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Admiral William H. Standley papers

Identifier: 0005

Scope and Content

The Admiral William H. Standley papers contain both professional and personal correspondence, addresses and speeches, genealogical and biographical material, photographs, memorabilia, and other material documenting Admiral Standley's family, naval career, and public activities.


  • 1892 - 1992
  • Majority of material found within 1924 - 1958


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical note

William Harrison Standley was born in Ukiah, California, on December 18, 1872, the son of Jeremiah M. "Doc" Standley who was the Mendocino County Sheriff at the time, and of Sara Jane Clay Standley. After attending school in California and Maryland, Standley entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1891 and graduated in 1897.

During his long naval career, Standley rose from ensign to the rank of Admiral. He served in a variety of assignments during this career, the most notable included Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) (1933-1937), Acting Secretary of the Navy (1933-1937), and a member of the United States delegation to the London Naval Conference (1935-1936). Retiring in January 1937, Admiral Standley returned to active duty in February 1941, first serving as naval representative on the planning board of the Office of Production Management, then as part of the Beaverbrook-Harriman Special War Supply Mission to the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), and lastly as a member of the Navy Board for Production Awards. He also was a member of the first Roberts Commission (1941-1942), a fact-finding commission which investigated the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Subsequently recalled to active duty one last time, in March 1944, Standley served in the Office of Strategic Services throughout the remaining period of the war. He was relieved of all active duty on August 31, 1945.

In addition to his naval career, Admiral Standley was for a time U.S. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1942-1943). He wrote about this period in Admiral Ambassador to Russia with Admiral Arthur A. Ageton, published in 1955.

Admiral Standley was honored with many awards, citations, and commendations both during his lifetime and posthumously. These honors included the Distinguished Service Medal (World War II); Commendation Letter Baler Reconnaissance Expedition (1901); Commendation Letter as Captain of the USS California (1926); Cavaliers Di Gran Groce (Italy, 1934); Star of "Abdon Calderon" First Class (Ecuador, 1936); Honorary Degree, Doctor of Law, University of California (1944); Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, University of Southern California (1952); Award of Merit, Daughters of the American Revolution (1957); Golden Nurse Award, American National Red Cross (1963); the USS William Harrison Standley DG 32 (1964); the Admiral William Standley State Recreation Area in Northern California; and the William H. Standley Middle School, San Diego, CA.

Admiral Standley lived in final retirement in San Diego, California, until his death on October 25, 1963.


14 Linear Feet (16 boxes)

Language of Materials



These papers document both the personal and professional life of Admiral William H. Standley (1872-1963), naval officer, United States government official and diplomat, and California civic leader.


The collection is organized by series.

1) General Material, Family Correspondence, Narratives, Biographies, Taxes

2) Narratives, Correspondence, Taxes, Financials, Financial Information, Genealogy: Autobiography

3) Activities

4) Organizational Memberships

5) Council Against Communist Aggression & Miscellaneous Newspaper Clippings

6) Crime Study Commission

7) Civil Defense and Red Cross

8) Pan American Airways and San Francisco Bay Bridge

9) Speeches

10) Addresses

11) Invitations

12) Correspondence, Official

13) Visits to Russia and Russian Material

14) Correspondence

15) Scrolls and Miscellaneous

16) Miscellaneous Papers

17) Naval Thesis, Battle Plans and Instructions

18) Pamphlets, Articles, and Reprints

19) Memorabilia - Books, Pamphlets, Standley Honors

The order of the materials in the boxes is based on the original order of the collection when Marion Wincote Elliott, granddaughter of Admiral Standley, compiled her "Index to the Papers of William Harrison Standley 1872-1963 Admiral United States Navy 1891-1937" in 1988. An Addendum was made later and added to the Index.

Elliott gave a copy of the Index to Special Collections.

Related Archival Materials

William Harrison Standley papers, 1895-1963 (bulk 1940-1960), MSS41178, Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress.

Separated materials note

"Index to the Papers of William Harrison Standley 1872-1963 Admiral United States Navy 1891-1937", compiled by Marion Wincote Elliott in 1988, was transferred to the Admiral William H. Standley Accessions File.

Processing information

The collection was reprocessed by Michael Hooks in 2013. The original collection was retained as is, but the old archival folders and document boxes were replaced with new archival folders and 13 new banker's boxes, 2 new document boxes, and 1 film reel storage box. Loose material was incorporated into new folders and boxes.

Finding Aid for the Admiral William H. Standley papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States