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William Voorhees Judson papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Judson

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection reflects the diversity of William V. Judson's career, consisting of correspondence of over twenty years; manuscript and printed memos, speeches, reports and articles both of engineering and diplomatic subject matter; certificates, clippings, maps and blueprints, and photographs. The materials are particularly rich relating to Judson's activities in Russia, most specifically during the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Also, correspondence of Judson's son Clay Judson regarding his father's career and death.


  • Creation: 1888-1947



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The William Voorhees Judson papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The William Voorhees Judson papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of William Voorhees Judson

American army officer, military engineer and diplomat.

William V. Judson was raised in Indiana, where he was born in 1865. After attending Harvard for a year, he transferred to the United States Military Academy, graduating in 1888 with an appointment as a second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. He also graduated from the U.S. Engineer School in 1891, and for the next dozen years he was involved in various projects related to river and harbor improvements in the Midwest, New York, Puerto Rico, Texas and other southern locations.

In 1904-05, Judson was detailed as military attaché with the Russian Army in the Russo-Japanese War. His first-hand observations and his skilled reports from this experience led to his appointment as a member of the Elihu Root Mission to Russia in 1917. In the intervening years, among other activities, he continued to carry on work on harbor and lighthouse developments, (during which time he invented and patented a type of concrete caissons), consulted on the building of the Panama Canal, served for four years as Engineer Commissioner of the District of Columbia, and devised plans for canal expansion in the Great Lakes region.

An important period of Judson's career was spent in Petrograd, Russia in 1917. His duty with the Root Mission began in May, and when the Mission returned to Washington in July, he remained as a Brigadier-General assigned to duty as Chief of the American Military Mission to Russia and Military Attaché to the American Embassy at Petrograd. At odds with the American Ambassador David R. Francis over how the Bolshevik rise to power could affect the outcome of the war, Judson was recalled to Washington in January, 1918. However, his reports and recommendations regarding American-Russian relations, which reflected his unsuccessful attempts to effect a change in U.S. policy toward Russia, eventually earned him recognition and a Distinguished Service Medal.

Upon return to the U.S., Judson assumed command at the New York Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, N.J., overseeing the departure of more than five hundred thousand troops for France during the height of the influenza epidemic. Succumbing to the disease himself, Judson was honorably discharged from the national army and was reverted to the rank of colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers. With an office in Chicago, he resumed his engineering work as division engineer in charge of river and harbor improvements, which he continued until his death in 1923.

William V. Judson married Alice C. Clay in 1891 and had one son, Clay.


3.8 Linear Feet (6 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Correspondence, manuscript works, documents, drafts, reprints, maps, charts and photographs relating to William Voorhees Judson, military officer, army engineer, political writer and speaker, and military attaché in Russia in 1917. Collection contains much material concerning the Russian Revolution, most of which has been published in Russia in War and Revolution; General William V. Judson's Accounts from Petrograd, 1917-1918, edited by Neil V. Salzman, Kent State University Press, 1998.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1896-1922
Box 1
Series 2: Works, 1901-1922
Boxes 2-4
Series 3: Miscellaneous, 1897-1924
Box 5
Series 4: Clay Judson Material, 1917-1947
Box 6
Series 5: Photographs, 1888-1919
Box 6

Collection Stack Location

1 22 7, 1 30 3

Other Finding Aids

Newberry Library Bulletin, No. 3 (1945), p. 8-12.


Gift of Clay Judson, 1946, 1962 and Alice Ryerson Hayes, 1988.

Separated Materials

The following maps have been removed from the collection for individual cataloging:

  • Maps of the Chicago District, Ill., Ind., Mich. & Wis., 1918. War Dept. Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. 8" x 11"
  • Tentative Plan for Straightening South Bridge, Chicago River Photostat, no date. 7" x 10"
  • Map of the Sanitary District of Chicago and Surrounding Territory 1915, "9 1/2 x 18"
  • Map of the Sanitary District of Chicago showing the Main Works, 1916, "9 1/2 x 18"
  • Sketch Showing Chicago District Lake Front and Local Interior Waterways (blueprint). Dec., 1920, U.S. Engineers Office, Chicago, Ill. 18" x 18"
  • Sketch Showing the Active Commercial Harbor Areas of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Galveston, Hamburg and Liverpool, superimposed upon the shoal submerged lands lying off the Chicago commercial and industrial district (blueprint). Dec., 1915, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. 2 copies. 19" x 30"
  • Map showing bridges over the Chicago River and part of its branches. March, 1905, City of Chicago, Bureau of Engineering. 23" x 35"
  • Map of the State of Ill., showing locations of U.S. river and harbor Improvements in the Chicago District (blueprint). 1893 (Capt. W.L. Marshall, Corps of Eng'rs, U.S. A. in charge). 25" x 33" 1

Appendix - Maps too large for Oversize Box, or more appropriately housed with Chicago maps, now cataloged and stored in the Newberry Map Collection.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, 1946; Virginia H. Smith, 2002

Inventory of the William Voorhees Judson papers, 1888-1947
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States