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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 III.: Biographical Photographs
Box 26
Folder 1-9: W.W. Embree Photographs (107 prints, 1 negative)
Folder 10-20: Embree Family (222, 7)
Folder 21-22: Elmer E. Embree (23, 51)
Folder 23: George D. Embree (121, 5)
Folder 24a-24b: Henry H. Embree (75, 1)
Folder 25: Janice M. Embree (6 prints)
Folder 26a-26b: Mattie Welch Embree (29, 2)
Folder 27a-27b: Nancy L. Embree (105 prints)
Folder 28-33: George D. Embree (14, 203)
Folder 34-36: Waite W. Embree (11, 57, 1 slide)
Folder 37-38: Mattie Embree (16, 30)
Folder 39: Henry H. Embree (7, 6)
Folder 40: Nancy L. Embree (4, 17)
Folder 41: Elmer & Eva Embree (0, 6)
Folder 42-45: Embree Family & Children (24, 82)
Box 27
Folder 1-2: Eva L. Wagner (39)
Folder 3: Harry Wagner (20)
Folder 4: Hayden W. Wagner (13)
Folder 5-6: Nancy Wagner (39)
Folder 7: Nina Wagner (31)
Folder 8-21: Wagner Family (153, 2)
Folder 22: Arthur L. Wagner (11)
Folder 23: Cora Wagner (1)
Folder 24: Elvin H. Wagner (31)
Folder 25: Wagners-Dixon College (11)
Folder 26-35: T.J. Adams Family (86, 2)
Folder 36-38: Ake Family (19)
Folder 39: John Boardman Family (4)
Folder 40: Dr. Earl Butts (2 prints)
Folder 41: Dr. Henry Butts (1 print)
Folder 42: Albert & Myrtle Carney (1)
Folder 43-44: Goodyear Family (55, 22)
Folder 45: George Gowrey (1)
Folder 46: Harrold Hemenway Family (33)
Folder 47: Hobbs Family (24)
Folder 48: C.W. Marsh Family (1)
Box 28 - 29: Photographs of DeKalb Citizens, alphabetically, by size of photo
Supplement: Alphabetical Index of Individuals
Oversize 1: OVS-1
Volume 1: Mrs. Alice A. Winders Photo Album (1 volume)
Folder 1: Seymour Hunt Chandler (1)
Folder 2: Martin Dodge (1)
Folder 3: Tom Murry (1), circa 1930s
Folder 4: Elizabeth Goodyear (1)
Folder 5: Clara Reynolds & Will Miles (1)
Folder 6: Embree Family (3)
Folder 7: Henry Embree (1)
Folder 8: Hayden Wagner's Children (5)
Folder 9: Unidentified (5)
Folder 10: Illinois National Guard (5), 1894, 1903
Folder 11: West Point Class (1)
Folder 12: DeKalb High School Football Team (1), 1919
Folder 13: Hayden Wagner (1)
Folder 14: Kiwanis Club or DeKalb Outing (1), 1924
Folder 15: Nancy Elizabeth Wagner (2), 1911
Folder 16: Souvenir Certificate from Congregational Church (1)
Oversize 2: OVS-2
Folder 1: Haish School, 1902 (1)  2. Glidden School (1)  3. Ellwood School (1)  4. McMurry Training School (1)  5. Formal Dinner (1)  6. Fourth Calvary Troop A, Chicago Stockyards (4)  7. W.W. Wagner (2)  8. Thomas Hopkins (1)  9. Jacob Haish (2)  10. Sophia Ann Haish (1)  11. H.B. Gurler (1), 1902
Folder 2: Granddaughter of Shabbona, 1916 (1,1)  2. Great Granddaughter of Shabbona, 1916 (1,1)  3. White Eagle  (1,1)  4. Brave Hawk (1,1)  5. Queen & Court, 1899 (1,1)  6. Illinois Governor & Staff (1)  7. Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge (2)  8. C&NW Rock River Bridge, Rockford, IL (1), 1916, 1916, 1899
Oversize 3: OVS Shelf- Oversize Shelf photographs listed in the index to photographs at end of inventory (25)
Box 30
Folder 1-169: Unidentified prints & negatives, people and places, DeKalb area (815, 53)
Box 31
Folder 1-50: Unidentified Glass Plate Negatives: Persons (50)
Folder 51-60: Unidentified Glass Plate Negatives: Buildings & Places (10)
Folder 61-68: Unidentified Glass Plate Negatives: Children (8)
Folder 69-71: Unidentified Glass Plate Negatives: Miscellaneeous (3)
Folder 72-75: Glass Plate Negatives: Goodyear Family (4)
Folder 76-92: Glass Plate Negatives: Embree Family (12)
Folder 93-116: Glass Plate Negatives: Wagner Family
Folder 117-120: Glass Plate Negatives: Welch Family (4)
Folder 121-130: Glass Plate Negatives: Crimson Days (10)
Folder 131: Glass Plate Negatives: DeKalb County Monument (1)
Folder 132: Glass Plate Negatives: DeKalb (1)
Folder 133: Glass Plate Negatives: Ottawa (1)
Box 32a
Folder 1-29: Unidentified Glass Plate Negatives: Persons (29)
Folder 30-42: Unidentified Glass Plate Negatives: Buildings & Places (13)
Folder 43-45: Unidentified Glass Plate Negatives: Miscellaneeous (3)
Folder 46-50: Glass Plate Negatives: Embree Family (5)
Folder 51-57: Glass Plate Negatives: ID People (9); Weddell, Rollins, Flubeh, Hamahan, Cornell, Hunt, Adams.
Box 32b
Folder 1-29: Glass Plate Negatives: Wagner Family (29)
Folder 30-38: Glass Plate Negatives: Goodyear Family (9)
Folder 39-43: Glass Plate Negatives: Hemenway Family (5)
Folder 44-52: Glass Plate Negatives: DeKalb (9)
Box 33
Folder 1-4: Glass Plate Negatives: Sycamore (4)
Folder 5-9: Glass Plate Negatives: Chicago (5)
Folder 10-13: Glass Plate Negatives: Ottawa (4)
Folder 14-15: Glass Plate Negatives: Streator (2)
Folder 16: Glass Plate Negatives: Shabbona (1)
Folder 17-19: Glass Plate Negatives: Wisconsin (3)
Folder 20-26: Glass Plate Negatives: Bridges and Rail way (7)
Folder 27-29: Glass Plate Negatives: Animals (3)
Folder 30-31: Glass Plate Negatives: NIU (2)
Folder 32-33: Glass Plate Negatives: Knights of Pythius (2)
Folder 34-38: Glass Plate Negatives: Groups (5)
Folder 39-46: Glass Plate Negatives: NIU (8)
Box 34
Folder 1-25: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Tintypes (25)
Folder 26: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Glass Plate Negative (1)
Folder 27-29: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Carte-de-visite (76)
Folder 30: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Ambrotype (1)
Folder 31: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Framed Photograph (1)
Folder 32-35: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Tintypes in cases (4)
Folder 36: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Ambrotype in case (1)
Folder 37-39: Photographic Historic Artifacts: Daguerreotypes in cases (3)
Item 1: Clasp album (1)
Box 35
Volume 1-5: Photographic Prints, Mounted, many unidentified (5 volumes)
Box 36
Volume 1-11: Photo Albums, many unidentified (11 volumes)
Box 37
Volume 1-4: Photo Albums, many unidentified (additional 16 prints in separate envelope) (4 volumes)
Access Restriction: RESEARCHERS NOTE: Postcards originally found in boxes 38 & 39 of the Embree Collection have been placed in the Center

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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