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HIST 215J The Art of Biography Research Guide: Collection Materials Used in Class

The following entries highlight the archival collections used in the class session held in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022. 

While you're exploring the collection box in front of you and preparing to tell your fellow students something about the materials it contains and the person whose life it documents, it may be useful to consider some of the following questions:

  1. Who created this archival collection, when were the materials in it created, where were they created?
  2. What is going on in the folders you looked at? What is the context for the document(s) you looked at?
  3. Whose perspective(s) comes through in the document(s) you examined? Whose doesn’t?
  4. What can you know based on the sources you have in front of you? What do you not know?
  5. What questions do the sources raise that could help someone shape a biographical paper?
  6. Did anything surprise you when looking at the folders in your collection?

Anna Catherine Bahlmann Papers Relating to Edith Wharton (YCAL MSS 361) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Anna Catherine Bahlmann (1849-1916) was employed as author Edith Wharton’s German language tutor in 1874. She later served as her governess, secretary, and literary assistant. The collection includes more than 130 letters from Wharton to Bahlmann, spanning Bahlmann’s employment with the Wharton family in 1874 to 1915. They document a significant, long-standing relationship and shed light on Wharton’s personal and literary affairs.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Series I, Box 2, Folder 23: Letters from Edith Wharton to Anna Catherine Bahlmann, 1874-circa 1876.

 

George Bent Papers (WA MSS 32) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the online catalog description for this collection

Overview: George Bent (1843-1918) was the son of Colonel William Bent, fur trader and founder of Bent’s Fort, and Owl Woman, a Cheyenne, daughter of White Thunder, went to school in St. Louis. Bent’s letters to George E. Hyde describe Bent’s life with the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Comanches, Kiowas, Sioux and other Native American communities of the Arkansas and Platte River valleys. They include accounts of the Indian wars, and statements by Native Americans about their battles with American troops.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Box 2, Folder 22: Correspondence with George Hyde, April-May 1913.

 

James Beebee Brinsmade, Jr. Diaries in the Yale Student Diary Collection (RU 861) - Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for the Yale Student Diary Collection, of which these diaries are a part

Overview: The two-volume diary primarily documents Brinsmade’s junior and senior years at Yale College (he was a member of the Class of 1845) and richly describes campus life. Subjects include prayer meetings, excursions, baseball (the first known reference to baseball at Yale), football, wicket, and an incident of violence toward a local man. The regular entries end on August 31, 1845, but continue sporadically until February 3, 1853.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Accession 2011-A-030, Box 1, Folder 2: Diary, 1845-1853.

Joseph Goldsborough Bruff Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks (WA MSS 50) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the online catalog description for this collection

Overview: The diaries describe an 1849 expedition by way of St. Joseph, Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie, South Pass, Sublette's Cut-off, Bear River, Cantonment Loring, Raft River, the Humboldt, Lassen's Route to Deer Creek, and Bruff's camp. They contain maps and sketches from the journey and notes on life in California. The journals were written from the diaries. The notebooks contain more sketches from the trip and of equipment. There are memoranda of supplies and equipment, routes, and remedies.

Collection materials used in class session

  • Volume 6: Diary, November 6, 1849-March 16, 1850.

Alex Charging Crow Autobiography in the Adee Dodge Papers (WA MSS S-2701) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for the Adee Dodge Papers, of which this is a part

Overview:  Adee Dodge, a Navajo linguist and artist, obtained and preserved two copies of the autobiography of Alex Charging Crow (aka Alex Adams), a Lakota Indian born circa 1860. Sometime in the 1920s or early 1930s, Charging Crow told his life story to a scribe who wrote it in Lakota and had it translated into English. The custodial history of this autobiography, and Dodge’s relationship to the transcriptions and to Charging Crow are undetermined.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Series III, Box 40, folders 329-332:  History of the Lakotas as told by Alex Charging Crow,” English version, manuscript and typescript, undated [1930s?].

John Anthony Danaher Papers (MS 165) - Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Danaher (Yale College Class of 1920) was born in 1899 and died in 1990. The collection consists primarily of Danaher’s files for his one term in the United States Senate (1939-1945), including political and constituent correspondence, speeches, background material, copies of legislation, and clippings. Materials document Danaher’s service on the Judiciary, Finance, and Banking and Currency Committees, and highlight Danaher’s efforts to prevent United States involvement in the war in Europe, his questioning of the aims of post-war foreign policy, and his actions to safeguard domestic liberty against possible incursions by the wartime government.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Series I, Box 7, folder 120: 77th Congress: Speeches: clippings and drafts relating to Danaher’s 25 June 1941 speech at an America First rally held in Hartford, CT, 1941.

John White Geary Papers (WA MSS 212) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this  collection

Overview: The manuscripts give a vivid picture of conditions in Kansas during the Free State War. They consist of the "executive minutes" and official correspondence of John W. Geary, Governor of Kansas Territory, 1856-1857, as well as a few personal letters and papers, 1855-1857. The collection includes petitions from citizens of other states in behalf of the Free State prisoners, congratulatory letters on Geary's accomplishment in restoring peace in Kansas, and documents and receipts relating to the building of the capitol.

Collection materials used in class session

  • Series I, Box 1, Folder 1: Correspondence, April-August 1856.

Ellison and Lottie Hildreth Papers (RG 15) - Divinity Library Special Collections

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Substantive correspondence with family members and fellow missionaries documents the Hildreth's struggle to reach the mission field, their initial impressions of China, family life in China, daily educational and evangelistic work, and the political unrest rampant in South China during their tenure. The intense anti-Christian movement in the mid 1920s is well documented. Ellison Hildreth served as a Baptist home missionary from 1910 until 1913. From 1913-1927, the Hildreths were American Baptist missionaries in South China. During a furlough from 1918-1919, Ellison Hildreth served with the YMCA in Siberia. From 1928-1949, he served as pastor of Federated Churches in Vermont and Connecticut.

Collection materials used in class session

  • Series I, Box 5, Folder 54: Correspondence from Lottie Lane Hildreth to her parents Carrie and Everett Lane, October-December 1915

Much of this collection has been digitized and is available through links in the Archives at Yale finding aid.

Maxine Kumin Papers (YCAL MSS 734) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Maxine Kumin was born Maxine Winokur in 1925 in Philadelphia. Educated at Radcliffe College (1946, 1948) she  is the author of numerous children’s books, poetry collections, essay and short story collections, and novels. Her many awards include the Pulitzer Prize (1973) for Up Country. Her husband, Victor Kumin, was born in 1921 in Worcester, MA. They met in Cambridge where Victor studied chemistry. In September 1944, while he was serving in the Army, Victor was dispatched to Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project. The collection includes 3 boxes of the couple’s correspondence from 1945 to 1946.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • March 2013 Acquisition, Box 66, folder 1 of 19: Letters from Maxine Kumin and Victor Kumin, May 3-June 21, 1945.

Page Family Papers (MS 772) - Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Correspondence, family papers, diaries, photographs, and other materials documenting the personal lives and professional careers of Alfred Rider Page (1859-1931) and Elizabeth Merwin Roe Page (1861-1943), and their two daughters, Elizabeth Merwin Page Harris (1889-1969) and Marjorie Page Schauffler (1897-1983). The Page family papers document Elizabeth Roe Page’s work as field secretary for the Women’s Board of Domestic Missions of the Reformed Church in America and has correspondence on such subjects as relations between parents and children, courtship, and aging. The papers also contain material on the life and career of elder daughter Elizabeth, who graduated from Vassar College in 1912, received an M.A. from Columbia University in 1914, and was a teacher, Y.M.C.A. volunteer in World War I, employee of the International Grenfell Association, and author [see also the Elizabeth Page Harris Papers (MS 771)].

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Box 1, folder 29: Correspondence, primarily Elizabeth Merwin Page to her family, October-December 1914.

John Hall Paxton Papers (MS 629) - Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Correspondence, writings, photographs and printed materials of John Hall Paxton, American foreign service officer. The papers reflect primarily Paxton’s service in China from 1925 to 1949, broken only by a year in Tehran in 1943. He made a dramatic escape from China (1949) and returned to the United States. He broadcast for the Voice of America, and returned as Consul to Isfahan, Iran in 1951, where he died in 1953. Papers include reports on Chinese economic and political conditions, memoranda on Nanking and the Nationalist takeover in 1927; an account of the U.S.S. Panay incident in 1937, to which he was an eyewitness; a record of his internment in Nanking by the Japanese in 1942, and articles and letters on his escape from China in 1949. An unpublished manuscript, "Consul to Sinkiang," is among the papers, as are extensive collections of photographs of China and Iran.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Series II, Box 3, folder 50: Rough draft, Paxton's account of the bombing of the U.S.S. Panay, 1938.

Yonekazu Satoda Papers, Photographs, and Films (WA MSS S-2897) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Yonekazu “Yone” Satoda was born in Hanford, California in 1921. The son of Japanese immigrants, he graduated from the UC Berkeley in 1942, the same year he was imprisoned at the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas as part of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  From November 1946 to August 1948, Satoda served as a first lieutenant and military intelligence officer in the United States Army. He served in the United States Army Reserves from 1949 to 1969. In March 1961, he married Taka “Daisy” Uyeda (born 1927). Satoda worked as an accountant and lived in San Francisco, California. Material related to Satoda’s internment at Jerome includes a diary he kept from May 1942 to February 1945.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Box 1, folder 1: Diary, 12 May 1942-13 February 1945.

 

William Findlay Shunk Papers (MS 449) - Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview:   Shunk (1830-1907), son of Pennsylvania governor (1845-1848) Francis Rawn Shunk, graduated from Dickinson College (Class of1847) and served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy (1846-1850). He had a successful career as a civil engineer working for several railroads. The papers contain primarily correspondence, a journal, speeches, and miscellanea of Shunk and his family. Shunk exchanged letters with family members in Pennsylvania while sailing around the world, circa 1846-1849. The sloop, Preble, stopped in many ports, including Cape Verde, Rio de Janiero, Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Canton, China.

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Box 1, folder 2: Letters from William F. Shunk to his parents recounting the voyage from Brooklyn, New York, to Lima and Callao, Peru, 25 September 1846-26 February 1847.

 

Benajah Ticknor Papers (MS 495) - Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Journals, letterbook, medical notes, and essays of Benajah Ticknor, doctor and surgeon with the U.S. Navy. Of primary importance are the journals which describe journeys made by Ticknor with the Navy to South America, the Far East, and Europe. Ticknor was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, in 1788, graduated from the Berkshire Medical Institute around 1810, received an honorary M. D. from Yale in 1836, and died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1858. 

Collection materials used in class session

  • Box 2, Folder 9: Journal, volume IV, documenting a journey on board the U.S.S. Ohio from Boston to the Mediterranean and back to New York, 1838-1842.

Arthur Bostwick Van Buskirk World War I Diaries (MS 2091) - Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Two diaries by Arthur Botswick Van Buskirk (Yale College Class of 1918) documenting his military experience during World War I. Newspaper clippings, correspondence, tickets, and other ephemera in folder 3 were originally inserted between diary pages. Several pages in volume II detail the Armistice of November 11, 1918 in Paris, France.

Collection materials used in class session

  • Box 1, Folder 2: Diary, volume II, 1918-1919.

Rowland Willard and Elizabeth S. Willard Papers (WA MSS S-2512) - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: Dr. Rowland Willard was born at Fort Ann, NY, in 1794, and died in Haddonfield, New Jersey, in 1884. He traveled the Ohio River system during his youth, and studied as a carpenter, musician, Freemason and eventually, as a medical student, in St. Charles, Missouri from 1817 to 1825. Leaving St. Charles in 1825, he traveled to Taos along the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico. From Taos, he travelled south to Chihuahua. Three years later, he returned to the US via Matamoras and New Orleans. In 1829 he moved to Cincinnati to speculate on land and establish a medical practice. Willard traveled down the Mississippi and through Alabama in 1830. The collection contains diaries, correspondence, and autobiographical writings that document the lives of Dr. Rowland Willard and his wife Elizabeth S. Willard. 

Collection materials used in class session:

  • Box 1, Folder 1: Autobiography of Dr. Rowland Willard, sections 1 & 2, undated circa mid-19th century.

William Henricks Wiser and Charlotte Viall Wiser Papers (RG 128) - Divinity Library Special Collections

Link to the Archives at Yale finding aid for this collection

Overview: William and Charlotte Wiser were Presbyterian missionaries in North India, appointed in 1915, and were active in the development of India Village Service, a demonstration project for the improvement of village life. These papers document the work of the Wisers in North India, particularly their involvement in rural reconstruction and their interest in Indian folklore.

Collection materials used in class session

  • Box 5: Diaries of Charlotte Wiser, scattered years from 1912-1977 - especially a log of voyages from San Francisco to Bangkok and from Penang to Calcutta, September-November 1961.