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Frank H. Woods, Jr. Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Woods-F

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, articles, business files, clippings, documents, memorabilia and photographs regarding the life and career of Frank H. Woods, Jr. and his family.

Correspondence, much of which relates to the Sahara Coal Company and Woods’s relationship with his father, Frank H. Woods, Sr., in running the company, 1935-1952, and other letters which deal with Woods’s business interests. Also, family correspondence, to and from Woods and between other family members, and a large group of condolence letters after his death. A major part of the collection concerns Woods’s civic and philanthropic activities with articles, documents and records, clippings and other items, especially concerning his involvement with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Woods Charitable Foundation’s support of the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial Educational Foundation in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Also, a large collection of portraits, snapshots and family photographs, many of which are in albums commemorating summers spent at the Woods vacation home on Madeline Island in Wisconsin.


  • Creation: 1890-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1935 - 1980



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Frank H. Woods, Jr. Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Frank H. Woods, Jr. Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Frank H. Woods, Jr.

Chicago businessman and philanthropist.

Frank H. Woods Jr. was a successful businessman and civic-minded citizen of two cities: Lincoln, Nebraska, where he was born, and Chicago, where he lived and was active in the arts, community and philanthropic circles.

As one of the three sons of Frank H. Woods, Sr., founder of the Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Company, Frank, Jr. was first associated with that company in 1937 when he became a board member, a position he held as chairman from 1958 until his retirement in 1979. In 1941 his parents endowed the Woods Charitable Fund, Inc., a private philanthropic foundation dedicated to support education, charities, the arts and humanities of Nebraska.

After graduating from Yale, Frank Woods, Jr. settled in Chicago where he began his business career and where he continued the work of the Woods Charitable Fund both in Nebraska and in Illinois. He joined his brothers, Thomas and Henry, and his father, in management of the family-owned Sahara Coal Company in Chicago, becoming its president in 1944 and chairman in 1978. Woods was a longtime board member of several large corporations involved in coal mining, office equipment, and electrical and telephone equipment. Besides the Sahara Coal Company, Woods served from 1933 to 1961 as director of the Automatic Electric Company of Chicago, chairman of the board of the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation of Cleveland from 1958 to 1978, and as a director of the Chicago Harris Trust and Savings Bank from 1958 to 1975.

All his life, Frank H. Woods, Jr. was extremely active in the arts and in charitable and community affairs. He was trustee and life member of the Art Institute of Chicago, life trustee of the University of Chicago, on the board of the Chicago Horticultural and Zoological Societies, president and former director of the Council on Foundations, and either on the board or active in many other non-profit organizations. In the fall of 1949, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson named him chairman of the Governor’s Committee on the Mid-Century White House Conference for Children and Youth, and he headed the Illinois delegation to Washington. Among his many interests was the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation in Red Cloud, Nebraska, to which the Woods Charitable Fund made a long-time commitment.

Woods received many honors and awards, including advanced honorary degrees from Lake Forest College and the University of Nebraska. A descendant of Boone County, Illinois, pioneers, he was deeply interested in his family’s history and he did extensive genealogical work. Married to Louise Brewer in 1935, they had four children: Lisa, Lucia, Brewer and Amy. At his death in 1980, the accolades and memorials indicated how highly he was esteemed as an inspiration and example, not only as a successful businessman but also as a family man, a philanthropist, and a dedicated supporter of the arts and his community.


7.7 Linear Feet (19 boxes)


Material relating to the life and career of businessman and philanthropist Frank H. Woods, Jr. of Chicago, including family, business, personal and philanthropic-related correspondence and general files, clippings, memorabilia and photographs.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence: Business and Personal Associates, 1929-1981
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Correspondence: Family Business and the Sahara Coal Company, 1935-1952
Boxes 3-4
Series 3: Business Office Files, 1941-1978
Box 5
Series 4: Civic and Philanthropic Files, 1923-1993
Boxes 6-8
Series 5: Art-Related Files, 1955-2000
Boxes 9-11
Series 6: Personal Files, 1910-1981
Boxes 12-14
Series 7: Family Files, 1890-1993
Boxes 15-17
Series 8: Photographs, 1905-1976
Boxes 18-19

Collection Stack Location

1 36 7


Gift, Lucia Woods Lindley, 2005.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2007.

Inventory of the Frank H. Woods, Jr. Papers, 1890-2000, bulk 1935-1980
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States