archives.

Use and reproduction: Information on copyright available from the Kansas Historical Society (Topeka).

Ownership/Custodial Hist.: The Menninger Foundation turned its archival holdings over to the Kansas State Historical Society in 2003 as it began moving operations to Houston, Texas. KSHS already held various small manuscript collections from some Menninger family members and from some other individuals associated with the foundation. Newer accretions, notably from Drs. Roy and Walt Menninger, have since been received by the Historical Society and have been integrated into the larger Menninger Archives holdings.

Action note: Portions of the collection were initially processed by Menninger archivists from throughout the 1960s-1990s. More material was described and minimally processed by Audrey McKanna, Lela Barnes intern, when transferred to the Kansas Historical Society in 2004. The entire collection was re-processed by KHS staff Kate Alexander, Marcella D. Wiget, and Robert L. Knecht through funding provided by a grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission in 2011-2013.

Accumulation/Freq. Of Use: More donations may be possible in the future.