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Henry Raup Wagner Papers

Identifier: MS-0264

Scope and Contents

The Henry Raup Wagner Papers comprise Wagner's personal and professional papers spanning his career as an historian, cartographer and bibliographer from roughly 1915 to 1957, as well as the papers of Wagner's wife and associates created before and after his death. Wagner's papers primarily document his research and writing through his correspondence with other scholars and librarians, notes, published writings, and manuscripts. The collection includes the papers of Wagner's assistant Ruth Fry Axe, who took increasing responsibility for his correspondence as his eyesight began to fail in later life and oversaw Wagner's literary estate and posthumous publications. There is also a small amount of material from Wagner's wife, Blanche Collet Wagner, and his probate lawyer Mabel Clausen regarding the disposition of both Wagner's and his wife's estate. Materials in this collection include address books, financial ledgers, legal documents, correspondence, and writings in manuscript and published form. The collection is arranged into three series: Biographical files, Correspondence, and Writings.

Series I, Biographical files dates from 1927 to 1978 and contains personal, professional and legal documents pertaining to Wagner's life, business activities and estate. This series includes Wagner's address books and financial ledgers, and the death certificates and last wills and testaments of Wagner and his wife. The address books contain the addresses of bookshops and libraries, as well as notes and drafts of letters. The series also contains Wagner obituaries.

Series II, Correspondence dates from 1915 to 1983 and includes professional and personal correspondence. The series is divided into four subseries, arranged chronologically, for each of the principal correspondents: Henry R. Wagner, Blanche Collet Wagner, Mabel Clausen, and Ruth F. Axe.

Subseries 1, Henry R. Wagner dates from 1915 to 1957 and contains correspondence with scholars, librarians and booksellers regarding Wagner's activities as a book collector and researcher, as well as personal correspondence regarding his health, family, finances, and genealogical research. The subseries includes a longstanding correspondence with the bookseller and librarian R. E. Cowan regarding the sale and exchange of books about California's history. For his research of Sir Francis Drake, Wagner consults the John Carter Brown Library, scholars Andrew Rolle and Francis P. Farquhar, and UCLA librarian Lawrence Clark Powell. Notably, this subseries contains correspondence with George Bird Ginnell regarding Wagner and Grinnell's theories concerning the identity of the Padouca Indians referenced in colonial era literature, and Wagner's inquiries to the Smithsonian Institute requesting material about the Padouca. In an October 8, 1952 letter to the bookseller Glen Dawson, Wagner claims that Ginnell plagiarized his work on the Padouca in the latter's article "Who Were the Padouca," published in the American Anthropologist. A copy of the Grinnell's article accompanies Wagner's letter to Dawson. Other scholars with whom Wagner corresponds include naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison, author of several books on Christopher Columbus, and Carl Irving Wheat, an historical cartographer of the American West. Wagner arranges to donate materials to Yale University Library in correspondence with librarian James T. Babb. Personal correspondence includes correspondence with doctors and Wagner's lawyer Mabel Clausen regarding tax returns. Wagner corresponds with a distant relative, William W. Raup, about Raup family lineage. Additional correspondence with Thomas W. Streeter documents the sale of Mrs. Wagner's collection of paintings of headdresses to the Charles W. Bowers Memorial Museum.

Subseries 2, Blanche Collet Wagner dates from 1943 to 1957 and contains correspondence about the sale of Blanche Wagner's collection of headdresses to the Charles W. Bowers Memorial Museum. The bulk of Blanche's correspondence consists of condolences for her husband's death.

Subseries 3, Mabel Clausen dates from 1951 to 1958 and contains the correspondence and assessment of funds for the Wagners' estate.

Subseries 4, Ruth F. Axe dates from 1951 to 1983 and contains correspondence Axe conducted in her capacity as Wagner's assistant and legal guardian. In confidential correspondence with Wagner's friends and associates Francis P. Farquhar and Thomas W. Streeter, Axe keeps them informed of Wagner's health and financial difficulties. Additionally, Axe writes to Wagner's attorney Mabel Clausen about the Wagner family's affairs. The remaining correspondence documents Axe's activities managing the Wagner family estate, Wagner's donations to libraries, and publications.

Series III, Writings dates from 1925 to 1982 and consists of Wagner's publications and manuscripts on Latin and Western American history. The series is divided into two subseries, arranged by materials. From journal articles and historical societies in California, the two subseries are: Articles and Primary source collections.

Subseries 1, Articles dates from 1925 to 1957 and contains mostly published writings and a small amount of manuscript writings.

Subseries 2, Primary source collections dates from 1945 to 1982 and contains documentation of Wagner collections at the Yale, UCLA, Bancroft, and San Diego State libraries. The collections documented in this series include Wagner's publications and primary sources, research files, and unpublished writings.


  • Creation: 1915 - 1983


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Biographical Note

Henry Raup Wagner was an American book collector, bibliographer, cartographer, historian, and business executive. Wagner was born on September 27, 1862 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He obtained an undergraduate degree from Yale College in 1884 and a law degree two yers later from Yale Law School. After one year in practice, he left the law field and pursued the mining business. In 1992, the Globe Smelting and Refining Company assigned him to Mexico, where he acquired an interest in the history of the region. From 1898, he began working for the Guggenheim family. Wagner published his first bibliography, Irish Economics: 1700-1783 while managing the Guggenheims' affairs. In 1918, he decided to devote most of his attention to writing. He published The Plains and the Rockies in 1920 and quit his job the following year.

Throughout the course of a half-century, Wagner produced over one hundred scholarly bibliographical and historical studies chiefly on Latic and Western America. Published in 1926, Sir Francis Drake's Voyage Around the World: Its Aims and Achievements became a significant historical work. Wagner played an important role in the revival of the California Historical Society in 1922. He also founded its pricipal publication, the California Historical Society Quarterly.

Wagner traveled extensively in Latin America and Europe until he met his wife, Blanche Henrietta Collet, and French painter. They settled in Berkeley, California, and later San Marino, California.

Wagner gradually lost his eyesight during his final years but continued his research with the assistance of his secretary and later legal guardian Ruth Fry Axe.

He died on March 27, 1957, in San Marino at age 94. His wife died a few weeks later on May 16. The California Historical Society established the Henry R. Wagner Memorial Award in 1959. Wagner's book collection, publications and papers are divided among libraries at Yale, Brown, UCLA, and UC-Berkeley. After the deaths of Henry and Blanche, Axe managed Wagner's literary estate and acted as his executor. She continued working or the Wagner family until 1983.


1 Linear Feet (One records carton)

Language of Materials



I. Biographical files, 1927-1978

II. Correspondence, 1915-1983

1. Henry Raup Wagner, 1915-1957

2. Blanche Collet Wagner, 1943-1957

3. Mabel Clausen, 1951-1958

4. Ruth Frey Axe, 1951-1983

III. Writings, 1925-1982

1. Articles, 1925-1957

2. Primary source collections, 1945-1982



Henry Raup Wagner Papers
Reprocessed by Laura Scott in January 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Presented to San Diego State University Library in honor of Dr. Abraham P. Nasatir by George Laban Harding and Dorothy Huggins Harding

Revision Statements

  • January 11, 2023: Reprocessed by Laura Scott in January 2023

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US