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RG 30/13 - Raymond Herbert Stetson (1872-1950)
Scope and Content

The Raymond Herbert Stetson Papers consist almost entirely of original letters that Dr. Stetson wrote to friends and colleagues. In no small way this personal papers group was constructed by former Oberlin College Archivist William E. Bigglestone. In an effort to preserve the work of the late Professor Stetson, Bigglestone, with some assistance of Stetson family members and Frederick B. Artz, solicited letters sent by Stetson to his friends (e.g. Robert Kimball Richardson [1876-1952] and James M. Snodgrass [b.1908, A.B. 1931]), and over a period of years this collection was assembled. Given the way in which the collection was assembled, however, gaps in the record doubtless exist. Some persons, for example, were unprepared to release documents and others considered his letters too sensitive to be added to the collection at the time of the solicitation because some persons reported on were still alive.

The content of the letters is overwhelmingly related to Stetson’s research in the areas of speech and motor phonetics. The largest number of the letters center on his laboratory experiments and his subsequent writing on them. Letters to his peers in the Psychology field are the most detailed and useful in terms of understanding the techniques used in the experiments. Of special interest are Stetson’s letters to former students and colleagues James Snodgrass, Clarence Hudgins (b.1897) and Alfred Hubbard (b.1907) the correspondence of which represents the bulk of the collection. The letters to Arthur Slater-Hammel (unknown), James Pickett (b.1921, A.B. 1943) and Roger Sperry though smaller in quantity, are also quite rich in reporting on Stetson’s activities.

The two areas that Stetson wrote about outside of his work concerned governance of the college and his service on various faculty committees. Stetson’s involvement in the administration of Oberlin is in particular outlined in his correspondence to several people, including Snodgrass, Hudgins, and Hubbard, but also in letters to associates outside of Psychology like Robert Richardson. The letters openly report on Stetson’s feelings and convictions in terms of the people and situations that he encountered. For example, Stetson openly and intensely disliked former Oberlin College President, Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1880-1966).

The subject matter that reveals the most about the personality, beliefs, and inner workings of R.H. Stetson, in addition to his judgmental remarks about the Oberlin administration, is his analysis of, and positions on, the Second World War. Many of Stetson’s letters, from the period of 1938-45, deal with his views on the war, and from his discussion one may establish some sense of Stetson’s beliefs and prejudices about the world in general. For example, Stetson freely writes on the reasons for the war in Europe; including his views on Jews and their role in the conflict, and, perhaps even betrays a prejudice in regard to the Japanese when discussing the Pacific conflict. The aforementioned topics are covered in almost all of Stetson’s letters written to his close friends during the period of 1941-45, as well as references to Jews in his letters to Artz in 1947 and 1949.

Unfortunately, the correspondence offers little evidence to document Stetson’s personal life, although the contents of the folder entitled “Letters/Notes on the Broad Interests of R.H. Stetson,” are somewhat insightful in this regard. The 49 letters to Frederick Artz, written in 1947 and 1949 when Artz was away in France and visiting his (Artz’s) parents in Dayton, Ohio, reveal little about their relationship (they shared a residence for 26 years), although it is known that they shared a passion for the local Cosmos club (note Walter Horton’s letter to Artz re. the death of Stetson). Additionally, the manner in which Stetson composed many of his letters is to be noted. Stetson, for the sake of speed and space, characteristically abbreviated nearly every word of a letter over five characters in length, normally deleting most of the vowels. One is still able to ascertain the content in his letters, but this unusual style makes the task a bit more arduous for most researchers.

Aside from the correspondence, this collection also contains a number of Stetson’s publications, as well as the publications of a few of his peers and students. These publications are useful when trying to place the research reported in his letters into an overall context. A volume of papers by a number of Stetson’s former students appeared as a supplement to the American Journal of Psychology, in 1939 as a tribute to the retiring Stetson. These papers illustrate the various directions that Stetson’s students took in their own research, and affirm the way in which Stetson’s work served as a building block for their work in the field.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Biographical File, 1909-50 (0.1 linear feet)

Consists mainly of short biographies written about R.H. Stetson, including the “Memorial Minute” appearing in the Oberlin Alumni Magazine in 1951. Other materials include observations about Stetson offered by J.M. Pickett in a 1974 letter and a bibliography of Stetson’s publications and his honorary Ph.D, awarded by Oberlin in 1942.

Series II. College-Related Materials, 1909-50 (0.3 linear feet)

This series is made up of a variety of materials that pertain to Stetson’s career at Oberlin. These materials range from Stetson’s textbooks while an Oberlin student to notes taken by Stetson’s students from his class lectures.

Series III. Correspondence, 1926-50 (1.6 linear feet)

Original letters comprise the bulk of this series, all written by Stetson to friends and colleagues. The correspondence is categorized into letters written to “Professional Colleagues/Former Students,” and “Personal Friends,” the primary difference being content and the direction and breadth of discussions contained therein. Thereunder, the letters are listed by name of recipient and the letter directed to each individual are filed in separate folders.

Series IV. Publications, 1928-51 (0.2 linear feet)

Primarily Stetson’s publications, this series is made up entirely of printed matter. In addition to thirteen articles by Stetson, there are also several publications by his colleagues and former students present. This material contains specific references to experiments discussed in Stetson’s letters.

The papers of Raymond Herbert Stetson were received under 11 separate accessions between 1974 and 1979. Most of these accessions were the result of the solicitations, by mail, made by William E. Bigglestone, former Oberlin College Archivist. In October, 1974, letters of R.H. Stetson were received from Alfred Hubbard of Urbana, Illinois, J.M. Pickett of Gallaudet University, and Roger Sperry of the California Institute of Technology. Additional materials were sent in November, 1974 by Eldora Speigelberg of St. Louis and A. T. Slater-Hammel of Indiana University. In October, 1978, Mrs. Ruth Hudgins of Northampton, Massachusetts, sent one carton of letters from Stetson to Clarence V. Hudgins to the archives. Other Stetson correspondence was sent to the archives by Pickett in July, 1979. Additional writings by Stetson were transferred from the Oberlin College Library, Department of Special Collections in 2002.
Related Materials
In addition to this collection, information present in these archives pertaining to Raymond Herbert Stetson can be located in Stetson’s staff and student files and the student file of James M. Pickett ’43 (RG 28), the papers of former Oberlin Colleges Presidents Ernest Hatch Wilkins (RG 2/7), William E. Stevenson (RG 2/8), the papers of Frederick B. Artz (RG 30/175), Louis D. Hartson (RG 30/12), Donald M. Love (RG 30/91), Warren Taylor (RG 30/15), and the records of the Psychology Department (RG 9/2).
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