Mead’s involvement in state politics and his role in the founding of Wichita were the earliest instances of his capacity for leadership. Recognizing the need for transportation in the burgeoning region, he organized the Wichita & Southwestern Railroad Company in 1871, an effort which brought the railroad to town the next year. Mead was also involved in banking, becoming Vice-President of the First National Bank of Wichita in 1873; he took up the same position with The Savings Bank of Wichita during the late 1880s. Finally, Mead was prominent in property transactions with many developments in the downtown and Delano districts being built on land he had bought in the early 1870s.
Certificates regarding Mead's respective memberships in the Kansas Academy of Science (1895 and 1898), the Kansas State Historical Society (1894, 1905, and 1906), and the National Geographic Society (1907). Certificates acknowledging Mead's status as Notary Public (May 1866) and a U.S. Marshal’s Deputy (May 1870); also included are ephemera.
Correspondence from James R. Mead to his parents, Enoch and Mary E. Mead, and his sister, Lizzie. A notable topic is the family's investment and involvement in the new Bank of Wichita (later known as the First National Bank of Wichita), in which Mead served as Vice-President. Other subjects are his business with William Mathewson, and his success in the cattle business and fur trade. Letters dated 1877 deal with respective financial situations after the failure of the First National Bank of Wichita, and Mead's business dealings in agriculture and property following his financial losses.
Loan agreements, warranty deeds and mortgages for Wichita properties in Mead's Addition and along Waco Street. Mead's interest and investment in Colorado mines are represented in items 4, 6-8.
Account book of Mead's business dealings in property at the turn of the 20th century, including Smith Skinner Block, Caswell Buckley Building, Eads Block and others in Wichita and region. Clippings of poems and newspapers articles are occasionally pasted on pages. Also present is a letter from John F. Wilson of Rimini, Montana, to Mead concerning efforts to mine gold and copper; this letter is dated November 30, 1902.