Oberlin College Archives


PAPERS, 1886-1937


The papers of Paul Leaton Corbin constitute a small portion of Corbin's research collection on China, assembled over the course of Corbin's 29 years as a missionary in Shansi Province. Consisting almost entirely of printed materials, these files document the educational and evangelical work of the American Board in North China from 1900 to 1936. The papers also provide evidence of the activities of several foreign missionary organizations headquartered in Shanghai. Notably absent from this collection are Paul Corbin's personal papers and a complete set of his writings on missionary work.

The collection is arranged into six records series: I. Correspondence; II. Annual Reports; III, Minutes; IV. Miscellaneous Reports; V. Publications Relating to Missionary Work in China; and VI. Publications Relating to Missionary Work (General). Within series, files are further divided into subseries by type of material. Featured prominently are Paul Corbin's correspondence with other missionaries and his administrative files covering the North China and Shansi missions. Publications are separated into two groups: those directed to foreign missionaries living in China (mainly published in China), and those of a general nature directed to domestic and foreign missionaries (mainly published in the United States).

Paul Corbin's correspondence (1908-35), consisting largely of letters received (ribbon copies), offers little indication of the scope of Corbin's missionary activities. Letters are concentrated during the years 1911 and 1918. In a series of letters (1911) from Peking, Wynn C. Fairfield (1886-1961; A.B. Oberlin 1907) voices concern over the safety of the Shansi missionaries in view of nearby clashes between imperialist and rebel troops. The 1918 letters pertain to an outbreak of pneumonic plague and the efforts of missionaries to coordinate medical relief for the afflicted in their regions. Corbin's correspondents include Enoch F. Bell of the American Board, missionary Mary P. Ament (1856-1930; Oberlin A.B. 1875), A. Sowerby of the International Anti-Opium Association, Francis M. Price, brother of the martyred missionary C. W. Price (1847-1900), E. T. Williams of the U.S. Legation at Peking, and William F. Bohn (1878-1947; A.B. Oberlin 1900), member of the Board of Trustees, Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association.

A more detailed picture of missionary life in China is provided by the circular letters (1908-35) sent by missionaries to each other, housed in Series I, Subseries 2. Letters received by Paul Corbin cover a range of topics, including various missionary conferences, the anti-opium campaign, public health work, drought, flood, and famine relief for Shansi Province, and the Rural Reconstruction Movement. Missionaries comment extensively on contemporary political events in China, notably the 1927 Rape of Nanking by the Japanese and the 1931 Japanese invasion of South Manchuria. Correspondents include John Wherry of the North China Tract Society, Eva F. French of the China Inland Mission, A. L. Warnshuis of the China Continuation Committee, Amy A. Metcalf of Tientsin, Alice R. Kellogg and Lucy P. Bement of the Shaowu mission in Fukien Province, Dr. Will Hemingway (1874-1932; A.B. Oberlin 1898), Logan H. Roots, Bishop of Hankow, Gene L. Ch'iao of the Shansi schools, Philip D. Dutton of Taigu (1891-1975; B.D. Oberlin 1916), and T. Z. Koo of the national Y.M.C.A. and Peiping mission.

Administrative files of missionary organizations, with which Paul Corbin and other missionaries were associated, provide an official account of mission activities and administration from 1904 to 1935. Incomplete runs of annual reports (1904-15) and minutes (1908-35), housed in Series II and III, exist for the two most important missions: the North China and Shansi Missions of the American Board. Annual reports for the Shaowu and Taigu stations (1913-15), as well as minutes of the North China Mission's local districts, councils, boards, and committees, reveal the multi-layered administrative structure of the American Board presence in China.

The annual reports, conference proceedings, periodicals, reports, and miscellaneous printed materials housed in Series V offer a record of the activities of numerous independent missionary organizations based in Shanghai, including those of Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Methodist Episcopal denominations. Incomplete runs of annual reports exist for the following organizations: the American Bible Society in China, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Central China, North China, North and Central China, and Chinese Tract Societies, the International Anti-Opium Association, the American Presbyterian Mission, and the Y.M.C.A. of China, Korea, and Hong Kong.

While the missionary periodicals are available in complete sets at other repositories, their presence in this collection indicates the range of Corbin's professional interests. Corbin's collection of periodicals includes a complete run (1907-18) of the American Presbyterian Press' publication, Woman's Work in the Far East; eleven issues (1934-35) of the monthly advertiser The Missionary Supplier, twenty-three issues (1907-27) of the China Inland Mission's List of Missionaries, eleven issues (1909-19) of the Educational Association of China's quarterly The Educational Review, and thirteen issues (1919-25) of the National Christian Council's monthly Bulletin. Together, these periodicals create a vivid impression of the vitality of the second phase of missionary activities in China.

Corbin also collected reports and articles relating to Chinese culture and history and to Christian work in China.Among the loose reports housed in Series IV are four of Corbin's own articles relating mainly to his famine relief work in North Shensi in 1925. These are the only writings of Corbin in this collection. Additional published reports (collected) cover such subjects as anti-opium, famine and flood relief, medical missions, and missionary education; these are housed in Series V with other printed materials.

Additional publications relating to missionary work in China are of a miscellaneous character. Of special interest are several instruction booklets (1886, 1889, 1897, 1920, 1928) for foreign missionaries containing guidelines for shipping goods to China, choosing sailing dates, calculating costs, assembling clothing and furniture, and other practical information. Filed with these booklets are several brief histories of the American Board's missions in China (1900-35) and numerous pocket-size evangelical tracts. Materials in Chinese include a scroll presented to Paul Corbin in 1920 and clippings from Chinese newspapers. Also present are census figures (1910, 1915) for Shanghai's foreign and native populations.

Publications relating to mission work in general document American support for domestic missions and for missions in Africa, Bulgaria, India, Japan, and Turkey. It is possible that these materials were collected by Corbin while on furlough or sent to him from America. Files include several incomplete runs and single issues of missionary periodicals, including three issues of the American Board Yearbook of Missions (1912, 1919, 1920) and seven issues of the American Board Quarterly News Bulletin (1907-34). Also housed here are several programs of annual meetings of the American Board (1903, 1906, 1912, 1922, 1928), various reports of the Board's Prudential Committee and Treasurer (1911-12, 1919-20), and surveys of Board missionaries in the field. For the complete annual reports of the Board, the researcher is advised to consult the Annual Reports of the American Board (1810- ), which are available on microfilm and in hard copy in the Oberlin College Library.


Series I. Correspondence, 1908-35 .2 l.f.

Correspondence of Paul Corbin, organized into two subseries by type of correspondence.

Series II. Annual Reports, 1901-30 .2 l.f.

Annual reports of American Board missions and mission stations, organized into three subseries by author of publication.

Series III. Minutes, 1908-35 .4 l.f.

Minutes of meetings of American Board missions, mission districts and local bodies. Organized into three subseries in order of administrative importance.

Series IV. Miscellaneous Reports (loose) Relating to Mission Work in Shansi Province, 1907-31, n.d. .2 l.f.

Manuscript, printed, and micrograph reports on a variety of subjects, arranged alphabetically by topic and thereunder chronologically. Folders entitled "Various Reports" contain item-level listings of their contents which were created in 1970 upon receipt of the records.

Series V. Publications Relating to Missionary Work in China, 1886-1935 4.6 l.f.

Various publications, mainly printed in China for the foreign missionary community. Organized into five subseries by type of material.

Series VI. Publications Relating to Missionary Work (General), 1897-1934 2.2 l.f.

Various publications, mainly printed in the United Statesfor both foreign and domestic missionaries. Organized into three subseries by type of material.


The papers of Paul Leaton Corbin were transferred to the Oberlin College Archives from the Oberlin College Library in 1970 and 1979. They came to the Library through the Paul Corbin Bequest in 1937.


The following collections in the Oberlin College Archives contain materials relating to missionary work in China:

Holdings in Special Collections, Oberlin College Library

Bequest of the Rev. Paul L. Corbin, September 1937. [Oberlin, 1938], [ms. typescript; 45 leaves]. A listing of the books donated under the Bequest.

Corbin, Paul. Rimes rough-hewn (Oberlin: Kinney, 1902), 48 pp.

Holdings in the Oberlin College Library

The Library holds 1,500 volumes of Paul Corbin's library on China.

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Last updated: 29 April 1996