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Archives: Case Collection

The Senator Francis H. Case Collection

Research Opportunities
in the Francis H. Case Papers
at Dakota Wesleyan University


Photo of Francis Case in 1919
Photo of Francis Case in Washinton, DC


Francis Case was quintessentially a man of his place and time. His place was South Dakota, and he lived in interesting times. Case was first elected to Congress from the second district in 1936. He served seven terms before moving to the Senate. He died in office in 1962.

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.

A self-described "road and water Senator," Case's papers reflect his role in the development of the Missouri River for irrigation and power generation. He had much to do with bringing over six hundred fifty miles of interstate highway to South Dakota, and was instrumental in arranging the extension of I-29 north from Sioux Falls.

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.

As a moderate, responsible senator, Case was trusted by his colleagues with important and sensitive duties. He served on the committee to consider censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy and on the District of Columbia committee, where he was an early advocate of its self-rule and legislative representation. His papers contain a wealth of information about the tens of thousands of South Dakotans and tens of millions of Americans who shared his moderate isolationist views prior to World War II. There is a growing historical interest in the home front during World War II. Here, too, is a rich source of primary information about how the internal affairs of the nation, including those not directly related to the war effort, were managed.

The library staff at Dakota Wesleyan University can share with researchers their close familiarity with the collection. Access is enhanced by a complete inventory, which often extends to the item level for important record groups. The University will make a sincere effort to accommodate the interests and schedules of visiting scholars, who should make arrangements in advance. For more information, contact:

Laurie Langland
University Archivist
McGovern Library
Dakota Wesleyan University
1200 West University Avenue
Mitchell, SD 57301

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