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Charles W. Pearson Family Papers

Identifier: 11/3/11/2

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Scope and Contents

Charles W. Pearson was a scholar of marked linguistic ability, a pastor with independent religious views, and in his youth a seafaring adventurer. His six children were Margaret, a housewife; Muriel, housewife and mink farmer; Josephine, a librarian; Ethel, defender of things English and genealogist; George, an investment executive; and Mowbray, an enterprising businessman who became a socioeconomic thinker in his later years. The material that all of these individuals have left behind as well as material from two related branches of the family–the Hadaths and the Frenches–constitute the Pearson Papers.

Description of the Papers: Charles W. Pearson

The Charles W. Pearson papers fall into five general categories: correspondence, clippings, poetic works, class notes and lectures, sermons, and religious notes and lectures. Although the correspondence is especially sparse for a Department Head and controversial public figure, it does contain several interesting items including supportive letters concerning his “heresy” and one to the editor of the New York Times concerning a review of The Carpenter Prophet. This letter to the Times is a long piece in which Pearson recounts part of his intellectual background and attempts to illustrate how he has synthesized his reading of literature with his reading of the Bible. He discusses the difference between poetic truth and historic fact and relates these to his own religious views.

The clippings provide some historical information about the University, but primarily follow the course of the “Open Inspiration” controversy, revealing the varied public reaction. Pearson's poetry, class lectures, sermons, and religious lectures consist of both hand and typewritten drafts. Copies of Alma Mater and Methodism do not appear in his papers in either finished or draft form. They can however be found in the main library. Finally, the sermons included in the collection are those Pearson gave while pastor of the Unitarian church in Quincy, Illinois.

Ethel Pearson Martin (1884-1965)

The papers of Ethel Pearson Martin consist of correspondence; manuscripts of essays she wrote on various topics; genealogical data which she collected from other family members; journals she kept on trips to England; and financial and legal documents. In addition to the usual notices of births, deaths, marriages, illnesses, and visits, the correspondence contains a number of letters dealing with several important topics. Those written by John Edward Gunby Hadath (also known as Ted), Ethel's cousin, describe conditions in England during the German air raids in the second World War; discuss Britain's relations with Greece during World War II and the manner in which these had been treated in the American press; mention Churchill's popular support and Stalin's character as an ally; and comment on American political figures such as Wendell Wilkie and President Roosevelt. Ethel's letters from Constance Potterill Davey, a distant relative on Ethel's mother's side of the family, include inquiries about family history and a description of the position of South Africa during the Second World War. Finally, the correspondence from Ethel's brother George Pearson deals almost exclusively with family matters. These range from his sisters' investments to their plots in Chicago's Rosehill cemetery.

The manuscripts of Ethel Martin seem to have been written mainly about her personal experiences and none appear to have been published. “The Recession Brings an Idea” (1938) was rejected by The American Home and “The Modern Novel” (1902) was read at her graduation.

Of considerably more value and interest is the body of genealogical data Ethel collected from her family. The first portion of this material consists of genealogical diagrams and sketches showing the pattern of descent of the Pearson and Bentley families. No single sketch is complete in itself in the sense that it gives the correct number and names of the offspring of a particular union; nor is any single sketch complete in its listing of birth and death dates for the individuals it includes. Yet all of the sketches combined allow one to trace the Pearsons and Bentleys back to the 18th century in England. By using these diagrams in conjunction with the genealogical data found in the correspondence it has been possible to compile a systematic and reasonably accurate genealogical catalogue of the Pearson family. (See Box 1., Folder 1) The second part of the genealogical material consists of memorial essays written about family members who died at an early age. These memorials have been composed by contemporaries of the individuals being memorialized and give information about the person's education, religious experiences, nature of illness, and treatments prescribed.

The remainder of Ethel Martin's papers is made up of travel notes, legal documents, and financial materials. Mrs. Martin made at least two trips to England – one in 1905 and one in 1957 – both times visiting her cousin J. E. Gunby Hadath. Throughout the 1905 trip she kept a journal in which she described the places she visited, e.g., the British Museum, the Royal Academy, Hyde Park, and Parliament. The legal documents consist of a death certificate, an autopsy report, her Will, and a contract with the Ormond Hotel (Florida) where she spent her declining years. The financial material consists of lists of assets for 1965, income tax forms, cancelled checks, and miscellaneous receipts.

Muriel Pearson Leisenring Falconer (1888-1968)

Muriel Falconer's papers consist of correspondence; material on insurance policies; material concerning the Army retirement pay of her second husband Albert C. Falconer; material relating to her real estate, income tax, and investments; and legal documents. Her correspondence is primarily concerned with family matters. The earliest of it is from the family of her first husband, William Leisenring, welcoming her to the family. Following this is a series of personal letters from her second husband, Albert Falconer, telling of his daily life in ROTC camps at Fort Bliss, Texas; Alamogordo, New Mexico; and Redosa, New Mexico during the summer of 1930. The next major run of letters deals with Muriel's daughter Betty. Beginning around 1933 and running through 1957 they chronicle Betty's difficulties as a student at Beloit College in Wisconsin, her problems in finding a job and establishing financial independence after leaving school, her marriage to Malcolm Rice – a young doctor attempting to establish a practice, and their financial problems. The attempts of other family members – most notably George Pearson and Ethel Martin – to help her with these problems are documented throughout.

Muriel's correspondence also includes letters concerning her son William (Leisenring), an American Army Lieutenant who during the Second World War was captured in action by the Japanese in the Philippines, interred in a prison camp, and finally killed when a Japanese prison ship was sunk by American planes off the coast of China. These letters are of two sorts: copies of messages sent to him while he was a prisoner of war, and correspondence with the law firm of Bull, Biart & Bieberstein of Wisconsin which handled the retrieval of his personal effects from the Army after it was learned that he had been killed.

Other subjects reflected in Muriel's correspondence include the construction of her house in Rhinelander, Wisconsin where she operated a mink farm, and news about her grandson Malcolm Rice who was in the Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa.

Josephine Pearson Hunt (1894-1983)

Josephine Hunt worked most of her life as a librarian, first at the Winnetka Public Library – a job she held for nine years, and subsequently at the American Dental Association – a job she held for thirty-three years. At the close of World War I, when the sick and wounded soldiers were being sent home from Europe, she served for twenty months as librarian at Fort Sheridan, Illinois which had been turned into a military hospital. At the time she was on leave from her regular job in Winnetka. After leaving the Winnetka Public Library prior to the birth of her first son, she stayed at home for a year before taking a position with the Hospital Library and Service Bureau, a non-profit organization supplying information and literature to hospitals and health organizations. In 1927 she left this organization to start a library at the American Dental Association. Among her duties at the ADA was the supervision of the Index to Dental Periodical Literature. Until 1936 this Index had been prepared under the direction of Dr. Arthur Black, Dean of the Northwestern Dental School. Under the direction of Mrs. Hunt new subject headings were chosen and new magazine abbreviations were used which simplified the use of the Index and gained wider acceptance for it. While at the ADA Mrs. Hunt also developed ‘package libraries.’ Each package consisted of about thirty articles on a specific subject; such packages were sent to professionals requesting information on detailed subjects.

At the end of this phase of her career Mrs. Hunt went on a freighter trip to Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. On this excursion she visited marble, granite, and onyx quarries in Uruguay and conceived the idea of forming a company to make these materials available in the United States for construction. On her return trip she brought back a quantity of marble table tops for display to prospective users of marble and for sale. After returning from South America in 1961 Mrs. Hunt resumed her long career in library science. One day a week she worked for the Florence Crittenden Anchorage, a home for unwed mothers. Through the cooperation of the Chicago Public Library a rotating library of about two hundred volumes was established at the institution.

The bulk of Mrs. Hunt's correspondence concerns her sister Ethel's deteriorating health around 1964, her eventual mental decline due to hardening of the arteries, and the expenses of maintaining her in old age. In 1967 a similar run of correspondence begins concerning her other sister Muriel Falconer. Most of the financial material in the collection deals with the maintenance of these two sisters.

George William Pearson (1886-1970)

A life-long resident of Evanston, George Pearson began his business career as an office boy for the Bond firm Mason & Lewis of Chicago shortly after his graduation from high school. Under the aegis of a close friend – Dr. Bragdon of Evanston – Pearson began to sell securities and eventually made this his career, serving as an investment executive for the Continental Illinois Company, an investment subsidiary of the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago. His papers consist of one folder of correspondence which deals primarily with the financial aspects of maintaining his sisters in their old age and handling their business affairs.

Margaret Julia Pearson Orchard (1881-1931)

The papers of Margaret Orchard consist of one folder of four letters. The first is from her brother Mowbray, written from Alaska. He describes the Tundra as spring approaches, his hunting, the price of gold, and the poor mail service. The second is from Charlotte Velte and mentions her expectation of the return of her husband from the United States, and the connection of the Sayer family to the Pearsons. (See Pearson Genealogy, issue of John Pearson and Mary Mowbray). The third is a “compendium” letter from Flo Hadath. Mrs. Hadath laments Britain's loss of India and makes reference to two Chicago figures – Al Capone and Big Bill Thompson. The fourth letter is from a friend – Charles Zimmerman, who translated Latin phrases for Margaret which she used in her letter writing.

Mowbray French Pearson (1878-1951)

Mowbray Pearson's career began in the Midwest where he worked in a bank until 1900. Leaving this job he went to Alaska to prospect for Gold in the Klondike. During the year he spent in Alaska he divided his time between prospecting and working in a Trading Post where he earned the money to "grubstake" himself. In 1901 he moved to Seattle and became associated with S.W.R. Dally for whom he worked as a representative selling cement, plaster, and metal lath. He held this position until 1907 when he moved to Spokane and went into the building material business on his own. He was involved in the construction of a number of buildings in Spokane which still survive, (See Main Clipping File), and is credited with supervising the first use of reinforced concrete in that city. In 1925 he quit the building material business and took up

the manufacture and cutting of ice. Sometime after 1925 he started the Ace Fuel Company which he finally sold in 1948. Throughout his business career he maintained a lively interest in world affairs and economics. This interest is reflected in the fact that he wrote letters to men such as Herbert Hoover, Harold Stassen, and Franklin Roosevelt as well as in a number of works he wrote and published including "Work and How to Get It" (1921), "Money" (1932), "Men or Money" (1937), and a book entitled Perpetual Prosperity, Union of Continents and World Leagues (1945) 330.973 P362p. These works reveal his faith in the American free enterprise system and his wish for its preservation and development.

Mowbray Pearson's correspondence consists of seven letters:

1. May 18, 1902 to Margaret Orchard

2. November 27, 1943 to Constance Davey (a carbon copy of which was sent to Ethel Martin and is filed in her correspondence)

3. December 9, 1943 to Ethel Martin

4. December 13, 1943 to Ethel Martin

5. June 20, 1944 to Ethel Martin

6. March 2, 1948 to Josephine Hunt

7. July 12, 1950 to Ethel Martin

The letters deal with such topics as Mowbray's personal history, Japanese treatment of prisoners at Bataan, the Literary and Scientific Club formed at Northwestern University by Frank H. Wood, a description of industrial and military establishments in the Spokane area, and Mowbray's ideas concerning international organization and treatment of third world areas.

Several binders of correspondence (some personal, much relating to his book), diaries, several ledgers, a “book of memories” covering his early childhood years, several photo albums, and some genealogical information on the French family have been given to the Spokane Public Library by Virgil A. Warren with whom Pearson deposited the material shortly before his death. Correspondence with the Spokane Public Library concerning this material is filed in Box 9, Folder 6.

French Family

Materials concerning the French family consist of the French Family Clipping Scrapbook, the French family photo albums, isolated clippings in the Main Clipping File, and Frederick E. French's “Travel Diary of An Old Evanstonian.” The clipping scrapbook includes two kinds of notices: a) accounts of births, deaths, and marriages; and b) regular articles from Ephraim E. French describing the towns he visited in the American South and West in the late 1880s. In contrast to the French Family Clipping Scrapbook, this mainly concerns the Vermont Frenches, the material in the Main Clipping File deals mainly with the Evanston Frenches, i.e., Orvis French and his descendants. Orvis French's background is described by the clippings, especially in reference to the history of the Greenwood Inn. Finally, the “Travel Diary of An Old Evanstonian” concerns Frederick E. French's post-World War I trip to Europe under the auspices of the John V. Farwell Company of Chicago to investigate the credit ratings of mercantile firms in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.


The addition consists of one box containing sermons, articles and other writings by Charles W. Pearson including several poems by Pearson and a few by Sarah H. Pearson and B. Ayres.

Pearson's writings are arranged alphabetically by title with the exception of a fragment of a travel journal. The few dated writings in this addition range from 1867 to 1905. Many of the sermons, articles, and poems are handwritten.


The second addition consists of eight miscellaneous items relating to several members of her family. These additions have been placed in the appropriate folders of the original series as indicated below.

4 pamphlets of poetry by Josephine Hunt to Box 9, Folder 3.

1 sketch book of Mowbry F. Pearson containing drawings by A. Guy Terry, added to Arthur Guy Terry Bio File.

1 page of noteworthy family dates to Box 9, Folder 3.

1 French family genealogy to Box 1, Genealogy Folder.

1 picture of Charles W. Pearson as a youth added to Bio. Photo File, Room 110.

Note: Mrs. Josephine Hunt removed three folders on March 18, 1981. See separated materials for a list of items separated from addition 2.


  • 1843-1968


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


12.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



The Charles Pearson Family Papers document the life and career of Charles W. Pearson, Northwestern alumnus and faculty member (professor and department chair in the Department of English), as well as the lives of several family members. The collection is organized on a genealogical principle: the papers of Charles W. Pearson come first, those of his six children second, and finally the papers of Hadath and French families (related branches of the Pearson family). The description of the collection which follows is similarly organized. It consists of a biographical sketch of each individual, where possible, and a description of the content of the individual's papers. Charles W. Pearson was a scholar of marked linguistic ability, a pastor with independent religious views, and in his youth a seafaring adventurer.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized on a genealogical principle: the papers of Charles W. Pearson come first, those of his six children second, and finally the papers of Hadath and French families (related branches of the Pearson family).

Method of Acquisition

ADDITION 1: This addition to the Charles W. Pearson Family Papers was transferred to the University Archives by Professor Pearson's daughter Mrs. Josephine Hunt, 7319 N. Wolcott, Chicago, Illinois on May 14, 1976.

ADDITION 2: This addition to the Charles W. Pearson Family Papers was transferred to the University Archives by Professor Pearson’s daughter, Mrs. Josephine Hunt, 7319 N. Wolcott, Chicago, Illinois on March 18, 1981, as accession #81-65.

ADDITION 3: This addition was transferred to the University Archives by James P. Orchard, December 14, 1983 (accession #83-186).

Related Materials

Works of Pearson to be found in Deering Library, Northwestern University


Alma Mater 811.4 P36a

Methodism 287 P36


Pearson, Charles W., A Threefold Cord; Poems of Religion, Literature and Humanity, (Sherman, French & Co., 1908) 811.4 P36.

______, Literary and Biographical Essays; A Volume of Papers By the Way, by Charles William Pearson (Sherman, French & Co., 1908) 814.4 P36.

______, The Carpenter Prophet, A Life of Jesus Christ and A Discussion of his Ideals (Chicago, 1902) 232.9 P36.

______, The Search After Truth; A Book of Sermons and Addresses by Charles William Pearson (Sherman, French & Co., 1908) 252 P36.


Stuart, Charles Macaulay, The Vision of Christ in the Poets (1896) 821.08 S929 Introduction by Charles W. Pearson.

Separated Materials

Mrs. Josephine Hunt removed three folders of the correspondence of her sister Muriel Pearson Leisenring Falconer from the series "Addition 2" on March 18, 1981. She proposed to examine these folders and remove letters dealing with her sister's daughter, Betty Falconer that were of a sensitive nature.

Folders Withdrawn by Mrs. Josephine Hunt:

Box 7, Folder 4; Correspondence: 1911, 1918-19, 1924, 1929-30, 1933 1935-36

Box 7, Folder 5; Correspondence: 1937

Box 7, Folder 6; Correspondence: 1938-45, 1947-48, 1950, 1952, 1954-59

Other Descriptive Information

The second addition was not included as a series in the container list because it appears to have been incorporated with the original papers.

Processing Information

James R. Sanders, July, 1975. Addition 1 Processor: Kevin B. Leonard, 8/2/1976.

Guide to the Charles W. Pearson Family Papers
James R. Sanders
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US