The Fletcher papers reflect Robert S. Fletchers interest in the history of Oberlin College, an institution located in the Connecticut Western Reserve, and his interest in the history of the trans-Mississippi West.
The collection, which is composed of nearly 200 folders of historical materials in a potpourri of formats and dates, is organized around four records series: Series I. Professional Files relating to the History of Oberlin College, etc., 1900-1958, n.d.; Series II. Research Files: Original Records (from private sources), 1833-1946, n.d.; Series III. Research Files: Non-Original Records, 1816-1908, n.d.; and, Series IV. Research Files: Non-Textual Records, ca. 1930s-1943. In writing the history of Oberlin College Fletcher noted that as the author he depended to a very large extent upon manuscript material: personal letters and diaries, the archives of various organizations, and unpublished narratives ("A Partial List of Sources, p. 927). Thus, a great many of these sources, which were collected/gathered by Fletcher, represented new material or body of documentation.
Although fifty years have passed since Robert S. Fletcher last browsed among his cherished manuscripts and notes on Oberlins history, the resources he gathered for his own historical research comprise one of the most noted and widely used manuscript collections held by the Oberlin College Archives. Fletchers acquisition efforts are fully detailed in the incoming and outgoing correspondence (4 folders) filed under Series I and in the transmittal letters filed with sets of historical materials in the three series of Research Files: Original Records, Non-Original Records, and Non-Textual Records. Fletcher, who apparently had to fund his own historical research and travel, received some internal assistance from Librarian Julian Fowler and from graduate and undergraduate student assistants. One primary external supporter of this project was Mary Rudd Cochran (d. 1982), Class of 1903. In his capacity as institutional historian and unofficial archivist, Fletcher used these research materials both to produce his two-volume institutional history as well as to answer letters of inquiry for historical information received by the institution. The scope and content of this collection was further conditioned by Fletchers plan to prepare for the Centennial an Oberlin Historical Source Book, 1833-1867. The latter was never published owing to a lack of funds.
The original documents found in Series II, which were collected from private sources, represent a small lot. Included in this single box are twenty-four folders containing the letters of Mary C. Chittenden (d. 1906), diary of Mary Louise Cowles (d. 1859), letters of Delia A. Fenn (d. 1882), letters of Daniel Jerome Jones (1831-1919), letters of Hattie M. Reed (unknown), and five folders marked Miscellaneous Correspondence of Letters, which contain a variety of documents and cover the period from Oberlins founding years to the early decades of the twentieth century. The above material is rich in the development and history of coeducation. Two other notable folders are entitled: Library, 1889-1908, and n.d. (mainly early history of) and The Gay Young Man, a manuscript of a story of an unnamed Oberlin student in the 1850s. Finally, a number of folders of original documents for Delevan Leonard (1834-1917), Nancy Prudden (1818-1910), and John J. Shipherd (1802-1844) were removed from the Fletcher Collection and filed with manuscript groups bearing their names, respectively.
Constituting the bulk of the Fletcher collection are the non-original records (Series III), consisting of typescript and photostat copies of letters, diaries, minutes, and other types of historical documents largely deposited with private persons. These research files (5.6 l.f.) have been divided into three subseries: Name Files, Subject Files, and Periodicals. Among the more prominent nineteenth century individuals to be found in these files are Mr. & Mrs. James Dascomb, Mr. & Mrs. James H. Fairchild, Charles G. Finney, Mr. & Mrs. James Monroe, and Gerrit Smith. Subjects covered relating to Oberlin College include antislavery movement, black education, Civil War, missions, moral reform scholarships, womens rights, and so forth. Subseries 3 consists of excerpts taken from numerous newspapers and periodicals, mostly published in Northeast Ohio.
The non-textual records, consisting of varying types, represent a strong body of visual documentation on Oberlins mid-nineteenth century history.
Use of copies for publication may require the permission of the institution holding the original, if other than Oberlin.
Box list available.