University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Frank R. Zebley Papers


Manuscript Collection Number: 135
Accessioned: Gift of Harold W. T. Purnell, 1963.
Extent: .5 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, business of the Delaware state legislature, legal and financial papers, a scrapbook, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1998 by Arthur Siegel

for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:

Table of Contents

Introductory Note

Frank R. Zebley was born in January, 1883 in Wilmington, Delaware, to Lewis Atwood (d. c.1897) and Katherine Price Zebley (b.1850). His father was employed at one time as a car builder and manager with the Pullman Palace Car Co. in Wilmington, and worked variously as a carpenter and general laborer for other local companies as well. Frank graduated from Wilmington High School in 1898, after which he found employment as a machinist in the Delaware Machine Works. Sometime between 1906 and 1912 he acquired a degree in mechanical engineering from the International Correspondence Schools in Scranton, PA, and by 1912, the Wilmington City Directory lists Frank Zebley as a contractor and builder.

Frank Zebley was also an active supporter of the Republican party, and generally opposed to New Deal liberalism. He had been a member of the Young Men's Republican Club, and in the 1930s had embarked upon a political career, winning a seat as Speaker in the Delaware House of Representatives in 1938. According to a note in his scrapbook, however, Zebley felt betrayed by his party's leaders (for reasons undivulged), and in 1940 he retired in disgust.

During the 1930s he spent a great deal of his leisure time traveling extensively around Delaware, and wrote several books based on these experiences: Along the Brandywine (1940), and The Churches of Delaware (1947). He died in 1960.

The collection spans the period 1897-1950, and consists of .5 linear feet of material comprising correspondence, business of the Delaware state legislature, legal and financial business of the estate of Alexander C. Rodgers, a scrapbook, and ephemera. This is a very small collection of personal papers with large lacunae that make it difficult to piece together a narrative of Zebley's life. Mention of his family members are made only briefly in his two books, and in a 1916 newspaper clipping regarding the death of Elizabeth Frazier (as three of Frank's brothers were pallbearers). It is also uncertain how he became active in politics, what offices he held before 1938, or why he retired in 1940. In some ways, the collection raises more questions than it answers. For example, the newspaper clippings pasted to the spine of the scrapbook which read "Personal 3" suggest that there may be at least two other scrapbooks which are not extant, and his seemingly great interest in professional wrestlers, as implied by the numerous clippings of articles and photographs found on the last pages of the scrapbook, is curious.

Much of the correspondence dates to his term in the Delaware House of Representatives, and includes numerous requests for jobs and legislation. Among the papers is also found a list of the members of the House's 107th assembly, as well as a breakdown of the various committees on which these individuals sat.


Index (soundex) to the population schedules of the 12th census of the United States, 1900, Delaware. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1986?

The Wilmington City Directory. Wilmington, DE: s.n.

Zebley, Frank R. Along the Brandywine. Wilmington, DE: William M. Cann, 1940.

Zebley, Frank R. Churches of Delaware: a history, in brief, of the nearly 900 churches in Delaware as located by the author. Wilmington, DE: s.n., 1947.

note: historical and biographical information found in the collection.

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1    F1   Scrapbook, c.1897-1919  (36 pp.)
          All items are pasted onto the pages of this black, hard-cover scrapbook.  On the
          spine are pasted two newspaper clippings which read "personal 3."   Included are
          invitations, newspaper clippings, a sketch, a receipt, business cards, train tickets,
          memoranda, bulletins, and notes and calculations.  Also included are:
            - three report cards from Wilmington High School (1897 & 1899), and signed by
          "L.A. Zebley" and "Mrs. R.P. Zebley"
            - a Christmas day assembly program for Wilmington High School (December 23,
            - a certificate of purchase of a Mechanical Engineering scholarship from the
          International Correspondence Schools in Scranton, PA (October 8, 1906)
            - a membership card for the Young Men's Republican Club 
            - a certificate for election as Inspector of the Sixth District in Wilmington (June
          23, 1910)
            - a certificate of election as Registrar for the Sixth Election District in
          Wilmington (July 13, 1910) 
            - a membership certificate to the National Publicity Society (June 10, 1915)
            - a 1916 funeral notice for Elizabeth Frazier (wife of Charles Frazier) 
            an army registration card (September 12, 1918)
            - a certificate of "Appointment by the Governor as Honorary Delegate / Atlantic
          Congress / for a League of Nations" (January 27, 1919), and signed by Governor
          John Townsend of Delaware
            - a book jacket to "The Churches of Delaware," which was authored by Zebley

          Correspondence, 1938-39  (104 items)
          Included is correspondence with the Wilmington Department of Public Safety, as
          well as letters to Zebley during his period as a member of the Delaware House of
          Representatives.  These letters ask for personal favors from individuals,
          organizations, and companies; support for particular causes; and endorsements.  In
          addition, several are letters of application for employment on his staff.   The
          correspondence which does not concern Zebley directly is arranged together under
          the heading "miscellaneous."

     F2   Department of Public Safety, 1930  (29 items)
          Includes correspondence to and from the Wilmington Department of Public Safety
          concerning the investigation of traffic dangers on the corner of 6th and Market
          streets, and the attempt by Zebley to have appropriate traffic signs placed there. 
          Also included are numerous newspaper clippings regarding this matter. 

     F3   January & December 1938  (17 items)
          Includes correspondence from the Delaware SPCA, the State Highway
          Department, the Kent County Republican Coalition Committee, the Wilmington
          Star, the State Board of Health, and two from the Office of Auditor of Accounts.

2    F4   January 1939  (33 items)
          Includes correspondence from the Delaware Department of Public Instruction, the
          City of Wilmington Department of Public Safety, the State of Delaware Mother's
          Pension Committee, the Recorder of New Castle County, the Delaware 
          Anti-Tuberculosis Society, the National Get-out-the-Vote Club, and the Coalition of
          Conservative Democrats and Republicans.  This last group sought endorsement
          from Zebley in their effort to fight against "New Deal radicalism."

     F5   February 1939  (16 items)
          Includes correspondence from the Brandywine Archers; Senator John Townsend
          of Delaware; the Delaware Safety Council; the State College for Colored
          Students; and four typed but unsigned letters by Zebley, one of which was
          addressed to Senator Townsend.

     F6   Miscellaneous, 1938-39  (5 items)
          Includes correspondence from William C. Northrop to Henry M. Canby; H.V.
          Holloway to the Boards of Education of the City of Wilmington; William Ball to
          William Kent; C.P. Holcomb to the Hon. Ellwood J. Turner (in which Zebley is
          mentioned); and N.D. Rand, President of the Brandywine Archers to Leonard K.
          Yerger, President of the Board of Fish and Game Commission. 

     F7   Estate of Samuel Franklin Ewart, 1939 Jan-Feb  (4 items)
          Includes four autographed letters typed by T.L Ewart, son of Samuel F. Ewart. 
          Two of these were addressed to Zebley, and the other two were addressed to the
          Delaware State Legislature as a whole.  These concern a complaint by T.L Ewart
          against the mismanagement of estate finances by banks and trust companies
          (particularly the estate of his own father), and the failure of the courts to act on
          behalf of beneficiaries.  Ewart is petitioning the legislature to investigate the

     F8   Legislative Business, 1938-39  (8 items)
          Includes an eight-page list of committee members in the Delaware legislature;
          correspondence regarding House Bill 321; correspondence and charts regarding
          fiscal appropriations to Delaware public schools for 1939-41; a two-page list of
          members of the 107th Assembly of the Delaware House of Representatives; a
          two-page copy of a resolution passed by the State Board of Trustees of the
          Delaware State Hospital; and a three-page suggested procedure for organization of
          the Delaware House of Representatives.

          Estate of Alexander C. Rodgers, 1944-50  (97 items)
          Includes correspondence, receipts, and legal and financial business regarding this
          estate, of which Frank Zebley was named executor.  Also included are some
          personal items of Alexander Rodgers, such as a diver's licence and social security
          card.  It is clear from the receipts and correspondence that Rodgers had been very
          ill towards the end of his life, and suffered from several heart attacks in the weeks
          before he died on February 23, 1949.

     F9   Correspondence, 1949-50  (6 items)
          Includes a letter from Mary C. Taunt (in Los Angeles, CA); two from Alice I.
          Watson; two from Emma Rodgers; and one from "A.J.C."  All but the last of these
          were hand-written.  Alexander Rodgers had been staying with Mary Taunt before
          he died, and her letter to Zebley vividly recounts Rodgers' last days.

     F10  Receipts, 1948-50  (22 items)
          For hospital care, ambulance service, train tickets, register of wills, tax receipts,
          funeral expenses, and deposit to the Security Trust Company.

     F11  Legal, 1949-50  (10 items)
          Includes a will and letters testamentary of Alexander Rodgers; an inventory list
          and statement for the Register of Wills and Inheritance Tax Report; a petition by
          Zebley to the Register of Wills; and releases from Emma C. Rodgers, Robert L.
          and Elizabeth E. Rodgers, Mary C. Taunt, and Alice Watson, along with
          accompanying correspondence.  The releases certified that Zebley, as executor,
          paid these individuals the money that Rodgers had bequeathed to them.

     F12  Financial, 1944-50  (59 items)
          Includes cancelled checks; bank statements; deposit slips; a hardbound checkbook
          from the Wilmington Trust Co. (with 14 check stubs from March 1949 to April
          1950); an estate settlement; tax forms; an estate inventory; a bankbook from the
          Wilmington Savings Fund Society (1944-1950); miscellaneous calculations; and a
          letter to Alexander Rodgers from the Social Security Administration regarding his
          benefits claim.

     F13  Personal Items, n.d.  (11 items)
          Included are several cards on which are written the names and addresses of
          various individuals; Alexander Rodgers' social security card; an army registration
          certificate (September 12, 1918); a driver's licence (June 13, 1946); an employee
          I.D. card with the Wiltex Co.; and a membership card with the Past Sachem's
          Association of Delaware.

Back to the UD Special Collections Home Page

+ Return to List of Manuscript Finding Aids by Title

This page is maintained by email Special Collections
Last modified: 01/19/11
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014