Descriptive inventory for the Otto L. Schmidt papers, 1877-1941, bulk 1900-1935

Otto L. Schmidt papers

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Descriptive inventory for the Otto L. Schmidt papers, 1877-1941, bulk 1900-1935

Prepared by Mindy C. Pugh, 1989; rev. by Christopher Tounsel, 2006; rev. 2009.
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Otto L. Schmidt papers, 1877-1941 (inclusive), 1900-1935 (bulk)
Creator: Otto L. Schmidt
Dates: 1877-1941 (inclusive), 1900-1935 (bulk)
Accession numbers: M1975.0032
Bib number: 00066659
Call numbers: MSS Lot S
MSS Oversize S
Size:9 linear feet (17 boxes)
1 oversize folder
Language of material:Collection is written in English.

Provenance statement:

Gift of Petersen family members: Dr. and Mrs. William F. Petersen (Alma Schmidt Petersen) and Dr. and Mrs. Edward S. Petersen (accession #: M1975.0032, M1980.0001, M1980.0003).

Terms governing use:

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.


This collection is open for research use.

Please cite this collection as:

Otto L. Schmidt Papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

This collection should not be confused with the French America collection [manuscript], which Otto Schmidt was instrumental in obtaining for the Chicago Historical Society. The French America collection is cataloged separately.

Related materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the Otto L. Schmidt photograph collection (1980.0259); the Otto L. Schmidt collection of visual materials (1980.0260); and CHS archives.

Also, 43 newspapers, 9 pamphlets, and 5 maps were transferred to the CHS Library from the Schmidt papers and cataloged separately. Many of these newspapers were editions from across the county announcing the assassination of President Lincoln.

Collection Summary +/-

Correspondence, news clippings, and other papers of Dr. Schmidt, a Chicago physician, historian, and German American civic leader. Materials pertain to his leadership of the Illinois State Historical Society, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Illinois Centennial Commission; participation in German American cultural activities; service on the Chicago Board of Education, 1927-1928; and support of relief efforts for Germany following World War I.

The collection primarily consists of incoming letters and copies of outgoing letters, notices, announcements, reports, and other communications and records pertaining to the various cultural, historical, civic, and humanitarian organizations and projects with which Dr. Schmidt was involved from about 1900 to his death in 1935. The strength of the collection lies in the detailed information provided on the organizations and projects with which Dr. Schmidt was affiliated. School report cards, a medical diploma, texts of speeches and articles, acknowledgements of gifts to Chicago Historical Society and other institutions, newspaper clippings, and similar miscellaneous manuscript and printed items also are found in the collection.

Relatively few items pertain to Dr. Schmidt's professional interests; the transcript of the X-ray lawsuit in which he was involved is the most significant of the scant medical materials in the collection. Relatively few personal letters to family or friends and few materials related to his interest in yachting are included.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

Otto Leopold Schmidt, prominent Chicago physician, historian, and leader in the Illinois German American community, was born in Chicago on March 21, 1863. He was the son of Dr. Ernst Schmidt (1830-1900) and Theresa (Weikhardt) Schmidt. Dr. Ernst Schmidt was likewise a respected physician and German American leader, a friend and supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the young Republican Party, who in his later years worked for the pardon of the Haymarket Affair anarchists. Otto Schmidt's three brothers were Frederick R. Schmidt, a druggist; Richard E. Schmidt, an architect; and Louis E. Schmidt, a urologist. In 1891 Dr. Schmidt married Emma Seipp, the daughter of Conrad Seipp, a Chicago brewer. To them were born three children, Ernest C. Schmidt, Alma Petersen (Mrs. William F. Petersen), and Clara Reese (Mrs. Hans H. Reese). They survived him upon his death in Chicago on August 20, 1935, after a long struggle with heart disease and cancer.

Otto L. Schmidt attended the Chicago public schools (graduated from Haven School in 1877) and entered the Chicago Medical College in 1880 (which later became part of Northwestern University), where he received his M.D. in 1883. He then spent two years as an intern at the Cook County Infirmary and then at the Alexian Brothers Hospital. From 1885 to 1887, Schmidt continued his medical studies in Wurzburg, Germany, and Vienna, Austria, after which he joined the staff of the Alexian Brothers Hospital. For many years he also was a consulting physician at Grant Hospital and Michael Reese Hospital and, from 1889 to 1892, served as a medical instructor at Northwestern University.

Dr. Schmidt devoted his practice to internal medicine and gained considerable stature in his field. He was the first physician to use X-rays in Chicago and was sued in the late 1890s by a patient who had suffered burns from the procedure. Dr. Schmidt lost the case.

Dr. Schmidt was deeply interested in preserving the history of Illinois and that of the German American community, and he participated in numerous historical and cultural organizations. From 1914 to 1935, he was president of the Illinois State Historical Society and, from 1923 to 1935, president of the Illinois State Historical Library, having been appointed a trustee by Governor Deneen in 1909. He served as a trustee of the Chicago Historical Society between 1899 and 1932, and was president of its board of trustees from 1923 to 1927. He also served as president of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association from 1926 to 1927 and, from 1916 to 1919, was chairman of the Illinois Centennial Commission, which directed the one-hundredth anniversary celebrations of Illinois statehood.

Dr. Schmidt was also awarded two honorary degrees in his later years, a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1922 and a J.D. from Loyola University in 1930. He was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education in 1927, but resigned the following year. He also was a member of the Union League Club, the Chicago Athletic Club, the Chicago Literary Club, the Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and numerous medical, literary, bibliographical, civic, and philanthropic organizations.

Schmidt's main recreational activity was yachting, to which he devoted his administrative skills by serving as commodore of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club and as president of the Inland Lakes Yachting Association.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

German Americans--Illinois--Chicago
Historic sites--Illinois
Historical museums--Illinois
Historical museums--Illinois--Chicago
Irish Americans--Illinois
Medical personnel--Malpractice--Illinois-Chicago
Museum libraries--Illinois--Chicago
National socialism and education
Textbook bias--Illinois--Chicago
Thompson, James, 1789-1872.--1917 June 2 letter to CHM McIlvaine, Chicago Historical Society
Underground railroad--Illinois
Universities and colleges--Germany
War relief
World War, 1914-1918--Public Opinion
Angle, Paul M. (Paul McClelland), 1900-1975
Baum, Max
Booth, John Wilkes, 1838-1865
Clark, George Rogers, 1752-1818
Cleaveland, Harry Hayes, 1869-1946
Dever, William E. (William Emmett), 1962-1929
Goethe, John Wolfgang von, 1749-1832
Haydon, James Ryan
Hickok, Wild Bill, 1837-1876
Himrod, James Lattimore
Kalkhorst, Anton B. C.
Larson, Laurence Marcellus, 1868-1938
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim, 1729-1781
McAndrew, William, 1863-1937
Miller, Cornelius
Osborne, Georgia Lou
Owen, Thomas Jefferson Vance, 1801-1835
Pease, Theodore Calvin, 1887-1948
Rammelkamp, Charles Henry, 1874-1932
Schmidt, Emma, 1868-1942
Schmidt, Otto Leopold, 1863-1935--Archives
Steuben Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron von, 1730-1794
Thompson, William Hale, 1869-1944
Weber, Jessie Palmer, 1863-1926
Wilkerson, James N.
Family Names:
Seipp family
All-American Exposition (1919 : Chicago, Ill.)
American Cattle Association
American Relief for the German People
Cahokia Courthouse (Cahokia, Ill.)
Chicago (Ill.). Board of Education
Chicago Historical Society
East Prussian Relief Fund
German Federation of Chicago (Ill.)
German-American Society
Gunther Collection (Chicago, Ill.)
Illinois State Historical Libary
Illinois. Centennial Commission
Mississippi Valley Historical Association
Neutral Commission
Vienna Hospital and Medical Relief Fund Committee
German language items
News clippings
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Park (Ill.)
Chicago (Ill.)--Social conditions--20th century
Germany--Economic conditions--20th century
Indiana Dunes (Ind.)--Description and travel
Indiana Dunes State Park (Ind.)
United States--Illinois--Cook County--Chicago

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

The papers are arranged into four series, which approximate the divisions Schmidt maintained among his files. Series 1. Personal files (box 1-5), Series 2. Historical organizations and civic leadership files (box 5-14), Series 3. German American cultural activities (box 14-16), Series 4. World War I, American neutrality and relief efforts for Germany (box 16-17).

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. Personal files (box 1-5)
Series 2. Historical organizations and civic leadership files (box 5-14)
Series 3. German American cultural activities (box 14-16)
Series 4. World War I, American neutrality and relief efforts for Germany (box 16-17)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Elizabeth C. Hartman and Julie Wroblewski using Oxygen editor, 2015.
Language: Finding aid is written in .
Other Finding Aids: Finding aid also submitted to Explore Chicago Collections portal.
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