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RG 30/2 - John Griffith Olmstead Family Papers
Scope and Content

The John Griffith Olmstead Family papers (1840-1955) consist of correspondence, professional and student files, and other miscellaneous material as collected by John G. Olmstead. This collection is arranged into sixteen series: Series I. Olmstead Letters regarding Academy and College Years; Series II. Files relating to John G. Olmstead's Professional Activities; Series III. Letters received by Icabod A. Olmstead and Mary C. Olmstead; Series IV. Letters received by John G. Olmstead; Series V. Letters between John G. Olmstead and Louise H. Olmstead; Series VI. Letters received by John and Louise Olmstead; Series VII. Letters received by Louise H. Olmstead; Series VIII. Miscellaneous Correspondence; Series IX. Miscellaneous Student Course Files of John G. Olmstead; Series X. Financial Papers of John G. Olmstead and Louise H. Olmstead; Series XI. Scrapbook and Family Clippings File; Series XII. Olmstead Family Subject Files; Series XIII. Miscellaneous Printed Material; Series XIV. Postcards; Series XV. Miscellany; and Series XVI. Materials relating to the Scanning Project of the John G. Olmstead Family Papers.

The correspondence series, Olmstead's professional files, and his student course files are the strongest portions of this collection. Collectively in spanning the life and times of Olmstead, these papers chart Olmstead's formative years in Elmira, New York, and document as well his adult years when he was a conscientious father and early 20th Century social worker.

The correspondence series provide several windows from which one can follow the personal and professional development of Olmstead. His letters to his parents and wife detail his experiences as an Oberlin student (1902-1906). Here one can follow Olmstead's growing awareness and appreciation of the work of the Shansi missionaries in light of the Boxer Rebellion, as well as glean information regarding the development and success of Oberlin's first inter-collegiate basketball team.

The correspondence series also provides information regarding his career with the YMCA (1909-1925). As a man who held lower leadership positions in the YMCA, these letters provide insight into the administration and effectiveness of YMCA programs on the regional and local levels. Early correspondence in Series I serves as a documentation of Olmstead's YMCA work in the United States Army during World War I—and the effect such seperation had on his marriage.

The correspondence between John and Louise (1906-1931) also allows one to follow their relationship through the early stages of their courtship and marriage (1909), to the raising of their children, the death of two sons, and long periods of separation. Their correspondence displays a level of sensibility mixed with great affection, respect, and love. They consult honestly and directly with one another regarding major decisions they individually or collectively faced during the course of their lives, while writing frankly regarding such issues as birth control and their roles as husband and wife.

Other correspondence from family and friends cover such topics as the YMCA, the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, the Oberlin College Alumni Association, and John and Louise's care and "adoption" of their niece Helen Vreeland (1930). Several letters also exist detailing the life and work of social gospeller, William "Bull" Johnstone. Finally, the correspondence series contains Olmstead family news covering such topics as Icabod Olmstead's coal business, local gossip, and family health and finances.

John Olmstead's professional files provide valuable information regarding Olmstead's career and of the work of such bodies as the YMCA, the Oberlin Alumni Association (1925-1932), the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association (1936-1955), the National Youth Administration (1936), and other Ohio based New Deal programs (1935-1943). As with the correspondence series, these files shed light on the impact and manner in which the missions of federal programs and national institutions were fulfilled on the state and local levels. Finally, the value of Olmstead's student papers (1897-1910) rests not only in highlighting John's academic formation, but also in the insight they provide as to the type of liberal arts education Oberlin students were receiving in the early 20th Century.

The balance of this collection consists of family clippings, financial papers, a variety of miscellaneous printed material, postcards, subject files, and other miscellaneous items.

While this collection covers nearly the entire span of Olmstead's life, gaps exist in some areas. Documentation regarding Olmstead's work with the Oberlin Alumni Council (1925-1932) is scattered and uneven. Unfortunately, no documentation exists regarding Olmstead's work with the Citizenship Council of Cincinnati (1943-1957).

Series Descriptions

Series I. Correspondence Files relating to Academy, College and Early Years, 1902-1921 (0.2 l.f.)

This series was originally titled "To his parents during Academy and College years and later." Consisting of letters primarily written by John G. Olmstead to Icabod and Mary Olmstead (his parents) and Louise H. Olmstead (his wife), they contain descriptions of student life at Oberlin (1902-1906) and describe John's involvement with the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association and the Oberlin College Basketball Team. Later letters cover such topics as Icabod Olmstead's health, and there is an extensive correspondence detailing John's YMCA work with the TMCA during World War I and the effect this seperation had on his marriage. Included are several letters written by Icabod Olmstead to John, at which time he discusses John's engagement to Louise Hutchinson, his coal business, and family finances. This series also includes correspondence from classmate H.H. Kung and New Testament Language and Literature teacher Edward I. Bosworth to John G. Olmstead. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series II. Files Relating to John G. Olmstead's Professional Activities, 1909-1944 (1.8 l.f.)

Subseries 1. Correspondence, c. 1909-1930

These letters received by John G. Olmstead pertain to his work at the YMCA and the Oberlin Alumni Association. Copies of letters sent by Olmstead are also included in this series. Often personal and chatty in nature, the letters cover such topics as writing student recommendations, assisting students in academic difficulties, and working with the Interchurch World Movement, the Oberlin Alumni Association, and the YMCA. Correspondents in this series include William Frederick Bohn, Celia Caskey, Laura Johnstone, Henry Churchill King, and Marjorie Sheldon. This series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically thereunder.

Subseries 2. General Files, 1914-1955 (bulk dates)

The administrative files collected by John G. Olmstead during the course of his professional career document his work with the American Alumni Council, the Lorain County Emergency Schools (5f), the Lorain County Emergency Schools Council, the National Youth Administration, the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association (10f), and the YMCA (Providence, RI). These files contain brochures, correspondence, pamphlets, program applications, program manuals, and reports. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by organization.

Series III. Letters Received by Icabod A. Olmstead and Mary C. Olmstead, 1902-1920, n.d. (0.6 l.f.)

These letters sent by John G. Olmstead to his parents cover such topics as John's involvement on Oberlin's basketball team (1902-1906) and his engagement (1908) and marriage (1909) to Louise Hutchinson. Later letters detail the raising of his sons John Jr. and Alan, John's work with the YMCA, and note the deaths of his sons Louis (1914) and Gardiner (1915). This series also includes several letters from Grace Olmstead Merston (John's sister) and Louise. His progress at the Elmira Free Academy in New York is charted in a letter written by principle Howard Conant. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series IV. Letters Received by John G. Olmstead, 1910-1931, n.d. (0.4 l.f.)

This series consists of two subseries: 1. Correspondents from others (unnamed correspondents), and 2. Correspondents from others (named correspondents). These subseries include letters sent to John by his children (John Olmstead Jr. and Alan Olmstead), O.S. Clark, Lucy Jane Hopkins, William "Bull" Johnston, Mary C. Olmstead, and Frank Vreeland. Topics covered include his (1909) engagement and marriage to Louise H. Olmstead, his children, his work with the YMCA, the Ku Klux Klan (1924), and women bobbing their hair (1920's). Subseries 1. is arranged chronologically, and Subseries 2. is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically thereunder.

Series V. Letters between John G. Olmstead and Louise H. Olmstead, 1906-1931, n.d. (1.6 l.f.)

Arranged into two subseries: 1. Letters sent to Louise, and 2. Letters sent to John. This series chronicles the relationship between John G. Olmstead and Louise H. Olmstead from their courtship through several years of their marriage. Early letters describe the beginning of their relationship, their engagement and wedding plans. Their letters also cover such topics as John's father's health, the nature of relationships between men and women, mustaches, and dieting. Once married, their letters document the growth and raising of their children, John's tour of the western United States (1931), news regarding sister Grace Olmstead and her husband Irving Merston, and John's work with the YMCA and American Alumni Council. Each subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series VI. Letters received by John and Louise Olmstead, 1910-1922, n.d. (0.8 l.f.)

This series consists of three subseries: 1. Letters sent by parents, 2. Letters sent by Grace Olmstead, and 3. Letters sent by others. Documents report on the Olmstead family coal business, the deaths of Icabod Olmstead (1922) and William "Bull" Johnstone (1925), Grace Olmstead's marriage to banker Irving Merston, and condolences for the deaths of Louis and Gardiner Olmstead (1914, 1915). Correspondents include Lucy Jane Hopkins, Laura Johnstone, Grace Olmstead Merston, Allen Olmstead, Icabod and Mary Olmstead, and John Olmstead Jr. A few letters written by Icabod Olmstead to his grandson, John Jr., are also in this series. Each subseries of letters is arranged chronologically.

Series VII. Letters received by Louise H. Olmstead, 1907-1929, n.d. (0.4 l.f.)

This series is arranged into two subseries: 1. Letters sent by others (unnamed correspondents) and 2. Letters sent by others (named correspondents). These letters cover such topics as Louise's marriage to John G. Olmstead, her enrollment as a student at Ohio State University, her sister Alice's poor health, her "adoption" of niece Helen Vreeland, and her son, John Jr.'s academic career at Oberlin. Correspondents include Margaret Dugan, Edwin Niles, Allan Olmstead, John Olmstead Jr., Frank Vreeland, Fred Vreeland, and students who she taught in 1922. Subseries 1. is arranged chronologically and Subseries 2. is arranged by correspondent and chronologically thereunder.

Series VIII. Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1896-1931, n.d. (0.2 l.f.)

This series contains the correspondence of a variety of individuals. Letters and birthday cards to John Olmstead Jr. and Allen Olmstead are found here as well as groups of letters maintained by Olmstead family members according to topic or sender. Included are letters regarding the deaths of Louis Olmstead, Icabod A. Olmstead, and Mary C. Olmstead. Letters between Frank Vreeland and his daughter Helen, letters regarding John G. Olmstead's participation in the YMCA retirement fund, and letters which John collected while he was working for the YMCA at Camp Devon, MA, are also kept here. This series is arranged alphabetically in folders by topic and thereunder chronologically.

Series IX. Miscellaneous Student Course Files of John G. Olmstead, 1897-1910, n.d. (1.6 l.f.)

This series is arranged into three subseries: 1. Elmira Free Academy Files, 2. Oberlin College File, and 3. Other Collegiate Files. These mainly consist of the class notes and student papers which were collected or produced by John G. Olmstead while he was a student in high school and college. His involvement on the Oberlin College Debate Team, the student newspaper, and his participation in a production of a Shakespearean spoof entitled "Two Gentlewomen of Vermilion" are well documented. Material also exists documenting Olmstead's participation on the Oberlin College and Ohio State University track teams (1910). Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series X. Financial Papers of John G. Olmstead and Louise H. Olmstead, 1902-1921 (bulk dates) (0.2 l.f.)

This series is broken down into four subseries: 1. Cashbooks, 2. Financial Ledgers, 3. Tax Records, and 4. Miscellaneous Papers. Records include the ledgers kept by John and Louise Olmstead documenting their use of family funds. Documentation also exists of John's purchase of Louise's engagement ring and of the funeral expenses incurred by Louis' death. Each subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series XI. Scrapbook and Family Clippings File, 1911-1936, n.d. (bulk dates) (0.2 l.f.)

Clippings in this series cover Olmstead family news and business. The scrapbook covers John Olmstead's association with the Lorain County Emergency Schools (1934-1936). Other collected clippings detail John's work with the YMCA, the death of family members, work of the American Alumni Council, events of the First World War, and other miscellaneous topics. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series XII. Olmstead Family Subject Files, 1916-1922, n.d. (0.2 l.f.)

Primarily consisting of discrete record units maintained by the Olmstead family, these records report on a family trip to Puerto Rico, Louise Olmstead's graduation from Ohio State University, her teaching career, and John Olmstead's work with the YMCA Schools. This series is arranged alphabetically by topic.

Series XIII. Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1840-1933, n.d. (bulk dates) (1.0 l.f.)

Included in this series are announcements and fliers, banquet programs, birth announcements, business cards, Christmas and New Years cards, church bulletins, commencement and meeting programs, dance cards, invitations to events, ticket stubs and membership cards, and wedding invitations. There are several Oberlin Alumni Association Dinner programs (1911, 1915), dance cards from events at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (1926), pamphlets relating to the YMCA and the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association (1925), and programs from the Metropolitan Opera (1916) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1919). This series is arranged alphabetically in folders by type of material.

Series XIV. Postcards, 1906-1931, n.d. (0.4 l.f.)

This series contains postcards which were collected and received by the Olmstead family. Included are Oberlin postcards and Christmas and Easter postcards. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series XV. Miscellany, 1904-1930, n.d. (bulk dates) (0.2 l.f.)

Included are Christmas gift lists, medical charts, a 1915 YMCA Vocational Directors report, a Braille chart and a copy of "The Student," Vol. X, No. 4, January 1916 from the English High School of Provident, RI. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series XVI. Materials Relating to the 2002 Scanning Project of the John G. Olmstead Family Papers (0.4 l.f.)

In the Summer-Fall 2002, materials from select series (I, III, IV, VI, and VIII) were scanned and placed on CD-ROMs by the CASNET Company of Akron, Ohio. This series includes photocopies of some of the materials scanned, and the CD-ROMs (4) containing the documents and images. One of the four CD-ROMs is incorrectly identified. See also the Projects files in the records of the Oberlin College Archives (RG 41) for additional information.

Provenance

This collection was deposited into the Oberlin College Archives in three different accessions: #19 (1967), #128 (1971), and 1978/43. These items (approximately 6.5 l.f.) had been deposited into the Oberlin College Library in 1956. While in the library, portions of the collection were organized around Oberlin subjects and were filed together as a separate series entitled "Letters to his parents during Academy and College years, and later." This grouping was maintained but renamed Series I. Correspondence Files relating to Academy, College and Early Years. Likewise, when control of the collection was passed onto the College Archives, Olmstead's student notes were initially placed in Oberlin College Archives record group 19/6-Student Notes. These notes have since been removed from this group and have been returned to the Olmstead collection in order to respect the original provenance of the materials. They are represented in Series IX. Miscellaneous Student Course Files of John G. Olmstead. Furthermore, upon accession into the archives, Olmstead's professional files were arranged together. They are represented in Series II. Files relating to John G. Olmstead's Professional Activities.

Ledgers from Icabod Olmstead's coal business (1800-1900) were sent to the Chemung County Historical Society in Elmira, New York, in 1985. The remainder of the collection was kept in the bundles which were maintained by the Olmstead family. In the summer of 1994, these bundles were flattened in preparation for the full processing of the collection which occurred in early 1995. Because the prior arrangement of the collection was not greatly disturbed and the bundles in which materials were maintained were for the most part respected, the researcher will often have to examine several different series for information on any one topic. For example, Series I. Correspondence Files relating to Academy, College and Early Years, contains correspondence between John and Louise Olmstead which might otherwise be found in Series V. Letters between John G. Olmstead and Louise H. Olmstead. Likewise, references to the deaths of Louis Olmstead (d. 1914) and Gardiner Olmstead (d. 1915) are found in several places, owing primarily to how the Olmstead's kept their family files and correspondence.

Related Materials

The following collections in the Oberlin College Archives contain materials which relate to, or contribute to an understanding of John G. Olmstead.

Presidential Annual Reports (RG 00/0/2)

Henry Churchill King Papers (RG 2/6): Named Correspondence, Topical Correspondence

Wilkins Papers (RG 2/7): Series IV: General Correspondence

William Frederick Bohn Papers (RG 3/1): Series III: General Correspondence

Shansi Memorial Association (RG 15):Sub-group II: Administrative Records

Alumni Association (RG 20):Sub-group I: Administrative File, Sub-group V: Executive Director, Sub-group VI: Alumni Magazine

YMCA/YWCA (RG 29): Sub-group I: YMCA Records, Series 1. Administrative Files

John Griffith Olmstead student file (RG 28/2)

John Griffith Olmstead Jr., student file (RG 28/2)

Louise Hutchinson Olmstead student file (RG 28/2)

John Griffith Olmstead Staff File (RG 28/3)

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