Francis Willey Kelsey papers: 1891-1953
Summary Information
Title: Francis Willey Kelsey papers
Creator: Kelsey, Francis W. (Francis Willey), 1858-
Inclusive dates: 1891-1953
Extent: 5 linear feet
Professor of Latin and classical studies at the University of Michigan, 1889-1927, led several archaeological expeditions to Antioch, Carthage and Karanis; papers include correspondence, diaries, photographs and other material relating to his career at Michigan and the expeditions.
Call number: 851721 Aa 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid prepared by: Michigan Historical Collections staff

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection of Kelsey papers has different sources. The diaries were the gift of Mrs. Kelsey (donor no. 226) and came to the library in 1937. Portions of the correspondence, especially for the period of the 1920s was transferred to the library from the U-M Business Office (donor no. 1801). Other smaller accessions came from Thomas Spaulding (donor no. 1752), the U-M Classical Studies Department (donor no. 3455), and the U-M Museum of Anthropology (donor no. 9273). An important addition was received from Easton Kelsey, Jr. (donor no. 10690) in 2011.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Francis W. Kelsey Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Francis Willey Kelsey was born at Ogden, New York on May 23, 1858, and graduated from the University of Rochester in 1880. From that same institution, he also received his Ph.D. in 1886 and LL.D. in 1910. He began teaching Latin at Lake Forest University in 1880 and continued there until 1889 when he came to the University of Michigan. In 1890, upon the death of Henry S. Frieze, Kelsey was made head of the Latin Department and here he gained renown as a teacher, a translator of classical texts, and an advocate of classical studies.

Kelsey's reputation as a scholar was international. In 1900-1901, he was given a leave of absence to serve as director of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome. Later in 1920, Kelsey organized and secured funds for the first Near East Expedition of the University of Michigan, which he directed for the next two years. As a result, a wealth of photographs, archaeological material, especially manuscripts and papyri, were brought to the University Library. In 1924, he arranged a second expedition which resulted in successful excavations at ancient Antioch, Carthage, and Karanis in the Fayoum of Egypt.

Kelsey was active in the University Musical Society serving as its president from 1889 until his death in 1927. From 1907 to 1912, he was president of the Archaeological Institute of America. He also was a member of other classical associations and served as president of the American Philological Association in 1907 and the Michigan Schoolmasters' Club in 1927. He died May 14, 1927.

Kelsey married Mary Isabelle Badger in 1886. They had three children: Charlotte Badger Kelsey, Easton Trowbridge Kelsey, and Ruth Cornelia Kelsey.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Kelsey papers consist of Correspondence, Papers, Diaries, and Photographs relating to his career at the University of Michigan. There is also a small amount of material on Archaeological Forgeries found in Michigan and photographs and other materials of his son, Easton Kelsey. Subjects include the papyri acquisition of the University library, archeological expeditions to the Near East, and the University Musical Society. In his correspondence written while abroad, Kelsey frequently comments on the world scene with mention, for example, of political conditions in Turkey and the controversy surrounding the Lausanne Treaty.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Archaeology.
  • Education -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Lausanne (Switzerland)
  • Middle East.
  • Turkey.
  • Forgery of antiquities -- Michigan.
  • Archaeology.
  • Classrooms -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Diaries.
  • Photographs.
  • Anderson, John Wendell, 1867-1945.
  • Conference on Near Eastern Affairs (1922-1923 : Lausanne, Switzerland)
  • Frieze, Henry S. (Henry Simmons), 1817-1889.
  • Kelsey, Easton T.
  • Kelsey, Francis W. (Francis Willey), 1858-1927.
  • United States. Dept. of State.
  • University of Michigan -- Archaeological expeditions.
  • University of Michigan. Dept. of Classical Studies.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
  • University of Michigan. Institute of Archaeological Research.
  • University of Michigan. Library.
  • University of Michigan. University Musical Society.
  • Kelsey, Easton T.
  • Kelsey, Francis W. (Francis Willey), 1858-1927.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
  • Adams, Charles Kendall, 1835-1902.
  • Alger, R. A. (Russell Alexander), 1836-1907.
  • Askren, D. L.
  • Babst, Earl D., 1870-1967.
  • Bishop, William Warner, 1871-1955.
  • Boak, Arthur Edward Romilly, 1888-1962.
  • Bristol, Mark L. (Mark Lambert), 1868-1939.
  • Budge, E. A. Wallis, Sir (Ernest Alfred Wallis), 1857-1934.
  • Burton, Marion Le Roy, 1874-1925.
  • Colt, Harris Dunscomb, 1861-1959.
  • Davison, Archibald T. (Archibald Thompson), 1883-1961.
  • Dean, Henry Stewart, 1830-1915.
  • De Forest, Robert W. (Robert Weeks), 1848-1931.
  • Denby, Edwin, 1870-1929.
  • Dulles, Allen Welsh, 1893-1969.
  • Hughes, Charles Evans, 1862-1948.
  • Kelsey, Easton T.
  • Kenyon, Frederic G., Sir (Frederic George), 1863-1952.
  • Noble, Eugene Allen, 1868-1948.
  • Peterson, Enoch Ernest, 1891-
  • Rackham, Horace H., 1858-1933.
  • Rich, John Treadway, 1841-1926.
  • Robbins, Frank Egleston, 1884-
  • Robinson, David Moore, 1880-1958.
  • Shaw, Gardiner Howland, 1893-1965.
  • Smith, Shirley Wheeler, 1875-1959.
  • Spaulding, Oliver Lyman, 1875-1947.
  • Streit, Clarence K. (Clarence Kirshman), 1896-1986.
  • Swain, George Robert, 1866-1947.
  • Vincent, Bird J., 1880-1931.
  • White, Andrew Dickson, 1832-1918.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Correspondence [series]

The Kelsey correspondence covers a range of subjects including the papyri acquisition of the University library, archeological expeditions to the Near East, memorials to Henry S. Frieze, and the University Musical Society. In his correspondence written while abroad, Kelsey frequently comments on the world scene with mention, for example, of political conditions in Turkey and the controversy surrounding the Lausanne Treaty. Correspondents in the collection include Charles K. Adams, Russell A. Alger, D.L. Askren, Earl D. Babst, William Warner Bishop, A.E.R. Boak, Mark Lambert Bristol, Ernest A.W. Budge, Marion L. Burton, H. Dunscomb Colt, Archibald T. Davison, Henry S. Dean, Robert W. DeForest, Edwin Denby, Allen Dulles, Charles Evans Hughes, Sir Frederick Kenyon, Eugene A. Noble, Enoch E. Peterson, Horace H. Rackham, John T. Rich, Frank E. Robbins, David M. Robinson, G. Howland Shaw, Shirley W. Smith, Oliver L. Spaulding, Clarence Streit, George Swain, Bird J. Vincent, and Andrew Dickson White. The bulk of the correspondence dates from the period of 1920 to 1927 and concerns Kelsey's dealings with the organization and financing of his archaeological expeditions.

Box   1  
Undated, 1894-1924 (27 folders)
Box   2  
1925-1927 (28 folders)
Box   2  
Caesar: congratulatory letters 1918
Box   2  
Transcriptions 1920
Papers [series]

The Papers series is a miscellanea of clippings, background information, and other materials relating to Kelsey's professional career, including documents relating to his investments in various mining companies.

Box   2  
Articles and clippings
Box   2  
Maps from Near East expedition (mainly Egypt) and rendering of architectural site
Mining documents
Box   2  
American Lumber Company 1911
Box   2  
Columbia Gold Mining Company 1906-1909
Box   3  
Deeds, Claims, and Agreements 1900-1908 (4 folders)
Box   3  
Weldon Gold and Copper Company 1899-1908
Box   3  
Miscellaneous undated, 1922-1927 (3 folders)
Box   3  
Obituaries 1927
Box   3  
Papers re humanistic series of publications 1914
Archaeological Forgeries [series]

The Archaeological Forgeries series contains correspondence, illustrations, photographs, clippings, and writings related to a series of archaeological forgeries found in Michigan and other states called the "Soper frauds" (named after one of the central figures in the controversy, former Michigan Secretary of State Daniel Soper). The forgeries were discovered over a number of years beginning in the early 1890s. They were intended to look like cuneiform tablets and other relics and provide "proof" that the North American continent's Native Americans were descended from the lost tribes of Israel. Kelsey was the most outspoken opponent of the frauds, and published several articles on the case. Although the materials have been conclusively proven to be fakes, interest in them continues to this day.

Box   3  
Catalogues and flyers undated
Box   3  
Correspondence 1891-1925 (2 folders)
Box   3  
Illustrations 1892-1908, undated
Box   3  
Inventory of forgeries found in Wyman, Michigan and deposited at the University of Michigan 1907
Box   3  
Photographs 1907
Box   3  
Reprints and clippings 1907-1922
Box   3  
"Some Archaeological Forgeries from Michigan," 1908
Photographs [series]

The Photographs series includes portraits of Kelsey and his family and photographs taken by George Swain of the sites and artifacts studied by Kelsey and the other members of the expedition to Egypt.

Box   3  
Portraits (include Kelsey behind desk in his classroom)
Box   3  
Photos of Near East archaeological expedition site (in Egypt) and artifacts 1920s
Diaries [series]

The Diaries series consists of 28 volumes dating from 1901 to May 6, 1927. In addition to daily activities and records of his correspondence, the diaries provide interesting and detailed accounts of his trips to Europe and the Near East in connection with various archaeological projects, notably his research at Pompeii. Kelsey also commented in his diaries on the noteworthy people with whom he came in contact. For the period of 1919-1921, Kelsey also provided descriptions of the American Relief commissions in Near East as observed during his travels.

Box   3  
1901-1919 (20 volumes)
Box   4  
1920-1927 (8 volumes)
Easton Kelsey Papers [series]

The Easton Kelsey Papers include correspondence, articles by and about Francis W. Kelsey, and a large collection of photographs and negatives documenting Easton Kelsey's travels with his father during the 1920s and 1930s. The majority of photographs are captioned and the collection includes a general index compiled by Kelsey.

Box   5  
Articles 1920-1935 (2 folders)
Box   5  
Box   5  
Family letters 1927-1953
Box   5  
Letters 1919
Memories of F. W. Kelsey
Box   5  
Francis W. Kelsey in Lighter Vein by Ruth Kelsey Diel
Box   5  
Random Notes on Memories of Father by Charlotte Badger Kelsey 1957
Box   5  
Miscellaneous 1932-1952
Box   5  
Index to Negatives
Box   5  
Iraq (1.1-1.4)
Box   5  
Syria (2.1-2.16)
Box   5  
Syria (2.2-2.12) (2 folders)
Box   5  
Petra (3.1)
Box   5  
Lebanon (4.7)
Box   5  
Lebanon and Turkey (4.8-5.1)
Box   5  
Egypt (6.1-6.12) (6 folders)
Box   5  
Palestine (8.1-8.2)
Box   5  
France 1919-1920
Box   5  
Box   5  
Sinai 1934-1935 (2 folders)
Additional Descriptive Data
Related Material

Kelsey's copy of Lucretius De Rerum Natura (Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1500), with accompanying newspaper clipping describing his purchase of the book, is on permanent loan from the Bentley Historical Library to the University of Michigan Special Collections Library.

The Bentley Historical Library is also the repository of the archives of the Kelsey Museum of Ancient and Medieval Archaeology which includes additional F. W. Kelsey papers.

The Kelsey Museum of Ancient and Medieval Archaeology at the University of Michigan holds the artifact collection and extensive documentation resulting from Kelsey's archaeological work.

Selective Index to Correspondents
Adams, Charles Kendall, 1835-1902.
  • Dec. 6, 1894, July 7, 1896
Alger, R. A. (Russell Alexander), 1836-1907.
  • Dec. 20, 1894
Babst, Earl D., 1870-1967.
  • Apr. 22, 1895
Bristol, Mark L. (Mark Lambert), 1868-1939.
  • May 29, 1921, Feb. 8, 1924, Apr. 1, 1924, May 29, 1924, Mar. 6, 1925, Mar. 3, 1926, May 4, 1926, June 5, 1926
Burton, Marion Le Roy, 1874-1925.
  • June 30, 1921, Nov. 22, 1921, Dec. 14, 1921, July 12, 1923, July 25, 1923, Nov. 3, 1923, Nov. 10, 1923, Jan. 21, 1924, June 21, 1924, Aug. 27, 1924, Jan. 29, 1924
Dean, Henry Stewart, 1830-1915.
  • June 29, 1896
De Forest, Robert W. (Robert Weeks), 1848-1931.
  • Apr. 23, 1924
Denby, Edwin, 1870-1929.
  • May 21, 1923, Aug. 6, 1923, Sept. 4, 1923, Nov. 16, 1923, Feb. 4, 1924, Feb. 21, 1924
Dulles, Allen Welsh, 1893-1969.
  • Mar. 20, 1924, Dec. 12, 1924, Oct. 27, 1925, Nov. 24, 1925, Nov. 27, 1925, Nov. 30, 1925, Jan. 27, 1926, Feb. 15, 1926, Mar. 11, 1926
Hughes, Charles Evans, 1862-1948.
  • Feb. 25, 1924 [R. V. D. Magoffin], Oct. 6, 1922 [Niles Carpenter], Oct. 27, 1922 [John Jacob Rogers], Dec. 28, 1922, Feb. 19, 1924, Mar. 12, 1924
Noble, Eugene Allen, 1868-1948.
  • Dec. 28, 1921
Peterson, Enoch Ernest, 1891-
  • 1925-1927
Rackham, Horace H., 1858-1933.
  • Jan. 26, 1923, June 25, 1923, July 18, 1923, Nov. 9, 1923, June 23, 1924 [M. L. Burton], July 14, 1925, Sept. 2, 1925, May 20, 1926, June 23, 1926, Apr. 3, 1927
Rich, John Treadvay, 1841-1926.
  • Dec. 20, 1894
Robbins, Frank Egleston, 1884-
  • Throughout
Robinson, David M. (David Moore), 1880-1958.
  • Throughout
Shaw, Gardiner Howland, 1893-
  • Apr. 25, 1924, May 5, 1924, Aug. 18, 1924, Aug. 19, 1924, Aug. 21, 1924, Aug. 27, 1924, Sept. 30, 1924, Oct. 8, 1924, June 12, 1925, Mar. 29, 1926, Apr. 16, 1926, Apr. 19, 1926, Apr. 21, 1926, May 1, 1926, May 17, 1926, May 19, 1926, May 21, 1926, May 22, 1926, June 1, 1926, June 7, 1926, June24, 1926, Sept. 16, 1926, Jan. 29, 1927
Smith, Shirley Wheeler, 1875-1959.
  • Throughout
Spaulding, Oliver Lyman, 1875-
  • Dec. 29, 1914, Sept. 11, 1920
Streit, Clarence Kirshman, 1896-
  • May 30, 1925
Swain, George Robert, 1866-1947.
  • July 9, 1924
Vincent, Bird J., 1880-1931.
  • Apr. 27, 1926
White, Andrew Dickson, 1832-1918.
  • July 16, 1895