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Willie Kerr Foster papers

Identifier: uarc 721

Scope and Content

This collection consists of a history of gymnastics competition at the University of Minnesota, as prepared by Willie Foster. Running all through the early part of the history are biting comments on the chairman of the Faculty Committee on Athletics, Professor James Paige, and his controversial relationship to athletic activities. In this connection, the case of John L. Gleason is discussed at some length (folder 2). The deteriorating situation in athletics finally resulted, in 1921-1922, in the "Dawn of a New Era" (folder 3), a reorganizational measure in which both football coach Dr. Henry L. Williams, and gymnastics director Dr. Louis J. Cooke left the University staff.

A number of biographies, based on original material supplied by the biographee, but written from Dr. Foster's point of view, are included as part of his gymnastics history. In "The Dr. Cooke that I knew" (folder 1) is the story of the origin of the Little Brown Jug Trophy. Other biographies include a sketch of' Jennings Litzenberg (folder 1); an autobiography of Dr. Foster (folder 2); biographies of Fred Luehring and Herbert Watson (folder 3); sketches of Ralph Piper, H. O. (Fritz) Crisler, and Frank G. McCormick (folder 5); and a short sketch of Maurice Ostrander (folder 6). In folder 5, covering the period 1937/1938-1941/1942, is a good amount of material on Newton (Newt) Loken, Minnesota’s outstanding gymnast.

The major part of the history, is devoted to the gymnastic team. As such it is a factual record of each seasons victories and defeats, with individuals and team scores often included. Histories of the Northwest Gymnastic Society and the Western Intercollegiate Gymnastic Association (WIGA) are given in folders 2 and 3, while other records of the WIGA., 1901-1950, including the individual rosters of contenders, are contained in folder 7. In folder 8 are biographical forms for all Minnesota gym team alumni who could be contacted; folder 9 contains rather incomplete records of W. I. G. A. wrestling meets, 1909-l925.

Also of interest is the story of the University Circus, 1902/1903, 1903/1904, and 1912/1913 (folders 1-2), which gives an interesting outline of that early student activity.


  • Creation: 1898-1950


Language of Materials

Finding aid written in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Willie Kerr Foster (1878-1950)

William Kerr Foster, L.L.D. (1908), A.B. (1917), M.B. (1920), M.D. (1921) University of Minnesota. Assistant professor of physical education and gymnastic coach at the University of Minnesota (1905-1929). Organized the University's first gymnastic, wrestling, and hockey teams.

(William) Willie Kerr Foster was born on December 1, 1878 in White Plains, Alabama. He received several degrees from the University of Minnesota, including an L.L.D. (1908), A.B. (1917), M.B. (1920) and M.D. (1921). He was an assistant professor of physical education and gymnastic coach at the University of Minnesota from 1905-1929. He also taught extension classes in swimming in the 1920s. He was the medical examiner for Minneapolis high school athletics and by 1929 his medical practice had grown so large, he was no longer able to continue as the gymnastic coach. He was succeeded by Ralph A. Piper. In 1941 the University Senate voted to award an honorary athletic letter to W. K. Foster for his work in organizing the first gymnastic, wrestling and hockey teams at the University of Minnesota as well as for compiling a history of the athletic department. Willie K Foster died in 1950 in Minneapolis.


0.66 Cubic Feet (2)


This collection contains the papers of Willie Kerr Foster, assistant professor of physical education and gymnastics coach at the University of Minnesota from 1905-1929.

Source of acquisition

Papers were donated to University Archives by Dr. Louis F. Keller.

Related Materials in University Archives

Department of Intercollegiate Athletics records

Willie Kerr Foster Papers, 1898-1950
University Archives Staff
January 1957
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area