Skip to main content

Kettering Family Papers (MS-363)

Identifier: MS-363

Scope and Content

The Kettering Family Papers contain a variety of materials documenting the Kettering's personal lives, their professional careers, and their philanthropy. As a leading industrial family in the city of Dayton, their contributions to the industrial, financial, and medical fields in Dayton were critical to its establishment as a leading industrial center in the Midwest in the early to mid twentieth century, and the collection contains many different awards, honorary degrees, and documentation of celebratory events all given in honor of the efforts of the Kettering family for these reasons. The Ketterings, especially Charles, made great efforts to increase interest in science and promote scientific inquiry in academics, with Charles himself hosting events and making radio broadcasts on various scientific topics. Because of their wide range of interests and activities, the Kettering Family Papers contain various mediums and materials including personal and professional correspondence, patent documentation, legal deeds and titles, business records, photographs, films, audio recordings, newspapers and other periodicals, books, awards, medals, artwork, and travel documents, along with others.

Due to the famous persons and well-known topics in this collection most of the series and subseries have been grouped first alphabetically then chronologically. Those items too large to fit in boxes have been moved to Drawers/Map Cases. The researcher should be aware of the shift from Box # to Drawer # when using the finding aid and requesting items.

Series I (Boxes 1-23) Mr. & Mrs. Charles F. Kettering covers professional documents relating to Mr. Kettering and his wife, Olive. Subseries IA: Personal and Biographical Materials contains items such as short biographies and resumes, and documents of a personal nature including birthday materials, passports, notebooks, etc. Subseries IB: Awards are separated into paperwork and actual three-dimensional medals and plaques in succeeding boxes. Some awards/medals have been removed to oversize boxes and drawer storage due to their size; these items are noted in the list accordingly. Subseries IC: Correspondence is in alphabetical order by recipient or, in some cases, sender. In Subseries ID: Publications/Presentations, the arrangement is alphabetical by author. Those publications which deal in no way with Kettering, but which were donated presumably are items he himself collected. In Subseries IE: Topics, the researcher finds materials relating to friends (Alfred E. Sloan and C.E. Wilson, e.g.) and any important or leisurely endeavors in which Mr. Kettering was engaged during his lifetime (yachting). Subseries IF: Legal and Financial Documents is organized alphabetically by institution. Here for instance a folder on the Smith Gas Research Company contains any document relating to that company, whether correspondence, financial or legal. Scant materials were grouped together under topics such as "Patents" and would encompass patent information for a number of inventions.

Series II: Eugene and Virginia Kettering (Boxes 24-45), contains the papers of the Charles F. Kettering's son Eugene (Gene) and daughter-in-law, Virginia (Jinny). The subseries here are organized in much the same way as Series I, however items are first arranged by the shared materials between Eugene and Virginia (vacations, children) then items belonging solely to Eugene, and finally materials dealing specifically with Virginia. Each of these sections is prefaced by the name of the person, to whom the materials belong, in bold print. The series does contain materials related to the children of Eugene and Virginia, but any materials regarding grandchildren and great-grandchildren are found in Series III.

Series III: Extended Family and Associates (Boxes 46-49) contains personal and professional documents pertaining to Eugene and Virginia Kettering's children's families and other relatives and associates of the Ketterings. Subseries IIIA: Charles F. Kettering II (Chuck) contains all materials related to the family of Charles F. Kettering II and his children. This is followed by Subseries IIIB, Jane Kettering-Lombard, and Subseries IIIC: Susan Kettering-Williamson. Subseries IIID: The Weiffenbach family contains materials relating to Virginia Kettering's parents and ancestors. Finally, Subseries IIIE: William Handler are materials relating to a Charles F. Kettering researcher who did extensive work on Charles F. Kettering throughout the 1990s.

In Series IV: Foundations (Boxes 50-54) Subseries IVA: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital; Subseries IVB: The Kettering Foundation; and Subseries IVC: Charles F. Kettering Inc., Subseries IVC. Though not an extensive collection of records for any of these organizations, these subseries do contain deeds, patents, correspondence, annual reports, and other documents the organizations generated.

Series V: Photographs (Boxes 55-81) are ordered first by Charles F. Kettering, Subseries VA; Eugene and Virginia Kettering Family, Subseries VB; and finally Oversized Photographs, Subseries VC. If a photograph was too large for a binder album it was placed in Subseries VC: Oversized Photos, Paintings, and Drawings in an oversized flat box. If too large for a flat box, it was placed in a drawer/map case. As throughout the rest of the collection a "document removed" form is used as a place holder if one of the items was moved to oversize storage. In most instances photographs are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically. This series contains all types of photo, from formal portraits to candid shots, black and white, color and even some daguerrotypes and tintypes. Many of the photographs correspond with events found elsewhere throughout the collection, for instance the researcher may find a group of photos which correspond to an award ceremony mentioned in an Awards subseries, or birthday photos corresponding to a particular birthday event mentioned in Personal and Biographical Materials.

Series VI: Scrapbooks and Photo Albums (Boxes 88-103A) again follows the established organizational procedure, with scrapbooks and albums for Charles F. Kettering arranged first, followed by Eugene and Virginia Kettering. The scrapbooks contain clippings, photos and other ephemera, dealing with events and periods of time, e.g. the life of Charles F. Kettering from 1930-1940, while the photo albums stem from casual and more formal events in the lives of the Ketterings.

Series VII: Oversized Materials (Boxes 104-107, Unboxed Materials and Drawers 96-98), contains all documents and items in the collection too large to fit in normal letter or legal-sized document boxes, or other average-sized archival boxes. These materials come from every aspect of the collection. So stored here are oversized photographs, awards, publications, etc. Arranged here also are ledger books from Charles F. Kettering and Eugene Kettering, which are too large and awkward for boxed storage. They are un-boxed and rest on the shelves next to the collection proper.

Series VIII: Audio-Visual Materials (Boxes 108-112) contains cassette tapes, reel-to-reel recordings, VHS tapes, 33 ½ Long-playing Records, and 16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm. These items deal mostly with Charles F. Kettering and Virginia Kettering and document speeches made by Kettering and others, and also filmed events, such as the grand re-opening of the Victoria Theatre. Also included here are numerous "home movies" of the Charles F. Kettering family.


  • Creation: 1876-2006
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1972


Restrictions on Access

There are no donor-imposed restrictions on accessing material in this collection; however, due to preservation concerns, only reference copies of original audio and video materials can be accessed in the reading room. Items without reference copies can be digitized at the request of a patron for the cost of creating a digital copy. Please provide us at least two weeks advance notice if you would like to request an audio or video reference copy. Call (937) 775-2092 or email us at Use of digitized content is subject to conditions governing use.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biography of Charles F., Eugene, and Virginia Kettering

Charles F. Kettering was born August 28, 1876 in Loudonville, Ohio to Jacob and Martha Kettering. During his early life, his academic career was hindered by bad eyesight, and he was forced to drop out of college twice. He finally received an electrical engineering degree at Ohio State University in 1904, and married Olive Williams a year later. They had one son, Eugene, born on April 20, 1908. Charles worked at NCR (the National Cash Register) as a research engineer where he met E. A. Deeds, who later also would become a prominent Dayton industrialist. He, Deeds and their "Barn Gang" were instrumental in the development of the first electric starter for an automobile which would revolutionize the industry. Charles F. Kettering, known as "Boss Ket" by most, went on to found DELCO (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company) with Col. E. A. Deeds. When DELCO was bought out by GM it became the General Motors Research Corporation, and Kettering was made vice president in 1920, going on to work there for 27 years. An active head of research and development at G.M., Kettering also built a laboratory in the basement of his Ridgeleigh Terrace home in Dayton, as well as sponsoring the development of laboratories at Antioch College.

Kettering held over 300 patents, second only to Thomas Edison. His inventions include Freon, electric starters, ignition systems, headlights for automobiles, portable lighting systems, and the 'Kettering Bug,' a self-propelled aerial torpedo developed during WWI. Kettering was also involved in the development of DUCO paint, ethyl gasoline, diesel engines, and alternative energy sources like solar power.

His hobbies included traveling, and he traveled widely, including a cross-country drive with his wife and others, and later to exotic destinations like the Galapagos Islands on his yacht the Olive K., named for his wife. He was also a member of numerous clubs like the Cocolobo Bay Florida Beach Club, the Surf Club, and along with Col. E. A. Deeds founded the Engineers Club of Dayton.

As a result of his success, Mr. Kettering used his wealth to support a variety of philanthropic interests. His interest in medical technology and the sudden death of his wife Olive Kettering in 1946 from pancreatic cancer, prompted him to match Alfred Sloan's contributions in founding the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. This philanthropic nature served as the foundation for the later development of the Kettering Health Network and the Kettering College of Medical Arts, founded by his son and daughter-in-law.

For his achievements in engineering and philanthropy, Mr. Kettering received many awards and honors both during his life and posthumously. He received honorary degrees from numerous universities and in 1998 the General Motors Institute was renamed Kettering University, in honor of his services to the company. There are also many elementary and high schools that bear his name, as well as the City of Kettering, a suburb of Dayton. Charles F. Kettering died on November 25, 1958.

Eugene Kettering, born in 1908 in Dayton, Ohio, was Charles' and Olive's only son. He graduated from the Moraine Park School and attended Cornell University. He married Virginia Weiffenbach on April 5, 1930; they went on to have three children, Charles F. II, Jane, and Susan. Soon after being married he went to work at the Winton Engine Company and later the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division of General Motors. In 1936, he moved to Detroit to work on the 567 Series of Diesel Engines and was pivotal in the development of G.M.'s diesel-electric locomotive. In 1938 he was promoted to Chief Engineer for the Electro-Motive Division, and became Division Director in 1956. From 1958 until his resignation in 1960, he served as Research Assistant to the General Manager, and as a consultant. He retired from General Motors soon after his father's death, so that he could manage the Kettering estate and philanthropic legacy.

Eugene and his wife Virginia shared Boss Ket's philanthropic passion for medical technology and care, establishing the Hinsdale Health Museum in Hinsdale, IL. in 1958, and opening the Charles F. Kettering Memorial Hospital on March 3, 1964. Eugene also received multiple honorary degrees and awards. He passed away at the age of 61 in 1969.

Virginia Weiffenbach was born in Bellevue, KY., on July 15, 1907, to Norman and Clara Weiffenbach. The Weiffenbachs soon moved to Dayton where Virginia attended the Moraine Park School. There she met Eugene Kettering, whom she married in 1930. She also attended Carnegie Tech and Lutherville Seminary. During her life she shared her husband's interest in the development of the United States Air Force Museum, as well as philanthropic interests, especially in the areas of medicine and the arts. She was the director of numerous philanthropic organizations including the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Air Force Museum Foundation, in addition to many others. Upon her husband Eugene's death, Virginia continued to be a generous patron of the arts and other civic and humanitarian causes.

For her efforts, Virginia received many awards including numerous honorary degrees. In early 1973, she married H. Warren Kampf. Mr. Kampf passed on August 15, 1979. Virginia Kettering passed away on February 17, 2003.


75 linear feet (136 Boxes)

Language of Materials



The Kettering Family Papers contain materials documenting the life of Charles F. Kettering, as well as his son Eugene Kettering, daughter-in-law Virginia Kettering, and their children. The Kettering family was heavily involved in the industrial and, later, philanthropic make-up of the city of Dayton during the 20th century, and were greatly influential in the city's more recent history. Made up primarily of photographs, correspondence, family keepsakes such as holiday cards, photo albums and scrapbooks, the collection encompasses everything from births, marriages, and anniversaries, to travel and the everyday goings on of a 20th Century American family. At the same time the collection also chronicles the development of Dayton industries with national significance like DELCO, Frigidaire, NCR and other institutions and landmarks like the Winters Building (now Kettering Tower) and the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into 8 series:

  1. Series I: Charles F. Kettering
  2. Subseries IA: Personal & Biographical Materials
  3. Subseries IB: Awards and Medals
  4. Subseries IC: Correspondence
  5. Subseries ID: Publications & Presentations
  6. Subseries IE: Topics
  7. Subseries IF: Legal & Financial
  8. Subseries IG: Three-Dimensional Objects
  9. Series II: Eugene and Virginia Kettering
  10. Subseries IIA: Awards
  11. Subseries IIB: Personal and Biographical Materials
  12. Subseries IIC: Correspondence
  13. Subseries IID: Topics
  14. Subseries IIE: Publications
  15. Series III: Extended Family and Associates
  16. Subseries IIIA: Charles F. Kettering II and Family
  17. Subseries IIIB: Jane Kettering-Lombard and Family
  18. Subseries IIIC: Susan Kettering-Williamson and Family
  19. Subseries IIID: Weiffenbach Family
  20. Subseries IIIE: William Handler Materials
  21. Series IV: Foundations
  22. Subseries IVA: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  23. Subseries IVB: Charles F. Kettering Foundation
  24. Subseries IVC: Charles F. Kettering Incorporated
  25. Series V: Photographs
  26. Subseries VA: Charles F. Kettering
  27. Subseries VB: Eugene and Virginia Kettering
  28. Subseries VC: Oversize Photographs, Paintings & Portraits
  29. Series VI: Scrapbooks and Photo Albums
  30. Series VII: Oversize Materials
  31. Series VIII: Audio Visual Materials

Acquisition Information

The Kettering Family Papers were donated by Charles F. Kettering III on April 26, 2006.

Separated Materials

Commercially distributed VHS tapes were separated from the collection and cataloged for the reading room in May 2022.

Guide to the Kettering Family Papers (MS-363)
Gino Pasi, David Brownell, and Jeri Kniess, 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA