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James Dewey family collection

Call Number: RH MS 1575


The James Dewey family collection consists mainly of his parents' letters, papers, and photographs concerning their service in World War II. Dewey's father, Ernest Dewey, served in the army and his mother, Helen Scamell, in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). There are also two generations of family photographs from his mother’s side, including some items from his grandfather, Ralph Scamell, an architect in Topeka, Kansas.


  • Creation: 1893-2002 (bulk 1910-1960)

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 Dewey family

James Dewey’s paternal grandfather, Ernest Alva Dewey (1905-1953), was born in Farlinville, Linn County, Kansas in 1905. In 1924 he married Violet Hampton and moved to Hutchinson, Reno County, Kansas where he was a radio newscaster, a printer, book reviewer, and reporter for The News-Herald. Ernest Alva and Violet Dewey had two children, Earnest Wayne Dewey and Marcheta Rose (Dewey) Lanning-Farley.

Ernest Wayne Dewey (1925-1982) was born in Hutchinson, KS. He enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II after graduating high school in 1943. At the age of 17, Dewey received a commendation for undergoing chemical weapons testing in Maryland. He went on to serve in central Europe with the 94th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 376th Infantry Regiment, which earned him multiple commendations for gaining enemy territory even when the regiment was outnumbered.

Upon returning from World War II, Ernest Wayne Dewey went to the University of Kansas (KU) in Lawrence, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s degree in 1950. He received his doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1954. Dewey taught philosophy at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater from 1954 to 1960, at University of South Dakota in Vermillion from 1960-1966, and finally at University of Toledo in Ohio from 1966 until his death in 1982.

In 1949 Earnest Wayne Dewey married Helen Josephine Scamell in Lawrence, Kansas and they had three children: Fred, Ernest and James.

Helen Josephine Scamell (1924- ) grew up in Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas. She began college at the University of Kansas, but in September of 1944 she went to work for the Navy in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She trained in the Bronx, New York and in Milledgeville, Georgia and served most of her time in the Disbursing Office of the US Navy Hospital in San Diego, California. She returned to KU after being honorably discharged in August 1946.

Helen Scamell’s father, Ralph Eugene Scamell (1888-1981), was an architect in Topeka, Kansas. He was born in Atchison, Kansas and earned a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from KU in 1911. In 1912 Ralph Scamell married Eva Charlotte Bernhard (1889-1981) in Lawrence. She graduated from KU in 1910 with a degree in German languages. Together they had 4 children: Charlotte (Scamell) Adams (1915-1997), Ralph Bernhard Scamell (1919-2003), Helen Josephine (Scamell) Dewey (1924-), and Evalyn Virginia Scamell (1925-2005).

Helen Scamell’s mother, Eva (Bernhard) Scamell, had 9 brothers and sisters. Eva's father, Joseph Carvossa Bernhard (1850-1914), was a Methodist minister married to Charlotte White Flemming (1852-1928). Their 10 children included Clarence, Leslie, Emma, Inez, Alice, Alva, Vera, Lillie and Rillie (twins), and Eva Charlotte. According to a note in this collection, they were all graduates of the University of Kansas.

Alva Douglas Bernhard (1886-1955) became a Vice Admiral in the US Navy, serving in WWI and WWII, and Lillie Scamell married KU economics professor and author John Ise.

[Information from collection materials and]


1.25 Linear Feet (1.25 linear feet (2 boxes) + 1 oversize box, 3 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

RH MS 1575

Physical Location

RH MS Q497

Physical Location

RH PH P2847(ff)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, James Dewey, 2022.

Processing Information

Folder titles are derived from labels on albums and envelopes when labels were present when the collection arrived at Spencer. Otherwise, folder titles are in [brackets], indicating that staff created the titles based on their understanding of the content.



Guide to the James Dewey family collection
James Dewey family collection
Finding aid prepared by eje. Finding aid encoded by eje.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
James Dewey family papers, RH MS 1575, 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