One of the earliest collections opened by the Archives (in 1978) and one of the most heavily used (over 360 times at last count) is Collection 20, the papers of Chicago businessman and philanthropist Herbert John Taylor (1893-1978).
Taylor’s life was in many ways a typical American success story. He started out as a salesman in Oklahoma. After service with the YMCA in France, assisting servicemen during World War I and then a shore post in the Navy, he moved to Chicago and eventually became president of Club Aluminum Products, a near bankrupt company he rescued and made into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections commemorates the many contributions from women whose unique voices and experiences are documented throughout our rich collections. This March, we highlight the life and missionary service of Hulda Stumpf, a missionary to Kenya from 1907-1930.
A native of Pennsylvania, Stumpf left the comforts of her middle-class, Midwestern life for the unknown challenges of missionary service as a single woman in British East Africa in 1907. During her two decades of service at the Kijabe Mission Station in Kenya, Stumpf became an outspoken advocate for the education and advancement of women and girls from the surrounding indigenous ethnic people groups. Her willingness to challenge the long-cherished cultural mores and religious rites resulted in her tragic murder at the age of 62.
Next week will mark the five year anniversary of Rev. Billy Graham’s passing on February 21, 2018. This month, in remembrance of his remarkable life and legacy, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections commemorates the beginnings of Billy Graham’s evangelistic ministry as a fledgling undergraduate preacher at Wheaton College in 1940.
During Billy Graham’s time as a student at Florida Bible Institute (1937-1940), Alma Toff Edman, mother of then-interim president of Wheaton College, V. Raymond Edman, heard Graham preach at a local service. Impressed, she told her son Elner Edman and his friend Paul Fischer about the young preacher and urged that they hear him too. The two men invited Graham with them as a caddy for a round of golf. Similarly impressed with his passion for ministry and gift for speaking, they urged him to attend Wheaton College after graduating from FBI, to add a liberal arts education to his Bible and homiletics training. Graham applied to Wheaton and was accepted, starting on September 19, 1940.
In celebration of Black History Month this February, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections commemorates the legacy of Montrose Waite, dedicated missionary to Africa and founder of one of the first independent Black faith missions in America, the Afro-American Missionary Crusade.
Born 1893 in Jamaica, Waite immigrated to the United States in 1916 with the promise of munitions factory work created by the ongoing World War. Settling in New York City, he wrote of his interest in missions to Dr. A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), who encouraged him to seek out missionary education at the C&MA’s Nyack Institute.
“Collection” and “Accession” are words used all the time in the archival profession. In Buswell Library Archives & Specials Collections, an accession is material received from a single donor, usually an individual or an organization. It might be a single folder or hundred of boxes, with only a general inventory to use as a finding aid. A collection is a set of materials (perhaps including paper-based records, photographs, audio or video recordings, etc.) that has been fully arranged and described. Most of our collections have been formed from several accessions. Here in the Archives & Special Collections, both collections and accessions are open for research (unless there have been donor-requested restrictions) but the lack of a complete finding aid and access points can make accessions difficult to locate or use for research.
An archivist never knows what they will find as they begin opening boxes and folders in donated materials to arrange and describe a collection. And they don’t know what threads might appear that lead to other collections or lines of inquiry, or what gaps the new material might fill. For all they can’t anticipate, archivists can expect that there will be materials that will uncover or add to areas of interest for researchers. Sometimes new materials become their own puzzle to figure out — like who is the unidentified Western female in several of the photographs below? — while other times they provide the missing piece to a partially completed puzzle. A recent example of this is the photo album that Ruth Adeney donated to the Archives in 1997 along with the rest of the papers of her husband, David Adeney (CN 393), soon to be opened for researcher use.
At the end of September, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections hosted historian Dr. Aaron Griffith for the 2022 Archival Research Lecture, “American Evangelicals and the Making of Modern Prison Ministry.” For those who were unable to attend the lecture, this month we feature an interview with Dr. Griffith about the many visits he made to the Archives during his research on prison ministry and evangelical attitudes to criminal justice.
When and how were you first introduced to Archives & Special Collections?
Believe it or not, when I was a Wheaton undergraduate student (and a philosophy major, not history), I had very little idea of the Archives’ existence or purpose (though I remember a friend telling me that the third floor of the Billy Graham Center was a nice, quiet place to hang out). It wasn’t until much later, as I started getting interested in American religious history during my M.Div. program, that I realized that the Archives was an absolute goldmine for the study of evangelicalism. My first research trip to the Archives was when I accompanied Grant Wacker there for a day, to assist him with some research for his book on Billy Graham. We were both in Wheaton for a conference, and he asked me to help him read through some letters to Billy Graham and categorize them. I remember feeling energized by this work, and I think it was this experience that really sealed the deal for me in terms of getting me excited about historical research and showing me how important the Archives is for understanding American evangelicalism.
In 1922, the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle began some of the first use of radio for Christian programing in the city. Soon Tabernacle leader Paul Rader tapped Clarence Jones, a musician on the Tab’s staff, to lead the radio department, which broadcast fourteen hours on Sunday and programs every day of the week.
Missionaries often find themselves in disparate places all over the world, and even though their primary role is not to be photographers, many have a camera in hand to capture the landscape, people, rituals, homes, costumes, daily activities, ministry activities, staff group shots, and more. Sometimes the images are intended for use in prayer letters or marketing efforts by their agency or sending church. Other times missionaries, like amateur anthropologists, are perhaps among the first to photograph a people group, such as Elisabeth Elliot’s shots of the Waodani people in Ecuador.
As we archivists say to budding researchers, understanding why a document is created (including photographs) is one key to interpreting the document. Knowing the original contexts and the intended use of these photographs helps us understand them more deeply.
Across the history of global missions, evangelistic work has often been closely tied with practical or humanitarian outreach, especially care for the sick and hurting. The Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives holds the records of many such missionary doctors, nurses, and mission hospitals. One of the oldest mission hospitals represented in our collections is the Margaret Williamson Hospital, opened in 1885 in Shanghai, China under the Woman’s Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands (commonly referred to as Woman’s Union Missionary Society or WUMS).