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Leon De Valinger papers

Identifier: MSS 0686

Scope and Contents

The Leon De Valinger papers contain the personal and professional records of Leon De Valinger, Jr., primarily related to his career as Delaware State Archivist from 1941 to 1970. Some records related to his family and research date as far back as 1752, and while the most recent date is 1999, the bulk of the collection falls between 1930 and 1980. De Valinger’s professional, administrative, and subject files document the activities of the long-time Delaware Archivist and historian, and offer a window into the varied concerns of the archives profession as it evolved during the 20th century. De Valinger’s work to formalize archival practice and establish preservation standards is richly documented. Additionally, his lifelong commitment to documenting, preserving, and promoting Delaware history and culture forms a theme throughout his papers.

This collection is arranged into six series: I. Professional career; II. Delaware historic sites and museums; III. Professional associations; IV. Manuscript Supply Company/McDowell-Mitchell Associates; V. Publications and reports; and VI. Personal.

Series I., Professional career, dates from 1752 to 1998, with bulk dates of 1930 to 1977, and is comprised of three subseries: I.A. Correspondence, I.B. Subject files; and I.C. General administrative records.

Subseries I.A., Correspondence, dates from 1929 to 1988, with bulk dates of 1930 to 1968. The majority of the correspondence is organized chronologically. The subseries ends with three groups of correspondence that had been alphabetically filed and stored in letter-boxes by De Valinger; his alphabetical arrangement was preserved. The earliest letters date from the period when De Valinger worked as an assistant to his predecessor as State Archivist, George H. Ryden, to the 1980s when, no longer State Archivist, he continued to be peripherally involved in the affairs of the archives, museum and historic sites associated with it. His professional correspondence includes exchanges with other professionals in the fields of archaeology, archives, conservation, historic preservation, and museum administration. Some frequent and notable correspondents are Dolores Renze, William J. Barrow, and John Munroe. Researchers should note that there is much overlap between personal and professional correspondence.

Subseries I.B., Subject files, dates from 1752 to 1995, with bulk dates of 1930 and 1977, and are arranged alphabetically by subject and title. This subseries contains clippings, ephemera and publications related to a wide variety of De Valinger’s research interests and collecting pursuits. Delaware subjects occupy a prominent space, with subjects devoted to Delaware history, from the earliest Dutch and Swedish settlements, to the activities of local government in the late 20th century. De Valinger also collected material related to historic sites and historic preservation outside of Delaware, with a focus on colonial America. Delaware artists, authors, and events are among the other subjects found in this series.

Researchers interested in the practice of conservation during De Valinger’s lifetime can find many subjects related to preservation, with a particular focus on paper manufacture and the process of lamination pioneered by the W. J. Barrow Research Laboratory. Samples of materials for book and document treatment can also be found here, along with notes from conservators such as Barrow and Willman Spawn. These records will be found under the subjects of “Archival care and management,” as well as “Preservation.” A collection of historic hand-made watermarked papers will be of interest to these researchers as well as historians of early paper production in this country. Other subjects include records and office management, especially reflected in the field of microfilming, rising in prominence during the first half of De Valinger’s career.

Maps also were assiduously collected by De Valinger, himself a maps draughtsman, and the collection of Delaware maps in particular offers a look across a decades-long period of commercial map design. Pictorial maps were a genre that De Valinger sought and may have used as reference material when designing his own.

L. Lee Layton, a Delaware businessman and land developer, was known for his vitriolic letters to newspaper editor. His unsolicited mailings to De Valinger containing open letters and extremist literature have been gathered in the subject files as well.

Subseries I.C., General administrative records, dates from 1794 to 1998, with bulk dates of 1930 to 1974. The subseries provides a general overview of his work with the Public Archives Commission and includes research files, reports, and memoranda. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject, with the exception of a small group of assorted records organized chronologically at the end of the series. The research files reflect De Valinger’s own pursuits, as well as research conducted on behalf of others. This subseries contains documentation from De Valinger’s extensive survey of record storage containers, which he conducted in the 1960s. The project was sponsored by the Council on Library Resources’ Technology Project and was alternatively referred to as the “Archival Containers” project and the “Records Storage Improvement Program.” Fire damage prevention was a primary concern and, in addition to collecting information from manufacturers and suppliers, De Valinger conducted fire resistance experiments with paper, board, and coating materials.

A significant group of records in this subseries fall under the heading of “Delaware State Government Reorganization.” The Delaware state government underwent a fundamental reorganization in 1970-1971, in which a commission-based system was transitioned into a cabinet-based system, resulting in a more hierarchical organization and in significant changes to De Valinger’s career. Documentation includes extensive correspondence, press releases, news articles, and various reports. Related material can also be found in series IV., in the form of the official survey of the Delaware State Archives and Cultural Affairs and its resulting report.

Series II., Delaware historic sites and museums, dates from 1862 to 1990, with bulk dates of 1947 to 1970, and is organized alphabetically by site name. De Valinger’s interest in historic preservation led to his involvement in many restoration projects and properties such as the John Dickinson Mansion, the Allee House, Buena Vista, and Woodburn. These sites are represented here along with other sites in Delaware. Records related to restoration projects include floor plans, contracts, garden plans, invoices, and correspondence. Of particular interest are the detailed logs kept by building custodial staff members and the records documenting the opening of the Delaware State Museum.

Series III,. Professional associations, dates from 1924 to 1997, with bulk dates of 1942 to 1981. The series is arranged alphabetically by organization. De Valinger was an active member of the American Association of State and Local History, the Archaeological Society of Delaware, the Historical Society of Delaware, and the National Fire Prevention Association, among other organizations.

With Dolores Renze, State Archivist of Colorado, De Valinger helped establish the Institute of Archival Studies (the title of which fluctuated over the years), hosted by the University of Denver. This yearly summer seminar was aimed toward continuing professional education in the fields of archives and records management. Records under this heading include transcripts of lectures, notes, articles and reports (for example, “Causes of Damage to Museum Objects,” and “Testing of Ball Point Inks”), and correspondence related to planning, in addition to official promotional material for the Institute.

De Valinger served as the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) 18th President; the bulk of SAA records in this series date from that period (1962 to 1963), including documentation related to the 28th Annual Meeting held in Austin, Texas. Records under this heading also include material related to annual meetings from 1962 to 1979, publications and newsletters, meeting agendas and minutes, and a wide range of correspondence.

As an Executive Director of the Delaware League of Local Governments (a subsidiary of the National League of Cities), De Valinger collected records related to that organization’s activities, as well as extensive news clippings on Delaware local politics. Records under this heading also include correspondence, documentation related to administrative practices, publications, and reports.

Series IV., The Manuscript Supply Company and McDowell-Mitchell Associates, dates from 1957 to 1997, with bulk dates of 1958 to 1974. This series covers De Valinger’s personal business affiliations. The Manuscript Supply Company, owned by De Valinger, distributed document preservation supplies and his own design of microfilm storage strips. McDowell-Mitchell Associates employed DeValiger as a records management and operating practices consultant.

De Valinger’s most prominent project undertaken as professional consultant on behalf of the Manuscript Supply Company was a survey and report of the Delaware Division of Archives and Cultural Affairs, for which there is correspondence, preliminary documentation and notes, as well as the official report and contract. For further clarification, the Delaware state government underwent a fundamental reorganization in 1970 to 1971, in which a commission-based system was transitioned into a cabinet-based system, resulting in a more hierarchical organization. Records related to this can also be found in subseries I.C. under the heading of “Delaware State Government Reorganization.”

Series V., Publications and reports, dates from 1930 to 1994, with bulk dates ranging from 1938 to 1970, and is arranged chronologically. De Valinger wrote most frequently about Delaware history; topics include archaeology, New Sweden, prominent figures of the revolutionary era, legislative history, and military history. This series includes documentation of De Valinger’s work preparing the John Dickinson papers for publication, a project undertaken in collaboration with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the John Dickinson Mansion, and the Historical Society of Delaware. Ultimately, the project was not completed. In addition to work by De Valinger, this series contains records related to articles, calendars, and reports by others.

Series VI., Personal records, dates from 1816 to 1999, with bulk dates of 1924 to 1986. This series is arranged alphabetically, with the exception of correspondence, which is arranged chronologically. The series provides a general overview of De Valinger’s personal interests, many of which harken back to his professional life and work. Records include personal correspondence, material related and belonging to family members, diaries, school notes, photographs, and yearbooks, as well as items from his desk. De Valinger’s own compositions of original poetry and Delaware-themed music are found here, as well as records related to his stint as a fencing instructor.

A significant portion of this series falls under the heading of “Travel,” which is comprised of tourist brochures, pamphlets, maps, and related correspondence. The majority of this material was previously foldered and arranged (presumably by De Valinger himself or by an associate acting on his behalf), and this order was preserved during processing. Consequently, state and city names may appear in more than one place. Some of the travel material appears to have belonged to and was collected by another individual, Michael Richards, who worked in the Delaware Division of Archives and Cultural affairs in the late 70s and early 80s. When his personal effects are included in a folder, his name is mentioned in that title.

In addition to De Valinger’s own personal correspondence, this series includes letters exchanged between De Valinger’s parents, as well as the correspondence of his sister, Helen De Valinger Frazer. Other family records include drafting plans and mechanical drawings created by his father, a professional draughtsman employed for a time by the Works Progress Administration. This portion of the series contains numerous documents collected by De Valinger, Sr., as reference source material for artwork, and items used by Margaret Scotton, later De Valinger, in her elementary school instruction.

In 1983, De Valinger became the executor the estate of Mary Molek, his friend and associate; a small collection of her papers can be found in this series. Molek was active in the League of Local Governments and was the curator of the Delaware State Museum Eldridge Johnson Memorial Building and its Victor Talking Machine collections. Her papers include those of her husband John, or Ivan Molek, and these document his activities as a printer and active member of socialist Slovene-American organizations in Chicago.


  • Creation: 1752-1999
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1980


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

This collection is open for research use.

This collection contains audiovisual media. Our ability to provide access to audiovisual materials that have not been digitized may be limited. Please contact manuscripts staff for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Leon De Valinger, Jr. (1905-2000) served as the State Archivist of Delaware from 1941 to 1970. In 1989, the General Assembly renamed the Hall of Records building in Dover in recognition of his contributions to establishing and strengthening Delaware's public archives program. He was an early and influential member of the Society of American Archivists, serving as 18th President of the organization from 1962 to 1963. He was the author of numerous books, articles, and pamphlets on Delaware history, such as Colonial Military Organization in Delaware, 1638-1776, The Reconstructed First Census of Delaware, 1790, and Court Records of Kent County, Delaware, 1680-1705. As State Archivist, De Valinger also published annual reports, calendars of his institution’s holdings, and contributions to professional literature.

De Valinger was born on June 25, 1905, in Middletown, Delaware to Mabel L. (Morton) De Valinger and Leon De Valinger, Sr. He was an active boy scout and graduated from Wilmington High School. Initially, he attended St. Stephens College (later called Bard College) in New York, from 1926-1928, but then transferred to the University of Delaware to be closer to home. He completed his degrees in history at the University of Delaware (B.A. 1930, M.A. 1935, honorary doctorate awarded in 1964). He was married to Margaret G. Scotton.

De Valinger assisted, and later succeeded, the third State Archivist of Delaware, historian and University of Delaware history professor George H. Ryden. De Valinger began his career in 1930, at a time when the state’s historical records were not systematically collected or well organized; he personally collected many important historical documents that had been previously stored in various offices and homes. De Valinger played a key role in the historic preservation activities of Delaware. He was responsible for introducing the National Register of Historic Places program to Delaware and played a key role in the preservation of numerous historic sites, including the John Dickinson Mansion Museum, Buena Vista, Woodburn, and the Old State House. Additionally, the Delaware State Museums program was established under his leadership.

An active member and frequent officer of the Delaware Archaeological Society, De Valinger also participated in an extensive archaeological survey of an Adena site near Lebanon, Delaware.

Following his tenure as State Archivist, De Valinger served as Executive Director for the Delaware League of Local Governments, lobbying for and documenting state politics, in addition to contributing to the Local Records Commission and the Delaware Historical Records Advisory Board. He formally retired in 1988, but continued to be professionally active as a consultant until shortly before his death on July 5, 2000.


65.58 linear foot (67 boxes)

9 oversize box

19 oversize folder

2 item (Fishing pole and rolled map)

1 VHS tape

12 audio cassette


Leon De Valinger, Jr., served as Delaware State Archivist from 1941 to 1970. The Leon De Valinger papers contain his personal and professional records, primarily related to his work as State Archivist and as a historian of Delaware. His professional, administrative, and subject files offer a window into the varied concerns of the archives profession as it evolved during the 20th century. Additionally, his work to document, preserve, and promote Delaware history and culture forms a theme throughout his papers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Leon De Valinger, Jr., 1999

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-65: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons

Box 66: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (3 inch)

Box 67: Shelved in SPEC MSS shoeboxes

Box 68: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (17 inches)

Boxes 69-71: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (18 inches)

Boxes 72-73: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (20 inches)

Boxes 74-76: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)

Oversize folders 1-19: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases

Item 1 and Roll 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize realia

Videocassette and audiocassettes: Shelved in SPEC Media

Rights Statement

The text of this web page can be reused and modified under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Courtney Frank and Alina Josan, 2014. Additional processing and encoding by Kit Fluker, 2022.

The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

This collection was minimally processed in 2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.

Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.

Finding aid for Leon De Valinger papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2022 August 11
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA