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RG 30/175 - Frederick Binkerd Artz (1894-1983)
Scope and Content

The papers of Frederick B. Artz document his youth in Dayton, Ohio, his World War I service and travels in France, his Oberlin courses in European intellectual history, and critical response to many of his articles and books. With the exception of a small group of condolence letters on the death of Raymond H. Stetson (1872-1950), Artz’s friend for 28 years, and of several other letters in the correspondence files, the papers contain virtually no information on his personal life after he came to Oberlin.

The collection is arranged into nine records series: I. Autobiographical Files; II. Biographical Files; III. Correspondence; IV. Journals; V. Miscellaneous Materials; VI. Teaching Materials; VII. Writings and Talks; VIII. Photographs; IX. Artifacts. Within each series, files are typically arranged alphabetically (by topic or type of material) or chronologically. In the present arrangement, the file headings established by the archivist in 1985 are largely maintained, with additions and revisions made in 2005.

Correspondence and miscellaneous personal papers document Frederick B. Artz’s family history, childhood, and young adulthood. Files include manuscript notes made by Elam J. Artz relating to his business activities in Dayton (n.d.), obituaries of the senior Mr. Artz, and genealogical notes (n.d.). Photographs of the Artz and Binkerd families are housed in Series VIII. A useful source of information about Frederick Artz’s early life is his pamphlet, “Memories of Childhood and Youth 1894-1924,” (Series I) which traces his family’s origins and relates his autobiography from birth to his last year as a student at Harvard University. An earlier source would be entries made by Artz’s mother in The Baby’s Journal, dated 1894-96 (Series II).

During World War I, Artz served with the American Expeditionary Forces in the Ambulance Unit at Hospital 31 in Contrexeville, Vosges, France (1917-19). The correspondence of Series III includes letters (1917-18) written by Frederick to his family from Contrexeville (many of which were censored) describing his duties on the wards, his reading, and his travels in the region. Complementing this body of letters are three journals, housed with other journals in Series IV, which contain detailed accounts of his stay at the U.S. Army Ambulance Training camp in Allentown, Pennsylvania (1917), his experiences in Contrexeville, and later as a student in Toulouse, France (November 1917-June 1919) and the beginning of his graduate career at Harvard University (1919-20). Excerpts from the earlier journal entries were published by The Oberlin Literary Magazine (Vol. X, No. 2, November 1917) as an offering entitled “Specimen Days,” which is included in Series IV.

Also included with the journals (Series IV) are several travel journals: two of European study trips (1914; n.d. [c. 1923]) and one of a trip taken by the adolescent Artz with his father from Ohio to Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver and back to Dayton, Ohio (n.d.[c. 1906-12]).

Artz’s service during the First World War shaped his views of American policy in the Second World War. A small body of material (included in Series V. Miscellaneous Materials) donated to the Oberlin College Library in 1946 by Professor Artz and transferred in 1992 to the Archives from Special Collections documents Artz’s support for the Free French Movement and his criticism of the U.S. government’s stance vis a vis certain foreign leaders. Included in the lot is a petition (1942) signed by members of the Oberlin community deploring the American government’s recognition of France’s Vichy regime. The petition was sent to U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull (1871-1955). Additional items include two posters announcing benefit recitals (1943) for Russian War Relief, the texts of two chapel talks given by Artz in 1943 and 1944, and newspaper clippings.

Artz’s teaching and writing career at Oberlin College is documented by correspondence (1927-81) housed in Series III; lecture notes for his courses on European intellectual history and medieval Latin and vernacular literature (1927-61), course evaluations (1949), and syllabi (1960-62) all housed in Series VI; reprints of several publications and book reviews, housed with Series VII. Incoming correspondence (1927-81), housed in Series III and in Series VII, is largely from friends and colleagues offering their reactions to Artz’s publications. In Series VII, the correspondence is filed by the title of the work to which it relates. The letters reveal a mature scholar in frequent and friendly contact with his colleagues. The names of Artz’s correspondents comprise a directory of the medievalists and cultural historians who shaped the discipline of medieval studies in the first half of the twentieth century. Correspondents include Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968) of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, Charles Homer Haskins (1870-1937) of Harvard University, R.W. Southern (b. 1912) of Balliol College, Oxford University, and Geoffrey Barraclough (b. 1908) of the University of Liverpool. Other correspondents are Cass Canfield (b. 1897), President of Harper & Brothers publishers, and booksellers Julian Blackwell of B.H. Blackwell Ltd. and H.D. Lyon.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Autobiographical Files, 1964, n.d.

This series contains the published version of Artz’s memoir Memories of Childhood and Youth, 1894-1924 (Oberlin, 1964) as well as both typescript and manuscript versions. The memoir describes Artz’s family history and his own life through his early years as a graduate student at Harvard University.

Series II. Biographical Files, 1894-96, 1927-83, n.d.

The Baby’s Journal contains several entries (1894-96) written by Artz’s mother about young Frederick. Other files include: honorary degrees (Oberlin and Carthage) and various certificates (1966, 1970, 1976-79); various press clippings and photocopies, both Oberlin in-house publications and otherwise, and obituaries (1927-83); passports and vaccination records (1937-79); two copies of a will and an inventory of personal belongings and their intended disposition (in Artz’s hand) (1976, 1977, n.d.).

Series III. Correspondence of Frederick B. Artz, 1917-18, 1927-81, n.d.

Four folders: correspondence sent by Artz (1917-18, 1949); correspondence received by Artz, two folders (1917-18, 1927-81); correspondence received by Artz regarding the death of his longtime friend R.H. Stetson (1950-51). Within each folder, letters generally are chronologically arranged.

Note: correspondence relating to Artz’s scholarly writing is filed in Series VII and correspondence received on the occasion of the establishment of the Frederick B. Artz Book Fund is filed with Series V.

Series IV. Journals, c. 1906–23, 1941

This series consists of six journals and one brief outline of travel taken to Virginia by Artz with his parents. The six journals are arranged chronologically, reflecting a natural division between adolescent/student travel journals (c. 1906-12, 1914, c. 1923) and war year journals (1917-20).

Series V. Miscellaneous Materials, 1854-1982, n.d.

This series is divided into two sections: materials relating to Frederick B. Artz and materials relating to other Artz family members.

The first section consists of catalogs and exhibition programs of various shows and concerts arranged by Artz or organized from his personal collections, financial records, correspondence, materials relating to the wedding of Priscilla Stevenson, daughter of Oberlin College President Stevenson, and Richard Meyner, and materials relating to World War II.

The second section contains papers relating to Artz’s father Elam J. Artz and his family and death notices for Mary Elizabeth Artz and Florence Minerva Artz, both of whom died as children in the mid-19th century.

Series VI. Teaching Materials, 1927-62, n.d.

This series, housed in two boxes, contains some of Artz’s lecture notes, organized alphabetically by class title (1927-61), and several course syllabi (1960-62). Also of interest is a collection of course evaluations completed by Artz’s students (1949), and two sets of University Prints for the course "Intellectual History of Europe from St. Augustine to Marx," n.d.

Series VII. Writings and Talks, 1927–81, n.d.

This series is divided into two sub-series.

1) Writings by Frederick B. Artz consists of files for individual books authored by Artz, arranged alphabetically by book title, with correspondence regarding publication and critical/collegial reaction. Other scholarly writings follow, including book reviews, a play, and eleven chapel talks given at Oberlin College (1938-68). Miscellaneous writings span the years 1945-60. A complete listing is given in the Frederick B. Artz Papers Inventory.

2) Writings About Frederick B. Artz consists of A Festschrift for Frederick B. Artz, David H. Pinkney and Theodore Ropp, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1964; a copy of the book is included).

Note: For “Specimen Days,” excerpts from Artz’s war journals, see Series IV. Journals.

Series VIII. Photographs, 1876, 1894-1981 [broken], n.d.

This series is housed in two boxes and consists of tintypes, cyanotypes, albumen prints, black and white and colored photographs, one photograph album, and negatives. They are arranged alphabetically by subject, with negatives placed first. An additional lot of family and miscellaneous photographs was received in 2003 and is housed together in the second box (box 10).

Series IX. Artifacts, 1920, 1924, n.d. (0.02 l.f.)

Consists of two medals awarded to Frederick B. Artz during his graduate studies at Harvard University [2002/139]. A military patch (rank unknown) was added to the collection in 2003. In 2004, a sketch of Artz (1973) and three silhouette portraits (n.d.) of Artz and his father were added to this series.


Papers of Frederick B. Artz were transferred to the Oberlin College Archives from the Oberlin College Library in 1984. Additional material was transferred from the Oberlin College Library, Special Collections, in 1992 and in 2001. The book A Festschrift for Frederick B. Artz was purchased for the Archives in 1997. Maureen Connelly donated the two medals in 2002. Sid Comings donated photographs and a military patch in 2003. Dr. Robert E. Hennings donated the University Prints (series VI) in 2005.

Related Materials

The Clarence Ward Art Library of the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College holds 118 volumes on architectural history (1500-1800) that were collected by Frederick Artz. The remainder of Artz's book and manuscript collection, documenting the history of the book and printing, together with a series of early wood engraved maps, is held by the Special Collections Department of the Oberlin College Library.

Consult the student and faculty files of Frederick Artz (RG 28). The papers of Oberlin College Presidents Henry Churchill King (RG 2/6), Ernest Hatch Wilkins (RG 2/7), and William Edwards Stevenson (RG 2/8) contain correspondence with Frederick Artz. The papers of longtime friend, Donald Melbourne Love (RG 30/91), include materials pertaining to the Bureau of University Travel. RG 39, Subgroup II, Oberlin College Student Placement Files contains a file for Artz.

Miscellaneous manuscripts (RG 45) contains a letter written by Artz's Aunt Elizabeth Binkerd Gump to her sister-in-law Emma Binkerd (Mrs. O.W. Binkerd). The letter, dated November 26, 1874, discusses the naming of Frederick B. Artz, family affairs, and Mrs. Gump's feelings on women's suffrage.

There is also a letter in the papers of Ruth Alexander Nichols (RG 30), written by Artz to Herman Nichols in July, 1916, in which Artz discusses his plans for the future – a future in which the imminent war has no place yet.

For more information about men from Oberlin who served in World War I, see the papers of Walter L. Hopkins (RG 30/220) and Logan O. Osborn (RG 30/191). Records of the Oberlin Ambulance Unit are housed in Office of the Secretary (RG 5).

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