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Ida M. McLain Bradley Papers




This collection consists primarily of diaries, 1908-1946 of Ida M. McLain Bradley, who lived in Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, from 1858 to1949. The contents of her diaries include not only a record of her daily activities, but also an account of the agricultural productivity of the farms where she and her family lived. In addition to her diaries (twenty-four in all), this collection includes a book of Mrs. Bradley's poetry.

This microfilmed manuscript collection circulates through interlibrary loan from KSHS. Please indicate the reel number(s) when requesting microfilm.


Ida M. McLain Bradley


Diaries, 1908-1946


Microfilm Reels: MF 2420-MF 2422

Collection 5013


Ida May McLain was born in Carroll County, Ohio, on March 22, 1858. Two years later, the McLain family moved by flatboat to Van Buren County, Iowa. The McLain family settled in Pierceville to live near Ida's maternal grandmother, Jemima Lowe. Another impetus for the move may have been the impending Civil War, and her father's belief that his family would be better off if they were far removed from the area of hostilities. Iowa did not institute a military draft until 1865. Unfortunately, Ida's father, John Jacob McLain, was not able to enjoy his new homestead for long. In 1862, he contracted pneumonia and died.

In 1874, when Ida McLain was sixteen, she moved with her eldest brother, Thomas, and his family to Cantril, Iowa. She finished her last year of high school in Cantril, and it was to the Cantril Christian Church where she transferred her membership. It was while Ida was finishing her schooling that she met John Clinton ("Clint") Bradley, whom she would marry in 1882. Ida completed high school shortly before her seventeenth birthday, and began teaching school early the next month.

John Clinton Bradley worked as a farmer and laborer, and along with Ida, managed a farm with pigs, chickens, and cattle. They also tended a large garden and orchard, all of which went a long way toward providing for the new family.

In July of 1883, Ida gave birth to her first child, Mettie Rene Bradley. It was a difficult labor, and Ida nearly died. Mettie herself died about five weeks later. A few months later (January of 1884), the Bradleys left Iowa for Marion County, Kansas. They settled in Common School district No. 42, where Clint worked as the clerk of the school board. Clint's brother-in-law, T. J. McLain, was the teacher.

By the spring of 1887 the Bradley family, now with a new son named Arthur Clinton Bradley, moved to Greenwood County, Kansas, near the town of Eureka. Soon, Ida gave birth to another son, Audley Freeman Bradley, in July of that year. It was there that the Bradleys tried to establish a new farm. However, an unusually wet and rainy season prevented the cultivation of a successful crop and their creditors foreclosed on their farm. In 1888, the family picked up again, heading this time for Saline County, Missouri, and farmed there for the next ten years.

Early in 1898, the Bradleys moved back to Kansas, this time to Linn County. The family had already sold the farm they had in Missouri to one of the earliest corporate farming ventures in the country. By this time, the Bradley family had another member – Don McLain Bradley. When the family moved to Linn County, near Blue Mound, it planted its roots more deeply this time. Clint and Ida remained at this farmstead of eighty-one acres for the rest of their lives. Clint and Ida had three more children: Ferdinand Joseph Bradley (1890-1903), Aubrey J. Bradley (1893-1976) and Eda May Bradley (1897-1962). Clint died in 1932, and Ida May McLain Bradley lived until 1949.

Scope and Content

There are twenty-six items in this collection, twenty-five diaries and a volume of Ida M. McLain Bradley's poetry.

The Daybook (item 1). Ida May Bradley, who moved from Ohio, to Iowa, to Kansas, to Missouri, and back to Kansas, kept diaries for almost half of her life. She began what is believed to be her first volume of these diaries in 1908 at the age of fifty, after she and her husband settled in Blue Mound and the last of her children had been born. The first item appearing in this microfilm is the Daybook, which is a typescript copy of Mrs. Bradley's earliest diary, transcribed by Harold Keith Bradley (Ada M. Bradley's grandson) in 1997. As the original 1908 diary was too fragile and tattered to be handled or even microfilmed, Mr. Bradley transcribed it for research use. Also, the typescript copy includes selected diary entries from later volumes, as well as most of her poetry from the last volume in this collection. The daybook is the single most useful research tool in this collection.

The Diaries (items 2-25). Most of the books Mrs. Bradley used to record her diaries were financial ledgers or were the spiral notebooks more typically found in elementary schools. Many of diary entries in diaries 2 through 25 (see the Container List) were originally written in pencil and were later re-traced in ink. Whether or not it was Ida who re-traced the original writing is impossible to determine, however, the handwriting appears to be the same.

Researchers using these diaries should be aware that they do not follow exact chronological order. There are significant gaps of time in between some of the volumes. Whether or not there are volumes missing is impossible to determine. Diary number six is a five-year diary beginning in 1935, with citations dated as late as 1944. Moreover, the volume begins with entries for the year 1937; entries for the year 1935 appear late in this volume, and are preceded with entries for a variety of other years. Diary 16 is the smallest diary in terms of its dimensions, but it covers a nearly three year span, from August of 1941 to Apr of 1944. Diary 18, begun when Mrs. Bradley was eighty-four years old, spans from September 1942 until July 1943. The subsequent three volumes are included within the date range of volume 18. The last diary, started in 1945 when Mrs. Bradley was eighty-seven years old, bear dates that fluctuate back and forth between 1945 and 1946. In fact, Mrs. Bradley admitted on the first page of that volume that her memory was failing her.

Most of the diary entries are rather brief; one or two lines in most cases. In terms of content, most entries pertain to matters of immediate interest to Mrs. Bradley. For her, living on a farm in east central Kansas, this meant farm chores, and the activities of her family and friends. Only on rare occasions did she write of anything outside of her neighborhood. Most of the diaries, especially the early ones, contain extensive accounts of the productivity of the Bradley farm. Mrs. Bradley carefully noted the number of eggs laid, the amount of cream and butter her cows produced, as well as the number of chickens, cows and hogs sold. In various places of some volumes, Mrs. Bradley also randomly wrote about such miscellaneous things as governments of foreign countries, state capitals, or anything else that came to mind at the moment. These types of entries seemed to be of the nature of what she likely learned in grammar school. In addition to citations on her daily activities, Mrs. Bradley also wrote poetry, and some of them appear in her diaries. The type of information which seems to be most prominent throughout her history of her diary writing concerns the weather, and how it affected the farm.

A few entries include mentions of World War I and the flu epidemic of 1918-1919. The flu epidemic had not only a profound international impact, but was also felt in and among Mrs. Bradley's friends and family.

Over time, the nature of her diary entries began to change. The entries became longer (perhaps she had more time to write more lengthy entries), and the assiduously kept records of agricultural production began to taper off. Foreign matters never had a great deal of interest to her. She did not mention the attack on Pearl Harbor until December 11, 1941, four days after it took place. ventually she began attaching newspaper clippings to the pages. Most of these clippings concerned issues outside of the realm of her local surroundings, such as the World War II (apparently, she preferred gathering clippings writing about outside matters). The most notable difference in the composition of her later diary keeping is the fact that she wrote a great deal about memories of her earlier life. The later diaries almost serve as Mrs. Bradley's autobiography.

The Book of Poetry (item 26). In addition to her duties as a farm wife and mother, Ida May Bradley dedicated some of her spare time to composing verse. Most of these poems appear in typescript form in the back of the Daybook.

The Bradley diaries reveal the fact that the family lived a quiet and simple life in east central Kansas in the early twentieth century. The most outstanding and notable achievement of any of radley's children (according to the diaries) was the World War I tour of duty of their youngest son Aubrey (even this receives only a brief mention in her writing). Otherwise, the family was concerned about such matters as cultivating their farm, raising a crop, the weather, raising children, daily chores, the health of the members of the family, school attendance, neighbors, extended family, and other matters of local and immediate concern.

Contents List

Microfilm Reel: MF 2420

Series I: The Daybook

v. 1. 1908 April 13-1945 April 14 (typescript by Harold Keith Bradley)

Series II: The Diaries

v. 2. 1916 April 29-1918 Aug 24
v. 3. 1918 Sept 4-1926 Dec 7
v. 4. 1927 Jan 3-1928 Jul 16
v. 5. 1929 Oct 29-1933 Jan 28
v. 6. 1935-1944 (five year booklet, dates are erratic)
v. 7. 1935 Jan 1-1936 Jan 28
v. 8. 1936 April 14-1937 Feb 28
v. 9. 1937 Mar 1-1937 Feb 8
v. 10. 1938 Feb 9-1938 Dec 4

Microfilm Reel: MF 2421

v. 11. 1938 Dec 19-1938 Aug 7
v. 12. 1939 Aug 8-1940 June 6
v. 13. 1940 June 7-1940 Oct 27
v. 14. 1940 Oct 29-1941 Jul 14
v. 15. 1941 Jun 4-1942 Mar 9
v. 16. 1941 Aug 10-1944 Apr 3 (dates of this diary overlap later volumes)
v. 17. 1942 Mar 10-1942 Sep 5
v. 18. 1942 Sep 6-1943 Jul 3 (dates of this diary overlap later volumes)
v. 19. 1942 Oct 1
v. 20. 1942 Oct 2-1943 May 23
v. 21. 1943 May 30-1943 Aug 23

Microfilm Reel: MF 2422

v. 22. 1943 Aug 26-1944 Apr 12
v. 23. 1944 Feb 7-1944 Sep 8
v. 24. 1944 Sep 11-1945 Jun 25
v. 25. 1945 Jul 19-1946 ? (dates are erratic)

Series III: Book of Poetry

v. 26. Book of Poetry

Index Terms

Access Points

American diaries.

Blue Mound (Kan.)

Farm life—Kansas—Blue Mound.

Rural conditions.

Bradley, John Clinton, 1859-1832.

Bradley, Arthur Clinton, 1855-1962.

Bradley, Don McLain, 1888-1975.

Bradley, Aubrey J., 1893-1976.

Bradley, Eda May, 1897-1962.

Other Correspondents

Bradley, John Clinton, 1859-1932.

Bradley, Arthur Clinton, 1885-1962.

Bradley, Audley Freeman, 1887-1977.

Bradley, Don McLain, 1888-1975.

Bradley, Aubrey J., 1893-1976.

Bradley, Eda May, 1897-1962.

Additional Information for Researchers



Publication rights

The Kansas State Historical Society does not own literary property rights to these records.

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Preferred citation

[identification of individual item and/or series], Ida M. Bradley Diaries, 1908-1946, ms. collection 5013/microfilm MF 2420 -- MF 2422, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

Acquisition information

Keith Bradley, Loan, 1998; accession no. 1998-058.01.

Processing history

Processed by Robert A. McInnes in 1999.

Microfilm. Topeka, Kan. : Kansas State Historical Society, 1999. Lab. no. 49059—49061.


The information for compiling the biographical notes and Scope and Content Notes came genealogical notes generated by Harold Keith Bradley, and from Mrs. Bradley's diaries.