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Major William J. Heimke Papers

Identifier: Manuscripts-Collection 145

Scope and Contents

1866-1917, n.d. This collection consists almost entirely of handwritten and typed correspondence, copy-letters, dispatches and telegrams. The papers detail Heimke's career as a soldier, West Point graduate, and his later career as a diplomat where he rose from Consul-General in Chihuahua, to Secretary of the American Legation in Mexico, to U.S. Minister to Guatemala and Salvador, and then chief of Division of Latin American Affairs. 247 items. This collection consists almost entirely of handwritten and typed letters, copy-letters, dispatches and telegrams detailing the life and career of Major William J. Heimké. The majority of the correspondence concerns routine personal, professional and business matters. Some of the correspondence is in Spanish. There also several newspaper clippings in the collection. Folders 1-5 deal with William J. Heimké 's military and early diplomatic career. Of particular interest are his contracts with the Durango and Chihuahua Phone Companies, the letter naming him U.S. Consul in Chihuahua, correspondence with the U.S. Consul-General in Matamoros, a series of letters urging Heimké 's appointment as a Secretary at the American Legation in Mexico City and correspondence with Enrique Creel, the governor and wealthiest landowner of Chihuahua. The item of the greatest significance in this part of the collection is a detailed twenty four page typescript letter/report about coffee production in the Mexican states of Vera Cruz, Oaxaca and Michoacan. Folders 5-15 deal with Heimké 's service as U.S. Minister to Guatemala, El Salvador, Chief of the State Department's Division of Latin American Affairs and his post-diplomatic life. Some of the correspondence in this part of the collection are letters of congratulations from friends, family, business contacts and diplomatic associates. Other items are routine diplomatic dispatches dealing with leaves of absence, bonds, and other matters. There is correspondence addressed to and from Secretaries of State, Elihu Root, Philander Knox, William Jennings Bryan, Robert Lansing and Presidents William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson. Some correspondence provides interesting insights into Central American affairs at this time (1908-1915). In particular are letters written to Heimké by Edwin Emerson, Arthur Hugh Frazier and C. S. Spencer. Also important for this are letters Heimké sent to General Davis and William Lawrence Merry, as well as two official confidential dispatches to the Secretary of State. Lastly there are three letters addressed to Heimké in El Salvador which deal with plots to kill Secretary of State Knox during a visit to El Salvador in 1912. Among the more interesting diplomatic dispatches and documentation are efficiency reports written by Heimké about three staff members of the American Legation in El Salvador, a listing of the holdings of the archives of the American Legation in El Salvador in 1914, copies of Heimké's letters of appointment as U. S. Minister to Guatemala and El Salvador, and his letter of resignation as the Chief of the State Department Latin American Division. Other items of interest include a series of letters addressed to Heimké by Charles Butters about a meeting with Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan concerning the Major's future at the State Department and the Wilson Administration's policies regarding Latin American diplomatic appointments. There is also a letter from Henry Lane Wilson, an American Ambassador to Mexico, about the "decena trágica," when President Francisco Madero was killed, and the Mexican Revolution. The collection also includes letters and dispatches addressed to or written by Central American political figures of the era such as Salvadoran President Alfonso Quinones Molina and Salvadoran Foreign Minister Francisco Martinez Suarez. There is signed correspondence from Guatemalan Foreign Minister Luis Toledo Herrarte and Salvadoran President Carlos Melendez. Also contained in the Heimké papers is a dinner menu/concert program from 1909, autographed by Guatemalan President Manuel Estrada Cabrera.


  • 1866-1917


Conditions Governing Access

Open to the public. No known restrictions.

Biographical or Historical Information

William J. Heimké was born in France in 1847. He was educated in France and Germany, as well as in public and private schools in New York. Heimké entered military service at an unknown date. By 1866 he was a musician assigned to service as a clerk. He was stationed in Missouri and Kansas. Heimké was a member of the 1875 class of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served at posts in Kansas and the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) after West Point. Major Heimké's interest in Latin American affairs seems to have begun when he became a general purchasing and importing agent for the Mexican Central Railway 1881-1882. He was the General Manager of the Durango Telephone Company and later Chihuahua Phone Company from 1883 to 1887. Heimké was appointed United States Vice-Consul in Chihuahua in 1887, became the U.S. Consul there in 1892 and retired from that post one year later. In 1897, Major Heimké was named to the post of Second Secretary of the American Legation in Mexico City. In 1906 he was selected as the Secretary of the American Legation in Bogota, Colombia. After his confirmation by the U.S. Senate in 1908, William J. Heimké became Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to Guatemala. Heimké was subsequently designated Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to El Salvador in 1909. He occupied this position until July, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson appointed him as Chief of Division of Latin American Affairs. Heimké retired from the State Department in May, 1915. After his diplomatic career, Heimké served as the President of the Latin American Coast and Car Lighting Company, 1915-1917. During the First World War, Willaim Heimké was an attorney who represented various American, European and Latin American import-export businesses before different government agencies in Washington D.C. In 1921, he served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary on a special diplomatic mission to Peru to attend the ceremonies commemorating the 100 th Anniversary of Peruvian independence. Major William J. Heimké died on July 14, 1931.

Note written by


247.00 Pieces

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

1 Hollinger box with 16 folders Folder 1 Correspondence, 1860s-1870s Folder 2 Correspondence, 1880-1890 Folder 3 Correspondence, 1892 Folder 4 Correspondence, 1892-1898 Folder 5 Correspondence, 1906-1907 Folder 6 Correspondence, January 6 - March 7, 1908 Folder 7 Correspondence, March 13 - May 17, 1908 Folder 8 Correspondence, June 23 - December 23, 1908 Folder 9 Correspondence, 1909 Folder 10 Correspondence, 1910-1912 Folder 11 Correspondence, 1913 Folder 12 Correspondence, January 3 - February 27, 1914 Folder 13 Correspondence, March 9- June 27, 1914 Folder 14 Correspondence, July 1 - December 27, 1914 Folder 15 Correspondence, 1915-1917 Folder 16 Correspondence, Uncertain or no date
Major William J. Heimke Papers
Manuscript Collection 145 , Manuscripts, The Latin American Library, Tulane University
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the The Latin American Library at Tulane Repository

7001 Freret Street
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, 4th floor
Tulane University
New Orleans Louisiana 70118 US
(504) 865-5681