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General William I. Westervelt Papers

Identifier: mss-583

Scope and Contents

The material is arranged mainly by location or military base/arsenal; note that Detroit is the central location for work at Sears while other locations denote military bases/arsenals. The other series are self-explanatory and include Personal Correspondence, Printed Material, and Photographs. All may contain military records, but the personal set remains accurate to how Westervelt originally ordered his material.


  • 1906-1960



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical / Historical

William Irving Westervelt was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on September 11, 1876 to parents George W. Westervelt and Ida F. (de Ryee) Westervelt. He attended the American Military Academy at West Point, NY graduating in 1900 as a Lieutenant in the Artillery Corps.

He served in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. He worked as an instructor of Physics at West Point from 1904 to 1906. In 1906, he was made Captain of the Ordnance Department. During this time, he was tasked with visiting several arsenals to produce reports on conditions. He was promoted to Major in 1913. During World War I, he was Assistant to the Chief of Artillery with the American Expeditionary Forces. He served in the technical staff of International Arms and Fuze Co. for a few months in early 1917. He became the Colonel of Field Artillery for the National Army in the same year and a Brigadier General the next.

He then transferred to Ordnance and from 1919-1923, he served as Commanding Officer of the Watervliet Arsenal. One month after the war ended, he served as head of a board which came to be known as the Westervelt Board or the Caliber Board. Its members were responsible for developing a comprehensive development program for the U.S. Army Field Artillery, which had a direct impact on the weaponry used in World War II.

From 1923 to 1927, he served out of the American Embassy in Paris as technical military attaché to Western Europe. He retired from active military service in 1927 and joined the business world. From 1927 to 1938 he worked as technical director and factory manager for Sears, Roebuck, and Co. He was called away in 1933 to serve in the Agriculture Adjustment Administration in Washington, D.C. During World War II he served on an advisory panel that made recommendations for the Army Signal Corps.

After leaving Sears, he resided in the Vanderbilt Hotel in New York City and consulted with the firm Ross and Co. on engineering projects. In 1951, he moved to Burlington, Vermont.

Westervelt was a member of the American Ordnance Association, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a charter member of the ASNE Nuclear Energy Application Committee.

He married Dorothy Jocelyn (1888-1981) in 1918 in France. She had been working in hospitals there through the French Government and the Red Cross. Her parents were Major Stephen P. Jocelyn (of Burlington, VT) and Mary Chamberlan Edgell. Dorothy appears to have spent much of her childhood and summers as an adult in Burlington. William and Dorothy had 3 children: Peter (b. 1920), Dirck (b. 1921), and Jane (b. 1927 in Paris). Dirck was a fighter pilot who died in Korea in 1951.

Westervelt received several military decorations including Distinguished Service Medal (US, 1919), Officer of the Legion of Honor (French), Companion of St. Michael and St. George (British), Commander of the Crown (Italian), the Victory Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, and service ribbons of the Spanish-American War and Mexican Border. He died in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1960. His remains were buried at the Cimetière Mont-Royal in Quebec.

[adapted from Westervelt's obituary]


2.5 Linear Feet (2 cartons, 1 box, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



The collection contains military correspondence, marching orders, military reports and studies on artillery from arsenal in the U.S., and artillery handbooks from Westervelt's time as Brigadier General leading up to and during American involvement in World War I. Personal and business papers from his civilian life detail consulting work for business, mechanical engineering, and nuclear energy.


Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Guide to the General William I. Westervelt Papers
2018 April
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)