The Laurence J. Kenny Manuscript Collection affords a glimpse into the research interests and working methods of a major American Catholic historian of the early part of the twentieth century, a scholar-priest whose professional life spent illuminating the Catholic history of this country and the contributions of Catholics to American culture seems to have been a reflection of his deepest personal avocations. The collection comprises items from 1821 to 1959, with the earliest pieces actually being later transcriptions of originals. The bulk of the material spans the period 1930 to 1947.
The Personal Series that opens the collection provides background on Kenny's public life and achievements. It also includes a few items of ephemera and a newspaper article lauding Kenny's cheerful encouragement of others, all of which point to an unfortunately obscured private existence. The Bibliographies Series introduces Kenny's published work through lists of articles he authored along with copies of several of them. The focus of the collection is on Kenny's own research and his wide-ranging knowledge of American Catholic history. The Correspondence and Notes Series together form the core of the collection. The Correspondence Series is composed of letters to and from Kenny mainly treating various historical questions. The Notes Series is made up of typescripts and jottings about historical incidents, apparently intended both as working copies of more formal endeavors and as notes to be filed away for Kenny's later reference.
The Papers and Speeches Series contains several drafts that appear to be final, a condition less often ascertainable in the material comprising the Notes Series. The Book Reviews Series consists of typescripts of and notes for the reviews that seem to have made up a sizable portion of Kenny's published output. Theses and Dissertations Series contains Kenny's criticism of him, although the works he comments on are unavailable. The Historical Accounts and Biographies Series is made up of works, with one exception, not by Kenny, that he apparently found interesting to have on hand for reference.
A Lists Series includes names and addresses collected for various purposes, while the Clippings Series consists of loose newspaper and magazine clippings kept by Kenny. The Publications Series contains original issues of publications found among Kenny's papers, marked for their items of interest to him.