Skip to main content

Elwood Murray Papers

Identifier: M070


Elwood Murray (1897-1988) taught speech at the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado from 1931 to 1962. He also directed the School of Speech at the University from 1932 until his retirement in 1962. He earned a Ph.D. in Speech and Psychology from the University of Iowa in 1931. In 1949 he initiated the founding of the National Society for the Study of Communication and served as its president in 1953. He served as director of the Institute of General Semantics from 1967-1969. He participated in conferences presenting papers on general semantics and communications theory.

His papers consist of his journal articles and speeches, and include papers presented at conferences as well as abstracts, reviews, book chapters and test manuals. Also included are records from Murray's involvement in professional organizations including annual reports, minutes, correspondence, brochures and conference materials. The academic materials relate to the University of Denver School of Speech and include course outlines and schedules. General materials include correspondence, newspaper clippings, note cards, bibliographies, photographs, and book chapters. The collection includes memorabilia as well as audio and video reel-to-reel tapes.


  • 1929-1988


Biographical / Historical

Elwood Murray was born in 1897 and raised on a farm near Hastings, Nebraska. He earned a B.A. degree in 1922 from Hastings College, with majors in English and American History. He worked his way through college by milking cows and selling pianos. In July 1924 he finished his master’s degree in Education and Speech at the University of Iowa. His first teaching job was at the high school in Ord, Nebraska, in 1922-1923. He then worked at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Midland College, and Purdue University. He was awarded the third speech Ph.D. in the country at the University of Iowa in February 1931, with an emphasis on the Psychology of Speech.

In 1931 he obtained perhaps the only speech position available during that year of the Depression, Associate Professor of Speech and Dramatic Arts at the University of Denver. He became chairman of the department the next year. The publishing of his first book, a joining of speech with personality development, The Speech Personality (Lippincott, 1937, 1942) brought many advanced students to the University. The first Ph.D. in Speech was offered in 1945 with the assistance of the growing faculty and administration. In December 1949 Murray initiated the founding of the National Society for the Study of Communication, later called the International Communication Association. In 1939 he participated in the first of his five seminars with Alfred Korzybski in Chicago. Jointly with M. (Marjorie) Kendig he programmed the 1942 and 1950 congresses in general semantics held at the University of Denver. Integrative Speech (Dryden Press, 1952) was one of the first textbooks to introduce general semantics in the teaching of communication. In 1950 he introduced the first Laboratory in Interpersonal Communication in the country. This was followed in 1964 with an Interdisciplinary Analogue Laboratory on Structures, Patterns and Themes. Primarily for graduate students, teachers and administrators in higher education, the Laboratory was designed to explore analogous structures and systems of knowledge across the sciences and humanities in order to create greater understanding of the whole of human knowledge.

Murray retired from the School of Speech in 1962, although he continued to be involved in the department afterward. He held visiting professor appointments at a number of other universities, was the joint programmer of six interdisciplinary conferences, and presented papers at a number of others. His book Speech: Science-Art was published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1969. He presented the 27th annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture to the Institute of General Semantics in 1978. His numerous articles appeared in a variety of communications journals.

Murray married Emma Prince in 1924. They had three children. Professor Murray died in 1988.


4 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Scope and Contents

The Elwood Murray papers consists of Murray's writings. These include journal articles, speeches, papers presented at conferences, book chapters, abstracts, reviews, and test manuals. The collection also contains materials documenting Murray's professional activities, primarily in national and international organizations devoted to studying communications and general semantics. These materials include annual reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, brochures and conference materials. Murray's academic materials from the University of Denver School of Speech include course outlines and schedules. Murray's professional career materials include correspondence, newspaper clippings, bibliographies, photographs, and note cards on the allusions in John Quincy Adams' Lectures on Rhetoric, compiled by Murray. The collection also contains memorabilia collected by Murray, as well as audio and video reel-to-reel tapes of Murray speaking.


This colllection is arranged in five series:; 1.Articles, speeches and other writings by Murray, 1929-1976.; 2. Professional Activities, 1949-1978.; 3. Academic Material, 1955-1969.; 4. General, 1949-1988.; 5. Media and Memorabilia, 1951-1978.;

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Elwood Murray, 1976-1977.


No further accruals expected.

Related Materials

One article by Elwood Murray, then a a Public Speaking Instructor and an English Instructor at Purdue University is held by the Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428