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Papers, 1893-1976

MSS 18


Portrait from The Wickiup,1923


Biographical Note

Norman Brown Adkison, educator and author, was born March 31, 1886, at Grangeville, Idaho. He was the son of pioneer parents, John Riley Adkison and Harriett Brown Adkison. He attended Grangeville High School and graduated with honors from the University of Idaho in 1907. In the years immediately following his graduation, he taught in Denver, Idaho, and at Grangeville High School, also serving as superintendent at Denver and principal at Grangeville.

In 1910 he was invited to become head of the science department at the Idaho Academy in Pocatello. The school was soon renamed the Idaho Technical Institute, and later became Idaho State University. Adkison remained at Idaho Technical Institute during the school’s formative years, until 1923. Besides his teaching duties, he served as dean of men and established the pharmacy department, now the Pharmacy School at I.S.U.  While on the faculty of Idaho Technical Institute, he studied during the summers at Columbia University in New York, earning a masters degree in chemistry in 1919. 

Adkison left Idaho Technical Institute in 1923 to become secretary to Idaho Governor Charles C. Moore, serving as speechwriter and general political aide. He worked for Governor Moore until 1925, when he became secretary-manager of the Idaho Home Industries Association. In that position he founded and edited the association magazine, “Golden Idaho” through 1934, retaining the position during service in Washington, D.C. (1931-1932) as secretary to U.S. Senator John Thomas.

The activities and publication program of the Idaho Home Industries Association declined during the early 1930s, and Adkison took a position as an educational director with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Idaho. He remained with the C.C.C. until 1936, when President Eugene B. Chaffee of Boise Junior College asked him to head up the education and psychology department at the college. Adkison was a member of the faculty of Boise Junior College until 1940, when, as an officer of the National Guard, he was called to active duty to organize the Idaho Selective Service System. He operated the Idaho Selective Service System throughout the war, and after the war became an administrator with Veterans Administration. He remained with the Veterans Administration until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1956.

Adkison wrote historical articles for newspapers and magazines and in 1966 published a book, Nez Perce Indian War and Original Stories. In 1967 he published Indian Braves and Battles With More Nez Perce Lore.

Adkison was married twice, first to Della Shaff in 1910, and secondly to Rose Richer Gilgan in 1935. Adkison died November 19, 1978, at a Boise nursing home and was interred at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.

Scope and Content

The Norman Brown Adkison collection contains an oral history of Adkison’s life, some of his correspondence, photocopies of his newspaper and magazine articles, and some biographical material on his mother, Harriet Brown Adkison and himself. The oral history is the main item in the collection.

Adkison was a prominent educator at Idaho State University (1910-1923) and later at Boise Junior College (1936-1940), during their formative years. Adkison describes in great detail his career at the two colleges, in his oral history. He also served as secretary to Idaho Governor Charles C. Moore (1923-1925) and U.S. Senator John Thomas (1931-1932). Adkison records his perceptions of these men as he worked with them, as well as other figures such as President Warren G. Harding. Adkison also describes his involvement in the Selective Service System and the Veterans Administration during and after World War II, and recounts in detail his family history, childhood, farm life near Grangeville, Idaho, student days at the University of Idaho, and work with the Idaho Home Industries Association and the Civilian Conservation Corps. The oral history exists in unedited transcript form, and the original tape recordings have been retained.

Many of Adkison’s articles and publications contained in the collection deal with Idaho history around Grangeville. From 1926 to 1934 Adkison was the editor of “Golden Idaho”, a publication which sought to promote home industries in the state. The collection also includes biographical material relating to Adkison’s mother, who took part in the Nez Perce Indian wars of 1877.


Dates of the collection: 1893-1976
Size of the collection: ca. 1 ft.
Processed by: Brian Brown and Alan Virta, Spring 1988

Box and Folder list


Box 1   Biographical Material

Folder  1  Norman Brown Adkison
              2   Harriett Brown Adkison
              3   Other Family Members
              4   Correspondence  1937-1970

Box 1: Oral History: Transcripts of Tape Recordings, 1974

Folder  5   Pages 1-35                Reel 1-4
             6    Pages 36-87              Reel 5-8
             7    Pages 88-144            Reel 9-12
             8    Pages 145-196          Reel 13-16
             9    Pages 197-246          Reel 17-20
           10    Pages 247-300          Reel 21-24
           11    Pages 301-355          Reel 25-28
           12    Pages 356-403          Reel 29-32
           13    Pages 404-450          Reel 33-36
           14    Pages 451-500          Reel 37-40
           15    Pages 501-547          Reel 41-44


Box 1: Writings (chiefly photocopies)

Folder 16   Golden Idaho 1926-1934
             17   Letters to the Editor  1932-1976
             18   Newspaper Articles  1957-1964


Box 2: Other Papers

Folder  1    Miscellaneous Articles 1937-1962
              2        A Century of Strength (Harriet Brown Adkison)
              3        Books 1952-1967
              4       Certificates  1947-1958
              5       Transcripts and Report Cards 1893-1919
              6       Class Reunions: University of Idaho 1957-1963
              7       Scholarship File: B.S.U. 1962-1974
              8       Dedication pages from The Wickiup- Idaho Technical Institute yearbook 1923
              9       Photos (Portrait snapshot, 1974; banquet, University of Idaho Class of 1907; 2 photos of
                       University of Idaho Administration Building, before and after the Fire of 1906)            
           10       Citation for Army Commendation ribbon (Selective Service System)


Box 3: Oral history interview audio tapes

Tape 1            Reel 1-4

Tape 2            Reel 5-8

Tape 3            Reel 9-12

Tape 4            Reel 13-16

Tape 5            Reel 17-20

Tape 6            Reel 21-24

Tape 7            Reel 25-28

Tape 8            Reel 29-32

Tape 9            Reel 33-36

Tape 10          Reel 37-40

Tape 11          Reel 41-44

Outline of the Oral history transcript


I.     Family history, Childhood near Grangeville....Page 1

                        Nez Perce War, 1877…..Page 9; see also page 96
                       Farming methods…..Page 19
                       Medical treatments…..Page 42
                       Early schooling…..Page 79
                       Chinese…..Page 99
                       High school…..Page 104

II.   University of Idaho student days, 1903-1907…..Page 119

                       See also page 205
                       Fire of 1906…..Page 142

III.   Teaching at Denver, Idaho, 1907-1908…..Page 153

IV.   Teaching at Grangeville, Idaho, 1908-1910…..Page 162

V.     Idaho Technical Institute, 1910-1923…..Page 170

                       See also page 278
                       Summer study at Columbia University…..Pages 173, 203, 244
                       Establishing pharmacy school…..Pages 212, 249
                       World War I—National Guard…..Page 215
                       Influenza epidemic…..Page 219
                       Assessment of Miles F. Reed…..Page 223

 VI.   Secretary to Governor Charles C. Moore, 1923-1925…..Page 253 

                       Miss Church…..Pages 256, 305
                       Meeting with President Harding…..Pages 259, 280
                       Election of 1924…..Page 273
                       Lyda Southard case…..Page 281
                       Tribute to Governor Moore…..Page 298

 VII.   Idaho Home Industries Association…..Page 306

                        See earlier introduction on page 297

VIII.   Aide to U.S. Senator John Thomas, 1931-1933…..Page 334

                       Election of 1932…..Page 381
                       Assessment of Senator Thomas…..Page 390

IX.   Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1936…..Page 392 

                        Camps at Twin Springs (Boise River); Big Smoky Creek (South Fork,Boise River); Pollock;
                        Horseshoe Bend

 X.   Divorce and remarriage, 1934-1935…..Page 433

 XI.   Boise Junior College, 1936-1940…..Page 448

 XII.   Selective Service, World War II…..Page 462

 XIII.   U.S. Veterans Administration, 1946-1956…..Page 506

XIV.   Miscellaneous…..Page 510

                         Includes information on personal life and family

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