Don Werkheiser Papers, 1885-1998 (majority within 1950-1994)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- Werkheiser, Don
- Don Werkheiser was a teacher, writer, and philosopher-reformer active in the last half of the 20th century. He is best described as an individualist anarchist and libertarian. Most of his writings center on the philosophy of Mutual Option Relationship, which he developed and promoted throughout his life. It is multidisciplinary in its nature but based mainly on principles of equal rights and freedom of the individual. The eight linear feet of papers consist primarily of Werkheiser's writings (in the form of notes, drafts, and finished typescripts), correspondence with friends and colleagues, and related ephemera. A small number of photographs, materials documenting Werkheiser's interests and activities, and works by associates of Werkheiser are also present.
- 8 linear feet
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Rebecca Bizonet
- Scope and Content:
Don Werkheiser, like many of his peers, received little recognition for his ideas and efforts during his lifetime, even among the relatively small circle of individualist anarchists within which he interacted. The papers consist mainly of various iterations of his Mutual Option Relationship philosophy and methodologies for realizing it, as well as his thoughts on the numerous social, economic, and political problems that he saw in contemporary American society. There is also correspondence with friends and associates in his intellectual and ideological sphere. The ephemera in the collection--consisting of newspaper clippings; pamphlets; and extracts from periodicals, books, and monographs, are significant because of their subject area (mainly freedom of speech), their relative obscurity, and also Werkheiser's extensive annotations. These materials are supplemented by a very small number of photographs.
The Don Werkheiser Papers (8 linear feet) have been divided into six series: Writings, Correspondence, Other Activities, Works by Others, Photographs, and Ephemera. Originally included with the Don Werkheiser Papers was a large collection of books and pamphlets by Theodore Schroeder, an important influence on Werkheiser, as well as published works by other authors. These have been removed and cataloged separately.
There is a significant amount of material in the Don Werkheiser Papers having to do with Theodore Schroeder. In addition to championing free speech causes, Schroeder developed a system of psychological thought which he named "evolutionary psychology." He was also interested in erotogenic interpretations of religious practices, and his writings on this topic generated much controversy in his day. Werkheiser was profoundly influenced by evolutionary psychology and other areas of Schroeder's thought, especially his advocacy of free speech. This is indicated not only in Werkheiser's own writings, but also in his substantial files of material by and about Schroeder and in a small amount of correspondence between the two, and between Schroeder and others. (As a point of clarification, Schroeder's evolutionary psychology appears to be entirely unrelated to the discipline of the same name established by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby in the 1990s.)
There is also a substantial amount of material related to the School of Living (mainly the one in Brookville, Ohio) and the ideas associated with it: decentralism, cooperative living, monetary and tax reform, alternative education, permaculture, wilderness and farmland preservation, and the environment. Its founders, Ralph Borsodi and Mildred Loomis, are also well-represented in the collection--particularly Loomis, who was a close friend of Werkheiser's. (As another point of clarification, the School of Living's journal-newsletter, Green Revolution, is unaffiliated with--and even in direct ideological opposition to--the Green Revolution in agriculture begun in the mid-1940s that encouraged large-scale chemical applications as a means to boost agricultural productivity.)
Other important influences on or associates of Werkheiser represented in the collection are Georgism and Henry George (on which Werkheiser wrote extensively), Laurance Labadie, Ralph Templin, and Arnold Maddaloni. There is also some material by the science fiction writer Robert Anton Wilson.
- Biographical / Historical:
Don Werkheiser was a writer, teacher, social worker, and philosopher who sought to improve society through a multidisciplinary approach involving psychology, sociology, biology, politics, economics, and libertarian and anarchist principles. Werkheiser was born December 2, 1915. Though he traveled and lived in many parts of the United States, he spent most of his life in California. Before entering college, Werkheiser supported himself for twenty years as an itinerant carpenter. During this period, he was an autodidact, reading extensively and observing a wide variety of human behavior and problems. His formal education consisted of a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio (1962), and a Master of Arts degree in psychology from California State College at Sacramento (1968). He also served in the army during World War Two, during which time he was a radio repair and radar testing technician.
During or prior to his travels as a carpenter, Werkheiser attended the Henry George School of Social Science in New York City, where he studied social philosophy. In Stamford, Connecticut, he found an important mentor in Theodore Schroeder. Schroeder was a lawyer and free speech advocate who was also keenly interested in psychology (and who was in turn strongly influenced by the psychoanalyst William Alanson White). Another of Werkheiser's mentors was Laurance Labadie, the son of the individualist anarchist Jo Labadie. Also important influences on Werkheiser's thought were Ralph Borsodi and Mildred Loomis. Werkheiser spent time at the School of Living that the two had founded at Brookville, Ohio. There he became immersed in the American decentralist movement and helped introduce his own libertarian ideas into the movement.
Werkheiser taught courses in psychology, philosophy, and social science--both during and following his schooling--at Central State University, Sacramento State College, and various community colleges. He served as editor of The Journal of Human Relations, which is published by Central State University, from 1968 to 1971. In the early 1960s, he was a social worker for the state of California.
From 1971 to 1973, Werkheiser received a grant to write a book on human relations. The product of this period was his Book of MOR (Mutual Option Relationship), which was, in effect, his magnum opus. The philosophy of Mutual Option Relationship was Werkheiser's life's work, a synthesis of his wide range of studies and experiences in diverse fields. Like many intellectual passions, it was a work that was never truly completed, and it informs all of his other writings as well. Articles by Werkheiser have appeared in various publications, including the periodicals The Journal of Human Relations, The Personalist, Balanced Living, Green Revolution, and numerous pamphlets.
Werkheiser was married to Lila Powers. Two years before his death in 1996, Werkheiser engaged himself in a major revision and expansion of his first book on Mutual Option Relationship. The new edition was to be called Mutual Option Relationship: A New Approach to Human Freedom. Following his death, Powers took on the task completing and editing the book. She finished it in 1998.
- Acquisition Information:
- The collection was acquired in installments from Mr. Werkheiser and from his widow, Lila Powers.
- Processing information:
Collection processed and finding aid created by Rebecca Bizonet.
The Don Werkheiser Papers (8 linear feet) have been divided into six series: Writings, Correspondence, Other Activities, Works by Others, Photographs, and Ephemera.
- Separated Material:
Originally included with the Don Werkheiser Papers was a large collection of books and pamphlets by Theodore Schroeder, an important influence on Werkheiser, as well as published works by other authors. These have been removed and cataloged separately.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Anarchism -- United States -- 20th century.
Cooperative societies -- United States -- 20th century.
Libertarianism -- United States -- 20th century.
School of Living of America (Brookville, Ohio)
Labadie, Laurance, 1896-1975.
Schroeder, Theodore Albert, 1864-1953.
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright has not been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s).
- PREFERRED CITATION:
Don Werkheiser Papers, University of Michigan Library (Special Collections Research Center)