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Walter Mason Camp papers

Identifier: MSS 57

Scope and Contents

Contains materials pertaining to the research of Walter Mason Camp on the Indian Wars of the Plains (1864-1890), with an emphasis on the Battle of Little Bighorn of 1876. Includes his personal correspondence with officers, enlisted men, and Indian Scouts of the U.S. 7th Calvary. Also contains Walter Camp's interviews with the Indians associated with the battles, general research and field notes. The following papers were compiled by Camp with the end purpose of being drafted into a book on the topic. Materials are largely textual comprising correspondence, notes, clippings, typescripts, publications, blueprints, maps, and related printed material. Dated approximately circa 1890-1924.


  • approximately 1870-1943


Conditions Governing Access

Most of the collection is open for public research. However, Walter Mason Camp interviews (Series 3) and Walter Mason Camp notes (Series 4) are "Condition restricted" and researchers are asked to use the microfilm copy or transcriptions in Series 5.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Walter Mason Camp papers must be obtained from the Supervior of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical History

Walter Mason Camp (1867-1925) was a railroad engineer and writer, in the midwestern United States. Camp also performed research on the history of the India Wars of the Plains, in particular the Battle of the Little Big Horn of 1876.

Walter Camp was born on April 21, 1867 to Treat Bosworth Camp and Hannah A. Brown in Camptown, Pennsylvania. In 1883, he began his railroad service on the Lehigh Valley Railroad as a trackman, which would lead to his forty-two year railroad career. He entered Pennsylvania State College in the fall of 1887, and graduated as a civil engineer in 1891. In 1895 Camp resumed post graduate studies in electrical and steam engineering at the University of Wisconsin. In 1898 Walter married Emeline L.F. Sayles in Blue Island, Illinois. Walter Camp became the engineering editor of the "Railway and Engineering Review" in 1897 and served faithfull and well as a railway editor for the following twenty-eight years.

Walter Camp's interest in documenting the Indian Wars began in 1903, after which his vacations for the following twenty summers were spent in research among the Indians and in talking with people who had survived the Little Bighorn River fight and other battles. He personally visited over forty battlefields and interviewed almost 200 survivors of western battles. Walter Camp died on August 3, 1925 in Kankakee, Illinois having published very little of his Indian wars research, but having collected an amount of original source material during his lifetime.


7 boxes (3.5 linear ft.)

2 half boxes (0.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of correspondence, interview notes, general research and field notes, drafts of writings, photographs, maps, newsclippings and miscellaneous research and reference materials created and collected by Camp, and pertaining to the Indian Wars of the plains (1864-1890). The bulk of the collection consists of the correspondence (1908-1923), interviews, general research and field notes (1890-1924). Chief interviewees and correspondents were the officers, enlisted men, and Indian scouts of the U.S. 7th Cavalry, and the Indians who fought at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Significant information on the other battles is also present in the papers, including the following: Slim Buttes, Washita, Beecher Island, Wounded Knee, Wagon Box, Adobe Walls, Rosebud, Redwater Creek, Platte Bridge and Red Buttes, Nez Perce Campaign, Hayfield Fight, Dull Knife Fight, Fetterman Massacre, Conner-Cole Expedition and the Battle of Buffalo Wallow.


Arranged into seven series: 1. Walter Mason Camp biographical information, 1925 August 8. 2. Walter Mason Camp correspondence, 1908-1925. 3. Walter Mason Camp interviews, between 1900 and 1923. 4. Walter Mason Camp notes, between 1905 and 1923. 5. Walter Mason Camp typescripts of selected interviews and notes, approximately 1905-1925. 6. Walter Mason Camp writings, between 1910 and 1923. 7. Walter Mason Camp research and reference file, between 1870 and 1943.

Other Finding Aids

Folder-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

After his untimely death on August 3, 1925, Camp's widow assumed custody of his files. A number of parties tried unsuccessfully to acquire them, including the Library of Congress, the Department of the Army, Robert S. Ellison, Brigadier General William Carey Brown and George Bird Grinnell (See the Grinnell-Ellison Correspondence, Denver Public Library Microfilm, BYU Catalog Number MSS SC 568). Finally, after eight years of negotiations, General Brown, assisted by Robert Ellison, succeeded in purchasing the papers from Mrs. Camp in 1933. He moved them to his Denver, Colorado, home where he began to sort and classify them. Apparently, he also misplaced some of them (see below). Robert Ellison and General Brown corresponded from 1933 to 1945 during which time Brown gradually transferred most of the Camp files to Ellison. While he had the files, Brown identified the subject of some of the photographs and solicited additional Camp letters from Earl Brininstool. Both Ellison and Brown utilized the interview notes for research while they had them and Brown retained some Camp materials, especially photographs, which he interfiled with his own collection and which are preserved there today in the University of Colorado Library. (See the Register to the William Carey Brown Collection, Norlin Library, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.) In some cases Brown and Ellison added information to the Camp manuscripts in the form of notes and commentary. For samples of Brown's and Ellison's handwriting see the William Carey Brown collection, (MSS 1474) and the Ellison Collection (MSS 782). Also, while the files were in Ellison's possession they were used by at least one scholar, viz., Charles Kuhlman in January 1939. (See MSS 1401, box 4, folder 15.) Brown left explanatory summarizations of the contents of Camp's notes on the envelopes in which Camp stored his notes.

Robert Ellison died August 16, 1947. In accordance with his wishes, Ellison's widow sent the bulk of his library and papers, including a substantial segment of the Camp papers, to the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, his alma mater. Mrs. Ellison also willed additional materials to the Lilly Library, which they received at her death, on March 13, 1967. Another segment of the Robert Ellison papers including additional Camp notes found its way into the Denver Public Library. The remaining Ellison papers and library were purchased by Fred Rosenstock, a noted Denver book dealer. He transferred both the books and the manuscripts to his bookstore and his home, where he stored the manuscripts until they were sold to BYU in several installments between 1968 and 1981. The purchase included the bulk of Walter Camp's interview notes and other papers preserved in this collection and some of the papers created by Robert Ellison, which are cataloged separately.

In 1974, the Harold B. Lee Library commissioned Kenneth Hammer of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, an economist and Custer authority, to inventory and organize the Camp and Ellison collections in preparation for a planned publication of the best of the Camp interview notes and related source materials related to Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Hammer arranged the two collections to reflect his chief concern in preparing to edit the book, namely the grouping of materials according to subject to facilitate access. His identifications were extremely helpful and his inventory served as the beginning point for this register. However, subsequent to the publication of the book, Custer in '76, the staff restructured the two collections to reflect primarily the work of Camp and Ellison (i.e., if either man created or collected an item, it was made a part of his archives regardless of its subject content) while ease of access for patrons was retained through the use of an index.

Also a staff member visited the Denver Public Library and the University of Colorado Library and made arrangements to have copies of their Camp and Camp-related manuscripts either sold or loaned to the Harold B. Lee Library. A microfilm of the Denver Library Ellison-Camp Collection is available for use in the Harold B Lee Library as MSS SC 568. The University of Colorado made available photocopies of pertinent correspondence of William Carey Brown (MSS 1474). Finally, Ken Hammer made available his notes, photocopies and transcriptions of Camp interview notes, including those generated while working with the Ellison-Camp Collection in the University of Indiana's Lilly Library (MSS 1473). For information on other related collections, consult the card and online catalogs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased; Fred Rosenstock; 1968-1981.

Acquired (copies and related materials); Denver Public Library, University of Colorado Library.

Acquired (photographs); via R.N. Wathen, Jr. and Harold Schindler.


Utah and Western American ethnic and minority history (19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts Collection Development Policy. IV. a. i. 8. November 14, 2013).

Separated Materials

All materials created by Robert S. Ellison or by George A. Custer which were added to the collection in preparation for work on Custer in '76 were transferred to the Ellison Collection or to the Custer Collection respectively.

The photographs were separated to the Photo Archives.

Folio printed music for The Sitting Bull March', 1884, by Henry Wienskowitz, was transferred to the Music Division of the Harold B. Lee Library.

Envelopes, if they bore a significant note, were retained. Most envelopes in the collection were not mailed, i.e., they bore no postmarks. Those envelopes carrying insignificant notes, such as a list of the interviews in the envelope (in any hand, Camp's, Brown's, or Ellison's) were not retained.

Processing Information

Processed; E. Dennis Rowley and Neil Broadhurst (manuscript register); Billy Plunkett and Mark Timmons (photograph inventory); 1981.

Register of the Walter Mason Camp papers
E. Dennis Rowley and Neil Broadhurst (manuscript register)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States