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RG 30/288 - Herbert and Josephine Van Meter
Scope and Content

The papers of Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter document Herbert Van Meter’s time as a student at Oberlin College (1933-37), and his career as an Oberlin College Shansi Memorial Association (OSMA) representative in China and as a Navy chaplain during World War II. The collection also contains documentation concerning Josephine Van Meter’s career as a representative for Shansi in China, her position as a Y.W.C.A. instructor, and as Executive Secretary of OSMA (1944-46).

This collection consists of 1.8 linear feet of correspondence, including letters written between Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter, incoming and outgoing correspondence of the parents of Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter, and letters written by Chaplain Herbert Van Meter to the parents of American soldiers killed in action. This correspondence documents the Van Meter’s days as students at Oberlin College, their work in China, and their activities during World War II.

The collection documents life in China (1930s-1950s), activities at Oberlin College (1930s), and World War II through diaries and photographs of the Van Meters. Herbert Van Meter’s diaries (1933-52) detail his days as a student at Oberlin College as well as his activity just prior to the United States entering World War II through the aftermath of the conflict. Photographs (primarily the 1930s-1940s) provide visual documentation of the Van Meter’s experiences in China, including pictures of people, buildings, and daily activities.

The writings of Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter (Series 9, Subseries 2) illustrate the Van Meter’s interest in China, during their college days and their time spent as OSMA representatives.

Although the Van Meters were very active following their return from China in 1951, the collection provides little documentation for this period (1951-1996). Herbert Van Meter’s 32 years as a minister (1951-1982) and Josephine Van Meter’s service to the Oberlin community (i.e., Alumni Board, 1970-73; Class President 1970-75; and OSMA Trustee, 1968-78) are only briefly mentioned in biographical sketches, or brief correspondence.

Series Descriptions

Series 1. Biographical/Historical Files, 1936-1951, n.d. (10 folders, 0.2 linear feet)

Contains biographical information relating to both Herbert and Josephine Van Meter. Consists of a clippings file, report cards, materials related to Mr. Van Meter’s military service, programs relating to Mr. Van Meter’s graduation from chaplain school, and certificates. Arranged alphabetical and thereunder chronologically.

Series 2. Incoming Correspondence of Herb Van Meter, 1938-1948 (6 folders, 0.2 linear feet)

Arranged into two subseries: Subseries 1. Josephine Hamilton (Van Meter) to Herbert Van Meter; and, Subseries 2. Other Incoming Correspondence to Herbert Van Meter. Subseries 1 contains letters written by Josephine Hamilton to Herbert Van Meter while he was in China. Subseries 2 consists of letters that were received from friends, acquaintances, and employers, most during the time that Mr. Van Meter served as a Navy chaplain (1943-1945). Arranged chronologically.

Series 3. Outgoing Correspondence of Herbert Van Meter, 1937-1950 (33 folders, 0.8 linear feet)

Consists of two subseries: Subseries 1. Herbert Van Meter to Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter; and, Subseries 2. Herbert Van Meter to Others. The bulk of the correspondence was sent to Josephine Hamilton during Herbert Van Meter’s tenure as a Shansi representative in Taiku, China (1937-1940), and as a Navy chaplain (1944-1946). Other letters, dated between 1937 and 1940, 1943 and 1950, were written to family and friends. Most of the correspondence written to other individuals was written during Herbert Van Meter’s time in Shansi, though some of the letters cover his time in the Navy (1943-1945), and the period shortly after World War II. Arranged chronologically.

Series 4. Incoming and Outgoing Correspondence of Herbert Van Meter (re: military service and Iwo Jima), 1945-1946 (7 folders, 0.4 l.f.)

This series contains correspondence relating to Herbert Van Meter’s military service. Most significant here are letters, arranged alphabetically, that Mr. Van Meter sent to parents of recently killed American soldiers on Iwo Jima island in the Pacific. These files also include responses of these parents, often thanking Herbert Van Meter for his assistance. Other noteworthy documents include a file containing military orders and promotions. Arranged alphabetically.

Series 5. Correspondence of Josephine Hamilton Van Meter, 1936-1996 (2 folders, 0.2 linear feet)

Consists of a small amount of correspondence and arranged into two subseries (1. Incoming; 2. Outgoing). Most significant here are outgoing letters from Josephine Hamilton Van Meter written while in China and in the United States during World War II. Arranged chronologically.

Series 6. Joint Correspondence of Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter (Incoming and Outgoing), 1937-1950 (4 folders, 0.2 l.f.)

This series contains letters addressed to and from Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter, as well as incoming and outgoing correspondence of their parents. Arranged into three subseries (1. Incoming of Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter; 2. Outgoing of Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter; and, 3. Incoming and Outgoing of Parents). The most noteworthy documents are fourteen letters written to their families while the Van Meters were in China after World War II. Other significant files include letters written to Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, many received from their daughter Josephine in China and from the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association. Arranged chronologically.

Series 7. Diaries, 1933-1952 (9 volumes, 0.4 linear feet)

The diaries recorded by Herbert Van Meter document primarily his days at Oberlin College (1933-1937). A separate volume documents his trip to Yenan, China from 13 June to 20 June 1938. The final diary covers his activity just prior to the surrender of Japan in World War II to 1952.

Series 8. Financial Files, 1934-1946 (9 folders, 0.2 linear feet)

Contained here are a small amount of financial files relating to Herbert and Josephine Van Meter. Noteworthy documents include two ledgers (1933-1936) that carefully detailed his college expenses, income tax returns, and a 1944(?) lease for an apartment in San Diego, California, that was signed by Josephine Van Meter. Arranged alphabetically and thereunder chronologically.

Series 9. Writings and Speeches by Herb and Josephine Van Meter, 1936-1945, 1968, n.d. (4 folders, 0.2 linear feet)

This series is arranged into two subseries: 1. Talks and Speeches of Herbert and Josephine Van Meter; and, 2. Writings by Herbert and Josephine (Hamilton) Van Meter. Herbert Van Meter’s writings include his 1937 senior thesis titled “The Growth and Development of Chinese Nationalism: How the Chinese Civilization Is Becoming a Chinese Nation.” Herbert Van Meter’s notes used for sermons (as Navy Chaplain) are also included. Among Josephine Van Meter’s files are several untitled speeches given to the Y.W.C.A. in 1945, her 1938 final report documenting her story as a Shansi representative to Taiku, China (1935-1938), and an undated paper titled “The Problem of the Modern Chinese Woman.” Arranged alphabetically and thereunder chronologically. See also Series 11. Non-Textual Materials for a videotape of a talk by Josephine Van Meter.

Series 10. Collected Publications and Materials of Herbert and Josephine Van Meter 1937-1974, 1987 (6 folders, 1 booklet, 1 manuscript of a book, 0.4 linear feet)

Consists of a booklet containing mailings received by Herbert Van Meter’s parents in Moline, Illinois, while he served as a Shansi representative in China (1937-40). Documents include Shansi newsletters, minutes from Shansi Committee meetings, and letters from OSMA to Herbert Van Meter’s parents reporting on the latest news relating to their son. Other files contained here is the newsletter Dragon Tracks (1938-1944), a 1987 paper by Robbins Strong (OC 1934) titled Three Transitional Years, 1934-1937 (Life in Shansi, China), and a clippings file consisting of newspaper articles documenting the United States invasion of Iwo Jima in early 1944. Arranged alphabetically and thereunder chronologically.

Series 11. Non-Textual Materials, c. 1930s-1987, 1995 (22 folders, 1.7 linear feet)

This series is divided into three subseries: Subseries 1. Albums/Scrapbooks; Subseries 2. Photographs; and. Subseries 3. Videotapes. The photographs in this series depict everyday scenes in China, Chinese citizens and OSMA representatives, and buildings such as Ming Hsien School and Shansi Agricultural University. Some of the photographs were compiled into albums by the Van Meters. Also included is a videotape of a talk by Josephine Van Meter regarding activity in Shansi Province, China, in the 1930s.

Provenance
The papers of Herbert and Josephine Van Meter were transferred to the Oberlin College Archives under deed of gift from Gretchen Van Meter Lanton in 1997.
Related Materials
See also the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association Records (RG 15) and the Archives’ Guide to Missionary Records.
 
 
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