Edgar Quackenbush Papers

Manuscript Collection #630
Quackenbush, Edgar
Physical description
0.11 Cubic Feet, 56 items , copies, consisting of letters and reminiscences and one biographical clipping.
Preferred Citation
Edgar Quackenbush Papers (#630), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1896-1917) including letters and reminiscences, biographical clipping, comments on World War I, daily weather conditions, postal services between US and China.

Biographical/historical information

This collection consists largely of correspondence (1896-1917) of Edgar Quackenbush (d. 1939), an American tea merchant representing Carter Macy & Co. of New York, N.Y., on business trips to China.

Scope and arrangement

The collection also includes four reminiscences of Edgar Quackenbush and his children, and a short biography of Quackenbush. The items in the collection have been given consecutive page numbers to aid the researcher in locating specific references.

The majority of the collection relates to the personal affairs of the Quackenbush family during their stay in the international settlements in Shanghai and Hankow. Only a little information regarding the tea trade is included, specifically the Russian tea trade (1896, p. 20), the high cost of freight to America from China, and the difficulty in getting tonnage (1916-1917, pp. 72, 116).

Several areas in the correspondence that are emphasized are descriptions of social activities (1896-1917) and travels within China, including Hangchow (early 1900s, 1917, pp. 16-17, 145-147), Nanking (1901-1902, pp. 8-9, 34-35), and Ningpo (1901, pp. 10-12, 27-29). Social life and customs described are a Chinese wedding (1916, pp. 8, 86-87); various modes of travel (donkey, sedan chair, rickshaw, boat, tram, train, steamer); entertainment in the international settlement (1916, 1917); Chinese burials (ca. 1912, p. 15); and Chinese shops (1916-1917).

Correspondence and reminiscences also contain descriptions of Quackenbush's travels outside of China. Included are his trips to Hong Kong (1909, p. 36); Singapore (1909, pp. 37-38); Penang on the Malayan Peninsula (1909, p. 38); Colombo, Ceylon (1909, pp. 39-40); Aden (1909, pp. 41-42); Suez Canal (1909, p. 44); London (1909, pp. 48-49); and by railway through France (1909, pp. 46-47). Correspondence also discusses trips to Japan and includes information on temple architecture in Kamakura (1916, p. 69), village homelife (1900, p. 7), and hotels in Yokohama andMiyanoshita (1916-1917, pp. 69-70, 106-108). Other correspondence describes travels in the Western Hemisphere, including trips to Honolulu, Hawaii (1917, p. 104); California (1916, pp. 65-66); the Grand Canyon; and a train trip through Wyoming (1917, pp. 101-102).

Chinese politics and international affairs are also discussed. Included are references to Manchu City (the Forbidden City) in Nanking (1901, pp. 34-35) and the provisional government also in Nanking (ca. 1912, pp. 13-19); the Boxer Rebellion (1900, pp. 5, 7, 26); the Chinese Revolution (1911-1912, pp. 13-19); examination halls and processes used to test prospective government appointees (1901, pp. 34-35); the location and appearance of the U.S. and Russian consular offices in China (1916, pp. 84-85); difficulties between China and Japan (1914-1915, pp. 61, 63); and the rise of the Emperor to power and his subsequent abdication in favor of the Republic (1917, pp. 125, 127).

Evidence of religious activities in China centers around numerous descriptions of American missionaries (1901, 1916-1917, pp. 10, 15-19, 146-147, 157-159), discussion of the Buddhist religion, and descriptions of Buddhist temples, including a temple in Hangchow (1917, p. 146), a Buddhist monastery, and a service in Snowy Valley near Ningpo (1901, pp. 10-12, 27-29). Also described is a comparison between Buddhism and Roman Catholicism (1901, p. 29).

Correspondence includes comments about World War I (1916-1917). Included are descriptions of England's defense of national treasures from German Zeppelin bombs (1916, p. 68); steamer travel to China with German submarines positioned off the Pacific coast of the United States (1917, pp. 103-105); contradictory news regarding the Allies (1916, p. 84); British censorship of U.S. mail in China (1916, pp. 84, 89-91); mention of measures needed regarding Mexico (1916, pp. 81, 142); comments on American influence upon China in severing diplomatic relations with Germany (1917, p. 124); and comments pertaining to China's declaration of war against Austria and Germany and its effects on German citizens and property in China (1917, pp. 133, 140-141, 154). Difficulties between the Germans and Japanese (1916, p. 77) and the defense of Tsingtao by the Germans and its capture by the Japanese is also mentioned (1914, p. 61).

The collection also includes comments pertaining to U.S. ships in China: the USS MONACY (1900, p. 5), a sidewheel steamer that was moved from Shanghai to Tiestin for use against the Boxer Rebellion uprising; the USS SARATOGA and the USS RAINBOW, both of which were brought to Shanghai to protect U.S. citizens (ca. 1912, p. 13); and the USS CINCINNATI (1917, p. 154) that left Shanghai to help the Russian steamer, POLTAVA, which had struck a reef.

Daily weather conditions, including sand storms and typhoons, are noted frequently throughout the correspondence and references are also made to disasters resulting from adverse weather conditions. Included are references to famine and the Bailie colonization scheme for coping with it(ca. 1912, p. 17); and drought precipitating rice and bean crop failures (1917, p. 113).

Miscellaneous topics covered include postal service between China and the United States (1896, 1909, 1916, 1917); mention of several shipwrecks in the late 1890s and 1917 (1909), 1917, pp. 41, 154); an epidemic of scarlet fever (ca. 1901, p. 6); and a Christian Science "absent treatment" for healing (1916, p. 76). Also mentioned are missionary-run hospitals for lepers and consumptive patients in Hangchow (1917, p. 147).

Administrative information
Custodial History

November 6, 1991, 56 items; Typescript copies of correspondence (1896-1917) and reminiscences of an American tea merchant in China. Gift of Charles Hill Anderson, Johns Island, S.C. Original materials are housed in the Asian Studies Program at Dartmouth College.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Charles Hill

Processing information

Processed by L. Turner, November 1992

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.

Key terms
Personal Names
Quackenbush family
Quackenbush, Edgar, -1939
Merchants--United States--Correspondence
Missionaries--United States
World War, 1914-1918--Economic aspects
China--Politics and government--20th century
China--Social life and customs--20th century
East Asia--Description and travel