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Ellsworth C. Warner papers, 1883-1998

Accession: 2413Identifier: 2413-V.


  • Creation: 1883-1998

Biographical Note

Ellsworth C. Warner (1884-1942), an Iowa linseed miller, founded the Midland Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1900. Warner was joined in the venture by his in-law Edgar C. Bisbee (1871-1975), a member of a wealthy Chicago linseed-oil-family. In 1890, Warner married Edgar Bisbee’s sister, Francis Melvina "Mellie" Bisbee (1864-1953). Throughout the first decade of the twentieth century the Midland Company continued to expand until 1911 when it was reincorporated as the Midland Linseed Products Company. At the time of incorporation Warner’s company was capitalized at $10 million. Midland Linseed products began to falter in 1921 when the Bisbee family members split with Warner over his acrimonious divorce from Mellie Bisbee. The Bisbees departure destabilized Midlands upper management severely enough to precipitate the company’s sale to the newly formed Archers-Daniels-Midland Company.

As of the divorce settlement, Warner gave over $1 million to Mellie Bisbee. In 1929, still unsatisfied with the previous settlement, Mellie Bisbee sued her ex-husband over a $2,200 inheritance that she claimed was seed money for nearly $5 million worth in oil mill investments. She sought a settlement of over $100,000. Unfortunately, the outcome of the suit is not recorded in the collection.

Ellsworth Warner and his first wife, Mellie Bisbee had four sons, Ellsworth Bisbee "Bis" Warner (1891-1981), Maurice A. Warner (1894-1953), Harold L. Warner (1896-1966), and Wendell E. Warner(1901-1981). In 1930, Warner married Roslyn Allen (1869-1954). Warner continued to work in the linseed oil business until his death in 1942.

Scope and Content

This series documents Ellsworth Warner’s courtship of Mellie Bisbee and their subsequent divorce and includes a letterbook and correspondence between Mellie and her sons. The Warner papers document the sale and incorporation of Midland Linseed Products Company into what became Archer Daniels Midland Company. The series also includes Litchfield’s research activities with the Warner papers.


1 Linear Foot

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Additional Description

Access Restrictions

Records less than 25 years old are closed for research.


This is a collection of papers purchased by Carter Litchfield from Mary Jo Purcell at the Baltimore Antique Paper Show from 1995 through 1998.

Related Names



Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA