Joseph Benjamin Oakleaf (1858-1930) was born in Moline, Illinois. His parents were Peter and Mary Oakleaf, both Swedish immigrants. In 1869, the family moved to Kansas, where Joseph went through school. He eventually moved back to Moline, passing the bar exam in 1886 and opening his own law office two years later. Oakleaf was active in many historical societies. He was the president of the Rock Island County Historical Society, director of the Illinois State Historical Society, and member of the Chicago Historical Society, the Kansas Historical Society, and the Mississippi Valley Historical Society. In 1879, Joseph married Josephine Anderson and had one son the following year, named Josephus L. Oakleaf. Josephus later attended Augustana College for a time before he transferred to Cornell University.
During his lifetime, Oakleaf collected a number of editions of Frithiof’s Saga (Friðþjófs saga frœkna), an epic poem from Norse mythology. He was cited as an authoritative figure on both the original Swedish version of the poem as well as the numerous translations he collected around the turn of the twentieth century. He also collected autographs of Swedish and Danish royalty dating from the sixteenth century to Oakleaf’s lifetime. He is most often noted as a collector of Lincolniana. Oakleaf's collection of Lincoln related material is held by the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Scope and Contents: The Joseph Benjamin Oakleaf collection contains records of his book and autograph collecting activities, including personal correspondence. The collection also contains family papers and biographical information.