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Everett C. and Louise Staton Johnson papers

Identifier: MSS 0361

Scope and Contents

The Everett C. & Louise S. Johnson Papers concern the personal affairs of prominent Delaware publisher and politician Everett C. Johnson (1877-1926) and his wife Louise Staton Johnson (1882-1977). In addition, the collection contains material from their Newark publishing house, the Press of Kells, which brought the Arts and Crafts Movement to the community from 1916 to 1918.

The collection comprises two linear feet of material and contains publications, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, newspaper clippings, speeches, certificates, and ephemera. The collection is divided into three main series: I. Everett C. Johnson, II. Louise Staton Johnson, and III. publications from the Press of Kells and the Roycrofters.

The first series spans the period 1897-1988, and includes newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, photocopied newspaper articles and manuscripts, certificates, speeches, booklets and programs, items from the Lincoln Club of Delaware, and other miscellaneous items.

The second series spans the period 1835-1988 and includes a wide variety of original writings, as well as copies of magazines and newspapers in which they were found; memoirs; correspondence; photographs; speeches; invitations; items relating to the death of Everett Johnson; a ledger; and a scrapbook.

The third series spans the period 1911-1926, and includes original publications from the Press of Kells and the Roycroft printing shop.

The collection is a depository for numerous publications from the Press of Kells between the period 1916 and 1925, as well as some of the works of the Roycroft shop in Aurora, New York. Many of the publications are printed in the craftsman style, enriched with color and hand- lettered initials, and printed on handmade paper. Many of the works that were produced at Kells were no more than several pages in length and were directed towards the Newark community, such as a printed program for the Shakspere festival of 1916, or transcripts of speeches given at the University. Other publications were more ambitious, such as the Gospel of St. John or Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. However, most of the extant material in this collection is only a page or two in length. The decline of the craftsman influence is seen in later works, such as the 1921 English Bible, which was printed in standard type, reflecting Johnson’s extended absence from Kells and a gradual loss of interest in the movement.

The collection is rich in biographical and historical material, including information about Everett Johnson and the Press of Kells in various scholarly journals, newspaper articles, and family narratives. Of particular interest are the memoirs of Louise Johnson, "A Narration of Many Memories, Several Detours, and a Few Thoughts" (see F45). Written in 1975, she recounts growing up in Newark, her family and acquaintances, and the experiences of her own career after the death of her husband. Though written with free-flowing associations, this is a valuable source for Newark historians interested in the last years of the nineteenth century. Mrs. Johnson provides colorful descriptions of everyday life as well as numerous anecdotes of local interest, and methodically recounts the names of numerous residents and the businesses located along Main Street.

Her memoirs also provide insight into the social and political life of Washington, D.C. during the 1930s and early 1940s, with a vague sense of growing racial tensions and crime in the city. Mrs. Johnson described in some detail the daily routines and business of Senator Townsend, providing an informative profile of his personality as well. She wrote about housing shortages during and after the war, noting that she rented part of her home in Washington to Dr. Richard C. Tolman, who she later discovered was an important figure in the development of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan in 1945.

Much of the material from the papers of Louise Johnson reflects her deep interest in family history, particularly that of her parents and husband. She wrote several narratives about each of her parents, describing the death of her father, his involvement with the Welsh Tract Church, and a long piece about her mother entitled "The Friend within our Gates," which she submitted to Yankee magazine for publication in 1972 (F26). She also transcribed an autobiography written by her father in 1884 (F37), as well as an 1835 indenture which documented the purchase of the family homestead by her paternal grandfather. Upon the death of Everett Johnson, newspapers from around the region ran articles commemorating him, and these were kept together with other items regarding his death. Mrs. Johnson wrote and submitted dozens of other writings, some of local interest such as a compilation of "Delaware Sayings," while others were simply poems, often only several lines in length.

The correspondence in both series shows the wide range of contacts that both Everett and Louise Johnson maintained throughout their lives, much of which was in the political sphere. Aside from John Townsend, Everett Johnson was friends with Judge Hugh M. Morris (after whom the University of Delaware library is named), Coleman du Pont, and William Tindall. Perhaps the most interesting letters in this collection are those by John Schultz (former linotype operator at Kells) to Marjorie Johnson (later Tilghman), written while he was on a tour of duty in France during 1919. These letters are very reflective in nature, and reveal the same type of free-thinking, passionate personality that must have attracted him to the Arts and Crafts Movement. They describe his experience in France in some detail, including a "pilgrimage" to the birthplace of Joan of Arc.

The collection also contains material from the Lincoln Club of Delaware, an organization founded in 1929 at a dinner-meeting at the Wilmington Country Club. Everett Johnson idolized Lincoln and was well known for his tributes to the president, particularly his annual Lincoln day addresses before the Delaware legislature. Even though Johnson had died in 1926, when the Club formed in 1929, he was honored as a charter member. The Lincoln Club celebrated the president’s birthday every year with a formal dinner program in Wilmington, featuring addresses from prominent professors and political figures, or descendants of those who worked with and knew the president. Among other items, the collection contains several of the programs from these meetings, as well as an official history of the organization to 1969.


  • Creation: 1835-1988
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1916-1958


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

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,

Everett C. Johnson

Everett C. Johnson was born on September 8, 1877, in Blackwater, Delaware, to Isaac (d. 1917) and Belinda (Williams) Johnson. He grew up in Selbyville, Delaware, where he attended school and became lifelong friends with John G. Townsend (1871-1964), a friendship that would later bear fruit in Johnson’s political career. In 1895 Johnson entered Delaware College, where he graduated in 1899 with a Latin Scientific major. In 1898 he was the editor of the college’s first yearbook, and frequently wrote articles for the college paper, the Review, as well as for the Delta Phi Literary Society Newsletter. These activities helped prepare him for his future publishing and editing career. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, he also developed an interest in painting and the book arts.

From 1899-1902 Johnson pursued postgraduate studies in history and political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In order to earn a living, he taught at the Deichmann College Preparatory School (see F5) in Baltimore, and lectured on Hamlet. After graduating, he married Louise Staton, daughter of Joseph L. Staton, who was pastor of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church in Newark, Delaware, from 1880 until his death in 1891. For the next several years Johnson undertook a career in agriculture, purchasing a farm several miles south of Newark, but largely gave this up in 1910 when he founded the Newark Post, originally located on the corner of Main Street at South College Avenue. The circulation of this weekly newspaper was quick to expand, and Johnson remained the editor until his death in 1926. In 1916 Johnson built the Press of Kells, a printing house situated on the corner of South College Avenue and Park Place. The name was taken from the Book of Kells, a large illuminated gospel created by Irish monks in the eighth century, and it represented the nostalgia for master craftsmanship and the rejection of technology that were at the center of the Arts and Crafts ideology. Johnson brought the craft of handprinting to Newark, modeling the Kells building after the Tudor-style Roycroft print shop of Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), the leading American Arts and Crafts printer of his time.

Hubbard founded Roycroft in East Aurora, New York, in 1895, after spending several years selling soap products door-to-door. He had acquired an interest in writing and literature, and he combined this interest with the marketing and promotional techniques which he learned as a salesman. He was the first to undertake mass-market advertising of books on a large scale and to distribute them to would-be customers through mail-order gift catalogs. Hubbard was well aware that colorful and artistic graphic designs would sell books, and he was wholly dedicated to the production of books which were hand-crafted without the aid of machinery.

Johnson admired Hubbard and was influenced by his work, and after Hubbard’s death on the Lusitania in 1915 Johnson ordered the special memorial edition of Hubbard’s Little Journeys series for his daughter Marjorie. Johnson hired a linotype operator from Boston by the name of John Schultz, affectionately known as the "vagabond printer," who also took the movement very seriously. Schultz helped to shape the ideology of Kells, "Where Printing is an Art & not a Job," and was the centerpiece of a promotional booklet which celebrated the spirit of the movement (see F49). However, the artistic typography and crafted style only lasted at Kells until about 1918, when state government took Johnson away from Newark for several years, and when Schultz left for a tour of duty in post-war France.

Johnson was a progressive Republican, seeking social, governmental, and educational reforms, and he used his newspaper as a forum for his progressivism. He sought improvements for a better Newark -- the establishment of good roads, good schools, a free library, a city sewer system, and a YMCA -- and became a very popular and outspoken local figure. In the same year that he founded the Newark Post (1910), Johnson was elected to the Delaware House of Representatives on the Republican ticket, and was re-elected in 1912. While in Dover, Johnson did a great deal for Newark, helping rejuvenate the social sciences at Delaware College and fostering agricultural expansion and improvements in the area. In 1911 he was elected to the board of trustees of the University of Delaware. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment, however, was criticism of Delaware’s lack of commitment to women’s higher education and sponsorship of state legislation which admitted women into Delaware College, which occurred in 1913.

His political career soon gained momentum, and in 1917 he was appointed by recently-elected Governor John G. Townsend as Delaware secretary of state, a position he held until 1921. Governor Townsend was a staunch reformer as well, and together they set out a successful program to improve Delaware’s infrastructure, including the creation of better roads and the reform of education and the tax system. Townsend utilized Johnson’s charismatic personality by calling upon him to speak for the cause of reform, a role which Johnson continued to play after retiring from public office. During the First World War, Johnson served as a leader in numerous drives, including those for Liberty Loans and the Red Cross, and he also served as chairman of the State Council of Defense. In addition, Johnson lobbied Congress to have the Cape Henlopen lighthouse, a colonial-era structure, given to the state of Delaware. It was about to collapse due to erosion from the sea, and Johnson hoped to shore up enough money to preserve it. Unfortunately, it collapsed in 1926, but a small drawing of the lighthouse, which had been hanging on the wall in his house, is in the collection (see F1).

The last years of his life were spent in public speaking and in his continuing support of the community. He constantly endeavored to assist the University and its students, even offering loans and employment to students who needed financial aid. In 1922, Johnson was elected chairman of the Committee on Grounds and Buildings, which was responsible for planning the new library for the University, to be named Memorial Hall in commemoration of those Delawareans who had died in World War I. Johnson also continued his duties at the Press of Kells and at the Newark Post, though his increasingly frail health forced him to spend several days a week at rest. The most important work to come out of Kells at this time was a 1924 printing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This had a very large regional distribution, finding its way into Rotary Clubs and numerous high schools. The publication won Johnson election into New York’s Grolier Club in 1925, and was made an official souvenir for Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Exposition in 1926. Unfortunately, Johnson did not live to see this last distinction, for he died of a heart attack on February 20, 1926. Moreover, after his death, the Press of Kells went into a rapid decline, and was eventually sold in 1935.

Delaware History. Fall-Winter 1993-94 (vol. 25 no. 4).Hamilton, Charles F. As Bees in Honey Drown: Elbert Hubbard & the Roycrofters. Cranbury, N.J.: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1973/McKenna, Paul. A History & Bibliography of the Roycroft Printing Shop. North Tonawanda, N.Y.: Tona Graphics, 1986.The National Encyclopedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White & Co., 1892-1984.Historical and biographical material also found in the collection.

Louise Staton Johnson

Louise Staton Johnson was born in 1882 to Joseph L. Staton (1836-1891) and Martha (Rounds) Staton, in Newark, Delaware. The family originally lived in Snow Hill, Maryland, but moved to Newark in 1881 when Joseph Staton took over the pastorship of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church after the death of the former pastor, his brother George Staton. Joseph Staton’s first wife was Louisa Tilghman, a sister of William Tilghman who was a businessman from Salisbury, Maryland, and together they had five children: Jeff Staton, John Staton, Margaret (Staton) Wilson, Georgia (Staton) Warren, and Elizabeth (Staton) Jarmon. Louisa died of tuberculosis in 1879, and in the following year Joseph married Martha Rounds, who came from a large Philadelphia family. Together they had two children: Louise, who was named after her father’s first wife, and Henry Staton, born in 1884. Her father died when she was eight years old, and her mother was left to raise the children alone. Louise attended Newark High School, and after graduating in 1897 she worked as a teacher for several years. In 1902 she married Everett C. Johnson, and 1907 saw the birth of their only child, Marjorie Johnson [Tilghman].

After the death of her husband in 1926, Louise continued at the Newark Post as editor for several years and rented rooms in her house to university professors and other professionals in order to make extra money. However, she soon embarked on a number of ventures that would take her to New York and Washington, D.C. In 1928 she and her daughter left Delaware to take a temporary job at the Manumit summer camp in New York state, and later that year Louise moved to Troy, New York, as an assistant dietitian at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This job was cut short, however, by an invitation to work as a secretary in the office of family friend John Townsend, who had been elected to the United States Senate by the state of Delaware in November 1928. In early 1929 she moved to Washington, DC., and continued to work for Townsend through two terms of office, from 1929-1940. Afterwards she worked for several years in the Commerce Department as an editor in the Division of International Economics and Statistics. During this period she was encouraged to take Spanish classes, and in 1946 she retired and eventually moved back to Newark. While in Washington, and as a result of her senatorial connections, she was invited to various state functions: the inauguration of Herbert Hoover, the reception of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the unveiling of statues of Caesar Rodney and John Middleton Clayton in the Capitol rotunda.

The remainder of her years in Newark were relatively quiet. She was very interested in family history and subsequently wrote memoirs of her life, a work which she completed in 1975. She also wrote countless narratives and poems, which she submitted to magazines and newspapers throughout Delaware and Maryland over the course of forty years. Many were published, and through these she did a great deal to preserve the memory of her husband and his work. She died in 1977, at the age of 95.

Delaware History. Fall-Winter 1993-94 (vol. 25 no. 4).Hamilton, Charles F. As Bees in Honey Drown: Elbert Hubbard & the Roycrofters. Cranbury, N.J.: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1973/McKenna, Paul. A History & Bibliography of the Roycroft Printing Shop. North Tonawanda, N.Y.: Tona Graphics, 1986.The National Encyclopedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White & Co., 1892-1984.Historical and biographical material also found in the collection.


2 linear foot (4 boxes and oversized material)


The Everett C. & Louise Stanton Johnson papers concern the personal affairs of prominent Delaware publisher and politician Everett C. Johnson (1877-1926) and his wife Louise Staton Johnson (1882-1977). In addition, the collection contains material from their Newark publishing house, the Press of Kells, which brought the Arts and Crafts Movement to the community from 1916 to 1918.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Marjorie Tilghman, 1989-1995

Related Materials in this Repository

Marjorie J. Tilghman papers

MSS 0179 Robert H. Richards, Jr., Delaware Oral History collection (interview with Louise Staton Johnson) MSS 0236, Press of Kells collection

Shelving Summary

  • Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center carton
  • Box 2: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center carton (6 inches)
  • Box 3: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (15 inches)
  • Box 4: Shelved in SPEC MSS shoebox
  • Oversized removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)

Processing Information

Processed by Arthur Siegel, April 1998. Encoded by Natalie Baur, March 2010, revised by Anita Wellner, September 2014 and John Caldwell, September 2019.

Finding aid for Everett C. & Louise Staton Johnson papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2014 September 19
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA