The Dewey Collection is divided into three major sections: personal family papers, business papers, and genealogical papers. Personal papers in the Dewey collection include correspondence from 1848 to 1911, along with several letters from the 1920s. In addition, there are photographs; several obituary notices; letters of recommendation; writings of Dewey family members; event brochures; institutional programs and brochures; commencement materials; travel and tourist brochures; and diaries of family members. Among the family writings are works by Ralph E. Dewey (b. 1863), James A. Dewey, and Antoinette Dewey Snodgrass. The photographs include family, local, and travel scenes. The collection also includes blueprints and specifications for the Dewey House, built in 1927 under the auspices of the School of Engineering, University of Illinois.
The collection's business records include promissory notes and payments for the period 1818-32; tax receipt statements; a list of business transactions for the 1870-75 period; and cancelled checks and promissory notes for the 1899-1915 period. The business section also contains a representative sample of bills for early twentieth century items; school district records; legal documents; account books; and business and expense account books for the 1862-1909 period.
Family members prominent among the business papers include Bezaleel Alvord, father-in-law of Ansel Dewey; Ansel Dewey (b. 1796) and his uncle Silas Dewey (b. 1786), Milton A. Dewey (b. 1830), and his son James A. Dewey (b. 1874). Frequent correspondents by generation include Philancey Dewey, wife of Ansel Dewey; Jennie Brown Dewey, wife of Milton Dewey, the son of Ansel Dewey; Milton Dewey (b. 1830); William Alonzo Dewey (b. 1840), Milton's brother; Maria Louise Dewey (b. 1834), sister of Milton Dewey; James A. Dewey, son of Milton Dewey and his wife Elfie Smith Dewey; and letters from Finland in Swedish from Alexandra Smirnoff to Mary Dewey (b. 1886), daughter of Milton Dewey.
James and Olive Dewey, of Penfield Township, Champaign County, Ill., donated the collection to the Library in 1981.