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RG 30/17 - Albert Allen Wright (1846-1905)
Scope and Content

The papers of Albert Allen Wright partially document the career of this geologist, naturalist, and trusted advisor of College affairs. The papers consist primarily of correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, along with a sampling of writings, talks, field notes, and student notes. The majority of the correspondence is written both to and from family members. The collection is arranged in seven series: 1. Correspondence (Incoming); 2. Correspondence (Outgoing); 3. Student Notes; 4. Teaching Materials; 5. Writings and Talks; 6. Miscellany; and 7. Geological Field Notes.

The two correspondence records series consist of both family and college correspondence, dating from 1858 to 1905. A partially completed index and calendar on 3x5 note cards is available for the correspondence. The collection includes letters received and sent by Wright, as well as letters sent and received by other family members.

The incoming correspondence of Albert A. Wright is segregated into a chronologically arranged general category, as well as correspondence received from family members, arranged alphabetically by family member. The bulk of the correspondence is from the late 1870s and early 1880s, and pertain to specimen collecting, geologic matters, higher education, and Oberlin College affairs. General correspondence contains letters received from scientists, public figures, educators, and missionaries. Significant scientists include the following: Charles Conrad Abbott (1843-1919); John Gould Anthony (1804-1877); Spencer F. Baird (1823-1887); John Strong Newberry (1822-1892); Edward Francis Baxter Orton (1829-1899); Rollin D. Salisbury (1858-1922); Henry Augustus Ward (1834-1906); and Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927). Other significant correspondents include: Jacob Dolson Cox (1828-1900, A.B. 1841); Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882); Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924); James Bennett McCreary (1838-1910); James Monroe (1821-1898, A.B. 1846); and Giles Waldo Shurtleff (1831-1904, A.B. 1859). Missionaries corresponding with Wright include: John Phelps Cowles (1844-1893, Hon. 1874); Robert W. Logan (1843-1887, Sem. 1872); Wallace Taylor (1835-1923, A.B. 1867, Sem. 1873); and George Durand Wilder (1869-1946, A.B. 1891).

The family correspondence contains much valuable information about Oberlin and activities occurring there. Letters sent by Wright, primarily to members of his family, are informative concerning Oberlin College affairs. Unfortunately Wright’s outgoing correspondence does not contain any file copies of letters sent to other scientists. A few letters pertaining to his Civil War Service are to be found in letters sent to various family members.

Student notes consist of bound volumes with lecture notes taken by Wright in the course of his education. Oberlin College is not represented in the documentation with the exception of one volume of notes from James H. Fairchild’s systematic theology lectures in 1868. There are five volumes of notes representing theological courses taken at Union Theological Seminary, 1867-68, and five volumes of lectures notes from Columbia College School of Mines, 1873-74. Notebooks contain detailed notes and some marginal annotation. Notes from Columbia College include several sketches pertaining to metallurgy. Overall, the lecture notes offer a rich picture of course content and curriculum during the late 1860s and early 1870s.

Two class books, containing names of students, attendance records and recitation marks document Wright’s teaching career from 1874 to 1884, and 1904-05. College catalogs supplement this record, illustrating the curriculum and courses offered by Wright, and how Darwinian views were assimilated into the curriculum.

Writings and talks document the wide-ranging interests held by Wright. The records consist of both manuscript and printed writings and talks on a variety of subjects, including Charles Darwin, geology, the College museum, Oberlin waterworks, and civilization.

Series 6. Miscellany includes memorial tributes following the death of his first wife, Mary Bedortha Wright. Several necrologies, prepared by Wright, himself, were apparently written for the Secretary of the College. Included among various certificates and papers are two documents pertaining to his Civil War Service. A reunion history of Company K, 150th Ohio National Guard, offers brief member biographies and a summary of the unit’s activities. A song book (c.1862) given to soldiers is also included.

Series 7. Geological field notes consists of two volumes of notes on Lorain County and Northern Ohio (i.e. Amherst, Elyria, Olmsted), 1892-96, 1901-03, and various locations in Michigan (i.e. Omena and Petoskey), 1902-03.

Series Descriptions

Series 1. Correspondence (Incoming), 1858-1905 (1.2 linear feet)

The incoming correspondence consists of general letters received by Wright, arranged chronologically, as well as letters he received from members of his family. Letters received from family members are alphabetically arranged by sender, and chronologically thereunder. Letters received by other family members are also included in this series. The series is arranged in three subseries: 1. General Letters to A.A. Wright (Chronological); 2. Family Letters to A.A. Wright (Alphabetical); and 3. Letters Received by Family Members.

Series 2. Correspondence (Outgoing), 1862-1905 (0.6 linear feet)

Outgoing correspondence includes originals of letters sent by Wright and is arranged chronologically. Also included are original letters sent by family members, alphabetically arranged. The partially completed index and calendar is filed at the rear of this series. The series is arranged in two subseries: 1. Letters Sent by A.A. Wright (Chronological), and 2. Letters Sent by Family Members (Alphabetical).

Series 3. Student Notes, 1867-68, 1873-74 (0.6 linear feet)

Consists of eleven volumes of notes taken by Wright in his seminary studies at Union Theological Seminary and Oberlin Theological Seminary and geological study at Columbia College, School of Mines. The volumes are alphabetically arranged by subject according to year.

Series 4. Teaching Materials, 1874-84, 1904-05 (0.2 linear feet)

Contains two volumes recording student names, attendance and grades for courses in geology and zoology, 1874-84, and 1904-05.

Series 5. Writings and Talks, c.1880-1900 (0.2 linear feet)

Includes manuscript and printed copies of writings and talks on a variety of subjects, including Charles Darwin, area geological formations, and the Oberlin waterworks. The writings and talks are largely unarranged.

Series 6. Miscellany, 1858-1903 (0.2 linear feet)

Includes memorial tributes to his first wife (Mary Bedortha Wright), necrologies written by Wright c.1879, programs, and a pamphlet on the history of Company K, 150th Ohio National Guard.

Series 7. Geological Field Notes, 1892-96, 1901-03 (0.08 l.f.)

Two volumes of geological field notes on Lorain County and Northern Ohio, 1892-96; gas wells in Oberlin and Lorain County, 1901-02; and notes on various locations in Michigan (including Omena and Petoskey) and Ohio (including Amherst, Elyria, and Olmsted), 1902-03.

The Albert Allen Wright papers were recorded on four accessions between 1968 and 1991. The bulk of the papers were received from the Oberlin College Library as part of accession #50 in 1968. Wright’s student notes and teaching materials were received from Special Collections in 1978 under accession 1978/32. Two smaller accessions were also received from Special Collection and recorded as accessions 1987/32 and 1991/48. Wright’s geological notebooks were discovered in the Oberlin College Geology Department map cases in the fall of 2001 an were received by the Archives as accession 2002/002.
Related Materials
For additional documentation relating to the career of Albert A. Wright the researcher is advised to consult the following institutional collections: Records of the Board of Trustees and Prudential Committee (RG 1); papers of President James Harris Fairchild (RG 2/3); Records of the Office of the Treasurer (RG 7); Office of the Registrar (RG 27); and Alumni and Development Records (RG 28). The following personal papers collections also contain correspondence or information about Wright: Jacob Dolson Cox (30/3); George Frederick Wright (30/21); James Monroe (30/22); Robert S. Fletcher (30/24); and Eliab W. Metcalf (30/28). A manuscript written by Wright is in the “Oberlin File” (Rg 21, Subgroup IV, Box 1).
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