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RG30/271 - Erwin H. Richards (1851-1928)
Scope and Content

The Erwin H. Richards papers consist of one scrapbook which documents his missionary activity in Portuguese East Africa. While the majority of photographs in this scrapbook are not described with standard descriptive elements (date, name of individual or place depicted), the images nonetheless provide a good pictorial representation of missionary life in the late 19th century. These photographs not only document the lives of Richards’ and his family members, but also highlight the many African friends Richards made during his travels. Several different photographs of the same African family appear throughout the scrapbook. A few photographs are accompanied by printed text (author unidentified) which reveal a superior and bemused attitude toward African peoples and their culture.

The collection also consists of writings that contain biographical information of Richards Family members. Included are an unpublished autobiography of Dorothy Reinhardt (daughter of Erwin Richards), 1972, a biography of Erwin Richards by Helen Louise Richards Hantower (daughter of Erwin Richards), 1991, and a paper by Carolyn White concerning the collection of Reverend Frank D. Wolf and Dr. Edith Wolf at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The collection consists of objects from the Thonga tribe in Inhambane; the same people that the Richards Family encountered.

Finally, the collection contains typescript copies of Richards Family correspondence that concern Erwin H. Richards.

Series Descriptions

Series 1. Scrapbook, c. 1884 (0.2 l.f.)

Consisting primarily of photographs, this scrapbook documents Erwin H. Richards’ missionary activity in Portuguese East Africa, concentrating on the areas of Inhamabane, Kambini, and Makodwen. Landscapes, animals, native Africans, and Richards and his fellow missionaries are depicted. A few pictures from Egypt and India also exist. The scrapbook also contains several pages of printed material in which narratives describe the accompanying pictures. The majority of items in this scrapbook are not labled or identified. The scrapbook was microfilmed in 2004, and researchers are requested to use the reference copy of the microfilm. CD-ROMs are also available for review, and images are available online.

Series 2. Correspondence, 1990-91 (1 folder)

Consists of typescript copies of correspondence of members of the Richards Family, 1990-91. The letters primarily concern Erwin H. Richards. The copies were compiled in 2001.

Series 3. Writings, 1972, 1991 (3 folders)

This series consists of unpublished writings about the Richards Family and includes the following titles: Autobiography of Dorothy Reinhardt (with a typescript copy of a letter from Helen Hantower to Dorothy and David Reinhardt, 26 November1972), 1972 (2 typescript copies), and the Biography of Erwin Richards 1851-1928, by Louise Richards Hantower, 1991 (typescript copy). Also included is a copy of the unpublished writing The Wolf Collection: The Relevance and the Relationship to the Richard[s] Collection, by Carolyn White, 1991.


The papers of Erwin H. Richards were received in three installments from Mr. Nelson Eldred in 1993, Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker in 2001, and Professor Linda Grimm in 2002. The microfilm was received in 2004 (accession 2004/072). The four (4) CD-ROMs were received in December 2004 (accession 2004/106).

Related Materials

See also the Rev. Fred Bunker collection, 1891-1917 (RG 30/277), available on microfilm; the papers of Edith Bunker Davis, 1857(1916-50)-1990 (RG 30/232); The Bridgman Family Papers (30/349); and the student files for Mr. And Mrs. Herbert D. Goodenough and other family members (RG 28).

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