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Menninger Foundation Archives

Portions of this material may be available on Kansas Memory


Agency Classification

Organizations/Corporations. Menninger Foundation Archives.


Date: 1644 - 2009 not inclusive (bulk 1925-2001)

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group


  1. 2501.00 Cubic foot box(es)

Call Number:

  1. Manuscripts collection 786

Unit ID: 218916

Restrictions: Documents containing identifiable information about individual patients or research subjects or restricted by statute or regulation: Access restricted.
Materials containing identifiable individual patient information, less than a century old, are restricted from general access. Other materials may also have been restricted or redacted due to their sensitive nature, such as personnel and student files, records containing Social Security Numbers, and for other reasons. Contact reference staff for assistance and with questions about accessing records and papers from the Menninger Archives.

Descriptive Information

Admin. Hist. (Brief): Psychiatric center dedicated to treating individuals with mood, personality, anxiety & addictive disorders, teaching mental health professionals, and advancing mental health care through research; founded 1919 as the Menninger Clinic; headquarters in Topeka, Kan., 1919-2003. Details: Moved to Houston, Tex., in 2003.

Abstract: Records tracing the history of Menninger in Topeka, Kan., and its work in the field of mental health. Innovative approaches developed by Menninger staff for treating patients with various mental illnesses are documented in this collection. Menninger was one of the leaders in training psychiatrists and in working with veteran's hospitals & law enforcement agencies to incorporate information about mental illness into staff training. The collection also contains correspondence of various Menninger family members including Clinic founders Charles F. Menninger and sons Karl & William, Charles's wife Flo, and their grandsons Roy & Walter. The collection includes photographs and other audiovisual materials. Institutional records date from the 1920s but are strongest for the years 1940-1999 with a large quantity of the records being from the 1970s through the 1990s. Included are governing board, central administrative, and departmental records. The collection does not contain patient files. The Historic psychiatry collection includes documents pertaining to leaders in the fields of mental health and psychiatry and dates from 1774.

Scope and content:

The Menninger Foundation Archives are divided into three major sub-components: the corporate archives of the foundation as well as institutions and individuals affiliated with the corporation and its predecessor institutions, the personal papers of Menninger family members, and the Historic Psychiatry (Original Documents) collection that had been gathered by the Menninger Archives through donation and purchase.

The largest sub-component is the corporate archives of the foundation and its predecessor institutions. It includes records from Menninger's clinical, educational, and research efforts, as well as from the administration of the foundation overall and its Board of Trustees. This sub-component also includes records and papers from institutions and from individuals who were affiliated with Menninger, including professional faculty and staff, administrators, and some patients and former students.

The second largest sub-component includes the personal papers from Menninger family members. Karl Menninger's papers are the most fully represented, followed by Roy's and Will's. The collection also includes Charles Frederick's papers as well as papers from wives and other children. These personal papers largely focus on family members' professional work, for Menninger and otherwise; but these papers also document the personal lives of the family and may include diaries and family correspondence.

The final major sub-component of the collection are the Historic Psychiatry groupings. The majority of these are from significant individuals in the history of medicine and psychiatry and were for the most part purchased by the Menninger Archives.

Administrative History

Administrative History:

Charles Frederick, or C. F., Menninger married Flora Knisely in Holton, Kansas, in 1885. They had three boys: Karl, born in 1893; Edwin, born in 1896; and William Claire, born in 1899. C. F. worked on his medical studies in the late 1880s and developed a busy practice in Topeka, Kansas. His professional interests primarily in diabetes and internal medicine, C. F. enjoyed discussing medical issues with colleagues and wished to develop a group practice in Topeka with fellow physicians. After visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he particularly focused on persuading his eldest and youngest sons, who were following him into the medical field, to join him in such a practice. Through these beginnings the Menninger Foundation, a significant twentieth-century psychiatric institution in the United States, was founded.

In 1919, Dr. Karl Menninger returned to Topeka from the East Coast, where he had been studying and working. He joined his father in opening the Menninger Diagnostic Clinic. The clinic soon began focusing on psychiatric cases, Dr. Karl's particular interest. In 1925 Dr. Will Menninger began helping his father and brother in the outpatient clinic, and with the purchase of an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Topeka to house patients needing long-term care, the Menninger Sanitarium opened.

Clinical services grew in the following years, and the family opened Southard School for children, one of the first such institutions in the country to focus on child psychiatry. With the publication of The Human Mind in 1930, Dr. Karl Menninger became a household name as an expert in psychiatry. By the early 1940s, as grants from private foundations and the federal government became increasingly important for funding both clinical operations and research projects, the family and the Board of Trustees (mostly family members and their close friends) decided to incorporate a non-profit foundation to facilitate receiving and expending such grant monies. In 1946, Southard School was the last separate entity to incorporate under this foundation, becoming the Children's Division of the Menninger Foundation.

That same year the foundation under Dr. Karl's leadership was instrumental in turning the Winter General Army Hospital in Topeka into a Veterans Administration hospital. This facility gave the Menninger Foundation the opportunity to open the Menninger School of Psychiatry (later called the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Services). While Menninger staff had already been training and educating medical professionals at their clinic, this school revolutionized the training of psychiatrists in the United States, in the midst of a desperate need for such mental health professionals after the end of World War II.

The clinic expanded and remodeled in the early 1950s, becoming the C.F. Menninger Memorial Hospital in 1954, named in honor of Dr. C.F. after his death the previous year. By 1959, Dr. Karl persuaded the Board of Trustees to purchase a large parcel of property from the Security Benefit Association (SBA) located further west on 6th Avenue in Topeka, property on which the foundation would be able to expand its services and which would eventually become known as the West Campus, to differentiate it from the original East Campus facilities. The West Campus included the striking Tower Building, built by the SBA in the late 1920s and finished by 1930. This building was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and instantly became one of the enduring symbols of Menninger.

After the war, foundation activities continued to expand as clinical, research, and educational programs mushroomed. Menninger was progressive in many of its programs, such as in working with the Kansas state hospital system to modernize public mental health care services; in helping law enforcement officials; in educating psychiatrists using both practical clinical and theoretical in-class training; and in introducing psychiatric thought and philosophy into other professional fields, such as industry and law. New generations of Menninger family members continued to work for and lead in the foundation, notably Drs. Roy and Walt, who both served as President. By the 1990s, the institution employed over 1200 employees and had an annual budget in the millions.

Nonetheless, changing national medical trends and insurance policies spelled trouble for the foundation. Long-term in-patient treatment was increasingly becoming phased out, and medical care costs were only rising. Numerous tertiary and off-site programs around the country began seeking affiliations elsewhere or shutting down, and in the late 1990s the Board of Trustees started asking how and whether the foundation could survive without major transformations.

In 2001 the last class graduated from the Menninger School of Psychiatry. At the end of that same year, Dr. Walter Menninger stepped down as the last family member to hold the CEO position in the foundation, handing leadership over to John McKelvey. After numerous struggles and with negative publicity in the Topeka region, the Menninger Clinic announced its plans to relocate to Houston, Texas, in order to affiliate with Baylor Medical College. This move was accomplished in 2003, where the Menninger Clinic continues to operate.

Contents List

Organization/Arr./Level: Collection (no. 786). Generally, if materials from the Menninger Archives came from family members, they have been placed in the Family sub-collection, usually tied to a specific family member. Materials that either definitely came from or most likely came from an organizational unit within the foundation or its predecessor organizations have been kept with the Menninger Foundation or corporate sub-collection. Within that sub-collection are documents, manuscripts, and other papers from organizations associated with the Menninger Foundation, and from individuals who were affiliated with the foundation, typically as staff, patient, and/or student. These materials will sometimes include what appear to be corporate records but have been maintained with the individual because he or she held many positions within the foundation--and these records reflect those numerous positions--and/or because they also contain private papers or papers from his or her work with other institutions. Documents, manuscripts, and other materials that were either definitely or probably bought by or donated to the Menninger Archives by private individuals not associated with the foundation in any way, but who hold historical significance in the mental health field or who wished their materials to be kept by a noted psychiatric institution, are with the Historic Psychiatry (Original Documents) sub-collection.

Contents: Section 1. Menninger family archives -- section 2. Menninger Foundation corporate archives, 1920-1999 (bulk 1940-1999) -- section 3. Historic psychiatry collection.

Items in this list may appear in the format Description (beginning year - ending year). Sometimes dates appear as part of the Description and the phrase [Date not given] appears in the date area.

Related Records or Collections

Finding Aids: Finding aids available from the Kansas Historical Society (Topeka) and on its website, http://kshs.org.

Index Terms


  1. Community mental health services -- Kansas
  2. Community mental health services -- Kansas -- Topeka
  3. Kansas
  4. Menninger, Charles Frederick, 1862-1953
  5. Menninger Clinic
  6. Menninger family
  7. Menninger, Flo V., b. 1863.
  8. Menninger Foundation
  9. Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990
  10. Menninger, Philip Bratton, 1928-
  11. Menninger, Roy W., 1926-
  12. Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966
  13. Menninger, W. Walter
  14. Mental health facilities -- Kansas
  15. Mental health facilities -- Kansas -- Topeka
  16. Psychiatric clinics -- Kansas
  17. Psychiatric clinics -- Kansas -- Topeka
  18. Psychiatrists -- Kansas
  19. Psychiatrists -- Kansas -- Topeka
  20. Psychiatry -- History -- Sources
  21. Psychiatry -- Kansas
  22. Topeka (Kan.)

Creators and Contributors

  1. Menninger Foundation
  2. Menninger, Charles Frederick, 1862-1953
  3. Menninger, Philip Bratton, 1928-
  4. Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990
  5. Menninger, Flo V., b. 1863.
  6. Menninger, Roy W., 1926-
  7. Menninger, W. Walter
  8. Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966
  9. Menninger family
  10. Menninger Clinic

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions: Documents containing identifiable information about individual patients or research subjects or restricted by statute or regulation: Access restricted.
Materials containing identifiable individual patient information, less than a century old, are restricted from general access. Other materials may also have been restricted or redacted due to their sensitive nature, such as personnel and student files, records containing Social Security Numbers, and for other reasons. Contact reference staff for assistance and with questions about accessing records and papers from the Menninger Archives.

Use and reproduction: Information on copyright available from the Kansas Historical Society (Topeka).

Ownership/Custodial Hist.: The Menninger Foundation turned its archival holdings over to the Kansas State Historical Society in 2003 as it began moving operations to Houston, Texas. KSHS already held various small manuscript collections from some Menninger family members and from some other individuals associated with the foundation. Newer accretions, notably from Drs. Roy and Walt Menninger, have since been received by the Historical Society and have been integrated into the larger Menninger Archives holdings.

Action note: Portions of the collection were initially processed by Menninger staff from throughout the 1960s-1990s. More material was minimally processed when transferred to the Kansas Historical Society in 2004. The entire collection was re-processed by KHS staff through funding provided by a grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission in 2011-2013.

Accumulation/Freq. Of Use: More donations may be possible in the future.

The results displayed here have been compiled from a number of databases that may contain variations, inconsistencies, and inadvertent errors in the detailed information presented. For small collections and records series, only basic data is included at the present time. Other descriptions may be less complete than desired; however, we are working to improve them. For more information, please contact our reference staff.