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J. Franklin Witter papers


J. Franklin Witter papers
Witter, J. Franklin
Collection number:
0.50 linear feet
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
University of Maryland
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

The papers of J. Franklin Witter consist of correspondence over a nearly twenty year period, 1926 to 1944. During this period Witter graduated from the University of Maryland (1928), received his Ph.D. in veterinary medicine from Michigan State College (1932), and returned to the University of Maryland to begin his career as a researcher and professor of animal pathology. Witter's letters are primarily addressed to Frances King and detail the ups and downs of their romantic relationship and activities associated with college. Topics discussed include the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), the Student Grange, the Varsity Debate Team, and the difficulties of Witter's decision not to work the family farm as his father expected. A small portion of the collected correspondence is also from and between members of the family of Frances King.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

J. Franklin Witter papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

J.[ohn] Franklin Witter was born on June 11, 1906 in Frederick, Maryland. After graduating from high school, Witter enrolled at the University of Maryland in the fall of 1924 to study agriculture. While at the university, Witter joined the Y.M.C.A., the Student Grange, the Poe Literary Society, the Calvert Forum, the Livestock Club, the Varsity Debating Team, and a fraternity, Delta Psi Omega. He often worked two jobs, one in the dining hall and the other in the Extension Service Office, to help defray the cost of his education. In addition, Witter was a member of three honorary societies: Alpha Zeta, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Phi Kappa Phi. During his senior year, Witter was president of the Y.M.C.A. and a member of the Y.M.C.A. Cabinet, Master of the Student Grange, president of the Inter-fraternity Council, president of the Tri-State Council Christian, Associations, captain of the Debate team, and president of the Livestock Club. In 1928 he received his degree as an Honor Roll student of the College of Agriculture.

After graduation, he taught vocational agricultural courses at West Friendship High School in Lisbon, Maryland for one year. The next year Witter entered the veterinary program at Michigan State College, worked as a graduate assistant in the animal pathology department, and in 1932 received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine.

Rather than open his own veterinary practice, Dr. Witter accepted a teaching position at the University of Maine in 1932 as an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Industry. Within ten years he attained the rank of professor and subsequently served as professor and head of the Department of Animal Pathology for fifteen years. In addition to teaching, Dr. Witter wrote several articles on diseases of poultry and large animals. In 1971 he retired as professor emeritus.

In addition to his teaching career, Dr. Witter served his state and his community. From 1940 to 1942 he was an advisor to the Division of Animal Industry of the State Department of Agriculture. He wass a member of both the American and Maine Veterinary Medicine Associations and served as secretary- treasurer and president of the latter. Dr. Witter also belonged to the Poultry Science Association. In addition, Dr. Witter was a Kiwanian and in 1955 served as the lieutenant governor of the North East District. He was also a member of the Church of Universal Fellowship.

J. Franklin Witter died in September 1982 in Orono, Maine. He was survived by his wife, Verna, whom he married in 1933, and his son, R. L. Witter.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of J. Franklin Witter include material covering the years 1926 to 1944; the majority of the materials falls within the years of 1926 to 1930. The collection consists of a series of letters primarily from J. Franklin Witter to Frances LaRue King. Also included are correspondence to and from members of the King Family, several newsclippings, and two names indexes. Important subjects include: the Student Grange, the Y.M.C.A., the Livestock Club, the Varsity Debate Team, and college student life.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The papers of J. Franklin Witter were donated to the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries by Jay Kalvan in September 1990.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Libby Blanton, July 1991.

Processing note:

Paper clips have been removed and replaced with plastic clips over acid-free paper. All materials were placed in acid-free folders and all folders were placed in an acid-free box.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Jennie A. Levine.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection has been organized as one series:

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1926-1944 (0.5 linear feet)

This series consists of letters written primarily by J. Franklin Witter to his girlfriend, Frances LaRue King. There are also letters to Gertrude King, Frances sister, from boyfriends, girlfriends, and family. The correspondence covers the time when Franklin Witter was a student at the University of Maryland and Frances King was in high school in Frederick, Maryland (1926- 1928); when Frances King was a student at the University of Maryland and Franklin Witter was a high school teacher and later a Michigan State College veterinary student (1928-1931); and when Gertrude King was a student at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland (1932-1934, 1944).

The letters J. Franklin Witter wrote as a college student discuss his relationship with Frances King, campus life, his jobs, his roommates and fraternity brothers, the Student Grange, the Y.M.C.A., the Debate Team, and the Livestock Club. Also included are school news, such as Franklin asking permission from the university president to invite a speaker to campus to discuss the reasons not to have compulsory military training on college campuses; social news, movies Witter saw and trips he made; and family news, such as a tornado destroying his uncle's house and barn. Of special interest is the letter of December 5, 1928 when Franklin describes to Frances how difficult it was to tell his father, Harry Baker Witter, that Franklin, his only son, did not plan to work the family farm upon graduation. The overall tone of these early letters is optimistic as he made plans for the future with Frances as his inspiration.

The tone of the letters changed during the years Frances was a college student and Franklin was teaching high school at West Friendship High School in Lisbon, Maryland. Eventually the Witter-King relationship ended. However, when Franklin was at Michigan State College, he attempted to rekindle his relationship with Frances. After the relationship finally ended, the letters from Witter ceased.

The last of the letters are primarily written to Gertrude King, Frances youngest sister, from G.D. (Jim) Garber, a student at the University of Maryland. Other letters to Gertrude are from boyfriends, girlfriends, and family. The topics covered are basically social news such as dances, dates, parties, and trips.

The collection also includes several letters to Mr. and Mrs. King from their daughters, Frances, Peggy, and Gertrude, as well as two name indexes to the letters; the compiler of these indexes is not identified.

Arrangement is chronological.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence, 1926 series 1box 1folder 1
Correspondence, 1927 series 1box 1folder 2
Correspondence, 1928 series 1box 1folder 3
Correspondence, 1929 series 1box 1folder 4
Correspondence, 1930 series 1box 1folder 5
Correspondence, 1931 series 1box 1folder 6
Correspondence, 1932-1933 series 1box 1folder 7
Correspondence, 1934-1944 series 1box 1folder 8

Related Material

Additional papers of J. Franklin Witter from his later career are located in the Special Collections Department of the Iowa State University, within the Archives of the American Association of Avian Pathologists.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.


Names (Added Entries)