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Register of the Ethan Theodore Colton papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Collection Summary

    Title: Ethan Theodore Colton papers
    Dates: 1917-1952,
    Date (bulk): 1918-1935
    Collection Number: XX380
    Creator: Colton, Ethan Theodore, 1872-
    Collection Size: 9 manuscript boxes, 1 oversize box 3.6 linear feet)
    Repository: Hoover Institution Archives
    Stanford, California 94305-6010
    Abstract: The papers consist of correspondence, reports, writings, translations, and clippings, relating to European Student Relief activities in Russia and other European countries, 1920-1925; and to social conditions, the educational system, and the status of religion in Russia in the 1920s and 1930s. Includes the memoirs of E. T. Colton and 13 anti-religious Soviet posters. All material is from 1917-1935, except for Colton's 1952 memoirs.
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Languages: English
    Language of Material: There are a few records in French, Czech, German, and some printed material in Russian and Polish

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.
    The Hoover Institution Archives only allows access to copies of audiovisual items. To listen to sound recordings or to view videos or films during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all audiovisual material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Ethan Theodore Colton papers, [Box number], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives


    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog Socrates at http://library.stanford.edu/webcat . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in Socrates is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Related Materials

    Darius Alton Davis papers, Hoover Institution Archives
    Russell McCulloch Story Papers, Hoover Institution Archives
    American Relief Administration. European Operations Records, Hoover Institution Archives
    American Relief Administration. Russian Operations Records, Hoover Institution Archives
    Young Men's Christian Associations Collection, Hoover Institution Archives
    American National Red Cross records, Hoover Institution Archives
    Roy Ross Clark papers, Hoover Institution Archives

    Biographical Note

    1872 Born, Palmyra, Jefferson County, Wisconsin
    1892 Enters Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell, South Dakota; becomes active in campus YMCA and Mitchell Epworth League
    1898 Graduates from Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell, South Dakota
    1899-1904 Staff member with Student Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCA)
    1904-1917 Works for YMCA to build local Associations' support for YMCA World Service
    1918-1924 Administers European Student Relief (ESR) aid services in Russia and Siberia and to Russian émigrés in Europe; serves as YMCA liaison to American Relief Administration (ARA)
    1921 April ESR conference at Turnov, Czechoslovakia
    1922 Arrives back in New York from field work in Europe
    by 1923 to at least 1924 Works from Student Friendship office, 341 Madison Avenue, New York, NY
    1923 ARA programs conclude
    1925 ESR programs conclude (See Box 6)
    1925-1932 Executive secretary, YMCA World Services
    by 1925 to at least 1932 YMCA Press correspondence is directed to Colton at 341 Madison Avenue, New York, NY
    1929 LL.D. degree
    by 1931 Resident of Upper Montclair, New Jersey
    1931 Author of The X Y Z of Communism (New York, Macmillan Company), a response to Bukarin and Preobrazhensky's The A B C of Communism (1921)
    1932 Retires from YMCA World Services executive secretary position at age 60, per YMCA requirement; continues YMCA committee work
    1932-1942 Annual lecture tours, writes books
    1935 Author of Four Patterns of Revolution; Communist U.S.S.R., Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, New Deal America (New York, [YMCA] Association Press)
    1940 Author of Forty Years with Russians (New York, Association Press), forward by John R. Mott
    1943-1946 Executive director, YMCA War Prisoners? Aid Services in United States
    1944 Author of Toward the Understanding of Europe (New York, Association Press)
    1952 Author of Memoirs of Ethan T. Colton, Sr., 1872-1952, self-published
    1953 Author of The Russia We Face Now (Washington, D.C.: The Public Affairs Institute)

    Historical Note

    The European Student Relief program (ESR) was instituted in 1918 as a complement to the US-government-funded American Relief Administration (ARA) program, to provide European students, and later professors and technical workers, with food, clothing, and shoes, and sometimes medical services, tuition aid, and textbooks, and other support for intellectual work. ESR relief work pursued a limited scope, focusing on university-affiliated populations to support the reconstruction of war-torn Europe, and to build goodwill between students in Europe and the U.S.
    Colton's papers reflect the complicated organizational relationships in the administration of the American Section of ESR (also known as ASESR). According to histories of the YMCA, the European Student Relief program was inaugurated by the World's Student Christian Federation (WSCF), a Geneva-based organization founded in 1895 as a trans-national complement to the YMCA. WSCF founding general secretary John R. Mott served as general secretary throughout the ESR period, while simultaneously serving as the general secretary of the YMCA from 1915-1928, and from 1926-1937 as president of the YMCA's World Committee and the general secretary of President Wilson's National War Work Council. While ESR was a program of the WSCF, in the public ESR was frequently conflated with the ARA, and in ESR reports Colton is sometimes identified as a member of the staff of ARA Director General Colonel Haskell.
    Documents in Colton's papers describe ESR's mission, organizational structure, personnel, and mode of operation (Box 2), and note a Russian expulsion of the YMCA in 1918 (Box 1).
    In supporting ESR work to build goodwill between students in the United States and war-torn Europe, the WSCF created a Student Friendship Fund (SFF), which conducted publicity and fundraising work in the US, provided grassroots fundraising strategies and materials to college students and Christian youth organizations, and collected donations of cash as well as second-hand clothing and shoes for ESR to distribute in Europe.
    Colton, Ethan Theodore, Forty Years with Russians, New York, Association Press, 1940; especially pages 128, 132, and 161 on YMCA Press
    Hopkins, C. Howard, History of the Y. M. C. A. in North America, New York: Association Press, 1951; especially page 687
    Nobel Foundation, "John R. Mott: The Nobel Peace Prize 1946," "Biography" and "Presentation Speech," 1946, [viewed 2010 January 26] http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1946/mott-bio.html ; http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1946/press.html
    Rouse, Ruth, The World's Student Christian Federation: A History of the First Thirty Years, London: S. C. M. Press Ltd., 1948, especially pages 55, 79
    Shedd, Clarence P., Two Centuries of Student Christian Movements: Their Origin and Intercollegiate Life, New York: Association Press, 1934
    Shedd, Clarence Prouty, "and other contributors," History of the World's Alliance of Young Men's Christian Associations, London: S.P.C.K., for the World's Committee of Young Men's Christian Associations, 1955; especially pages 355-6, 353, 472, 565, 674, 701
    Stuer, Kenneth, "'For the Millions of Men Now Under Arms': American YMCA Prisoner-of-War Diplomacy in Western Europe," chapter 4 of Pursuit of an 'Unparalleled Opportunity,' New York: Columbia University Press, 2008, [viewed 2010 January 12] http://www.gutenberg-e.org/steuer/

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Ethan T. Colton papers in the Hoover Institution Archives consist of correspondence, reports, writings, translations, and clippings, relating to European Student Relief activities in Russia and other European countries, 1920-1925; and to social conditions, the educational system, and the status of religion in Russia in the 1920s and 1930s. Includes the memoirs of E. T. Colton and 13 anti-religious Soviet posters. Except for Colton's 1952 memoirs, all material is from 1917 to 1935.
    Colton spent his whole career with the Young Men's Christian Association. His early work to build local Associations' support for the YMCA's World Service, or Overseas Division, was followed by his assignment to executive administration of the European Student Relief program.
    Colton's papers offer particularly vivid qualitative and quantitative data on conditions for civilians in university areas throughout Europe following World War I, and U.S. and international food and clothing aid. The ESR reports were often in the form of letters from ESR staff, and are rich with first-person accounts of conditions aid workers found in recipient countries throughout Europe after World War I, and particularly Russia and Siberia in the wake of the Russian Civil War and subsequent famine in Russia.
    The documents exhibit the range of data and synthesis required for administering a large aid operation, assessing needs and program effectiveness, and conducting publicity and securing donations to sustain or expand and improve the relief efforts. The material also provides perspective on transition of government-administered operations to private non-governmental organizations.
    After the ESR program concluded in 1925, Colton continued with YMCA Overseas work on behalf of Russian émigrés, and maintained a focus on Russia and communism. Colton's papers reflect his collecting data, writing, and speaking about the practical impacts of Soviet government policies; communist outreach to youth; the relation of communism to religion; the Russian Orthodox Church, and Russian Orthodox religious figures under Soviet rule and official atheism. Some ESR reports and correspondence bear annotations related to this later work.
    Except for Colton's memoirs, his papers at the Hoover Institution Archives contain no material related to his post-retirement reactivation as executive director of the YMCA War Prisoners' Aid Services in the United States during World War II.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    European Student Relief.
    Student Friendship Fund.
    Young Men's Christian associations.
    Education Soviet Union.
    International relief.
    Soviet Union--History Revolution, 1917-1921--Civilian relief.
    Soviet Union--Religion.
    Soviet Union--Social conditions.
    World War, 1914-1918--Refugees.
    World War, 1914-1918--Europe.