A Glimpse of 1920s China from the Remington Kellogg Papers

Letter from Mabel Truss Metcalf to Marguerite Henrich Kellogg, October 14, 1923, page 1, Record Unit 7170, A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871–1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. SIA2015-002628.

Letter from Mabel Truss Metcalf to Marguerite Henrich Kellogg, October 14, 1923, page 2, Recod Unit 7170, A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871–1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. SIA2015-002629.

Letter from Mabel Truss Metcalf to Marguerite Henrich Kellogg, October 14, 1923, page 3, Record Unit 7170, A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871–1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. SIA2015-002630.

Letter from Franklin P. Metcalf to Remington Kellogg, November 14, 1923, page 1, Record Unit 7170, A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871–1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. SIA2015-002631.

Letter from Franklin P. Metcalf to Remington Kellogg, November 14, 1923, page 2, Record Unit 7170, A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871–1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. SIA2015-002632.

Letter from Franklin P. Metcalf to Remington Kellogg, November 14, 1923, page 3, Record Unit 7170, A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871–1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives, neg. no. SIA2015-002633.

Remington Kellogg, director of the U. S. National Museum from 1948 to 1962, was a devoted naturalist from an early age, eventually acquiring his Ph.D. in vertebrate paleontology and joining the Washington, D.C.­­–based U. S. Bureau of Biological Survey in 1921, before becoming an assistant curator at the Smithsonian's U. S. National Museum (now National Museum of Natural History) in 1928. He ultimately rose to the position of museum director and served concurrently as an Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

One of Kellogg's correspondents was Franklin Metcalf, who worked as an assistant biologist with the Bureau of Biological Survey both before and after World War I. From 1923 to 1928 Metcalf was a professor of botany at Fukien Christian University, originally a missionary school in China that is now part of Fujian Normal University, located in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. In 1931 he received his Ph.D. in systematic botany from Cornell University, and held a fellowship at Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum before being inducted into the Air Force in 1942.

With Chinese New Year upon us, these letters from the A. Remington Kellogg Papers, written by Metcalf and his wife, Mabel, from Fuzhou during their time in China are of particular interest. The letters are on exceptionally beautiful paper, with a soft texture and clearly visible chain and laid lines from the mold used to form the sheets. Wonderfully detailed botanical images are printed, likely with wood blocks, on the writing side of each page, and each features a small vermilion seal stamp. These letters give us a fascinating look at the stationery available in 1920s China.

Kellogg and Metcalf were both colleagues and friends, as these letters demonstrate: the first, written on smaller paper, is in fact from Mabel Truss Metcalf to Kellogg's wife, Marguerite Henrich, whom Mabel addresses as "Mrs. Kellogg," and the letter is full of chatty news about their recent move to China for Metcalf's position at the university, including a reference to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 in Japan. The second letter is from Metcalf to Kellogg (who is addressed by Metcalf in other correspondence as "Kelly") and contains holiday greetings in addition to a request for assistance in compiling a reference library of systematic botany his students.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! From the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Happy Year of the Goat!

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