Kansas State Historical Society places historic Menninger records online

After two years documenting papers and records from the Menninger Foundation, the Kansas State Historical Society has now put some selected papers on Kansas Memory, the historical society’s website.

The records include manuscripts by Sigmund Freud, Florence Nightingale and personal papers of Menninger family members: psychiatrists C.F., Karl, Roy, Walter and William. The Menningers collected the papers of leaders in psychological thought from 1644 to 2002.

In a time when mental illness was typically treated with asylums, lobotomies and physical restraints, the Menninger family from Topeka would change the field of psychiatry by treating patients as if they were family members. Charles Menninger and his sons, William and Karl, believed doctors and specialists should treat a patient as a whole person, not just for specific symptoms.

They started their clinic in the 1920s in a vacant farmhouse. By the 1940s, the Menningers' endeavor had evolved into one of the world's leading psychiatric and mental health hospitals, spanning 40 buildings and more than 400 acres in two Topeka locations.

The documents can be viewed by going to and searching Menninger records.

Karl Menninger was called the dean of American psychiatry. He joined his father's practice in 1919 with a specialty in neurology and psychology. He was a best-selling author who wrote more than 14 books.

Will Menninger became nearly as famous, specializing in preventive psychiatry. He developed the milieu treatment, using gardening, creative arts and exercise to treat patients.

He was also the chief psychologist for the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he helped advocate for veterans.

Charles Menninger died in 1953; Will in 1966, and Karl in 1990.

In late 2002, the Menninger Clinic joined with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Methodist Health Care system in Texas. It moved to Houston in 2003.

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