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Papers of William Claire Menninger

Portions of this material may be available on Kansas Memory


Agency Classification

Organizations/Corporations. Menninger Foundation Archives. Family. William C. Menninger.


Date: 1909 - 1990 (bulk 1930s-1966)

Level of Description: Sub-collection/group

Physical Description: Circa 84 cubic feet.

Unit ID: 224188

Descriptive Information

Abstract: William Menninger's papers document a great deal about his professional activities, both in service to the Menninger Clinic and Foundation as well as other responsibilities and duties outside the clinic. Notable are records, correspondence, and other items from his work during World War II with the U.S. Army in the Surgeon General's office and from his work with numerous professional associations and mental health organizations. The materials also provide information about his travels, both during the war and afterward in the 1950s and 1960s on behalf of the Menninger Foundation in order to raise funds to keep the foundation and clinic operating.

Dr. Will's papers provide an excellent glimpse into some of his interests, including stamp collecting and ornithology, as well as his long-time association with the Boy Scouts of America at both the local and the national level. His diaries, scrapbooks, and correspondence give details about his youth, medical studies and work, the women he loved, his interactions with his family including children and grandchildren, and other important aspects of his personal life. The sub-collection also shows the outpouring of grief, among friends and family as well as the psychiatric profession, at his death.

While Dr. Will's papers are not as voluminous as his brother's, Dr. Karl's, they still provide a great deal of information about his professional activities and personal life. Also like Dr. Karl's papers, materials regarding a particular topic, such as the administration of the Menninger Foundation, may be found scattered across more than one series. Items in foreign languages--especially material in French and German, as well as other such languages as Portuguese or Chinese--appear occasionally throughout Dr. Will's papers. The materials span the majority of his lifetime and beyond, though the bulk of the papers date from the 1930s through 1966, the year of Dr. Will's death.


Biog. Sketch (Full): William Claire Menninger was born on October 15, 1899, at Topeka, Kansas, to Dr. C. F. Menninger and Flo Knisely Menninger. He was the youngest of three sons, his elder brothers being Karl and Edwin. William graduated from Washburn University in 1919 and entered the Cornell University College of Medicine, graduating in 1924. He married Catharine Wright on 11 December 1925. They had three sons, Roy, Philip, and Walter. After completing a two-year internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York, he studied psychiatry at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1927.

That same year, and at the strong urging of his family, Dr. Will returned to Topeka and joined his father and older brother Karl in their medical practice, which by that time had begun to specialize in psychiatry. William's early medical interests were not in psychiatry but more closely resembled his father's in internal medicine. Nonetheless, with his contributions, the Menninger Clinic evolved into the Menninger Sanitarium, and eventually into the Menninger Foundation, a non-profit organization which provided not only clinical services to in- and out-patients, but also engaged in research, education, and social outreach. As he worked in the clinic, his interests narrowed in on the effects of social milieu and environment on individuals with mental illnesses, leading him to create a highly scientific milieu therapy program that involved the input of all staff who interacted with a patient, from the main psychiatrist to the nurses and activity therapists and caregivers.

At the outset of World War II, Dr. Will left the service of the Menninger Foundation to work with the Army. Initially commissioned as a lieutenant colonel, he acted as a neuropsychiatric consultant for the Fourth Service Command. By the end of the war he had been promoted to brigadier general and was in charge of the Neuropsychiatric Consultants Division of the Surgeon General, essentially building up and supervising the psychiatry program developed by the U.S. Army during the last years of the war.

After the war, William became general secretary or president of the new not-for-profit Menninger Foundation. In this role, he took on a strenuous travel schedule as main fundraiser for the foundation. He also took on leadership roles outside the foundation, including as one of the founders of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP); and as president of various other psychiatric associations, including the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsA), and the Central Neuropsychiatric Association (CNA). During the years of the war and the two decades following, Dr. Will was rarely on the Topeka campus for long stretches of time.

Dr. Will's sons all continued in service to the family legacy: Roy and Walter became staff psychiatrists and eventually both became foundation presidents, while Philip served as an administrator. Dr. Will served as the president of the Menninger Foundation until his death from cancer on September 6, 1966.

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. Fund raising
  2. Menninger Clinic -- History
  3. Menninger Foundation -- Administration
  4. Menninger Foundation -- Finance
  5. Menninger family
  6. Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966 -- Archives
  7. Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966 -- Career in psychiatry
  8. Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966 -- Family
  9. Psychiatry
  10. Psychiatry -- Societies, etc.

Creators and Contributors

  1. Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966

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