Joseph C. Wilson’s Papers Now Accessible Online

Joseph C. Wilson’s Papers Now Accessible Online

Joseph C. Wilson is a Rochester legend—a brilliant industrialist who transformed a small photographic paper company into the Xerox Corporation. He was a highly civic-minded entrepreneur, too, embodying a compassion and a charisma that still ripples through the Rochester community.

Joe and his wife, Peggy, were champions of philanthropy. They gave generously to a broad range of causes and institutions, including the University of Rochester. By the time of Joe’s death in 1971, the Wilsons had given more than $40 million to the University.

Joe and Peggy Wilson

Today, the Wilson Foundation carries on Joe and Peggy’s philanthropic vision, helping to address some of the region’s most vexing challenges and improve the quality of life for many. Recently, the foundation made a $25,000 gift to the River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, making it possible to process and preserve Wilson’s official papers and make a portion of them available online to students, historians, and others interested in business, philanthropy, and community service.

“Joe Wilson’s influence was so far-reaching,” says Jessica Lacher-Feldman, assistant dean for Special Collections and Preservation and the Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director. “His personal history and legacy at the University, in Rochester, and beyond, are not documented well online—this gift makes it possible to share his story and impact with a larger audience for research, teaching, and learning.”

The Joseph C. Wilson Papers, 1919-1977, consists of correspondence, minutes, reports, speeches, and clippings from his participation in numerous business and community organizations. The bulk of the collection is dated 1959-1971, which was a period of growth for Xerox, University of Rochester, and the City of Rochester.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • Numerous speeches given by Wilson extolling the interdependent nature of business and society and numerous honors, awards, and certificates such as plaques, honorary degrees, and commemorative photographs.
  • An online image gallery, including materials from the Wilson Day 25th anniversary exhibition and the Xerography 75th anniversary exhibition. Wilson Day—now an annual University tradition—provides an important way for undergraduates to engage in community service.

Throughout the collection, a variety of themes are covered, including development, endowment investment, and student protest; community matters such as low-income housing and racial tensions; and business topics such as philanthropy, venture capitalism, taxation, and the stock market.


To access the Joseph C. Wilson Papers, The online image gallery can be found at

The Wilson’s legacy inspired the Wilson Society, which honors those who have included the University of Rochester in their philanthropic planning. To learn more, visit

Images from the Joseph C. Wilson Papers

Joe Wilson with father, J.R., at Joe's 50th birthday luncheon, December 14, 1959
Joe Wilson at Community Chest fund drive, 1968 (other man unidentified)
Joe Wilson with President Richard Nixon at meeting of President's Committee on Health Education, White House, September 14, 1971
Wilson family Christmas, December 1954
Joe Wilson and John Richards at Harvard Business School, 1931

Read “An Insider’s View into Wilson’s Papers,” which provides a behind-the-scenes look at archiving process.

—Kristine Thompson, April 2019