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James William Denver papers and diary

Call Number: RH MS 19


Business papers and correspondence of James William Denver from 1839-1912. Includes a diary dated May 20, 1850-September 5, 1850, with miscellaneous notes.


  • Creation: 1839 - 1912


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of James William Denver

James William Denver was born on October 23, 1817 in Winchester, Virginia. In 1830, he moved to Ohio with his parents, who settled near Wilmington. Denver studied civil engineering, briefly taught school in Missouri, and then studied the law, graduating from the Cincinnati Law School in 1844. He practiced briefly in Xenia, Ohio, also purchasing and editing a newspaper, the Thomas Jefferson.

In 1845, Denver returned to Missouri, where he practiced law at Platte City. In March 1847, he organized Company H of Missouri's Twelfth Infantry Regiment, serving as captain until the close of the Mexican War in July 1848. He then returned to Platte City and in 1850 moved to California, where he was elected to the State Senate in 1851, appointed secretary of state in 1852, and elected to the United States Congress in 1854.

At the end of his Congressional term, Denver was named Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He resigned from this office when he was briefly appointed secretary and then governor to the Territory of Kansas Governor for a few months in 1857. During his administration as Kansas territorial governor, the capital of Colorado (then part of Kansas Territory) was founded and named Denver in his honor.

From November 1858 to March 1859, Denver served again as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In August 1861 he was commissioned brigadier general in the Union Army. Denver resigned from the Army in March 1863 and resumed practicing law.

Denver remained active in politics the rest of his life, making an unsuccessful attempt to be elected again to the United States Senate and twice acting as Democratic Party presidential nominee in 1876 and 1880. He continued practicing law for the rest of his career.

Denver married Louise Rombach from Clinton County, Ohio, in 1856. They had four children: Katherine, James, Mary Louise, and Matthew. James William Denver died on August 9, 1892 in Washington, D.C.


.75 Linear Feet (364 items in 2 document cases + 1 volume, 63 p. (16 cm.); 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

RH MS 19

Physical Location


Physical Location

RH MS R389

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Doris Harris, 1968, 1969

Related Materials

James William Denver letters, 1817-1892, RH MS 1066, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

James William Denver papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

James William Denver papers, Banc Mss 92/759 c, Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

James William Denver papers, Manuscripts Collection 328, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society.

Separated Materials

Pamphlets concerning Denver, cataloged separately:

Denver, James William. Remarks on the free coinage of silver. Washington, D.C.: Ramsey and Bisbee, 1891. Located in Spencer Research Library at RH C1614.

Denver, James William. California land claims: Speech of J.W. Denver of California: Against the bill to expedite the issuing of patents for confirmed land claims in California: In the House of Representatives, July 30, 1856. S.I.: s.n, 1856? Located in Spencer Research Library at RH Vlt C22.

Denver, James William. A Democratic nomination for 1884: James W. Denver of Ohio. His life, his services, and his availability. Washington: Gray & Clarkson, 1884. Located at Spencer Research Library at RH C1578.



Guide to the James Denver Collection
James William Denver papers and diary
Finding aid prepared by lgg, 1973; km, 1973. Finding aid revised by cl, 2010.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
James William Denver papers and diary, RH MS 19, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States