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Hepburn, William Murray, 1874-



  • Existence: July 30, 1874 - November 13, 1963

Biographical Information

William Murray Hepburn, author, historian, librarian, and administrator, was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia on July 30, 1874. He received his B.A. from Dalhousie University in 1895 and an M.A. in 1898. In 1903 he received a library science degree from the New York State Library School. He became a citizen of the United States in 1926.

Prior to arriving at Purdue University he taught at Amherst Academy in Nova Scotia, and was a librarian at both the New York State Library and the John Crerar Library, a public research library for the natural and social sciences in Chicago, Illinois.

Hepburn’s career at Purdue began in 1904 and spanned forty years. He led the Purdue library system through construction of the first free standing library on campus, the General Library, in 1913; a major stack addition in 1934; and the creation in the 1920s of departmental libraries for agriculture, biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, mathematics, pharmacy, and physics. Hepburn is credited with developing many of the Libraries’ early special collections, including the monograph collections. As a bibliographer he compiled a number of guides to collections. He also served as bibliographer and curator for the Goss Library of the History of Engineering for some time.

Hepburn was active in the Indiana Library Association and served on many committees, as well as serving as its president in 1910. He was also active in the American Library Association. During World War I he was the state director of the Library War Service for Indiana from 1917-18, and in 1918 served as the librarian of Camp Humphreys, Virginia.

Hepburn was a member of the Indiana Historical Society and a charter member of the Board of Directors of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association, serving from 1925 to 1957. He was also active in the Parlor Club, as an officer from 1921-1960 and as its archivist from 1932-1960, and the University Club where he served as its president, sat on the board of the Tippecanoe County Tuberculosis Association, and served on many university committees. He was a noted local historian and author. His most famous work was Purdue University: 50 Years of Progress (1924) which he co-authored.

Hepburn retired from Purdue in 1944 and died in Richmond, Indiana on November 13, 1963.


MSF 173, William M. Hepburn papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.


Purdue University. “Prof. W. M. Hepburn to Help in War Work.” Purdue Exponent, 29, no. 187, May 15, 1918. Accessed March 27, 2021.

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

Bruce Rogers papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSA 35
Scope and Contents Correspondence, examples of work, photographs and ephemera relating to the life and career of typographer and book designer Bruce Rogers.
Dates: 1889-1957; Majority of material found within 1900s-1957

Hepburn and Sears papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSF 503
Scope and Contents This collection contains information compiled by William Hepburn and Louis Martin Sears for an unpublished book on the history of Purdue's academic departments: Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, the Engineering Experiment Station, Engineering Extension Service, Agriculture, Indiana Experiment Station, Agricultural Extension, Pharmacy, Home Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Education, English, History and Economics, Modern...
Dates: 1922 - 1928

William M. Hepburn papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 173
Scope and Contents Materials relate to Purdue history, Purdue faculty members, the Purdue Library system, and various individuals affiliated with Purdue history such as Charles Major, Bruce Rogers, and Richard Owen. The collection also includes Hepburn's personal and professional correspondence, personal documents such as a passport and articles on Hepburn's birthplace, a collection of books, and publications from both the Indiana Library Association and the American Library Association.An unknown...
Dates: 1880 - 1962

New Harmony collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 145
Scope and Contents The New Harmony collection contains materials from and information related to the New Harmony community in Southern Indiana and the family of Robert Owen, one of its leaders. The collection includes correspondence, newspapers, illustrations, maps, pamphlets, and historical research about New Harmony.
Dates: 1820-1980s