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Alma Schmidt Petersen papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Petersen

Scope and Content of the Collection

Letters from Alma Schmidt Petersen to her parents, letters and photographs to Petersen from an admirer in the German army, letters from Seipp relatives in Germany to the Schmidts, and one letter from Lea Demarest Taylor to Alma Schmidt Petersen.

Letters from Petersen to her parents describe travel throughout the United States and Europe, and conditions at various spas she resided in with her grandmother for treatments. The letters from her and from aunts and uncles in 1914 describe social life in Germany on the eve of the first World War. The letters from Lt. Fritz Hirschberger, 1914-1915, are in German, and he includes small snapshots of himself, fellow soldiers, officers, and views of the front where he was stationed.

The postcard from Lea Demarest Taylor (daughter of Graham Taylor and manager of the Chicago Commons settlement house) is a thank-you to Alma for the gift of a book about the life of Bernadette Devlin.

Also includes Petersen family correspondence and materials related to Alma's roles in various Chicago clubs and organizations, including Fortnightly of Chicago and Hull-House.


  • Creation: 1909-1988
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1911-1985



Materials are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The Alma Schmidt Petersen papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Alma Schmidt Petersen 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 Alma Schmidt Petersen

Chicago woman graduate of Mt. Vernon Seminary and traveler.

Alma Schmidt was the daughter of Dr. Otto L. Schmidt and Emma (Seipp) Schmidt. She wrote to her parents while on tours of American and European spas with her grandmother (Catherine Orb Seipp), and assorted aunts and uncles, and include her descriptions of social life in Germany in the autumn of 1914.

Alma attended Mt. Vernon Seminary (now Mt. Vernon Campus of George Washington University) in Washington, D.C.; before she died in 1989, she was the oldest surviving graduate of that college. In 1919 she married Dr. William F. Petersen, and that year they took a honeymoon trip up through Banff, Vancouver, Tacoma, Portland, and San Francisco. She was an active member of many Chicago clubs and organizations including the Chicago Chamber Music Society, Hull-House, and the Fortnightly of Chicago.

Alma and William F. Petersen had three children: Edward Schmidt Petersen (1921-2013), Conrad William Petersen (1924-2013), and William Otto Petersen (1926-2012). Alma Schmidt Petersen died in 1989.


0.6 Linear Feet (2 boxes)


Correspondence of Alma Schmidt Petersen of Chicago to her parents (Emma Seipp Schmidt and Dr. Otto L. Schmidt) while on tours of European, Canadian and American spas and vacation sites, and at Mt. Vernon Seminary, 1913-1914. Also letters from various Seipp family members in Germany in 1914, and from a German soldier-admirer, 1914-1915. Topics include attitudes toward the impending war in Europe, the treatment of chronic illness, and the school and vacation experiences of a well-off young woman. Also includes Petersen family correspondence and materials documenting Alma's work with various Chicago clubs and organizations.


Papers arranged by format and alphabetically.

Collection Stack Location

1 27 1


Gift, Edward Schmidt Petersen, 1992. Addtions gift of Zoé André Bakéeff Petersen, unknown date.

Separated Materials

Petersen's files related to Chicago Chamber Music Society moved to Chicago Chamber Music Society records (Midwest MS Chicago Chamber).

Processed by

Alison Hinderliter, 2010.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Alma Schmidt Petersen papers, 1909-1988, bulk 1911-1985
Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2024-05-13: Additional material integrated into the collection.

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States