Jess C. Denious Papers
The collection of Jess C. Denious papers is as varied as the man himself. It spans the years 1930-1953, ending in June 1953, six months before his death. The collection reflects his business interests as well as his political involvement and civic projects that Denious undertook. There is some personal correspondence in the collection, giving a glimpse of the person Jesse Denious, his family and friends.
The collection was donated to the Manuscript Department of the Historical Society in two groups, by his family. The first group was received in September 1954 and the second group was donated in June 1956. Besides correspondence there are also minutes and reports of the various committees and organizations that he was associated with during the years. Since he was a man holding public office, he gave numerous speeches and some of these are included in the collection. This part of the collection is not very extensive, however, it fills in some of the gaps in information and provides some insight into the personality of Denious. Since the collection starts in 1930, it excludes the years when he was building his business, starting the researcher with a successful, established businessman. The years 1941, 1951-1953 do not contain as much material as the rest of the collection, providing scant information on Denious and his activities. The collection is contained in 14 boxes arranged chronologically with some miscellaneous items such as speeches, undated correspondence, etc., included at the end. Also part of his papers are the responses Denious sent to the letters received.
Jess C. Denious was born July 14, 1879, in Magadore, Ohio, to Oliver and Martha Denious. He had one brother, Wilbur, and two sisters, Ada Miller and Lillie (Hamilton) Taylor. The Denious family came to Kansas in 1883, moving to Neosho County, living first in Galesburg and then in Erie.
In 1897, Jess graduated from high school and taught for awhile in the Neosho county schools. In 1900, he went to Colorado and worked in Denver and Pueblo and there he learned the printing trade. He decided to attend college and went to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa in 1901. In 1902 he transferred to Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas, joining the Kappa Sigma social fraternity, an organization he would remain active in the rest of his life. After graduating in 1905, he became a reporter on the Ottawa Evening Herald, working for Henry J. Allen. In 1907, he became an editor for the Erie Record, staying until 1909, when he became an editor for the Wichita Daily Beacon.
In 1910, he heard about the Santa Fe developing a branch in the western part of the state near Dodge City; so he decided to go there and check out the prospects. He bought a half interest in the Dodge City Globe, then a weekly paper. It soon became a daily, with Denious as the manager and editor. He later bought out the other half and became sole owner. In 1915 he married Juliet Pettijohn and they had two children, a daughter, Martha, born in 1919, and a son, Jess , Jr., born in 1928.
In 1933, Denious decided to run for public office and was elected to the Kansas state senate from the 37th district. (It would become the 35th district after 1935.) While a senator, Denious served on the education, insurance, ways and means, federal and state affairs, assessment and taxation, rules, public utilities, livestock, judicial apportionment, printing, roads and highways, mines and mining, and banks and banking committees. He chaired some of these at various times during his two terms. He was part of the first Legislative Council, which served as an executive committee for the legislature.
Denious remained in the Senate until 1941. He returned to office in 1943 as Lieutenant Governor under Governor Andrew Schoeppel. While Lieutenant Governor he was on the Kansas Industrial Development Commission, which later became the Kansas Development Foundation. He served as chairman of the Commission on Interstate Cooperation as well as promoting the Council of State Governments. He also acted as chairman of the Kansas United War Fund Drive and director of the drive in his home county of Ford.
After retiring from public office, Denious continued to be active in politics (especially Republican), at all levels. He successfully managed Schoeppel’s campaign for U. S. Senator, as well as endorsing candidates at all levels of government.
Denious belonged to many different civic organizations. He belonged to the Dodge City Presbyterian Church, serving at all levels of the church’s government. He was a member of several press organizations, such as the Topeka Press Association, Kansas Press Association, Southwest Kansas Press Association, the Associated Press and the Kansas State Editorial Association. He also belonged to the National Educational Association, Masons, Scottish Rite, Shrine, Elks, Rotary International, the Dodge City and Kansas Chambers of Commerce, Kansas State Historical Society, 4-H Club Committee, Kansas Day Club and the Kansas Authors Club.
As well as his many social and political interests, he was also a successful businessman, involved in many different ventures. As well as being the owner and publisher of the Dodge City Globe, he was president of the Dodge City Broadcasting Company and the owner of KGNO, the Dodge City radio station. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Victory Life Insurance Company and the Western Light and Telephone Company. He also apparently had some kind of financial interest in the Norton Daily Telegram. Denious apparently was a generous man, giving a great deal of money to family, friends and charities.
The Jess C. Denious papers are varied in their content across a wide range of interests. The collection consists of 14 boxes and is arranged chronologically. It covers the years 1930 to June 1953, with very little material for the years 1941, 1951-1953. It includes correspondence of various types, speeches and reports.
The bulk of the material concerns the business ventures of Denious. One can learn a lot about the business and financial side of the newspaper and radio broadcasting industries, as well as the kinds of ethical questions that journalists of the 1930’s and 1940’s faced. There is an interesting series of letters between Denious and the editor of the Norton Daily Telegram, in which he apparently had some financial interest. One can learn about the work of a major stockholder in a Kansas company through his correspondence with Western Light and Telephone Company and Victory Life Insurance. It is interesting to observe how these groups fared during the depression and into the years of World War II.
Denious was a prominent Republican in Kansas during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and there is a great deal of correspondence related to his political relationships, responsibilities and ambitions. During the years he served in the Kansas state senate (1933-1941), he received a lot of correspondence concerning various bills and resolutions coming before the legislature, especially when he was on the Legislative Council and the Ways and Means Committee. A lot of the correspondence came from constituents with some from other sources such as legislators and newspaper men. While he was Lieutenant Governor (1943-1947), he received much correspondence centered around the National United War Fund Drive, an effort to raise money for the war. Denious was state chairman of the drive in Kansas. There was also some correspondence concerning industrial development in Kansas, especially in southwest Kansas, through the Kansas Industrial Development Commission and the Kansas Industrial Commission. Throughout the collection there is a great deal of what could be termed “political courtesy” correspondence. This includes letters of congratulations, sympathy, invitations to speak or make an appearance at state and local functions, etc. There are also a number of letters of recommendations for appointments and requests for letters of reference scattered throughout the collection.
Another area that has extensive material is that concerning the social and civic organizations to which he belonged. Notifications of meetings and general correspondence dealing with events and issues of the groups are included. The Kansas Authors Club, the press associations, Chambers of Commerce, Kansas Day Club, Kansas State Historical Society, the Dodge City Presbyterian Church and various charities such as the Society for Crippled Children, are all represented with regular correspondence with Denious. The amount of correspondence with various groups increases during the years that he was an officer in a particular organization. He also maintained a regular correspondence with Baker University, especially the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
His personal correspondence provides some unique and interesting information both on Denious and his family. There is a series of correspondence between Denious and his sister Lillie Taylor, lasting until her death in 1944. It would seem, from her letters, that for a few years anyway, he was supporting or at least helping to support her. She was unmarried, though she had apparently been married twice, and it isn’t evident how the marriages ended. There is also frequent correspondence between Denious and his brother Wilbur, an attorney in Colorado. The letters discussed both personal and business subjects. There is also correspondence from his wife, Juliet, and their two children, with most of the children’s correspondence coming later in the collection when the children are older.
There is also a great deal of correspondence between William Allen White, the editor of the Emporia Gazette, and Denious. Some of the letters relate to professional and some to personal concerns. Denious also received letters from people such as Edward G. Robinson, Theodore Roosevelt and Helen Keller, though they were of a trivial nature.
An interesting series of letters concerns the world premier of the movie, “Dodge City” that occurred in that city. The premier took place on April 1, 1939 and thus material concerning it can be found in the months preceding it. Included are movie tickets, lists of the celebrities and press who were expected to be there, as well as general correspondence.
At the end of the collection there are some speeches made by Denious for various groups and events. Part of this section also has some speeches made by other people. The speeches are in no particular order and only a few have titles. However, one can readily find out the nature and setting of the address by reading his introductory remarks. This series provides some additional insight into Denious’ political views and his personality.
With the speeches there is another interesting group of papers. It is the case file of the prohibition violation of E. C. Minner, the Ford county attorney. The case is dated 1930 and the folder includes photos, clippings, newspaper copy and transcripts of the hearing. Denious was subpoened to testify for the prosecution which is apparently the reason he has the case file.
This collection is an excellent resource for research concerning the press in Kansas, the Kansas Republican party and state government, as well as several civic organizations across the state. It provides information concerning politics during the depression and war years, as well as the economic state of companies and industries during that period. The prohibition issue is also given some coverage in the collection, through some of his correspondence as well as the Minner case.
Partial list of letters
Correspondence, 1930-1934 (4 folders)
Correspondence, 1936 (4 folders)
Correspondence, January – April, 1937 (4 folders)
Correspondence, May 1937 – March 1939 (5 folders)
Correspondence, April 1939 – March 1940 (4 folders)
Correspondence, April 1940 – July 1942 (5 folders)
Correspondence, August 1942 – April 1943 (5 folders)
Correspondence, May 1943 – February 1944 (5 folders)
Correspondence, March 1944 – January 1945 (5 folders)
Correspondence, February 1945 – December 1945 (5 folders)
Correspondence, 1946 (5 folders)
Correspondence, 1947 – 1948 (7 folders)
Correspondence, January 1949 – August 1950 (6 folders)
Correspondence, 1951-1953, undated; Minner case; speeches (6 folders0
Folder 1: Correspondence, September – December 1950
Folder 2: Correspondence, 1951 – 1953
Folder 3: Correspondence, undated
Folder 4: Minner case
Folder 5: Speeches (1)
Folder 6: Speeches (2)