Today presidential libraries are expected from every former president. Presidents begin to plan their libraries before exiting office. It was not always so. Over time, the American public and their government altered their views of presidential documents. For years, presidential documents had been considered personal property, so former presidents did as they wished with them. During his presidency Franklin D. Roosevelt created the National Archives to preserve presidential papers. His presidential library was the first in the federal presidential library system and therefore receives much recognition for being the first presidential library. However, twenty years before Roosevelt’s library existed there was the Hayes Memorial Library and Museum. Now known as the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums, Roosevelt used it as a model for his presidential library. Therefore, it influenced the federal system of presidential libraries. This project argues the Hayes Memorial Library and Museum exists due to the determination and resourcefulness of its founder Colonel Webb Cook Hayes. It further states that by creating the first presidential library, Webb influenced the federal presidential library system.
This project analyzes the creation of the Hayes Memorial Library and Museum, following its journey from conception to fruition. This thesis first outlines the life of founder Colonel Webb Cook Hayes, revealing what led him to create the memorial: influences that shaped his interests, sources of his power, and passions that drove him. Then the text examines the difficulties surrounding the creation of the Hayes Memorial. It was managed and owned by the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society. Because no presidential library existed before it, the Hayes Memorial had to become the model for others to follow. This project follows the complications that arose due to the innovative concept of a presidential library and how Webb assisted in managing them. The sources for this project include Hayes family papers, local collections and historical newspapers. It also includes various texts on the history of presidential libraries, place, local history, and memory. Gathering these sources and examining them together sheds new light on the creation of the presidential library concept.