Leslie L. Hanawalt Papers

Accession Number: 
6.75 linear feet (6 SB, 1 MB, .5 MB)

The Leslie L. Hanawalt Papers contain the personal files and research materials of Dr. Leslie Hanawalt. Born on January 18, 1898 in Delaware County, Ohio, Hanawalt attended Rollins College Academy in Winter Park, Florida, before serving as a private in the U.S. Army in 1918. He later attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where he earned a B.A. degree in 1922 and an M.A. degree in 1925. In 1929, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

Hanawalt first came to Wayne State University in 1929 as an English instructor at what was then called the City College of Detroit. He became Director of Freshman English in 1939, the first full-time admissions officer of Wayne University in 1942, and a professor of English in 1944. He later went on to serve as Chairman of the Department of English from 1945 to 1955.

In 1956, Hanawalt began research into the Wayne State University archives in preparation to write a history of the university for its centennial celebration, a project that was commissioned to him by President Clarence B. Hilberry. This historical research endeavor, which became known as the History of Wayne Project, took Hanawalt twelve years to complete, eventually culminating in the publication of his 450-page book, A Place of Light: The History of Wayne State University in 1968. The History of Wayne Project earned Hanawalt the title of University Historian, and the publication of A Place of Light was the defining moment of Hanawalt’s prestigious career at Wayne State University.

Hanawalt retired in 1968 after 39 years at the university. Following his retirement, he continued to live near campus, writing for historical journals until his death on May 24, 1983 in Detroit. Some of his most notable journal articles include “Parke-Davis and the Detroit College of Medicine, 1890-1905” published in Parke-Davis Review in 1968, “Body Snatching in the Midwest” published in Michigan History in 1971, and “Henry Fitzbutler: Detroit’s First Black Medical Student” published in Detroit in Perspective in 1973.

The Leslie L. Hanawalt Papers mainly consist of the administrative and correspondence files, research notes, and drafts relating to the History of Wayne Project, which took place from 1956 to 1968. Significant portions of the research notes include several files relating to the individual colleges at WSU, particularly the College of Medicine. Additional collection materials consist of Hanawalt’s personal and family papers, as well as research notes relating to his additional historical research projects. While most of Hanawalt’s research was conducted from the 1950s to the 1970s, the collection contains some original materials dating back to 1870, including several Detroit College of Medicine catalogs.

1870-1985, bulk 1956-1977
Attachment(click to download)
WSP000250_guide.pdfWSP000250_guide.pdf139.13 KB