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Simons family papers

Call Number: RH MS 1503


This collection consists of diaries, correspondence, copies of speeches and talks, news clippings, genealogical information, and other related materials from the Simons family of Kansas. The bulk of the collection relates to W.C. Simons, founder of the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper of Lawrence, Kansas.


  • Creation: approximately 1791-1960 (bulk 1920s-1952)


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

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

History of the Simons family

The first Simons family member to come to the United States was probably William Simonds, who sailed on the ship Safety and arrived in the Colonies in 1635. The Simons family settled in Enfield, Connecticut, and Benjamin Simons served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

Adolphus Ezra Simons, born February 7, 1835 in Ogden, New York, enlisted during the Civil War and served as a Fife Major in the 37th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, mustering out in the spring of 1866. He thereafter married Jennie Bessie Gowdy on July 3, 1866. Jennie Gowdy Simons had been born in Constantia, New York on April 12, 1836, the daughter of an abolitionist and temperance worker, Collins Gowdy.

Adolphus and Jennie Simons had five children, including Wilford Collins (W.C. or "Collie" to his family), who was born July 8, 1871 in Owatonna, Minnesota. Adolphus Simons died October 29, 1877 in Fairbault, Minnesota, and Jennie Simons eventually moved her family to western Kansas, keeping her children together. She had been educated at Hillsdale College and taught school for many years.

In 1891, at the age of 20, W.C. Simons moved to Lawrence, Kansas and leased the Lawrence Record with two partners, his younger brother Louis Adolphus and John Leeford Brady. This venture did not last long, and the partners soon started another paper, the Lawrence World. L. A. Simons sold his portion of the company to his elder brother and Brady. Over the next several years, they consolidated several newspapers in Lawrence to create the Lawrence Journal-World. Brady sold his portion of the company to Simons in 1914, who remained in the publishing business for over 60 years, until his death in May 1952.

W.C. Simons married Gertrude Reineke in 1894. She had a background as a movie and stage show pianist. The couple had 5 children: Blanche (married O.W. Maloney); Janet (married L. A. McNalley); Dolph C.; Dorothea (married H.F. Johnson); and John Louis Simons, who pre-deceased his parents. W.C. was interested in genealogy and in history more generally and served as president of the Kansas State Historical Society, Sons and Daughters of New England, Douglas County Old Settlers Association, and Douglas County Historical Society at one time or another. He also held roles in the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and was the first president of the Lawrence Rotary Club. Gertrude (Reineke) Simons died in 1948, and W.C. died in 1952.

Dolph Simons, Sr. was born in 1904 and joined his father's newspaper. He was highly active in the newspaper industry throughout his career, including serving as president of the Kansas Press Association in 1939, director of the Associated Press (AP) in the 1950s, and serving as a Pullitzer Prize juror.

Dolph Simons, Sr. married Marie Nelson. They had two children, Dolph Simons, Jr. and John Simons. Dolph Jr. followed his father's and grandfather's footsteps in the Lawrence Journal-World; Dolph Jr. also became involved in cable television, founding Sunflower Cable in Lawrence, Kansas, and Columbine Cablevision in Ft. Collins, Colorado. He started WorldWest in 1994, which owned newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. He led the Journal-World's transition into an online news site as early as 1995. Other World Company expansions in the latter part of the 20th century included Sunflower Publishing for niche publications; a number of weekly newspapers in Shawnee and Tonganoxie, Kansas as well as others in eastern Kansas; and several other websites regarding University of Kansas athletics and news, as well as information about Lawrence, Kansas.

W. C., Dolph C., Sr., and Dolph C., Jr. are all members of the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Brothers Dan and Dolph Simons III became involved in the World Company's leadership in 2004, Dan Simons overseeing digital media assets and Dolph III overseeing newspapers. In 2016 the family, after 125 years in publishing, sold the Lawrence Journal-World and other media assets to Ogden Newspapers, another family-owned publishing business headquartered in Wheeling, West Virginia.

[Information in this biographical note taken from Pierron, G. Joseph. "Simons Family" On the Kansas Historical Society's Kansapedia website, accessed 20 August 2019. and from Lawrence Journal-World, "Simons family selling Journal-World to Ogden Newspapers, Inc." June 17, 2016, accessed 20 August 2019.]


3.25 Linear Feet (4 boxes + 1 oversize box, 3 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

Some of the earliest materials in the collection include newspaper clippings about the Kansas Territory, gathered by W.C. Simons that he apparently meant to give to the Douglas County Historical Society but never did. Other 19th century materials in the collection include a diary and what appear to be other diary fragments from W.C.'s mother, Jennie Bessie Gowdy Simons, some correspondence between family members, and other miscellaneous items.

The bulk of the collection consists of personal correspondence from W.C. Simons (signature is typically "WCS"), dating from the 1920s until his death in 1952. There is a small amount of personal correspondence from W.C.'s son Dolph, Sr. There is also a great many sympathy letters, cards, and newspaper announcements regarding Gertrude's and W.C.'s deaths.

Also in the collection is genealogical and biographical data about W.C., the Simons family, and related family branches. Additionally, there are copies of talks and notes for speeches W.C. gave to various organizations and some information about two international trips he and his wife Gertrude took, as well as some documentation from W.C.'s involvement with various organizations, including the Sons and Daughters of New England, the Douglas County Historical Society in Kansas, and W.C.'s newspaper affiliations.

Physical Location

RH MS 1503

Physical Location

RH MS R458

Physical Location

RH MS R459

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Dolph Simons, Jr., 2019.



Guide to the Simons Family Collection
Simons family papers
Finding aid prepared by mwh, 2019. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2019. Finding aid revised by ew, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Simons family papers, RH MS 1503, 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