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New York State Education Department Commissioner's Office Records of the Commissioner's Visit to France

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
This series consists of material documenting a 1917 mission to France made by Education Commissioner John H. Finley. The Board of Regents commissioned Dr. Finley to make the trip in order to observe the way French universities and schools, bore the exigencies of war, dealt with the mobilization of students, and aided national war service. The records include a journal, correspondence, copies of addresses (by Finley and others), newspaper clippings, pamphlets, notes (especially background information on French universities), and photographs.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
1.2 cubic feet (including 46 photographs)
Inclusive Dates:
1915-1917
Bulk Dates:
bulk 1917
Series Number:
A2042

Arrangement

Arranged by type of material. Selected correspondence is alphabetical by name of institution or last name of correspondent. Photographs are numbered consecutively in two sequences.

Administrative History

Education Commissioner John H. Finley was a renowned Francophile who had lectured at the Sorbonne and several French universities in the years prior to World War I. He was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and author of a book that was awarded the Malte-Brun Medal of the Geographic Society of Paris. In addition to his pursuits in the realm of education, he was active in health and social service matters, serving, for example, as chairman of the New York State Commission for the Blind (1913-1915), the Albany County Chapter of the American Red Cross, the New York State Committee of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and the Committee for Men Blinded in Battle (often in gas attacks).

Dr. Finley's trip was endorsed at the highest levels of both countries. He conveyed to France greetings from President Woodrow Wilson and a special letter from Governor Charles S. Whitman, who proclaimed the observance of "France Day" in the state during which all schools gave special lessons in French history and the part France was playing in the war. Dr. Finley was the envoy of colleges and universities across the country, many of which sent messages of sympathy and support to their sister institutions in France. Letters from Winifred Holt, Secretary of the New York Association for the Blind, characterize Dr. Finley as the organization's "Ambassador of the blind," and he also visited members of a host of charitable and service organizations during this stay in France.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of material documenting a mission to France made by Education Commissioner John H. Finley during May and June of 1917. The Board of Regents commissioned Dr. Finley to make the trip in order to observe the way French universities and schools, which were highly organized in the war effort, bore the exigencies of war, dealt with the mobilization of students, and aided national war service. Information on French practices could help solve similar educational problems arising from America's entry into the war, including the issue of physical/military training for boys (Dr. Finley was the Regents-appointed member of the State Military Training Commission).

In their meeting of April 12, 1917 the Regents adopted resolutions endorsing selective conscription as the best means of preparing America for war and resolving that absence from college in the state to perform public service should not interfere with granting degrees or affect the standing of students. The Education Department encouraged high school students to work on farms to meet the wartime demand for labor, and it cooperated with the State Food Supply Commission to shorten the school year to achieve that end.

The records include a journal, correspondence, copies of addresses (by Finley and others), newspaper clippings, pamphlets, notes (especially background information on French universities), and photographs. The bulk of the material dates from March through August 1917. Photographs are undated and unattributed.

Most of the correspondence consists of letters of introduction, social invitations, welcome notes, and letters asking for assistance or scheduling meetings with Dr. Finley. Included in this group is a signed letter from General John J. Pershing from Paris (June 22, 1917), and letters from/to the French Minister of Public Instruction (M. Petit-Dutaillez), the rectors of the universities of France, and members of various political, civic, and educational groups.

The bulk of the records consists of copies of greetings sent from over 100 American colleges (with French translations), and acknowledgment letters from French schools, officials, and pupils, many of them in French with some translations. Major French universities visited by Dr. Finley and represented in the series include: Bordeaux, Poitiers, Grenoble, Lyons, Nancy, Rennes, Toulouse, and Montpellier. A historical sketch of each of these universities (apparently used for speeches and perhaps as the basis for a report on the trip) is found in the series along with selected school catalogues and other relevant material.

Dr. Finley's journal includes entries (sometimes substantial) from May 15 ("Arrived at Bordeaux") through June 2 (no entry) and appears to be only a partial record of his trip. Copies of clippings programs, calling cards, and invitations are scattered throughout.

Also included in the series are pamphlets in French on physical education and other materials on fitness training; a few postcards of universities and other sights visited; newspaper accounts of Dr. Finley's visits, speeches, and receptions; and publications relating to schools, curricula, and special educational programs. The clippings and pamphlets include several dozen scenes of French schools; copies of French newspapers contain war reports.

Of particular note are 46 undated, unattributed photographs (5 x 7") at the end of the series. These show war damage inflicted by retreating German forces to buildings, agricultural machinery, trees and farmland in the areas of Aisne and the Somme, France (where major battles were fought throughout the war). A few of the scenes incidentally show people, primarily French soldiers and a few civilians. The photographs are in two sets, one numbered in blue and another in red. Most of the photographs are captioned, in manuscript, on the verso in French (with some English translations in a different hand). They may have been intended as illustrations for a publication about the trip.

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Detailed Description

Dates Contents Box Folder

Accretion: A2042-77
Journal of John H. Finley 1 1
Correspondence 1 2
1917 July Pamphlet: "A nos Soeurs d'Amerique" 1 3
Replies to Luncheon Invitations 1 4
Correspondence: A-L 1 5
Correspondence: M-Z 1 6
Letters from American Universities and Colleges - Copies 1 7
Greetings [to Dr. Finley at French educational institutions] 1 8
Letters Relating to Mr. Choate 1 9
French University Letters with Translations 1 10
Extra Copies of Translated French Letters 1 11
Historical notes on French universities 1 12
1915 September 25 Manuscript by J. Delcourt 1 13
Historical notes on French universities 1 14
"Amities Franco Etrangeres" 1 15
Letters from American colleges and universities - French translations 1 16
Letters from French Pupils 1 17
Notes by Pres. Finley 1 18
Souvenirs - drawings - prints - lists - clippings - luncheon invitations - miscellaneous material 1 19
Newspaper clippings 1 20
Bordeaux [University of] 1 21
Grenoble [University of] 1 22
Lyons [University of] 1 23
Nancy [University of] 1 24
Poitiers [University of] 1 25
Rennes [University of] 1 26
Toulouse [University of] 1 27
Montpellier [University of] 1 28
Descriptions of High Schools and Universities [Letter from M. Petit-Dutaillez, reports, programs] 1 29
Typescript: "Preliminary Remarks on the Art of Translating English into French" 1 30
Autograph sheets sent as greetings from Bordeaux faculty to U.S. 1 31
1917 Messages from U.S. universities to those of France 1 32
Address to French Universities 1 33
Speeches at the time of Dr. Finley's visits to lycees of France 1 34
Translations of French messages to Vassar students 1 35
1917 June Issues of French newspaper L'Amerique 1 36
Pamphlets relating to schools, curricula, and university catalogues 1 37
Publications relating to colleges, educational programs, catalogues 1 38
War Pictures of France [Photographs]: Group One ("Blue" set), Numbers 1-23; Group Two ("Red" set), Numbers 1-20a 2