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Randall V. Mills papers

Identifier: Coll 088

Scope and Contents note

The Randall Mills Papers largely consist of correspondence, manuscripts, research material and notecards, printed material, and scrapbooks pertaining to transportation in the Pacific Northwest, and folklore.

The correspondence, 1937-1976, is arranged chronologically and relates mainly to Mills’ interest in railroads and steamboats. he letters written after his death in 1952 are to his wife, Hazel. Many are letters of sympathy and others relate to business matters. Major correspondents include Verne Bright, Alice Henson Ernst, Sterling Hayden, Lewis A. McArthur, Richard L. Neuberger and Alfred Powers.

The manuscripts section contains book and article length material. The book length material includes drafts of his two published books, Stern-Wheelers up Columbia and Railroads Down the Valleys, as well as an unpublished book entitled Bowies and Bullets. The article length manuscripts contain both published and unpublished materials, some of which were written during his college years for class assignments. Topics include various authors, genres, social types and sociological aspects of literature, folklore, dialects, covered bridges, and different modes of transportation. Also included in the manuscript section are book reviews by Mills of others’ work and several untitled speeches. Both book and article length manuscripts are arranged alphabetically by title. Photo proofs for Stern-Wheelers up Columbia have been transferred to the Photograph Collection (PH 008).

Research material covers five main areas: covered bridges, folklore (including dialects, proverbs and place names), literature, railroads, and steamships. Types of material include printed articles, clippings, transcriptions by Mills of works by others, and notes. The notecard section, though separate due to its physical nature, can also be considered research material. The cards are arranged by subject, each containing useful details which eventually were incorporated into Mills’ writing or class work. Subjects covered include dialects, general folklore, proverbs, railroads, steamboats, and bibliographic notes.

Notes and outlines used in classes taught by Mills largely constitute the series of University of Oregon material. Mills received grant monies for research on articles he wrote and that information can also be found in this section. English course assignments and English department committee notes are filed here as well. (Note: A taped lecture about Oregon dialects and linguistics which was presented to the University of Oregon library is part of the collection.)

Articles Mills wrote, reprints of articles written by his friends and colleagues, and newspaper clippings used for research purposes comprise the series of printed material. The scrapbooks are an indication of the degree to which Mills pursued his interest in steamboats; documents ranging from vessel ownership to transport vouchers as well as photographs of steamboat captains appear in them. A box of miscellaneous material, including material from H. E. Mills and Della Mills is located at the end of the collection.

A selected name index to the correspondence in the collection is located at the end of the inventory.

The Photograph series consists of contemporary images and copies of vintage images, taken or collected by Mills. The source of the original images is not known, but evidence suggests that Mills acquired images from dealers including George Abdill, E.D. Culp, Portland General Electric, Charles V. Hess, T.G. Wurm, Frederick Shaw, R.D. Kimmel, Charles S. Jones, Joe Smith, Douglas F. Richter, Moody, and Arthur Lloyd, Jr. Fifty-eight images by W.J. Gould (1854-1926), a British Canadian photographer who claimed to have worked in Oregon early in his career, may also be included.

The first twelve albums are scrapbooks assembled and captioned by Mills, focusing on rolling stock. The last four contain 164 images documenting shipping on the Columbia River. A partial index to Mills negatives can be found in the Manuscripts card catalog, railroads and covered bridges being the subjects.


  • 1937-1976


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Randall Vause Mills, born in Wisconsin in 1907, was an English professor with a variety of interests related to the Pacific Northwest. Educated in California, he received his undergraduate degree in 1929 from UCLA and his master’s from UC, Berkeley in 1932. He joined the University of Oregon English faculty in 1938.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mills wrote two books and numerous articles. One of his primary interests was the history of transportation in the Pacific Northwest, especially steamboats and railroads. Growing up he had a chance to see steamboats in action and, at one point, worked for a steamship company in Los Angeles. His first book, Stern-Wheelers up Columbia, was published in 1947 and gives a general account of steamship navigation on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. His interest in railroads took hold as a young boy, continuing throughout his life and culminating in 1950. Steamships and railroads were the subjects of his numerous other published articles as well.

Another subject for which Mills showed enthusiasm was folklore, particularly proverbs, dialects, songs, superstitions and place names. He was the founder and first president of the Oregon Folklore Society. Serving as Director for the Oregon branch of the American Dialect Society, he also chaired the state sub-committee for the collection of dialect sayings. He held the position of associate editor for Western Folklore. Several articles concerning folklore and dialects can be found in the collection. The University of Oregon has named its Folklore Archives in honor of Mills. A listing of Mills material on file in that archives is available. Mills also found the subject of covered bridges of interest. He investigated all aspects, from builders to construction to materials to need and location. Two published articles about covered bridges appear in the collection. Mills died in 1952 at the age of 44.


24 linear feet (65 containers)

Language of Materials



Randall Vause Mills joined the University of Oregon English faculty in 1938. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mills wrote two books and numerous articles on transportation in the Pacific Northwest. He also wrote articles on bridge construction and location. In addition, Mills was interested in folklore, and was the founder and first president of the Oregon Folklore Society. The collection largely consists of correspondence, manuscripts, research material and notecards, printed material, photographs, and scrapbooks pertaining to transportation in the Pacific Northwest and folklore.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Biographical material; Correspondence; Manuscripts; Book reviews; Research material; University of Oregon material; Printed material; Notecards; Miscellaneous papers; and Selected Name Index. Manuscripts series is further organized into the following subseries: Book length; and Article length.

The Photograph series is arranged by: Album 1: Railways—Northern California, Nevada, Colorado & Oregon ElectricAlbum 2: Pacific Electric in CaliforniaAlbum 3: Electric Railways-CaliforniaAlbum 4: Southern Pacific Lines and Pacific Electric Railway. BY: Whittacker, W.C.Album 5: Portland Wide Gauge Miscellaneous Electric Railways & TrolleysAlbum 6: Electric Railways of CaliforniaAlbum 7: Miscellaneous Railways Western Pacific, Panama, El Paso & Southwestern, etc. ViaductsAlbum 8: Railroads-National Santa Fe, B & O, Bridgton & Harrison, etc.Album 9: Electric Railways (Trolley Cars)-Ohio thru Wisconsin, plus British Columbia and OntarioAlbum 10: Electric Railways, Alabama thru North CarolinaAlbum 11: Oregon Railroads - SteamAlbum 12: Portland Railway, Light and Power Company and Predecessor CompaniesAlbum 13Album 14Album 15Album 16 .

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Gift of Hazel Mills, Randall's wife, shortly after his death in 1952.

Existence and Location of Copies

Selected items are available online in the Randall V. Mills Transportation Collection (1907-1952) photographs, ca. 1937-1952 in Oregon Digital.

Related Materials

The Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore is a repository of Oregon folklore, named for Mills and housed on the University of Oregon campus, that includes materials collected by Mills.

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff. Photographs processed by Megan Dazey, May 2005.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Selected Name Index

Bright, Verne
Ernst, Alice Henson
Hayden, Sterling
Correspondence, May 12, 1955
McArthur, Lewis A.
Neuberger, Richard L.
Powers, Alfred
Guide to the Randall V. Mills Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Linda Hodgin/Vida Germano and Normandy Helmer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA