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Keyser-Wyman family papers

Identifier: MS-0082

Scope and Contents

The papers consist of diaries, memoirs, correspondence, genealogical information, newspaper clippings, maps, and photographs ranging in date from 1800 to 1968.

The papers reflect the lives and interests of three generations of Keysers and highlight three family members in particular: William Keyser, his son, R. Brent Keyser, and R. Brent's daughter, Juliana Keyser Clark. The event which unifies the creators is the development of the Homewood site for Johns Hopkins University. Correspondence, newspaper clippings, and chapters in William Keyser's unpublished memoirs highlight the family's relationship with the University.

The collected papers also provide a look into the lives of prominent Baltimoreans during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. R. Brent Keyser's diaries and his father's memoirs are a particularly rich source, as are both men's family correspondence. Both William Keyser and his son were active in the industrial development of Baltimore. Papers (1870-1925) of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Baltimore Copper and Smelting Company, and the Baltimore Electric Refining Company, although incomplete, offer a glimpse of the concerns of Baltimore industrialists.

Finally, the papers include a collection of family photographs, primarily of R. Brent Keyser and his family. The photos are both studio portraits and candid shots.


  • 1800-1968


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

This collection is not fully processed and therefore has not been fully prepared for research use. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

The literary rights to these papers were not donated.

Historical note on the Keyser-Wyman families and Johns Hopkins University

The Keysers and Wymans were two of Baltimore's leading civic-minded and philanthropic families during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. William Keyser (1835-1904), his twin brother, Samuel (1835-1906) and their cousin, William Wyman laid the groundwork and provided financial assistance for Hopkins' acquisition of the Homewood site in 1902. William Keyser's son, R. Brent Keyser (1859-1927), was Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1903 until shortly before his death in 1927.

Biographical note on William Keyser

William Keyser was born in Baltimore on November 23, 1835, the son of Samuel Stouffer Keyser and Elizabeth Wyman Keyser. He was educated at various private schools in Baltimore, and entered St. Timothy's Academy in Catonsville in 1846. He and his twin brother, Samuel, remained there until 1850, when their father's declining health and weakening financial situation made it necessary for the boys to leave school. Samuel eventually moved to New York City to make his way in business there, while William stayed in Baltimore to manage his father's warehouses. In 1857, William formed a partnership with his other brother, Irvine Keyser under the name "Keyser Brothers". He was active in the firm, as well as the Abbott Iron Co. and the Baltimore Copper Company, throughout the 1860s/ On November 11, 1858, he married Mary (Mollie) Brent, daughter of the well-known Baltimore lawyer, Robert Brent. They had three children who lived to adulthood: Robert Brent Keyser, Henry Irvine Keyser, and Mathilde Lawrence Keyser. In 1870, William Keyser became involved with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, taking a position as second vice-president during the term of its president, John Work Garrett. While at the B&O, he was instrumental in labor negotiations during the 1871 and 1877 strikes. In 1881, Keyser left the B&O. His action was precipitated by Garrett's decision to promote his son, Robert Garrett, over Keyser. Keyser next ventured into copper manufacturing. In 1882, the court appointed him to oversee the financial affairs of Pope and Cole, a local copper processor. The company had declared bankruptcy, and Keyser, as one of their largest creditors, had a vested interest in seeing them regain solvency. His association with Pope and Cole piqued his interest in the copper industry. He eventually reestablished Pope & Cole as the Baltimore Copper Company and purchased the Baltimore Smelting and Rolling Company. His entry into copper production allowed him to amass a fortune larger than if he had stayed with the railroad. Keyser put his money to many philanthropic uses. He donated funds for a hall at Hannah More Academy in Reisterstown, and was instrumental in the founding of the JHU Homewood campus. Material in the Keyser-Wyman Papers recounts his association with his cousin, William Wyman, who donated a large portion on the land, and their efforts on behalf of the University. Before his death in June, 1904, Keyser was appointed a member of the Citizens' Emergency Committee which was charged with developing a plan for rebuilding the downtown after the calamitous fire of February 1904. The Committee prepared street and dock improvement plans, which were adopted. Keyser died suddenly at his summer home, Brentwood, on June 3, 1904. His wife, Mollie, and three children survived him; Mollie Keyser later died on October 29, 1911.

Biographical note on R. Brent Keyser

Robert Brent Keyser, known as R. Brent Keyser, William Keyser's oldest son, was born on August 5, 1859. He attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire from 1875-1878. After leaving St. Paul's he embarked on a European tour (June-October 1879). At his return, he began his long career in business, working in the firms connected with his father: Baltimore Copper Smelting and Rolling, Keyser Brothers, Baltimore Electric Refining Company, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

On June 14, 1888, Brent married Ellen Carr McHenry, a descendant of Col. James McHenry. They had three children: Juliana Brent Keyser, later Mrs. Gaylord Lee Clark, Ellen Keyser, who married the diplomat, James Bruce, and William McHenry Keyser.

Throughout his life, R. Brent Keyser was active in many local Baltimore organizations. He served on the boards of the B&O, Municipal Art Society, Mercantile Bank and Trust, National Union Bank, McDonogh School, Baltimore Board of Trade, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and Hospital Relief Association. He was also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University from 1904-1927. R. Brent Keyser, like his father, devoted much time and energy to promoting Hopkins. He participated in the planning and development of, and the fundraising for, the campus at Homewood.

R. Brent Keyser died on March 1, 1927. He was survived by his wife and their two daughters.

Biographical note on Juliana Brent Keyser Clark

Juliana Brent Keyser Clark, R. Brent Keyser's oldest daughter, was born on August 5, 1891. She continued her father's association with Hopkins through her unflagging efforts to have a suitable memorial erected to her grandfather, William Keyser, and great uncles, Samuel and William Wyman. Her correspondence documents this crusade. The University eventually honored the men by naming two quadrangles after them: the upper quad, bounded by the Library and Gilman Hall, became the Keyser Quadrangle, and the lower quad, the Wyman Quadrangle. Juliana and her husband, Gaylord Lee Clark, carried on her family's longstanding interest in their history. She collected additional genealogical data, and compiled family-related newspaper clippings. The Clarks were married on April 16, 1921. Juliana and Gaylord had five children: a son, Gaylord, and four daughters, Juliana Watts, Mathilde Holmes, Letitia Sexton, and Sally Cary Wolff. Sally Cary died in 1966, followed in 1969 by Juliana's husband. Juliana died in March, 1975. She was survived by her son, and her other three daughters. After their mother's death, the daughters donated the family papers to Johns Hopkins University.


0.57 Cubic Feet (29 containers)

Language of Materials



The Keysers and Wymans were two of Baltimore's leading civic-minded and philanthropic families during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The papers consist of diaries, memoirs, correspondence, genealogical information, newspaper clippings, maps, and photographs ranging in date from 1800 to 1968.


The collection has been divided into 7 series: William Keyser; R. Brent Keyser; Juliana Brent Keyser Clark; Wyman family papers; Family research papers; Maps; Accrual to the Keyser-Wyman family papers.

Custodial History

The collection had previously belonged to the donors' mother, Juliana Keyser Clark. The compilation of family papers began with her grandfather, William Keyser, and was continued by her father, R. Brent Keyser.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Keyser-Wyman Papers were presented to Johns Hopkins University in May 1982 by three descendants of the Keyser and Wyman families: Mrs. R. J. Watts, Mrs. A. R. Holmes, and Mrs. C. L. Sexton. Additional material was purchased from Benjamin Katz in April, 2014.

Processing Information

Processed by Margaret N. Burri in August 1987. Additional processing by Kristen Diehl in July 2019.

For most of the material, it was immediately apparent which member of the Keyser family had been the creator. However, since the interest in Keyser-Wyman family history began with William Keyser, and continued with R. Brent Keyser and Juliana Keyser Clark, it was difficult to assign some of the papers to a single creator. This was especially true of genealogical research notes, newspaper clippings, and the small amount of early-to-mid-nineteenth century correspondence created by various relatives. For this reason, therefore, the material was grouped into a series of family research papers.

Guide to the Keyser-Wyman family papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA