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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 quantity of Hepburn’s material are currently housed in various collections for 19th and 20th century Purdue faculty and staff members. These materials include bibliographies compiled by Hepburn on Purdue faculty and staff, and correspondence related to these bibliographies and collection donations. These material were placed in faculty and staff collections by Hepburn.


  • 1880 - 1962


Access Information

This collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Portions of material in this collection are in the public domain. Other material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

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 in addition to 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 with historian Louis Martin Sears.

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


7.35 Cubic Feet (12 manuscript boxes and three cubic foot boxes)

Language of Materials



The William M. Hepburn papers are arranged into six series.
  1. Purdue Library Administration
  2. Research and Writing
  3. Correspondence
  4. Professional
  5. Personal
  6. Books

Acquisition Information

The majority of the collection was acquired from Hepburn on unknown dates. The John Purdue research materials were donated on October 18, 1983 by Margaret Hepburn Funston, daughter of William Hepburn. One eight-page piece of correspondence between Hepburn and Eva Wilson Smith was donated by Eva Smith on an unknown date.

Separated Materials

Some materials intended for other archival collections were originally housed with the William M. Hepburn papers. Those materials have been moved to the appropriate locations: papers related to the Purdue Weather Bureau were moved to the James H. Smart papers as addition 01; a collection of Purdue University Engineering reports was separated and established as a new collection; three items were moved to the New Harmony collection; and three audio reels were moved to the Collection of Purdue University Related audio recordings. One publication, "Concerning Agriculture in Purdue University" by James H. Smart, was separated from the collection and is now part of the Archives and Special Collections Purdue History Book Collection (S790.3 .S637).

Processing Information

Collection material was rehoused in archival boxes and folders; paperclips and rusty staples were removed. Documents in binders were removed and placed in folders.
William M. Hepburn papers
In Progress
Sarah Kenny
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition.

Revision Statements

  • 2021-03-26: Biographical Information updated by E. Sandgren with sketch written by David Hovde.
  • 2023-02-14: Instances were added to all files. Scopes and contents were edited to sentences instead of lists. Flat files were moved from shelves to the FF drawers. Box of duplicates were removed. Materials in box 13 were re-arranged to chronological order. All were done by E. Jones.
  • 2023-06-02: Scope and contents note updated by William Niner.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States