William Bittle Wells papers, 1890-1960  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Wells, William Bittle
William Bittle Wells papers
1890-1960 (inclusive)
16.0 linear feet, (30 containers)
Collection Number
Ax 095
William Bittle Wells worked in the Pacific Northwest as a manager, editor, advertiser, and writer for a variety of publications. In 1898 Wells founded the western magazine Pacific Monthly, which focused on the development of the pacific coast, literature, and humor. Wells became northwest editor and manger for Sunset Magazine from 1907-1912. Wells then became advertiser for Community Publicity, a publication produced by the Harriman Lines railroad. Next, Wells managed his own printing company, Wells and Company, from 1912 to 1915. For two years, Wells served as editor of Better Cooking, a publication to publicize cities across the nation. In 1917, Wells signed a contract with New York Life Insurance Company where he worked as an insurance agent for the next forty years. After he retired, he focused on writing extensively on Christian religious topics. The collection consists of biographical material, correspondence, high school scrapbooks, class papers from Wells’ attendance at Stanford University, business files documenting his various career endeavors, and personal papers and mementos, including manuscripts and photographs.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives.
UO Libraries--SPC, 1299
University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 541-346-3068
Fax: 541-346-3485
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public.

Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

William Bittle Wells was born in Floyd County, Virginia in 1872. After first moving to California in 1874, Wells’ family settled in Portland, Oregon in 1881. He graduated from Stanford University in 1897 with a degree in English and a certificate in education. At Stanford, Wells had developed an interest in publishing and publicity. He was an editor of several school newspapers, including The Daily Palo Alto and Olla Podria.

In 1898 Wells founded the western magazine Pacific Monthly, which featured book reviews, reports on the development of the pacific coast, literature, and humor. Wells made the magazine into an outlet for the work of young American writers. Pacific Monthly was not a financial success, and after he encountered difficulties obtaining editorial assistance, Wells finally sold the magazine in 1906. It was later consolidated with Sunset Magazine.

After severing his ties with Pacific Monthly, Wells began working as an advertising salesman for Sunset Magazine, which had begun as a publication of Southern Pacific Railway. He became northwest editor and manger for the magazine from 1907-1912.

During his tenure with Sunset Magazine, Wells began to publish promotional booklets about regions and cities served by the railroad on the west coast. Under his guidance as manager of Community Publicity, the Harriman Lines railroad began its publicity program with a booklet about the Rouge River Valley and Medford. Wells coordinated not only the advertising for these booklets, but he also oversaw all aspects of the organization of this project, including coordinating writers with the targeted communities.

Wells left Harriman Lines and Community Publicity after Harriman’s freight department exerted its influence to eliminate the Sunset Magazine venture, agedly because it adversely affected freight traffic. Although Wells worked hard to counteract these allegations by producing a report with contrary statistics, his efforts proved fruitless. Harriman offered to keep Wells as a passenger agent, but he elected to resign.

Wells next ventured into the printing and publishing business as the proprietor and manager of his own company, Wells and Company, from 1912 to 1915. Wells quickly discovered that he was not suited to the business and abandoned the operation after only three years.

Although at this point Wells was nearly penniless, he undertook the management and editing of a new magazine, Better Cooking, another publicity venture for cities across the nation. The venture was short-lived; Wells and the owner failed to agree on the direction of the magazine. After two years, Wells once again found himself looking for work.

In 1917, Wells signed a contract with New York Life Insurance Company where he worked during he next forty years. During his career in insurance, Wells not only sold insurance but also wrote promotional literature about the sale and benefit of insurance for businesses and the general public, including The Beneficiary of Partnership Insurance.

Highly successful as an agent, Wells interrupted his insurance career only during World War II when he worked in the shipyards of the Willamette Iron and Steel Company (WISCO) as chief clerk, editor, and inventory technician. Wells retired from the insurance business in 1940 when he was seventy. Near the end of his career, he had developed an intense interest in religion. After he retired, he spent the remaining eighteen years of his life writing extensively on Christian religious topics. He published several booklets, including Studies in Modernism, Heirs of Promise, and What Shall We Do with Christianity, in which he speculated on the role of religion in mid-century America. He died in 1960 at the age of eighty-eight.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The William Bittle Wells Papers consist of biographical material, correspondence, high school scrapbooks, class papers from Wells’ attendance at Stanford University, business files documenting his various career endeavors, and personal papers and mementos, including manuscripts and photographs.

A major segment of the biographical material is comprised of the Wells Outline, a series of scrapbook pages complied by Wells which roughly conform to the events in his life as they occurred. These papers contain correspondence, photographs, clippings, a variety of printed material and other memorabilia which are all annotated by Wells. Much of this biographical material is duplicated in later series such as the community booklets printed by Harriman Lines. Several drafts of Wells’ autobiographical “Story of My Life” complete the series.

Correspondence is divided into two subseries, business and personal, each arranged chronologically. The business correspondence details Wells’ involvement in Pacific Monthly magazine (and later Sunset Magazine) and his career as an insurance agent for New York Life. Wells’ interest in religion is the subject matter of much of the personal correspondence.

The high school scrapbooks contain a miscellany of clippings and student publications as well as personal observations. Materials from his years at Stanford University consist of class notes arranged by academic year, essays, scrapbooks, and yearbooks. Also included is a musical composition written by Wells.

Business files are arranged according to employer in chronological order. Represented in this series is Pacific Monthly, a magazine founded by Wells; Sunset Magazine, for which Wells served as editor of its northwest edition; Harriman Lines, a railroad for which Wells was in charge of publicity; and Better Cooking, a magazine for which Wells was editor of three different west coast editions. Examples of printing done by Wells and Company, another of his ventures, are included. Wells’ career with New York Life Insurance Company is recorded by a number of published materials he authored for the company, certificates of achievement, and a scrapbook he put together detailing the growth of the company and significant events. While employed with Willamette Iron and Steel Company, Wells compiled and published the company’s Handbook of Abbreviations, Symbols, Terms, and Allied Data as used by its shipyard operations.

The reminder of the collection is comprised of personal papers that documents Wells’ private side as opposed to his business career interests. Most notable are his writings, both published and unpublished, primarily about religion but which also include an interview with Homer Davenport, cartoonist and artist for the Hearst newspaper syndicate as well as Northwest newspapers. There is a file on Wells’ political, financial, and legal activities as well as various kinds of souvenirs, mementos, newspaper clippings, and family photographs.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Archival may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.

If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William Bittle Wells Papers, Ax 095, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

InventoryReturn to Top

Series I:  Biographical MaterialsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Wells Outline
Box Folder
1 2
1 3
1 4
Literary Works, Sonoma Days, High School
1 5
Stanford University
2 1
Pacific Monthly, Sunset Magazine
2 2
Wells and Company (Printers)
2 3
Harriman Lines (Railroad Community Publicity)
2 4
Harriman Lines (Railroad Community Publicity)
2 5
Harriman Lines (Railroad Community Publicity)
3 1
Harriman Lines (Railroad Community Publicity)
3 2
Harriman Lines (Railroad Community Publicity)
3 3
Better Cooking, New York Life (Insurance)
3 4
WISCO (Willamette Iron and Steel Company)
3 5
Religious Work, Family records
4 1
Family records
4 2
Family Album
4 3
Family Album
4 4
Family Album
Photos, Publications
7 1
Loose pages
7 2
Loose pages
Story of My Life
Box Folder
7 3
First draft, pp. 11-61
7 4
First draft, pp. 62-100
7 5
First draft, pp. 101-140
7 6
Second draft, pp. 1-50
7 7
Second draft, pp. 51-100
7 8
Second draft, pp. 101-150
7 9
Second draft, pp. 151-193
7 10
Addenda to biography

Series II:  CorrespondenceReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Business correspondence
Box Folder
8 1
8 2
8 3
January 1906
8 4
February 1906
8 5
March 1906-July 1906
8 6
August 1906-September 1906
8 7
October 1906-December 1906
8 8
8 9
8 10
9 1
9 2
9 3
9 4
Personal correspondence
Box Folder
9 5
9 6
9 7
9 8
9 9
9 10
9 11
10 1
10 2
10 3
10 4
10 5
10 6
10 7
January 1958-June 1958
10 8
July 1958-December 1958
10 9
January 1959-May 1959
10 10
June 1959-July 1959
10 11
August 1959-November 1959
10 12

Series III:  Educational MemorabiliaReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Lawrence High School
Scrapbook: “High School, the Student, Miscellany 1-A”
Scrapbook: “High School, the Student, Miscellany 1-B”
Oll Podria
(publication of Lawrenceville School)
Volume: History of Lawrenceville School 1810–1935 by Roland J. Mulford
Scrapbook: “Early Album”
Stanford University
Class Notes: Economics II
Class Notes: Education
Class Notes: Education III (two books)
Class Notes: Education IV, no. 2
Class Notes: Education VII (Philosophy)
Class Notes: English (2 books)
Class Notes: English 15 (Drama to Shakespeare)
Class Notes: English XXI (two books)
Class Notes: English 23 (Chaucer – two books)
Class Notes: English 26 (Shakespeare – two books)
Ethics IV (autobiography)
Ethics XII (two books)
French 3
Laboratory Work in Psychology
Practical Politics
Psychology (two books)
Sociology II (Education and Society)
Forensics, History, American History
14 1
14 2
14 3
14 4
14 5
14 6
School papers/assignments
14 7
School papers/assignments
14 8
School papers/assignments
14 9
School papers/assignments
14 10
School papers/assignments
14 11
School papers/assignments
14 12
Musical compositions: March
Scrapbook: Literary
Notebook: Music
Notebook: Olla Podria
Scrapbook: Stanford Miscellany, Musical Club
Yearbooks: Stanford Quad
Yearbooks: Stanford Quad
Yearbooks: Stanford Quad
Yearbooks: Stanford Quad
Scrapbook: Stanford Miscellany

Series IV:  Business FilesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Pacific Monthly
(See also Box 8, Folders 1-8 and Box 9, Folder 3)
Box Folder
18 1-2
Business papers
18 3
Stockholders reports (third annual and fourth annual)
18 4-6
Announcement for advertisers; assorted issues (7)
Sunset Magazine
(See also Box 8, Folders 8-9)
Box Folder
18 7
Business papers
Harriman Lines
(See also Box 8, Folders 8-9)
Box Folder
18 8
Community Publicity papers
19 1
Report of Bureau of Community Publicity
19 2
List of Community Publicity Booklets
Community Publicity Booklets
Box Folder
19 3
Albany, Oregon – Attalia, Washington
19 4
Baker, Oregon – Buhl, Idaho
19 5
Carlton, Oregon – Dallas, Oregon
19 6
Dayton and Waitsburg, Washington – Fall City, Oregon
20 1
Gillam County, Oregon – Grants Pass, Oregon
20 2
Hailey, Idaho – Hood River, Oregon
20 3
John Day Valley, Oregon – Lincoln County, Oregon
20 4
Medford, Oregon
20 5
Morrow County, Oregon – Oregon City, Oregon
20 6
Portland, Oregon – Pullman, Washington
21 1
Redmond, Oregon – Roseburg, Oregon
21 2
Salem, Oregon – Sutherlin, Oregon
21 3
The Dalles, Oregon
21 4
Toledo, Oregon – Willamette Valley, Oregon
21 5
Yakima County, Washington – Zillah, Washington
Scrapbook: Traffic Meeting Related Lines, Del Monte
June 6, 1910-June 30, 1910
Better Cooking
Box Folder
22 1
Portland edition
22 2
Portland edition
22 3
Portland edition
22 4
Tacoma edition
22 5
Tacoma edition
22 6
Seattle edition

Series V:  Wells and CompanyReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
22 7
Financial and operational papers
Printing samples
Box Folder
22 8
Miscellaneous advertisements, brochures, and booklets
Books and pamphlets
Apple Growing in the Pacific Northwest
Association Advertising by H. W. Stone
The Forests by John H. Williams
Guardians of the Columbia by John H. Williams
Residential Portland
Stewart Brother Company Catalog
Trees, Shrubs, Vines and Plants by J. B. Pilkington, Nurseryman
Twin Falls Valley in photographs

Series VI:  New York LifeReturn to Top

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

(See also Box 8, Folder 10 and Box 9, Folders 1-4)

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
24 1
Booklets, The Beneficiary of Partnership Insurance
24 2
Articles, Published
24 3
Articles, Unpublished
24 4
Articles, Unpublished
24 5
Periodicals, including NYLIC Review
24 6
Financial records
24 7
NYLIC policyholder records and receipts
24 8
Testimonial letters
24 9
Promotional/public relations
Newspaper and magazine articles regarding insurance business, including partnership insurance
24 10
Business artifacts: business cards, forms, and certificates
Certificates, scrapbook

Series VII:  WISCO (Willamette Iron and Steel Company)Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
26 1
Handbook of Abbreviations, Masterfile
26 2
Handbook of Abbreviations, Masterfile
26 3
Handbook of Abbreviations, Masterfile
26 4
Loose papers, Warehouse Workers Manual
26 5
Scrapbook, “WISCO 1943-1944-1945-1946”
27 1
Volume: Handbook of Abbreviations, Symbols, Terms, and Allied Data

Series VIII:  Personal MaterialsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Religious works; religious writings and related material
Box Folder
27 2
Unpublished manuscripts
27 3
Unpublished manuscripts
27 4
Unpublished manuscripts
27 5
Unpublished manuscripts
27 6
Unpublished manuscripts
27 7
Unpublished manuscripts
27 8
Unpublished manuscripts
27 9
Unpublished manuscripts
28 1
Unpublished manuscripts
28 2
Unpublished manuscripts
28 3
Unpublished manuscripts
28 4
Unpublished manuscripts
28 5
Published works
28 6
Published works: Studies in Modernism, Heirs of Promise
28 7
Loose papers
28 8
Loose papers
28 9
Loose papers
28 10
Loose papers
29 1
Scrapbook, religious articles with some correspondence
Other Writings
Box Folder
29 2
Manuscripts, unpublished
29 3
Manuscripts, unpublished
29 4
Published works
30 1
Homer Davenport interview
30 2
Sons of American Revolution; papers
30 3
Political, financial, and legal activities
30 4
Programs, tickets
30 5
Calling cards and announcements
30 6
Clippings, personal and family
30 7
Photographs, scrapbook, photos and clippings and published materials

Series IX:  PhotographsReturn to Top

Color negative: Golden Opportunities Blackfoot, Idaho

Series X:  List of Community BookletsReturn to Top

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

(Located in Boxes 19-21)

Albany, OR
American Falls, ID
Ashland, OR
Astoria, OR
Attalia, WA
Baker, OR
Benton City, WA
Blackfoot, ID
Boise, ID
Brownsville, OR
Buhl, ID
Carlton, OR
Central Point, OR
Columbia County, OR
Corvallis, OR
Cottage Grove, OR
Creswell, OR
Dallas, OR
The Dalles, OR
Dayton and Waitsburg, WA
Eugene, OR
Fairfield, WA
Falls City, OR
Gilliam County, OR
Gooding, ID
Grandview, WA
Granger, WA
Grants Pass, OR
Hailey, ID
Hermiston, OR
Hood River, OR
John Day Valley, OR
Kelso, WA
Kennewick, WA
Lincoln County, WA
Medford, OR
Morrow County, OR
Mosier, OR
Newberg, OR
North Beach, WA
North Yakima, WA
Oakland, OR
Oregon City, OR
Portland, OR
Pullman, WA
Redmond, OR
Richfield, ID
Rogue River Valley, OR
Roseburg, OR
Salem, OR
Seattle, WA
Sheridan, OR
Sherman County, OR
Silverton, OR
St. Anthony, ID
Stanfield, OR
Sutherlin Valley, OR
Toledo, OR
Twin Falls, ID
Umatilla County, OR
Walla Walla, WA
Washington County, OR
Weiser, ID
West Stayton, OR
Willamette Valley of OR
Yakima County, WA
Yamhill, OR
Zillah, WA

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Insurance agents--United States
  • Periodical editors--United States
  • Railroad travel--Pacific States
  • Railroads--Public relations--Pacific States
  • Religious literature--Authorship
  • Personal Names :
  • Davenport, Homer, 1867-1912--Interviews
  • Wells, William Bittle--Archives
  • Corporate Names :
  • New York Life Insurance Company
  • Wells and Company
  • Geographical Names :
  • Pacific States--Description and travel