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William P. Graham Papers

An inventory of his papers at the Syracuse University Archives


Creator: Graham, William P., 1871-1962.
Title: William P. Graham Papers
Dates: 1885-1958
Size: 18 boxes (12.25 linear feet)
Abstract: Personal papers of Syracuse University Chancellor William P. Graham
Language: Most materials are in English, some German, and one Spanish title.
Repository: University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Ave., Suite 600
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010


William Pratt Graham (1871-1962) was Syracuse University's sixth Chancellor. Graham was a Professor of Electrical Engineering, Dean of the College of Applied Science, Vice Chancellor, and finally Chancellor, all at Syracuse University.

Portrait of William P. Graham

Graham was born in Oswego, New York, but he and his family moved to Syracuse when he was three. A product of the Syracuse City School District, Graham was a bright boy who stayed in his hometown and attended Syracuse University. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1893, and then traveled to Germany to conduct his graduate work in electrical engineering. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in 1897, and then went back to Syracuse University in 1898 to work as an instructor. A few years later, Graham helped found the College of Applied Science, and became the dean of the college in 1911. He held that position until he accepted the position of Vice Chancellor for Chancellor Flint in 1922.

When Chancellor Flint took the position, the University faced a financial deficit, and thus Flint was often away from the campus in order to raise money. Graham, therefore, handled most of the University's daily operations. When Flint left the University in 1936, Graham took over as Acting Chancellor until the University found a replacement. A search committee was formed, yet the committee had a difficult time finding Flint's replacement. When no suitable outside candidate was found, the committee determined "that we have on our own campus a man well qualified to assume the duties of this office...we, therefore, recommend to the board the election to the office of chancellor of Syracuse University the present acting chancellor, William Pratt Graham." Graham agreed to take the appointment, with the condition that he would only serve for only a year while the University found a younger man to take the job (Graham was 66 years old at the time). He ended up serving as Chancellor for six years.

When Graham took over as Chancellor, student enrollments had climbed to 6,ooo, the highest they had ever been up to that point. Additionally, because of prudent financial decisions made by Chancellor Flint, the University's finances were sound. Graham was well-liked as Chancellor. Graham was often described as quiet and kind, yet firm and efficient. He was active on the campus, and his wife, Cora, often entertained guests in their home. Despite Graham's affability, he espoused racist beliefs, which informed his policy decisions, notably the decision to limit Black student enrollment during the 1920s. Under his leadership, both the Maxwell School of Citizenship and School of Education received graduate status. In 1937, the Maxwell School of Citizenship building finished construction. Graham calmly led the University for a few years before the breakout of World War II in Europe caused disruptions to campus life. Once the United States entered the war at the end of 1941, and enrollments became to drop as young men and women left to fight the war, Graham announced that he would be retiring in the summer of 1942. At the time of his retirement, Graham had spent a total of 53 years at Syracuse University as a student, instructor, professor, dean, Vice-Chancellor, and Chancellor.

After retirement, Graham served on the Syracuse Common Council for four years. He died in 1962 at the age of 90.

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Scope and Content Note

The William P. Graham Papers are the personal papers of Chancellor William P. Graham. The papers document his academic life as well as provide some personal insight into his life. The papers have been divided into five series.

The Academic materials series include materials associated with his academic work as a student and professor at Syracuse University. These documents include lecture notes, tuition receipts, notebooks, graduate work from Germany, and notes. The majority of the notes regard electrical engineering, Graham's field of study, although he also made notes on astronomy, quantum theory, philosophy, religion, and organic chemistry. Lecture notes are arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the lecture title. The series also include Graham's academic scholar certification from Syracuse High School, his student registration at a German university, and a large binder of electrical current construction diagrams that he assisted with designing.

The small Biographical material series includes a biographical sketch of the Graham family tree, as well as a biography for his Councilman-at-large candidacy in the 1940s

The Correspondence series comprises Graham's personal correspondence. The correspondence is arranged chronologically, dated between 1890 and 1958. The correspondence is mainly incoming. Majority of the early correspondence is in regards to Graham's position as professor of electrical engineering and dean of the College of Applied Science. Correspondence from 1945-1947 concerns mostly his position on the Syracuse Common Council. Concerned Syracuse city residents wrote to Graham making pleas or protests regarding his vote on topics such as a public housing proposal, an introduction of a sales tax, and modified bus line schedules.

The Memorabilia series include awards, photographs, memberships and certifications, and a scrapbook. A travel scrapbook that Graham created during his time as a graduate student in Germany is an item of note. Additionally, there are a couple items from Graham's wife Cora, including a gavel she was given from a women's organization. Two Arents awards, the highest honor Syracuse University bestows upon an alumnus, awarded to Graham and his wife round out the series.

Finally, the Writings series include Graham's writings, as well as others that he collected over the years. Graham's writings include addresses and speeches, memories of living in Syracuse, and scientific writings. Writings by others include poems, publications, and reports.

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Access Restrictions

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from the Syracuse University Archives and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

The University Archives originally held one collection for Chancellors Graham and Flint, his predecessor. In 2019, Flint's records were separated into Chancellor Charles W. Flint Records, and Graham's chancellor records were separated into the Chancellor William P. Graham Records.

The Archives holds clipping files on Graham as well as portrait files. The Syracuse University Photograph Collection also features items related to Chancellor Graham.

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Selected Search Terms


Graham, William P., 1871-1962.
L.C. Smith College of Engineering.
Syracuse (N.Y.) Common Council.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.


Electrical engineering.
Public housing.
Quantum electrodynamics.
Quantum statistics.
College teachers.
Higher education.

Types of material


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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William P. Graham Papers,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

The materials included in the William P. Graham Papers were transferred and donated to the University Archives in a series of acquisitions up to 1992.

Processing Information

This collection was fully processed in 2019 by Dane Flansburgh. Materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes. Photocopies were made of original newspaper clippings, which were then discarded. Oversize items were placed in oversize boxes.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: Dane Flansburgh
Date: July 2019
Revision history: 22 Oct 2020 - updated bioghist (DF)

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With the exception of the Correspondence series, the collection is arranged alphabetically. The Correspondence series is arranged chronologically.

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Academic materials
Box 1 Academic scholar certification, Syracuse High School 1886
Box 1 Book list undated
Box 1 Canonical forms, notes undated
Oversize 2 A chart of the history of philosophy and science up to 1864 undated
Box 1 Circular angles undated - notebook
Oversize 3 Construction drawings of electrical direct current 1900 - large electrical drawings, text is in German, an inscription reads "assisted by W.P. Graham"
Box 1 Determination of the constant of the tangent galvanometer and the value of h, physical laboratory, Syracuse University 1893
Box 1 Dirac, Paul, classical electrodynamics undated (2 folders)
Box 1 Dynamics of a particle circa 1895 - notebooks (3 folders)
Box 1 Electrical engineering 1910 - notebooks
Box 2 Electricity and magnetism undated - notebook
Box 2 Electromagnetic radiation circa 1898 - notebook (2 folders)
Box 2 Electronic spectra, notes undated
Box 2 The electronic theory of valency, notes 1923
Box 2 Electrotechnisches Institut, exams 1898
Box 14 Electrotechnisches Institut, graduate school work 1898
Box 2 Elliptic integrals undated - notebook
Box 2 Express magnetic undated - notebook
Box 2 Extracts from Gregory's calculus circa 1895
Box 2 Forces in the solid state circa 1950
Box 2 Fourier's series and integral circa 1895 - notebook
Box 3 Frictional electricity circa 1895 - notebook
Box 3 Fundamentals of quantum statistics/The structure of matter circa 1950
Box 3 The garden circa 1895 - notebook
Box 3 General physics undated - notebook
Box 3 Greek philosophy undated - notebook
Box 3 Hertz experiments undated - notebook
Box 3 High school notebook undated
Box 3 The internal photoelectric effect in crystals, notes 1932
Box 3 Lecture notes
Box 3 "A" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1951 (3 folders)
Box 3 "B" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1952
Box 4 "C" titles 1920-1932, 1948-1952 (4 folders)
Box 4 "D" titles 1895-1926, 1948 (3 folders)
Box 4 "E" titles 1922-1925, 1948-1950 (2 folders )
Box 5 "E" titles 1920-1925 (2 folders)
Box 5 "F" titles 1913-1924
Box 5 "G" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1952
Box 5 "H" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1952
Box 5 "I" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1949
Box 5 "K" titles undated
Box 5 Kinematic world-models undated
Box 5 "L" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1952
Box 5 "M" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1952 (2 folders)
Box 6 Molecular vibration undated
Box 6 "N" titles 1924-1925, 1948-1952 (2 folders )
Box 6 "O" titles 1918-1932, 1948-1952
Box 6 "P" titles 1919-1925, 1948-1952 (3 folders )
Box 6 "Q" titles 1920-1924, 1952
Box 6 "R" titles 1914-1925, 1949-1952 (2 folders)
Box 7 "S" titles 1912-1925, 1949-1951 (6 folders)
Box 7 "T" titles 1920-1925, 1948-1952 (2 folders)
Box 8 "U" titles 1906-1924, 1949-1950
Box 8 Untitled 1916-1925, circa 1950 (3 folders)
Box 8 "V" titles 1922-1925, 1949-1952
Box 8 "W" titles 1920-1925, 1949
Box 8 "XYZ" titles 1906-1923, 1949
Box 8 Licht and Kraftanlagen 1897-1898 - notebook
Box 8 Math notes 1918
Box 8 Matter and memory 1912 - notebook
Box 8 Maxwell's theory circa 1898 - notebook
Box 8 New ideas on inorganic chemistry 1908 - notebook
Box 9 New theory of line spectra circa 1895 - notebook
Box 9 Notes on impact friction undated
Box 13 Notes regarding Christianity undated
Box 9 Notes regarding engineering 1925 (2 folders)
Box 9 Notes regarding vectors undated (2 folders)
Box 9 Notes, miscellaneous undated (3 folders)
Box 10 Organic chemistry 1895 - notebooks
Box 10 Organic chemistry, notes undated
Box 10 Principle of relativity circa 1895 - notebook
Box 10 The problem of a spherical gaseous nebula circa 1908 - notebook
Box 10 Quantum statistics circa 1950
Box 10 Questions on electricity from examinations for professional engineers 1921
Box 10 Rigid dynamics circa 1895 - notebook
Box 10 Routh elementary rigid dynamics, notes undated
Box 10 Salt City school notebooks undated (2 folders)
Box 10 The spark undated - notebook
Box 10 Spectrum analysis circa 1895
Box 11 Spherical harmonies undated - notebooks
Box 11 Statistical mechanics, notes circa 1950
Box 14 Student registration, Koniglichen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat 1894
Box 11 Syracuse University tuition receipts 1892
Box 11 Systeme der [ineligible] Physik 1896
Box 11 Theoretical biology, notes circa 1950
Box 11 Theory of electricity circa 1895 - notebooks (2 folders)
Box 14 "Ueber die Periodicitatsmoduln…", grad school text 1897 - in German
Box 11 Wave mechanics, notes undated (2 folders)
Biographical material
Box 11 Biographical sketches, Graham family 1937
Box 15 Councilman-at-large candidacy biography circa 1944
Box 11 General 1890-1899, 1902, 1905-1910 (4 folders)
Box 12 General 1911-1923, 1926-1943 (12 folders)
Box 15 General 1944
Box 12 General 1945-1947 (4 folders)
Oversize 1 General 1947
Box 12 General 1948-1958, undated (8 folders)
Box 15 Autograph stamp undated
Oversize 1 Commemorative sheet of Wilhem I 100th birthday 1897
Box 13 Cora Graham clubs and organizations programs 1911-1954
Oversize 1 Cora Graham gavel undated - inscription: Mrs. W.P. Graham
Box 12 George Arents pioneer medal, awarded to Cora Dodson Graham 1942
Box 12 George Arents pioneer medal, awarded to William Pratt Graham 1942
Box 14 Memberships and certifications 1927-1947
Box 13 Commencement undated
Box 13 Cosmopolitan Club luncheon May 1926
Box 13 Engineering equipment undated
Box 13 Portraits of others 1885-circa 1930
Box 13 Printed photographs undated
Box 13 Professional Women's League 1953
Box 13 Syracuse University campus circa 1910
Box 13 Syracuse University club and organization group photos undated
Oversize 1 Professional engineering license, University of the State of New York (SUNY) 1923
MC 0-4 Syracuse University diploma 1893 - Bachelor of Science
Oversize 2 Travel scrapbook from Germany circa 1898 - clippings, photos, programs
Box 15 Travels from Germany circa 1898 - calendar, bike license, 2 photos of a cottage in Germany, program
Oversize 2 The Technology Club of Syracuse honorary membership 1936
Oversize 1 United States Public Service Reserve certification 1917
Box 13 An alliance between the farmer and the industrial worker undated
Box 13 Addresses and speeches 1912-1947
Box 14 An investigation of the electrical constants of some new copper alloys 1893 - book
Box 14 Life is a series of adventures undated
Box 14 Living in the city of Syracuse circa 1943
Box 14 Modern university undated
Box 14 New viewpoints in physics undated
Box 14 The objective of the physicist undated
Box 14 Phi Beta Kappa history undated
Box 14 Report on the process of curing automobile tires by inductive heating 1920
Box 14 Special Einstein theory undated
Box 14 Syracuse pamphlet essay 1941
Box 14 War with Germany circa 1941
Box 13 Writings by others
Box 13 AD 1776 for liberty, HR 1776 for dictatorship, pamphlet 1941
Box 13 Admission of American women students to Oxford University, American Association of University Women 1927
Box 13 An American's history of Hollywood: the tower of Babel, G. Allison Phelps 1940
Box 13 "College editors form organization, called ACE by President Roosevelt," The Literary Digest September 1934
Box 13 "Elements of technical English," Adolph C. Baebenroth 1913
Box 13 "Exhibition of, and preliminary note upon, a brain of about one-half the average size from a white man of ordinary weight and intelligence," Burt G. Wilder 1911
Box 13 "Fiat Justitia: an international hymn in honor of Theodore Roosevelt," Burt G. Wilder 1911
Box 13 "Founder's centenary hymn in honor of Ezra Cornell," Burt G. Wilder 1908
Box 13 "Hume and the Scottish Shakespeare," Ernest Campbell Mossner July 1940
Box 13 "La generacion espanola de 1936," Homero Seris 1946
Box 13 "Last night hymn," Burt G. Wilder 1909
Box 13 "Logico-historical study of mechanism, vitalism, naturalism," Edward A. Singer undated
Box 13 "Magne-crystallic action and the aurora," Ma Veeder 1904
Box 13 "Marcel Pagnol Merlusse," Lucious Gaston Maffatt 1937
Box 14 "Mechanized idealism," Robert W. Lillard undated
Box 14 "The methods of a veteran investigator and teacher," Burt G. Wilder 1911
Box 14 "Numerical values of certain functions involving e-n," W. Lash Miller and T.R. Rosebrugh 1904
Box 14 "On a certain class of Fraunhofer's diffraction-phenomena"; "Lines of equal intensity about the point of intersection of Fraunhofer's diffraction bands," H. Nagaoka 1895
Box 14 Onondaga County emergency work bureau, report of activities, Onondaga County court house 1932
Box 14 Retirement of Professor Burt Greene Wilder 1911
Box 14 "Rousseau Hero-Worship: an unpublished intimate record of 1776," from Modern Language Notes June 1940
Box 14 "Sartryck ur Skandiavisk aktuarietidskrift," Von Alf Guldberg 1922
Box 14 School building survey for City of Syracuse, NY 1923
Box 14 "Should labor be drafted?," Department of Governmental Affairs and Chamber of Commerce of the United States 1944
Box 14 "Slumber song and the quiet hour," hymn by Burt G. Wilder 1909
Box 14 "The truth about Catholics," Catholic Literature Society 1941
Box 14 US Office of Education reports on college and university finance 1940
Box 14 "What's the matter with Alma Mater?" Harold L. Ickes 1938
Box 14 Your Freedom at Stake, George Burton Cutten 1940

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