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Archives: Case Collection

Senator Francis H. Case Collection

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Case Collection Finding Aid

About the Collection & Francis Case

The Case Papers at Dakota Wesleyan University comprise two hundred fifty linear feet of records. They were an essential resource for Richard Chenoweth's "Francis Case: A Political Biography" South Dakota Historical Collections 39 (1978). This excellent biography is a useful point of entry for anyone who intends to use the papers for historical research.

Case estimated that one-half of his staff's time was devoted to constituent services, and the collection includes thousands of letters to and from individuals and extensive correspondence with federal agencies on their behalf. Prominent among Case's constituents were American Indians, and he served them sincerely and well. He tried several times to achieve compensation for the victims of Wounded Knee, and he usually had an American Indian on his staff. His papers include some twelve linear feet of correspondence with and about Indians. Much of this is indexed by personal names.

Following the death of Senator Case in 1962, his heirs presented the collection of his papers and books to the Friends of the Middle Border in Mitchell, South Dakota, to be preserved and used "in connection with Dakota Wesleyan University... to continue the ideas and ideals of Francis Case that popular government and cultural civilization start at the grass roots with the people."

These papers, which document extensively and in considerable detail the services of Francis Case to the State and the Nation, are presently housed in the Layne Memorial Library on the Wesleyan campus in Mitchell.  They comprise 190 steel file drawers 35 standard transfer cases, totaling some 250 linear feet of manuscript and related material.  With the exception of the military service academies, case files relating to veterans, the notebooks of his personal secretary, and his personal political correspondence, 1936-62--all papers covered by this inventory will be open for research use subject to regulations to be announced by the Friends of the Middle Border.  Inquiries concerning access to the Case Papers should be addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Friends of the Middle Border, Mitchell, South Dakota.

This inventory identifies the major series of papers that make up the Case Collection and describes in varying detail their organization, date spans, quantity, and subject content.  To the extent possible the order of the papers is that which was given to the materials by Senator Case and his staff.  Hence, a basic knowledge of the organization of Congress, especially of its committee system, and of the legislative history of the period 1936-62, will be helpful to those wishing to make research use of them.  The papers can be most effectively used in conjunction with the Congressional Record, especially the indexes thereto, and the House and Senate hearings, documents and reports for those years.  There are no personal name indexes to the Case papers.

Series titles or entries in the inventory appear in upper-case type, and are numbered serially on the left margin.  The numbers found at the right margin indicate the file drawer or drawers in which individual series or segments thereof will be found.

Francis H. Case was born in Everly, Iowa, on December 9, 1896, and moved with his parents to Sturgis, South Dakota in 1909.  He attended high school at Sturgis and Hot Springs; graduated from Dakota Wesleyan University (B.A.); and received the Master of Arts Degree from Northwestern University.  Honorary degrees were conferred upon him by Dakota Wesleyan (L.L.D.) and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (L.H.D.)

During World War I Francis Case served in the United States Marine Corps, and was long a member of the Marine Corps Reserve.  In 1926, he married Myrle Graves, of Mitchell, South Dakota.  The couple had two children; Jane Commander, and Francis H. Jr., who died in 1945.

From 1922 to 1942 Mr. Case edited newspapers in Rapid City, Hot Springs, and Custer.  He was active in promoting the potential resources of South Dakota.  He proposed the Black Hills Summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge (1926-27); edited the Jefferson number of the Mount Rushmore Booklet for Gutzon Borglum (1931); and worked effectively for the development of the state's mineral and water resources and highways.

Mr. Case served as a member of the State Regents of Education in South Dakota from 1931-33.  In 1936 he was elected to Congress from the second district and served seven terms.  He was elected to the United States Senate in 1950, was re-elected in 1956, and was seeking a third term at the time of his death in 1962.

Francis Case's legislative record during his 25 years in Congress was identified with water conservation, economies in Government, an effective national defense system, and modern highway development.  His resolution, adopted in 1939-40 by the House Committee on Flood Control, produced the studies which led to the authorization of the Missouri River Flood Control Act of 1944.  His subsequent efforts in this area obtained initial funds for Sheridan Lake, Deerfield, Shadehill, Angostura, Pactola, Ft. Randall and Oahe Reservoirs, and Lewis and Clark Lake.  He authored legislation which now reserves half of Big Bend Dam's power for the use of South Dakota.

Other projects which reflect his effort on behalf of the State include the Sioux, Vermillion, and Fall River flood control projects; the Ellsworth Air Force Base at Rapid City, and the Ordnance Depot at Provo; the Ft. Meade Veterans Hospital at Sturgis; and the Black Hills National Cemetery.  The Missouri River Bridge at Platte, and the Grand River Bridge at Mobridge were sponsored by him, and many post offices and National Guard Armories in the State were made possible through his efforts.

While in the House of Representatives he fought vigorously against "back-door spending", a form of government financing through Treasury borrowing rather than through direct congressional appropriations.  He introduced the first legislative proposal for selling farm surpluses to foreign countries in exchange for foreign currencies, thus anticipating the Food for Peace Program.  He worked successfully for the right of national suffrage for the citizens of the District of Columbia; initiated legislation for the renegotiation of "excess profits" war contracts, thus saving for the United States Treasury more than $12 billion during World War II and the Korean War; and cosponsored the Government Corporations Control Act of 1945 and the Case-Wheeler Water Conservancy Acts of 1937 and 1940.  He also authored the Labor Relations Act of 1946 which, although vetoed by President Truman, became the forerunner of the Taft-Hartley Act; and introduced the Synthetic Fuels Act of 1948.

In the Senate, Francis Case pioneered legislation leading to the Saline Water Acts of 1952-55, which authorized research into ways of converting brackish inland water and sea water into fresh water.  The Desalinization Plant at Webster, South Dakota, resulted from his 1958 bill.  He also sponsored bills creating the President's Advisory Committee on Weather Control, which compiled the most comprehensive data available on that subject; the weather research program of the National Science Foundation; and the cloud seeding studies of the Bureau of Reclamation.

As a member of the House of Representatives he served on the Irrigation, Mines, Indian Affairs, and Appropriations Committees; on the Select Committees on Phosphate Investigations and on Foreign Aid and on the Joint Congressional Committee on Aviation Policy.  While in the Senate, he served on the Public Works, Armed Services, and Appropriations Committees; on the Select Committees on Natural Resources and the Special Committee to Study Censure (of Sen. McCarthy).  In 1960 he was appointed to the Senate Committee on Preparedness.

Explore the collection using the Case Collection Finding Aid. 

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