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William Preston Lane papers

 Collection 0095-MDHC

William Preston Lane (1892-1967) was a lawyer, newspaper publisher, Attorney General for Maryland, and governor of Maryland from 1947 to 1951. The bulk of Lane's papers consists of correspondence and speeches, and concentrates on his gubernatorial campaigns of 1946 and 1950. Other topics include the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Washington County's industrial and economic development during the early 1960's.


  • 1898-1966
  • Majority of material found within 1946-1950

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


27.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The William Preston Lane, Jr. papers represent Lane's political career from 1925 to 1966. The bulk of the collection, which consists primarily of correspondences and speeches, concentrates on the gubernatorial campaigns of 1946 and 1950, although some personal items date back to 1898. Topics of interest include the construction of the Bay Bridge, Lane's gubernatorial campaigns, and Washington County industrial and economic development in the early 1960s. Particular items of interest are the numerous scrapbooks kept by Lane throughout his career, which have collated his various, and far-flung endeavors.


William Preston Lane, Jr. was born May 12, 1892, the second son of William Preston Lane and Virginia Cartwright Lane. His ancestors were among the earliest and most prominent settlers of the state; one was a proprietary Governor of Maryland (1676-1681). In 1922, he was married to Dorothy Byron. They had two daughters, Dorothy and Jean. Lane received his bachelor's degree in law in 1915 and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1916. He immediately entered into partnership with the law firm of Keedy and Lane in Hagerstown, and later, in 1919, became a partner in the firm of Lane, Bushong, and Byron..

Appointed captain in the 1st Maryland Infantry National Guard in 1915, Lane saw service on the Mexican border in 1916. During World War I, he fought with the 115th Infantry and was awarded the Silver Star. Lane was promoted to major and Assistant Division Adjutant of the 29th Division after the war. During World War II, he was involved in the organization of the Maryland State Guard and Maryland Minute Men and served as lieutenant colonel in command of the 8th Battalion.

In 1922, William Preston Lane became president of the Herald-Mail Company, which published two Hagerstown newspapers, the Morning Herald and the Daily Mail. He became vice-president of the Hagerstown Trust Company in 1933, later succeeding his father as president. He also served as director of the W. D. Byron and Sons Tannery, Hagerstown Shoe and Legging Company, and the Washington County Railroad Company.

Lane's political career began in 1928 upon his election to the Board of Education of Washington County. Two years later, during Governor Ritchie's term of office, he was appointed Attorney General for Maryland and while in this position gained a reputation for outspokenness and courage. He won national recognition in 1933 for his anti-lynching campaign, although this caused him to lose favor in the Maryland Democratic organization.

While in temporary retirement, Lane was senior partner in the law firm of Lane and Mish. Also at this time he became a director of the Washington and Berkeley Bridge Company and the Fairchild Aircraft Corp. He served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from 1928-1948 and, from 1940 to 1950, was the Democratic National Committeeman for Maryland. In 1944, Lane managed Roosevelt's fourth presidential campaign in Maryland, pitting himself against his political rival U. S. Senator Millard E. Tydings. When Lane, in 1946, sought the nomination for governor, Tydings supported his rival J. Millard Tawes. After a very costly and hard-fought preliminary campaign, he was victorious of Tawes and easily defeated the Republican candidate for governor, Theodore R. McKeldin. Governor Lane then served as chairman of the Southern Governor's Conference in 1947 and 1948.

During his term the original Bay Bridge was begun and completed, and great strides were taken in improving the state's school and hospital systems. Governor Lane also instituted the first state sales tax in spite of bitter opposition. Although this cost him a second term of office, he was vindicated when Maryland ended its next budget year in the strongest fiscal condition it had ever enjoyed.

After retiring from public life in 1951, he continued his various business endeavors. William Preston Lane, Jr. died suddenly of a heart attack on February 7, 1967.


The collection is organized as nine series.

Series 1
Series 2
Speeches and Statements
Series 3
Series 4
Committee/Commission Files
Series 5
Series 6
Series 7
Series 8
Political Cartoons
Series 9

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Lane family donated the papers of William Preston Lane, Jr. to the University of Maryland Libraries in July 1979. The Libraries purchased correspondence dated from 1928 to 1941 from Spring Mount Collectibles in March 1992.

Processing Information

The material was in fairly good order when received, and this order was maintained with very little rearrangement. For the most part, the series derive from Lane's filing system. The correspondence has been kept in two separate components by county and by date of reply as in the original order. Speeches were roughly chronological, if dated at all. Undated speeches were left as they occurred in the original order. Duplicate speeches were discarded, as were report folders. The papers were placed in acid-free folders, labeled and boxed. In 2003, early Lane letters, dated 1928-1941 were removed from the Maryland Political Letters collection and placed into Series 1: Correspondence.

Guide to the William Preston Lane papers
Processed by Janet Strickland.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742