Frequently Asked Questions

How big is the Collection?
Approximately 17,000 linear feet.
How much of the Collection is open?
All of the Collection is open except the records of the Ulysses S. Grant Association. The processing of unpublished materials is ongoing, but all the Grant papers are available for research. As materials are processed, information is made available to the public via the Grant website:
Who may use the collection?
Undergraduate and graduate students and on-campus and visiting scholars. Others may request permission from the Presidential Library staff.
Does MSU own these papers?
No, the U.S. Grant Association has always owned the papers and continues to do so. MSU is responsible for their care and making them available for research. We expect they will be at MSU in perpetuity because the Mitchell Memorial Library will fulfill the preservation and research parts of the agreement between MSU and the Grant Association.
What is the Ulysses S. Grant Association?
In 1962 during the centennial of the Civil War, the Civil War Commissions of New York, Ohio, and Illinois joined with leading historians of the period to form the Association. The aim was to collect copies of Grant’s letters and other writings, edit, and publish them. The first volume of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant appeared in 1967, and the last one, Volume 32, appeared in 2012.
Why were the papers transferred to Mississippi State University from Southern Illinois University - Carbondale?
The story of why the Grant Association Board of Directors made this decision is not available to the public since litigation was involved. We can say the papers coming to MSU resulted largely from the fact that MSU’s Giles Distinguished Professor of History, Dr. John F. Marszalek, was named to replace Dr. John Y. Simon, who passed away in 2008, as Executive Director and Managing Editor of the Grant Papers project. The determination of the Dean of Libraries and the MSU Administration created conditions that made it possible for the papers to come to MSU. The Association’s Board of Directors, led by Rhode Island Chief Justice (ret) Frank J. Williams, unanimously approved the transfer of the papers to MSU, which occurred in December 2008. The formal written agreement between the Association and MSU was signed on January 30, 2009.
Is there anything besides the papers in the collection?
Yes, there are numerous photographs and artifacts that are periodically exhibited, the donations of Grant descendants and others.
Are the papers all original?
No, most of the papers are photocopies of originals held in other repositories and individual collections around the world. Former director Simon had copies made of these papers over a period of 46 years for USGA editors to edit for inclusion in the published Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. Together, the published and unpublished papers, plus artifacts and nearly 10,000 Grant and Civil War-related published books, make the Presidential Library the largest of Grant materials in the world.
What is the significance of the Grant papers, and why should MSU want them?
The papers document key periods in the history of nineteenth century America: the Mexican War, Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and Europe. As a major research university, MSU is in a unique position to offer these papers to scholars and students for studying these eras that shaped the United States of today.
How many other universities have presidential collections?
Among Southeastern Conference universities, aside from MSU, only the University of Tennessee has presidential papers (Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson) and Texas A&M is home to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. Other university libraries with significant presidential papers include Virginia (Thomas Jefferson) and Princeton (Woodrow Wilson). Presidential libraries as we know them today began with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, and administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library is administered by USGA and MSU, and not by NARA. MSU hosts one of only ten projects publishing the papers of U.S. presidents.
Are any Grant Papers available in published form?
Yes, there are 32 volumes of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. These are available in most major libraries. All the volumes have also been digitized and are now available online and searchable via our Grant website. The editing of a scholarly edition of Grant’s two volume Memoirs has begun for future publication.