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W.W. Embree Collection (DeKalb)


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Family Records and Diaries

Non-biographical Photographs

Biographical Photographs

Railroad Documentation

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W.W. Embree Collection (DeKalb), 1881-1966 | Northern Illinois University

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Collection Overview

Title: W.W. Embree Collection (DeKalb), 1881-1966

ID: RHC/RC/002

Extent: 63.5 Linear Feet


The W.W. Embree Collection (RC 2) also falls into a logical series of record groups defined by Embree’s collecting activities. The first series (boxes one through seven) contains the family’s genealogy, correspondence, diaries, and records books. The Civil War correspondence found in box 6, folder 15 has been removed. A photocopy of the original letters is available for use by researchers. Series two (boxes eight through fifteen) documents through photographs, the streets, businesses, events, and groups of DeKalb from 1900 through the 1950's. The prints and negatives in this series can be used through a comprehensive index prepared by Waite Embree (see Appendix A)

Series three (boxes twenty-six through thirty-seven) also provides photographic documentation; in this group, the photos and negatives are of the Embree family and DeKalb area citizens. Boxes twenty-eight and twenty-nine contain photos of many DeKalb individuals and families which are arranged alphabetically by surname: an index can be found in Appendix B to this inventory.

Finally, the largest--and perhaps most significant--records series in the collection, series four (boxes forty through seventy-three), gives excellent photographic documentation of rail rolling stock in the Midwest during the period 1900-1950. The photographic prints and negatives illustrate various types of engines and are arranged alphabetically by railroad name, then by type of drive wheel configuration. Three indices arranged by railway, location, and general description are available for the prints and negatives. A large volume of printed materials which complements the photos include timetables, guides, promotional brochures, rail magazines, and approximately one hundred volumes on rail history. A former University Archivist added some volumes to this book collection and contributed a great deal of the organization of this whole series.

In keeping with the agreement concerning the donation of the collection to the University the integrity of arrangement by Embree has been respected whenever possible. The original collection contained four clearly identifiable sets of historical records and the inventory at hand details the largest and most significant of these sets of records.

Date Acquired: 03/00/1967

Subjects: Adams, Thomas J., Boy Scouts, Chicago and North Western Railway Company., Chicago Great Western Railroad Company, Civil Works Administration (U.S.), DeKalb (Ill.)--History., Diaries, DeKalb, Diaries-- 1910-1960, Embree Family, Hemenway Family, Illinois Central Railroad Company, Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Pictorial works, Railroads, United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Correspondence, Wagner Family, World War I, World War II, Wurlitzer Company

Forms of Material: Glass plate negative, Lantern slides., Photographs, Tintype

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Waite W. Embree and his father, Elmer E. Embree, preserved most of the historical materials generated by the family’s business and social activities. Waite, especially, collected a large volume of printed materials and photographs that relate to his main interests--the history of DeKalb and the history of railroading. It is important to note that Embree was a collector: indeed, in the absence of an active county historical society, Waite Embree filled a void in DeKalb County with his keen interest in the preservation of the county’s past for many decades.

    Researchers should note that three record series originally accessioned in the Embree collection have been separated from it.  First, a photo morgue of approximately 13,000 negatives from the DeKalb Chronicle (1940-1956) has been returned to the newspaper.  Second, Embree’s postcard collection may be found in the Center’s postcard collection (RC 199).  Third, the artifacts and war posters have been added to the Page Museum Collection (UA 11) and the Oversize Collection (RC 200) respectively.     The Embree Collection, then provides excellent source material for research in family history, the history of the DeKalb area, and the evolution of railroads during the first half of the twentieth century.  The photographs, especially, provide a unique complement to the other manuscript collections held by the Center documenting DeKalb’s past.

Collection Historical Note

Elmer Embree was born August 6, 1877, at Waverly, Nebraska. His parents died when he was small and he lived with relatives until his graduation from high school in 1896. Shortly afterwards he came to DeKalb and in 1902 he became associated with Frank Mosher of DeKalb in the retail lumber and coal business under the name Mosher and Embree. In 1923 on the death of Mr. Mosher he became sole owner of the firm. In 1936 his sons became partners in the firm under the name of E.E. Embree and Sons. Elmer Embree also owned a citrus grove in Texas and was active in that industry until this death in 1947.

Elmer Embree married Eva Wagner in 1900. Miss Wagner was the daughter of H.H. Wagner, a local dry goods merchant. While not collectors, the Embrees preserved many items of historical interest from both families. Two of Eva’s brothers, Hayden and Elvin Wagner, attended West Point and were involved in American military in Cuba and the Philippine Islands.

Waite Wagner Embree, the eldest of three children born to Elmer and Eva, was born November 27, 1905. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he joined his father and brother, Henry, as a partner in the E.E. Embree and Sons Lumber Yard. Waite’s sister, Nancy, married and now lives in Peoria, Illinois; his brother, Henry, still resides in DeKalb.

Following Elmer Embree’s death in 1947, the lumber yard business dissolved and Waite Embree, after a brief stint as an insurance agent, joined the operating staff at the DeKalb Wurlitzer plant where he worked until his death in a tragic auto accident in 1962. He was survived by his wife, Mattie Welch Embree, and a son, George Daniel, who is living and working in the Netherlands.

As a young man Waite began collecting materials related to Illinois and DeKalb County history. An interest in transportation led him to undertake extensive photography of railroads in and around the DeKalb area and to collect materials important to the study of railroad history. As a long-time member of the DeKalb Kiwanis Club (like his father before him), Waite Embree became accustomed to public speaking. In later years as he became known as a local historian, he began giving lectures on local history to various clubs and school and church groups in the area. The DeKalb Chronicle published various short articles by Mr. Embree and frequently drew on his extensive photograph collection to illustrate articles of historical interest.

Subject/Index Terms

Adams, Thomas J.
Boy Scouts
Chicago and North Western Railway Company.
Chicago Great Western Railroad Company
Civil Works Administration (U.S.)
DeKalb (Ill.)--History.
Diaries, DeKalb
Diaries-- 1910-1960
Embree Family
Hemenway Family
Illinois Central Railroad Company
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Pictorial works
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Correspondence
Wagner Family
World War I
World War II
Wurlitzer Company

Administrative Information

Repository: Northern Illinois University

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions to the collection.

Use Restrictions: Property rights in the collection are held by the Regional History Center; literary rights are dedicated to the public.

Acquisition Source: Mrs. Waite Embree and Mr. George D. Embree

Acquisition Method: Mrs. Waite Embree and Mr. George D. Embree donated the Waite W. Embree Collection to the Regional History Collections of the University Archives in March 1967. Northern Illinois University Archivist J. Joseph Bauxar and history Professor Earl Hayter brought this collection to the University, thus preserving the single most significant group of historical records documenting the heritage of the DeKalb area. In the spring of 1978 Mr. Bauxar transferred the collection to the Regional History Center.

Related Materials: Researchers should note that three record series originally accessioned in the Embree collection have been separated from it. First, a photo morgue of approximately 13,000 negatives from the DeKalb Chronicle (1940-1956) has been returned to the newspaper. Second, Embree’s postcard collection may be found in the Center’s postcard collection (RC 199). Third, the artifacts and war posters have been added to the Page Museum Collection (UA 11) and the Oversize Collection (RC 200) respectively.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I.: Family Records and Diaries],
[Series II.: Non-biographical Photographs],
[Series III.: Biographical Photographs],
[Series IV.: Railroad Documentation],

Series I.: Family Records and Diaries
Box 1
Folder 1: Index to Embree Collection Genealogy Charts
Folder 2: Genealogy-Embree & Collateral Lines
Folder 3: Genealogy & Index-Wagner Collateral Lines
Folder 4: Items related to Embree Genealogical Research
Folder 5: Embree Home Book
Folder 6-10: Correspondence: Waite W. Embree to family, 1924-1928
Folder 11-13: Correspondence: Embree Family, 1910-1962
Folder 14-15: Correspondence: George Embree, 1956-1962
Folder 16-19: Correspondence: W.W. Embree General A-I
Folder 20: Correspondence: W.W. Embree & James Huntley
Folder 21-25: Correspondence: W.W. Embree General J-Z
Folder 26-31: Correspondence: Nancy Embree to Family, 1929-1932
Box 1A
Folder 1-3: Embree Genealogy Notebook
Box 1B-C: Directory Notes
Box 2
Folder 1-2: Correspondence: Nancy Embree to Family, May, 1932-1933
Folder 3: Correspondence: Nancy Embree General
Folder 4-8: Correspondence: Henry Embree to Family, 1926-1930
Folder 9: Correspondence: Henry Embree General
Folder 10: Nancy Embree Hewitt & Family File
Folder 11: Henry Embree File
Folder 12: Mattie Embree File
Folder 13: Mattie Embree-DeKalb Home Garden Club Records
Folder 14: George Embree File
Folder 15: George Embree-Cornel College & Iowa Items
Folder 16-19: W.W. Embree: School Materials, Elementary-High School
Folder 20-26: W.W. Embree: School Papers & Items from the University of Illinois, 1914-1928
Folder 27: W.W. Embree: Address Lists
Box 3
Folder 1: W.W. Embree: Playbills & Programs
Folder 2: W.W. Embree: Baseball Programs & Tickets
Folder 3: W.W. Embree: Financial & Business Records
Folder 4: W.W. Embree: Records as Agent for Millers Mutual Insurance Association, 1954
Folder 5: W.W. Embree: Bills & Receipts
Folder 6: W.W. Embree: Family Newspaper Clippings
Folder 7: W.W. Embree: Typed Copies of Embree Articles
Folder 8: W.W. Embree: Published Articles
Folder 9: W.W. Embree: Lists of Available Embree Speaking Programs
Folder 10: W.W. Embree: Correspondence Regarding Speaking Engagements
Folder 11: W.W. Embree: Speech Scripts, DeKalb & Local History
Folder 12: W.W. Embree: Religious Speeches & Sermons
Folder 13: W.W. Embree: Typed Reference Notes for Speeches
Folder 14: W.W. Embree: Materials for American Guide Entry
Folder 15: W.W. Embree: Notes on Various Subjects
Folder 16: W.W. Embree: North Il. Steam Power Club Materials
Folder 17: W.W. Embree: 1948 Trip West
Folder 18: W.W. Embree: Office of Naval Officer Placement
Folder 19: W.W. Embree: Wedding Trip to Niagara Falls, 1929
Folder 20: W.W. Embree: Wurlitzer Papers
Folder 21-22: W.W. Embree: Boy Scout Materials
Folder 23: W.W. Embree: Personal Items
Folder 24: E.E. Embree: DeKalb City & County Board Meeting Statistics, 1930-1942
Folder 25: E.E. Embree: High School Materials
Folder 26: E.E. Embree: "A History of the Federal Civil Works Administration in DeKalb, Illinois"
Folder 27: E.E. Embree: Federal Civil Works Administration
Folder 28: E.E. Embree: Federal Civil Works Administration Applications
Folder 29: E.E. Embree: Correspondence
Folder 30: E.E. Embree: Correspondence with Mrs. B.F. Herrington
Folder 31: E.E. Embree: DeKalb High School Board Statistics, 1929-1933
Folder 32: E.E. Embree: Descriptions & Lists of Family Travel
Box 4
Folder 1: E.E. Embree: Financial Records & Anderson Estate
Folder 2: E.E. Embree: Cemetery Lots
Folder 3: E.E. Embree: Lumber Yard Financial Statements
Folder 4: E.E. Embree: Financial Records: Texas Abstract
Folder 5: E.E. Embree: Lumber Yard Deeds & Releases
Folder 6: E.E. Embree: Financial Records: Wagner Estates
Folder 7: E.E. Embree: Insurance Policies
Folder 8-9: E.E. Embree: Tax Receipts, 1918-1925
Folder 10: E.E. Embree: Documents Related to Construction of Embree Home, 1902
Folder 11: E.E. Embree: Household Accounts
Folder 12: E.E. Embree: Warranty Deeds & Legal Documents from Ruby's Subdivision
Folder 13: E.E. Embree: Abstract of Title for Ruby's Subdivision
Folder 14: E.E. Embree: Wagner Financial Documents
Folder 15: E.E. Embree: Harry Wagner Bankruptcy Documents, 1919-1929
Folder 16: E.E. Embree: Goodyear Bakery Property
Folder 17: E.E. Embree: Thomas J. & Mary Jane Adams, Estates
Folder 18: E.E. Embree: Adams Family Legal Documents
Folder 19-21: E.E. Embree: Bills & Receipts
Folder 22: E.E. Embree: Warranty Deeds & Mortgages
Folder 23: E.E. Embree: Stock Certificates
Folder 24: E.E. Embree: Improvements on Embree Home
Folder 25: E.E. Embree: Standard Foundry Company Guarantee Fund
Folder 26: E.E. Embree: Texas Citrus Correspondence with George Osborne
Folder 27-29: E.E. Embree: Texas Citrus Record & Correspondence
Folder 30: E.E. Embree: Bank Book & Check Stubs
Folder 31: E.E. Embree: E.E. Embree Estate Documents
Folder 32-33: E.E. Embree: Financial Records: J.F. Glidden Hospital and DeKalb Chronicle Building
Box 5
Folder 1: E.E. Embree: Newspaper Clippings
Folder 2: E.E. Embree: Military & Sons of Veterans Records
Folder 3: E.E. Embree: Personal Items
Folder 4: E.E. Embree: Documents regarding E.E. Embree Funeral & Estate, 1947-1950
Folder 5: E.E. & W.W. Embree-National Lumber Convention, 1927
Folder 6: E.E. & Eva Embree-Wedding, 1900
Folder 7: E.E. & Eva Embree-Invitations
Folder 8: Eva Wagner Embree: School Items
Folder 9: Eva Wagner Embree: Friendship Album
Folder 10: Eva Wagner Embree: Correspondence to Eva Wagner, 1900-1948
Folder 11: Eva Wagner Embree: Correspondence with E.E. Embree
Folder 12-14: Eva Wagner Embree: Correspondence: Congratulations on Births of Children, 1905, 1909, 1912
Folder 15: Eva Wagner Embree: Personal Items
Folder 16: Eva Wagner Embree: Obituary, Funeral
Folder 17: Eva Wagner Embree: Last Will & Testament
Folder 18: Eva Wagner Embree: Items Removed from her Diaries
Folder 19-20: Automotive Materials-Cars & Trucks
Folder 22-27: Eva Wagner Embree Diaries (24), 1910-1933
Box 6
Folder 1: Eva Wagner Embree Index to her Diaries (2), 1910-1918
Folder 2: Eva Wagner Embree Address Book
Folder 3: Eva Wagner Embree Friendship Books (2), 1881-1882, 1887-1892
Folder 4: Arthur L. Wagner File
Folder 5: Elvin Wagner File
Folder 6: Harry Wagner-Clippings & Personal Items
Folder 7: Hayden Wagner File
Folder 8: Hayden Wagner West Point Items
Folder 9: Henry H. Wagner File
Folder 10: Correspondence: Elvin Wagner
Folder 11: Correspondence: from Elvin Wagner in the Philippines, 1902
Folder 12: Correspondence & Documents regarding: Hayden Wagner's appointment to West Point
Folder 13: Correspondence from Hayden Wagner at West Point
Folder 14: Correspondence to H.H. Wagner
Folder 15: Correspondence Civil War Letters to Henry H. Wagner
Folder 16: Correspondence to H.H. Wagner to his wife at Ft. Sam Houston, 1912
Folder 17-18: Correspondence to Nancy Elizabeth Waite Wagner
Folder 19: Description of Trip to Maine by Nancy Wagner, 1914
Folder 20: Wagner Family Invitations
Folder 21: H.H. Wagner Personal Items
Folder 22: Items regarding death of H.H. Wagner, 1914
Folder 23: Correspondence: Elmer Embree to Nina & Harrold Hemenway
Folder 24: Correspondence: Harrold Hemenway to Nina Wagner Hemenway
Folder 25: Correspondence: To Nina Wagner Hemenway from the Family
Folder 26: Correspondence: To Harrold Hemenway
Folder 27: Correspondence: To Nina Hemenway
Folder 28: Correspondence: To Nina Hemenway from H.H. Wagner
Folder 29: Correspondence: To Nina Hemenway from Hayden & Betty Wagner
Folder 30: Correspondence: To Nina & Harrold Hemenway from Eva Embree
Folder 31: Mary Louise Hemenway File
Folder 32: Harrold Hemenway, Jr. File
Folder 33: Marsh Hemenway File
Folder 34: Nina L. Wagner & Harrold Hemenway Wedding
Folder 35: Hemenway Wedding Announcements
Folder 36: Hemenway Family Items
Folder 37: Photographs of Hemenway Children (9)
Folder 38: Goodyear, Vere & Family File
Folder 39: George & Belle Embree Hobbs
Folder 40: Adams-Welch Invitations
Folder 41: T.J. Adams & Mary Welch Adams Personal Items
Folder 42: Correspondence: To Mary Jane Adams
Folder 43: Correspondence: To Thomas J. Adams
Folder 44: James Welch & Family
Folder 45: WWI Printed Materials
Folder 46-48: WWII Printed Materials
Box 7A
Folder 1: Henry Hurlburt Wagner Diary Pages, 1891
Folder 2: W.W. Embree Certificates & Membership Cards
Folder 3: W.W. Embree-pages from Diaries, 1923, 1946-1950, 1957
Folder 4-9: W.W. Embree Diaries (17)  There are 2 volumes for 1939., 1929-1960
Access Restriction: See also contents of folder 3.
Folder 10: W.W. Embree Savings & Loan Account Books (8), 1919-1941
Folder 11: E.E. Embree & W.W. Embree Combined Diary, 1918-1955
Folder 12: B.C. Delselm Diary, 1882
Folder 13: Charlotte Fay (Byrd) Embree Diary, 1944
Folder 14: Nancy (Mrs. H.H.) Wagner Diary, 1891
Folder 15: Scrapbook about Elvin Wagner in the Philippines, 1899-1902
Folder 16: Wagner (Henry Hurlburt) Home Book, 1916
Folder 17: Henry Hurlburt Wagner Diary, 1871
Folder 18: "Autographs" Friendship Book, Harry H. Wagner, 1901-1902
Folder 19: Orders, U.S. Corps of Cadets, 1902
Folder 20: Notepads & Notebooks from E.E. Embree (1), 1927-1937
Box 7B
Folder 1: Notepads & Notebooks from E.E. Embree (6), 1898-1925
Folder 2: W.W. Embree Official Due Book, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 1954
Folder 3-4: Weather Diaries (2), 1893-1897; 1902-1903

Browse by Series:

[Series I.: Family Records and Diaries],
[Series II.: Non-biographical Photographs],
[Series III.: Biographical Photographs],
[Series IV.: Railroad Documentation],

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