S. Spafford Ackerly papers, circa 1890 to 2013

Call number: 2013.010

Extent: 1.7 linear feetĀ in 1 manuscript box and 1 flat box

The papers document the life of psychiatrist Dr. S. Spafford Ackerly. The papers primarily consist of typescripts, photographs, publications, clippings, correspondence, transcripts, awards, and digital images, dating from circa 1890 to 2013, which were collected and assembled by his children. It also includes memorabilia owned by Dr. Ackerly, a scrapbook documenting his time at the Manual Training High School (Brooklyn, NY), and an audio cassette containing recordings of his memoirs.

Dr. Samuel Spafford Ackerly (1895-1947), was a pioneering psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of mental illness. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, on May 20, 1895, to George Briggs and Nancy Spafford (Brown) Ackerly, and resided at 647 Monroe Street. He attended the Manual Training High School in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, graduating with honors in 1914. He then attended Wesleyan University, before joining the Armed Forces and serving in World War I, where he was wounded in 1918.

After recovering from his injuries, he attended Yale University Medical School, studying under Alfred Adler and graduating in 1925. He began his formal psychiatric training at the Westchester Division of the New York Hospital, then continued his studies in Massachusetts, London, and Vienna, before joining the University of Louisville faculty in 1932. He would remain at Louisville for the rest of his career.

The “Memorial to S. Spafford Ackerly, M.D.” by Harry H. Moorehead and Frank J. Curran (1981) summarizes his career as follows:

“He had the first Commonwealth Fund Grant in Kentucky and was awarded one of the first teaching grants from N.I.M.H. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. He was chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Louisville and the director of the Louisville Child Guidance Clinic. He founded the Kentucky Psychiatric Society, of which he served as president. He also served as vice-president of the American Psychiatric Association, and president of the American Orthopsychiatric Society. He was a charter fellow of the American College of Psychiatrists, a life fellow of the American College of Physicians, a founding member of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, and a member if its council. He worked constantly with civic groups and with mayors, governors, and legislators during the years.”

He married Carita Louise Clark on October 17, 1925, and had four children, Dr. William Clark Ackerly, Nancy (Steinson) Ehrlich, Elizabeth Wurtmann, and Carita A. Warner. He died on September 24, 1981, in Louisville, KY.

View Finding Aid


  • Ackerly, S. Spafford, 1895-1981
  • Ackerly, William C.
  • Ackerly family
  • Adler, Alfred, 1870-1937
  • Ehrlich, Nancy S.
  • Janes Methodist Episcopal Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).
  • Manual Training High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).
  • University of Louisville.
  • Warner, Carita A.
  • Wurtman, Elizabeth A.


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Kentucky


  • Genealogy
  • Medical sciences
  • Mental health
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychiatry
  • World War, 1914-1918

Types of materials:

  • Audiocassettes
  • Correspondence
  • Memorabilia
  • Photographs
  • Publications
  • Scrapbooks
  • Typescripts

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