Harry V. Bernard Papers

1911-1968, undated
Manuscript Collection #467
Bernard, Harry Virden, 1879-1968
Physical description
0.073 Cubic Feet, 56 items , including correspondence, writings, legal and financial papers, newsclippings, a photograph, and miscellaneous documents.
Preferred Citation
Harry V. Bernard Papers (#467), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1911-1968, undated) include correspondence, writings, legal and financial papers, news clippings, a photograph and miscellaneous documents related to the career of Harry V. Bernard, Sr., who was an American businessman in China beginning in 1911. The documents also reflect his work with flood relief in the Shanghai District of China in the 1930s and his internment by the Japanese in a prison camp near Shanghai during World War II.

Biographical/historical information

Harry Virden Bernard (1879-1968) was born in Camden, N.J. He attended high school in Bayonne, N.J., and was graduated from Sheldon Business College in Chicago and the Alexander Hamilton Business Institute in New York, N.Y. In 1905, he married Emma Jane Macdonald of Bayonne. The Singer Sewing Machine Company designated Bernard as its sales representative to China in 1911; he remained there until 1918 when illness forced him, his wife, and three children (Leonora, Harry, Jr., and Barbara) to move back to the United States. Bernard returned to China in 1919, affiliated with the Homestead Sewing Machine Company. His connection with this company proved troublesome, so he relied increasingly on the Euro-China Trading Company- an organization he had formed himself- for financial support. In 1931, Bernard was appointed head of the Shanghai district of the National Flood Relief Commission, a position he held until 1934. Because of his successful efforts in flood relief, Bernard was chosen in 1938 to head the International Red Cross program to aid Chinese refugees from the Sino-Japanese War. Placed under house arrest by the Japanese in December of 1941, Bernard and his wife became internees at the Chapei Civil Assembly prison camp near Shanghai in 1943. Emma Bernard and Juanita Sebastian, a ward of the Bernards, were repatriated in September 1943; Harry Bernard remained in the camp until 1945. After gaining his freedom, Bernard served as acting head of the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai until April 1946, when the Consul General arrived. Shortly after, Bernard left Shanghai and moved to Washington, D.C., where he formed the Central China Development Company; after its failure, he joined a brokerage firm in Washington.

Scope and arrangement

For additional information, see Barbara Bernard McGee and Ruth Dorval Jones, Barney- Journals of Harry Virden Bernard (Smithfield, N.C.: McGee Press, 1982).

Correspondence (1932-1945) concerns Bernard's activities as head of flood relief for the Shanghai district, his internment in the Chapei Civil Assembly Center, and Emma Bernard's voyage from China to the U.S. as a repatriate in 1943. Bernard wrote in 1932 (presumably to his family) about his work with flood relief and his view of how China might develop in the future; in this letter, he included copies of several reports concerning relief efforts. Also in 1932, Bernard reported to his wife and oldest daughter about festivities held in his honor as he prepared to leave the interior of China, where he had been directly supervising relief work, to return to Shanghai. Materials for 1943-45 deal with Bernard's incarceration at Chapei and the repatriation of Emma Bernard.

Included in a group of Harry Bernard's writings (1939-1945, undated) is a report presumably written by Bernard in 1939 on "American Relief Efforts during the Sino-Japanese War," in which he describes the work of the American Red Cross, a variety of missionary groups, and China Famine Relief, U.S.A. Two contemporary accounts describe aspects of Bernard's life as an internee in the Chapei Center, including his health, diet, and attitudes about his incarceration.

The bulk of the writings consists of a memoir written by Bernard between 1963 and 1968. The memoir is composed of typed sheets which the processor has placed in rough chronological order corresponding to the narrative of Bernard's life found in Barney- Journals of Harry Virden Bernard. The researcher interested in determining the precise order of events described in the reminiscences should consult this book. (Page three of the memoir may be notes compiled by Barbara B. McGee when writing Barney.) Although Bernard discusses his and his wife's early lives, the first years of their marriage, and their three children, the most important information contained in the memoir consists of his observations about China and the Chinese. Among topics and events discussed by Bernard are battles around the Shanghai area among competing area warlords, his trips to the interior as a Singer Sewing Machine Company representative, the deliberate wrecking of the S.S. CHINA by the Japanese in Nagasaki Harbor (ca. 1911), Chinese social customs, travel within China, activities of Chinese revolutionaries, a visit to Hong Kong and French Indochina, flood relief in the Shanghai area (during the course of which Bernard met and briefly worked with Mao Tse-tung), International Red Cross work with Sino-Japanese War refugees, a 1939 trip by Bernard to the U.S. during which he served as escort for Kay Fukuhara (the daughter of a prominent Japanese official), methods of dealing with Chinese servants, and the Bernards' internment in Chapei Center. The reminiscences provide much valuable information about Americans' commercial relations with the Chinese and the role of foreigners in Chinese society in the early twentieth century.

Financial and legal papers, clippings, and miscellaneous materials (1916-1949, undated) pertain mainly to Bernard's work in flood and famine relief, Emma Bernard's repatriation during World War II, and the Bernards' incarceration at Chapei Center. The one photograph in the collection (1927) shows a crowd in an unidentified city gathered around the site of an execution.

Four oversized items have been filed separately. They are: The Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, 16 October 1943, 3 December 1943, 2 June 1944; and an unidentified newspaper, in Chinese characters (undated).

Administrative information
Custodial History

April 29, 1983, 73 items; Papers (1931-1949) of American businessman in China, including correspondence, reminiscences, reports, diary entries, clippings, and photographs. Gift of Mrs. Barbara B. McGee, Smithfield, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Barbara B. McGee

Processing information

Processed by J. Hesson, February 1984

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.