Scope and Content Note
Language of Material:
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Title: David Starr Jordan papers
Jordan, David Starr
Identifier/Call Number: SC0058
Identifier/Call Number: identifier="1325" type="Archivists Toolkit Database::RESOURCE">1325
250.5 Linear Feet
Date (inclusive): 1861-1964
David Starr Jordan, the first president of Stanford University, and Orrin Leslie Elliott, first registrar, used adjacent offices
and later shared a common secretary in George A. Clark during the early years of the institution. Under this arrangement their
correspondence files were intermixed, and although three separate categories were maintained--President's Office, General
Letters, and University Letters--these distinctions were so vague as to prove meaningless. Thus, many hundreds of the letters
of the letters in the combined files were requests for catalogs or information about the institution by potential students.
All of the incoming letters and loose carbons and drafts of outgoing letters were copied into letterpress books. It is assumed
that these papers, official and unofficial, remained in the custody of the University.
When Dr. Jordan retired in 1913, a new file was created for his correspondence as chancellor, and later, chancellor emeritus.
The manner of arranging this correspondence is unknown.
In 1919, Dr. Jordan gave the Stanford Library a large amount of manuscript material of which the exact nature has not been
determined. Included in this gift were the Papers of the Fur Seal Commission maintained by Dr. Jordan's and the Commission's
secretary, George A. Clark. In that same year, Dr. Jordan gave the Hoover Collection (now the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution,
and Peace) his award-winning Plan of Education for Peace. Further gifts to the Hoover Collection followed in 1925-26, 1926-27,
Dr. Jordan died in 1931, and in 1933-34, his widow gave the Stanford Main Library manuscripts, journals, poems, and notebooks.
In that same year, Mrs. Jordan gave Cornell, Dr. Jordan's alma mater, books and student mementos, and other materials pertaining
to Jordan's student days.
In September 1934, the University registrar reported that he had employed an assistant to file the Jordan papers. In reporting
to the registrar, the assistant noted that she found so much overlapping that it is impossible to make a clear segregation.
I find that Mrs. Jordan was arranging the materials in many miscellaneous packages which must all be arranged by subject.
It would be difficult to arrange materials chronologically because dates are lacking... so the alphabetical arrangement is
necessary. In addition to arranging the files, the assistant segregated several thousand letters of interest to Dr. Elliott,
who at this time was writing a history of the University.
In 1941, the Hoover Library moved into a new multi-story building and assumed the custody of all the Jordan papers except
the official files stored in the President's vault. In 1943-44, Mrs. Jordan sent 36 files and three cartons of correspondence,
a diary, and other papers to Hoover, making a grand total of 107 boxes. In October, 1945, all the cartons except 24 concerned
with peace were returned to the Main Library.
At some unknown date, manuscript record books and some correspondence on fishes was turned over to the Division of Systematic
Biology. These have subsequently been delivered to the Archives for inclusion in the Jordan files.
In 1965, the Stanford Board of Trustees established the Stanford University Archives, which absorbed the Stanford Collection,
a memorabilia collection long maintained by the Library. At that time, the Stanford Collection contained 84 boxes of Jordan
Papers arranged by subject. Most of these papers dated after Dr. Jordan's retirement as President, or were his personal correspondence.
Less than a year after its establishment, the Archives received the Jordan files from the President's Office vault, of which
three cartons were hopelessly damaged by mildew. A careful search of accessible campus storage areas brought additional Jordan
letters, including those segregated for Dr. Elliott. After the microfilm edition of the Jordan Papers was approved by the
NHPRC, 59 volumes of Dr. Jordan's letter books (chronological files) were turned over to the Archives by the Registrar's Office.
Scope and Content Note
The collection consists primarily of Jordan's correspondence relating to professional and university matters, and also contains
writings (published and unpublished), clippings, journals and diaries, scrapbooks, financial papers, biographical and genealogical
information, and photographs. Materials in the collection reflect Jordan's embrace of and advocacy for eugenics, including
his leadership in 19th and 20th century eugenics organizations.
The Jordan Papers span 1861-1951, although the bulk of the collection dates between 1891 and 1929. Very few items pre-date
Jordan's connection with Stanford University and there is very little material after the severe stroke he suffered in the
summer of 1929. The papers of Jessie Knight Jordan [Series I-F], cover the two years of Jordan's illness, her reminiscences
and the memoires of his old friends.
The David Starr Jordan Papers in the Hoover Institution Archives contain the majority of Jordan's papers relating to politics
and pacifism. A guide to that collection is available in the reading room of the Department of Special Collections.
David Starr Jordan was born at Gainesville, New York, on January 19, 1851. In March, 1869, Jordan entered Cornell University
to join the first freshman class (which had begun work in the fall of 1868). Upon presentation of his thesis, "Wild Flowers
of Wyoming County," Jordan received an M.S. degree from Cornell in 1872.
After graduation, Jordan became professor of natural history at Lombard University, Galesburg, Illinois, 1872-73. He spent
the summer of 1873 at Penikese Island with naturalist and eugenicist Louis Agassiz. He served as principal of the Collegiate
Institute in Appleton, Wisconsin, 1873-74, and was a teacher at the Indianapolis High School in 1874-75.
In March, 1875, Jordan married Susan Bowen, who died in 1885. In 1887, Jordan married Jessie Louise H. Knight. The papers
of Jessie Louise H. Knight Jordan are included in this collection.
In 1875, Jordan received his M.D. from Indiana Medical College, and that same year, became professor of biology at Butler
University. In 1878, he received his Ph.D. from Butler. In 1879, Dr. Jordan moved to Indiana University as professor of natural
history, and in January, 1885, he became president of Indiana University.
During these early years, Jordan concentrated more and more on fishes. He spent his summers collecting data for the U.S. Fish
Commission, later Bureau of Fish and Fisheries, or the U.S. Census Bureau. In the course of his career he studied and catalogued
fish of the rivers of the United States and Alaska; Pacific Coast salmon, fish of Japan, Sinaloa, Mexico, Samoa, and Hawaii.
He also served on numerous commissions, including the joint commission investigating the Bering Sea fur seal.
In the Spring of 1891, Leland Stanford offered Jordan the presidency of the university established in memory of the late son
of Leland Stanford and Jane Lathrop Stanford. Jordan accepted and in March began to recruit faculty for the soon-to-open institution.
Jordan's first choice was John Casper Branner, who became Stanford's second president. Faculty was recruited (in large measure
from Cornell and Indiana) and school commenced October 1, 1891.
In 1892, Jordan helped found the Sierra Club. Later in life he helped establish of Mr. Rainier and Yosemite as national parks,
and in conservation movements generally.
Leland Stanford died in June, 1893, and Stanford University faced an uncertain future. A long probate period and a suit by
the federal government for funds advanced to build the Central Pacific Railroad tempered the growth of the University until
1899. Jane Stanford expended great energy and the restricted resources available to her to keep the University open. During
this time Jordan continued his ichthyological work and served as president of the California Academy of Sciences (1896-1904
and 1908-1912). In 1899 the University received its inheritance and legal actions against the estate ceased.
During his later years as president of Stanford, Jordan served as a member of the International Committee on Zoological Nomenclature
(1904), president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1909-1910), vice-president of the International
Congress of Zoologists (1910), and to receive honorary degrees from Johns Hopkins University (1902), Illinois College (1905),
and Indiana University (1909).
Jordan was a leader in the American Eugenics Movement. His support for eugenics impacted many other areas of his life, including
through informing his leadership in the world peace movement which occipied much of his later life.
In 1913 he resigned as president and became chancellor of the University. Following his retirement Jordan continued his travels
in the interest of classifying fish and speaking against war. Jordan died on September 19, 1931, after an illness of several
David Starr Jordan Papers (SC0058). Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries,
Personal papers given by Mrs. David Starr Jordan and others; official papers transferred from the Stanford University President's
Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain
permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections and University
The materials are open for research use.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Stanford University -- Presidents.
Stanford University -- Administration.
San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906
Hearst, Phoebe Apperson.
Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919
Harper, William Rainey,
Dole, Nathan Haskell.
Doyle, John T. (John Thomas), 1819-1906
DuBois, William Edward Burghardt.
Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914?
Frémont, Jessie Benton, 1824-1902
Otis, Harrison Gray
Cubberley, Ellwood Patterson
Lummis, Charles Fletcher
Hearst, William Randolph, 1863-1951
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924
Wilbur, Ray L. (Ray Lyman)
Hughes, Charles Evans, 1962-1948
Burbank, Luther, 1849-1926
Evermann, Barton Warren, 1853-1932
Voorhees, Daniel Wolsey.
Veblen, Thorstein (Thorstein Bunde)
White, Andrew Dickson,
Camp, Walter Chauncey
Stoddard, Charles Warren.
Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930
Stanford University -- Students.
Turner, Frederick Jackson.
Taylor, Edward Robeson.
Sanger, Margaret Higgins.
Stanford, Jane Lathrop
Ross, Edward Alsworth, 1866-1951
White, Stephen Mallory
Anderson, Melville Best
Root, Elihu, 1845-1937
Branner, John Casper, 1850-1922
Barnes, Mary Sheldon
Jordan, Jessie Knight
Rolph, James, Jr.
Phelan, James Duval.
Pardee, George C.
Campbell, Douglas Houghton
Norris, Charles Gilman.
Wheeler, Benjamin Ide
Mills, Sarah Lincoln.
McKinley, William, 1843-1901
MacDowell, Edward Alexander.
McClure, Samuel Sidney.
Field, Charles K. (Charles Kellogg), 1873-1948
Lodge, Henry Cabot.
Dudley, William Russel, 1849-1911
Kellogg, Vernon Lyman.
Bryan, William Jennings
Crocker, Charles Frederick.
Huntington, Collis Potter.
Irwin, Will, 1873-1948
Cleveland, Stephen Grover.
Coolbrith, Ina D. (Ina Donna), 1841-1928
Cooper, Sarah B.
Jordan, David Starr
Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906
Washington, Booker T.
Adams, Bristow, 1875-1957
Burgess, Frank Gelett.
Stanford, Thomas Welton
Bell, Alexander Graham.
Hoover, Lou Henry, 1874-1944
de Young, Meichel Harry.
Dole, Charles Fletcher.