Oberlin College Archives

IRVING W. METCALF (1855-1938)

PAPERS, 1877-1937


The Irving Wight Metcalf papers document the many facets of his life. The papers chronicle his days as a seminary student at Oberlin College, his interest in fellow members of the class of 1878, and his subsequent career as a minister and later a businessman. Well documented is Metcalf's ongoing interest in the temperance movement which was manifested as a founding member of the Anti-Saloon League. The least well documented period is his tenure as a member of the Oberlin College Board of Trustees.

The collection is arranged around six series. The series are: 1. Correspondence, 2. Charles M. Hall Property Records,3. Ministerial Career and Religious Associations, 4. Student Notes and Class Records, 5. Temperance Records, and 6. Miscellaneous Material.

The correspondence series, which constitutes the strength of the collection, is segregated into two parts. The first part contains correspondence of a general nature, dealing with virtually all facets of his life from business through religion, including correspondence regarding the missionary work of Annie E. Pinneo (1876-1960, A.B. Oberlin 1899) with Armenian and Turkish refugees. His correspondence from missionary Chauncey Marvin Cady (1854-1928) exists as a discrete subseries. Cady, a member of the original volunteer band from Oberlin, describes life in China and Japan in the mid-1880s. Other correspondence relating specifically to temperance can be found in the the temperance series, which includes letters about the genesis of the Anti-Saloon League.

The Charles Martin Hall Property Records document Metcalf's work as a purchasing agent for industrialist Hall. The records include correspondence as well as titles and supporting documents noting Hall's interest in securing land in Oberlin which he later bequeathed to the College. Metcalf served as an intermediary, purchasing property on behalf of Hall under his own name. After Hall's death, title was restored to Hall's name and given to the college.

Metcalf's Ministerial Career and Religious Life is evidenced in the records of the churches he ministered to, and his affiliation with numerous religious associations and organizations. The "Parish Registers" record important genealogical information such as baptisms, marriages and funerals performed by Rev. Metcalf. Religious organizations are represented in the minutes from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign missions, and Congregational City Missionary Society pamphlets and programs.

Metcalf's student notes and affiliation with members of the class of 1878 are well documented in Student Notes and Class Records. A volume of notes from James H. Fairchild's theological lectures offers an especially vivid picture of the curriculum and theological currents offered at the Seminary in 1878-79. The class records maintained by Metcalf, consisting primarily of letters received from members of his graduating class of 1878, discuss their activities during the 20 years following graduation.

The temperance movement is documented in the correspondence received by Metcalf and pro-temperance pamphlets and fliers. The bulk of the material is correspondence received between 1884 and 1900 which illustrates the formation of the Anti-Saloon League in Oberlin and the impact of the temperance movement in politics at all levels. Included is extensive correspondence with Howard Russell, the State Superintendent of the Ohio Anti-Saloon League. Printed materials, consisting of pamphlets and fliers, promoted the temperance cause and its candidates.

Miscellaneous material is comprised of ephemera associated with Metcalf's life. Included are campaign buttons and ribbons from temperance conventions and political elections. Maps of Kansas reflect his tenure as businessman in Kansas and his ongoing relationship with Wilder S. Metcalf. A scrapbook of a trip to Germany in 1906 compiled by his daughter Edith concludes the series.


Series 1. Correspondence, 1877-1934 (0.3 lin. ft.) The correspondence series consists mainly of letters and documents received by Irving W. Metcalf, although some outgoing correspondence is found within the series. Topics cover business, politics, religion, social reform and temperance, and include correspondence from James Monroe (Oberlin A.B. 1846, B.D. 1849, A.M. 1850), D.L. Moody, Booker T. Washington, Charles Martin Hall (Oberlin A.B. 1885, A.M. 1893, honorary degree 1910), H. H. K'ung (Oberlin A.B. 1906) and Arthur Vining Davis among others. The series is divided into two subseries: general correspondence, and the letters from missionary Chauncey M. Cady (Oberlin A.B. 1877). The correspondence is chronologically arranged.

Series 2. Charles Martin Hall Property Records, 1901-17 (0.2 lin. ft.) Includes records describing Metcalf's efforts to conceal Hall's role in real estate transactions. The property purchases eventually became part of the Hall bequest to Oberlin College. The collection is divided into correspondence and property documents

Series 3. Ministerial Career and Religious Life, 1882-1931 (0.4 lin. ft.) Documents in this series detail Metcalf's career as a minister and a member of religious organizations. The collection is divided into two subseries: 1. churches served by Metcalf, and 2. religious associations.

Series 4. Student Notes and Class Records, 1878-1928 (0.4 lin. ft.) The student notes subseries is comprised of a volume of detailed notes from James H. Fairchild's courses on Natural Theology and Revealed Theology in 1878-79. Class records consists of correspondence with members of the class of 1878 and various notices of reunions and class histories. The class records are alphabetically arranged.

Series 5. Temperance, 1884-1937 (0.4 lin. ft.) Metcalf's temperance activity is documented in this series. Included as parts of the series are correspondence and printed material. Correspondence chronicles the founding of the Anti-Saloon League and various temperance crusades. Correspondents include James Monroe, C. W. Horr of Wellington, and Ferd Schumacher, founder of the Quaker Oats Company. Printed materials and clippings further illustrate temperance in the political and social arenas.

Series 6. Miscellaneous Material, 1881-1936 (0.6 lin. ft.) Unusual items in this series include campaign buttons and ribbons for temperance causes and political elections. Kansas maps from 1900 to 1930 reflect Metcalf's brief stint as a businessman in Kansas and his connection to the Kansas branch of the Metcalf family. Other items include a scrapbook of a 1906 cruise to Germany compiled by Edith Metcalf and various invitations such as an 1881 West Point Cadet ball and the semi-centennial of Charles M. Hall's discovery of the electrolytic process of smelting aluminum.


For related material the researcher is advised to consult the following collections: Office of the Secretary (5); Office of the Treasurer (7); Oberlin Historical and Improvement Organization (31/9); Charles Martin Hall Collection (30/182); and Keyes Dewitt Metcalf papers (30/212).

For records of the temperance movement, the researcher should consult the following collections: President Henry Churchill King (2/6); Robert S. Fletcher (330/24); Lyman B. Hall (30/14); Giles W. Shurtleff (30/32); Margaret Schauffler (30/204); Esther Bliss Taylor (30/97); First and Second Congregational Churches (31/4/1); Non-Partisan Woman's Christian Temperance Union (31/6/10); Oberlin Mutual Benefit Association (31/6/17); Women's Christian Temperance Union (31/6/4); and Oberlin Temperance League/Alliance (31/3)


The Metcalf collection came to the archives in nine separate accessions between 1968 and 1984 from the Oberlin College Library. The bulk of the accessions arrived between 1968 and 1971.

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Last updated: 29 January 1996