Skip to main content

E. J. Kelly Collection

Identifier: RH-A-3902

Scope and Contents

The collection is composed of a wide variety of items dating from World War 1 to the 1960s. These items include military souvenirs, photographs, business papers and publications, and newspaper clippings.


  • Creation: 1960's


Biographical / Historical

Eugene Kelly was born on December 17, 1890, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He grew up there, and in 1918 enlisted in the US Army Reserve, where he served in the Signal Corps. He was stationed in France, and then Germany, following the end of the war. During his time in the army he rose from the rank of private to first lieutenant. He was decorated for bravery.

After the war he returned to Ohio. He worked for the next 10 years at Cincinnati’s Eagle Printing Ink Company. In 1929 he came to Kalamazoo, where he founded the EJ Kelly Co. It was located at 1898 North Pitcher Street. In 1944, Kelly was an honorary sergeant-at-arms at the Republican National Convention in Chicago. As a local head of industry, Kelly served on the War Production Board during World War II. The EJ Kelly Company operated independently until 1945. That year, the EJ Kelly Company and Michigan Research Laboratories were integrated. They then merged with the Sun Chemical Corporation. Kelly became the head of research for Sun Chemical, and the EJ Kelly Company became the EJ Kelly Division of Sun Chemical. In this position, Kelly patented numerous kinds of printer ink, including brands called Wotta Black and Hydry.

Between 1954 and 1960, Kelly served on the Draft Board of the Selective Service System in Kalamazoo. In 1956, he semi-retired from the EJ Kelly Division of Sun Chemical, retaining 50% of the responsibilities he had previously shouldered. That same year, he was given the Ault Award for development of his Hydry printer ink. By the time he retired, he had attained great success, and owned homes on Bronson Boulevard, on Dwillard Drive in Kalamazoo’s Eastwood neighborhood, on Gull Lake, and in Florida.

Eugene Kelly died May 18, 1964.


2 boxes

Language of Materials


Physical Description

The collection amounts to 2.0 cubic feet and is composed of numerous objects. These objects include World War 1 souvenirs, business papers, photographs, publications, and newspaper clippings. The items take up two boxes. The items, while diverse, are all in remarkably good condition. Some of them are handwritten, some are printed, but all of them are well-preserved and what’s written is legible.

EJ Kelly Collection Finding Aid
Matt Decker
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490