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Frank Thomas Papers - MS 653

Introduction | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory


The Frank Thomas Papers, although small, is a good representative collection of political campaigns and issues, pertaining largely to Wood County and Ohio, during the early part of the twentieth century. The collection includes correspondence, a number of printed materials, and photographs.

The collection was donated to the Center for Archival Collections by Robert and Gibbie Harms, on September 11, 1992. There are no restrictions on the use of this collection and duplication is permitted for research purposes.

Biographical Sketch

Frank Thomas (1873-1950) was born in Hancock County. When Frank was eight, the family moved to Bowling Green. Because of his father's frail health, Frank left school to assist in supporting his family. He was a newsboy for both the Toledo Blade and the Toledo News-Bee, and was the first messenger for the Toledo and Indiana Railroad Company (later the New York Central line). He also worked in the glass factories in Bowling Green and finally in 1891 was hired by the Wood County Democrat in the print shop. Within two years he became foreman of the shop. In 1911, he and a fellow worker, David VanVoorhis, purchased the newspaper, and by 1924, Thomas had purchased his partner's share in the business. He ran the newspaper as editor and manger until selling it in 1928.

While working at the Democrat, he became very interested in politics. In 1899 he was elected to the city council. By 1910, he was elected as Representative, serving in the State Legislature for two terms. This was the first time in over fifty years that a Democrat was elected to this office. During this time period, he was instrumental in securing the initial appropriation for a state normal school for northwest Ohio and helped to ensure that it was located in Bowling Green (now Bowling Green State University). In 1916, he was elected to the position of State Senator. Long a supporter of labor and a previous officer of the Ohio Federation of Labor, while in the State Senate he co-sponsored the bill creating the Industrial Commission of Ohio which provided assistance to families of those injured or killed in the work place.

Thomas was a member of the Executive Committee of the Wood County Democratic Party and served as a member of the county central committee for many years.

In 1932, Governor George White appointed Thomas to the position of parole officer in the Ohio Welfare Department. In 1933, he was appointed as postmaster in Bowling Green and served in this position until his retirement in 1945. In 1946, he ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for Congress, representing the Thirteenth Congressional District.

He was married to Anna Potter in 1892 and together they had seven children, three of whom died in infancy. Anna died in 1944 and he later married Cora Reese. Frank Thomas died on June 14, 1950.

Scope and Content

The Frank Thomas Papers, although a very small collection, provide details on political issues and campaigns during the early twentieth century. The correspondence and printed materials largely pertain to Thomas' tenure as Postmaster, 1933 to 1945, and his tenure as state representative and senator, 1910 through 1916. These two facets of the collection serve to illuminate some of the political issues important in Ohio during this time period. Although the collection is not as comprehensive as one would wish, the researcher still can gain a sense of the extensive work Thomas accomplished during his political career. Similarly, his accomplishments, such as his service on Bowling Green's City Council and as state representative and senator, as a founder of the International Typographical Union, and his work in procuring Bowling Green Normal School are fairly well illustrated despite the absence of much of his political and personal correspondence.

The photographic material included in the collection provide some documentation of Frank Thomas and his family. Unfortunately, most of the photographs are not identified or dated.

Ultimately, it can be concluded that the collection provides a good source to the researcher who is interested in some of the issues important in Ohio politics in the early twentieth century. The collection, however, is limited and provides only a preliminary indication of the political issues and Thomas' accomplishments as a public official.

Series Description


1911-1947. (scattered)
Arranged chronologically
Includes correspondence relating to Thomas' business and political career as well as one personal letter


1912, 1918, 1941, 1946
Arranged chronologically
Includes membership card for the Elks Club, birth records, certificate of incoming Postmaster, and certificate of election

1911-1946 (scattered)
Arranged chronologically
Includes articles and pictures in newspapers related to special events, Thomas' achievements, Viola Thomas becoming a lawyer, political issues of interest to Wood County.

1937, 1941, n.d.
Includes political pamphlets and fliers, political poem, copy of Jim Farley Testimonial Dinner program

1910, 1911, 1942, 1946, n.d.
Arranged chronologically
Includes obituaries, fliers, and political brochures


c.1910, c. 1933, 1946, n.d.
Includes photographs of Frank Thomas, his family and friends, unidentified groups of people


Box 1


  1. Correspondence, 1911-1947
  2. Certificates, 1912, 1928, 1941, 1945
  3. Newspaper clippings, 1911-1946, (scattered)
  4. Pamphlets and printed material, 1937, 1941, n.d.
  5. Documents on Thomas and family, 1910, 1911, 1942, 1946
  6. Photographs, c. 1910, c. 1933, 1946, n.d.

Manuscripts by Subject | Political Collections