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Personal Papers of James Naismith

Call Number: PP 305


Almonte, Ontario, Canada native James Naismith (1861-1939) served on the staff at the University of Kansas from 1898-1937, teaching Physical Education, acting as the chapel director and University physician, and coaching basketball. The collection consists of a binder with information on a course in kinesiology and a book titled Association Gymnasium Records, 1890-1897, from Springfield, Massachussets, amongst other related materials.


  • Creation: 1898-1979


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

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

Biography of James Naismith

James Naismith was born on November 6, 1861 in Almonte, Ontario, Canada to John Naismith and Margaret Young (b. 1833). He was orphaned in 1873 and raised by family members. Naismith began high school at Almonte High School in 1875, but left less than two years into his studies for four years. He returned to complete his high school equivalency in 1.5 years, graduating in 1883. Naismith received his B.A. in Physical Education from McGill in 1883, where he was active in football, rugby, lacrosse and ground gymnastics. In 1887, he entered the Presbyterian College of Theology in Montreal, earning his religion degree in 1890. That same year he moved to attend Springfield College in Massachusetts. After completing his studies, Naismith accepted a position as professor at Springfield and remained at the college until 1895. On June 2, 1894, James Naismith married Maude E. Sherman (d. 1937) from Springfield, Massachusetts. The couple would have five children: Margaret Mason (1895), Helen Carolyn (1897), John Edwin (1900), Maude Ann (1904) and James Sherman (1913). In 1895, Naismith moved to Denver, Colorado to attend University of Colorado Medical School (Gross Medical College). He graduated with his M.D. in 1898. Naismith joined the faculty of KU in 1898 as an associate professor, chapel director, and eventually became the University physician. He also coached the first KU basketball team. He retired in 1937 and died in 1939. Naismith is famous for inventing the game of basketball in 1891 while he worked at the Ymca in Springfield, Ma. He was a guest of honor at the first Olympics that basketball was played at in Berlin in 1936. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959, which is named the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in his honor.


.50 linear foot (1 box)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The James Naismith Papers date from 1898 to 1979. This collection consists of a binder on the problems in kinesiology and a book, Association Gymnasium Records, 1890-1897, from Springfield, Massachussets. The binder contained course quizzes and papers on kinesiology. Photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings were found laid in. The essay "The Development of Character Through Athletics," by Dr. James Naismith was found laid in at the back of the binder. Several items were found laid in the book, Association Gymnasium Records, including a memorandum from Don W. Henry, a "Record of Physical Development," and a "Class of 1925-[19]26" record sheet.

Physical Location

PP 305

Immediate Source of Acquisition


Related Materials

Consult library staff regarding the availability of related photographs, biographical files, and scrapbooks.

An online exhibit relating to the University of Kansas' 150th anniversary provides additional information about James Naismith: James Naismith’s Life and Legacy

Guide to the James Naismith Collection
Personal Papers of James Naismith
Finding aid prepared by ad, 2005. Revised by skt, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in<language encodinganalog="language">English.</language>
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
James Naismith Collection, University Archives, PP 305, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Repository Details

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

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States