The papers of William Frederick Bohn (1878-1947) provide dual documentation on the workings of the Office of Assistant to the President and on William Frederick Bohn, the individual. The papers of Assistant to the President William F. Bohn, which span the years 1899-ca. 1958 and cover the presidencies of Henry Churchill King and Ernest Hatch Wilkins, are arranged in six series. The records series approximating the filing systems used by Bohn reflect the numerous functions performed by him at Oberlin College. Arranged in an alphabetical hierarchy, the series are: I. Administrative Records (Numerical File); II. Bureau of Appointments Correspondence (Old File); III. General Correspondence; IV. Fund Raising; V. Personal File; and VI. Scrapbooks.
Originally maintained as a numerical file using the "Oberlin Numbers," the administrative files of Series I consist of general files covering the full spectrum of Bohn's duties as an administrator. Consisting of correspondence, printed material, and reports, the documentation offers a rich picture of the administration of Oberlin College as it embarked on its first full-scale fund raising effort. Also described is student life during the first four decades of the 20th century. Well documented is Bohn's role as a goodwill ambassador for the College, both among alumni and potential donors. The numerous committee files and faculty records attest to his diverse on-campus responsibilities. A nearly complete run of annual reports of the Assistant to the President from 1913 to 1943 describe in great detail the work performed by Bohn on behalf of the College. It is a rich source for understanding the function and priorities of the Assistant to the President.
Series II, Bureau of Appointment Correspondence, documents Bohn's early work as Secretary of the Bureau of Appointments. Originally named the "Old File," the series contained correspondence for the period 1909-1913 and was retained by Bohn as part of his records. The alphabetically arranged file offers insight into the nature of graduate placement around 1910. The Bureau of Appointments served primarily as an agent for teachers seeking employment. Included in the documentation is both incoming and outgoing correspondence from teacher agencies and institutions, as well as individuals seeking a starting job or a change of employment. The correspondence offers a unique source for understanding the salaries and expectations of teachers. Some material on ministry and YMCA/YWCA personnel is found here. The correspondence is arranged entirely by the name of the correspondent, and not by agency or institution.
General correspondence found in Series III further illuminates Bohn's role as a fundraiser and goodwill ambassador for Oberlin College. Organized primarily by individual correspondents, the file does include some subject-oriented files such as Negro students at Oberlin College, and smoking. The correspondence is organized by both individuals and organizations. Names of many prominent people solicited for donations are found here and include: Kenyon Cox, Arthur Vining Davis, Harvey S. Firestone, Cass Gilbert, Henry J. Haskell, and Orville Wright. Several faculty members also appear in the general correspondence, including Kemper Fullerton, Delphine Hanna, Harry N. Holmes, and Gertrude Moulton. Much of the correspondence deals with establishing scholarships and other permanent funds. The campaign of 1923 represented a radical departure from the fund raising illustrated in this series.
The fund raising files in Series IV consist primarily of material relating to the campaign of 1923. The 1923 campaign was the first major fund raising initiative embarked upon by Oberlin. The campaign was designed to have each alumnus of the college donate or raise $285 dollars. Together with other donations, the College hoped to raise over $4.5 million. The bulk of the 1923 campaign files represent the office files of J. H. Hutchinson, the Oberlin representative for the consulting firm of Tamblyn and Brown who helped to organize the campaign. The files contain correspondence with campaign chairmen and coordinators, including Katherine Wright and Theodore Burton. Material sent to division, district, and city and state campaign groups is found here along with miscellaneous campaign publicity. Other records in this series include some earlier fund raising material from 1908 to 1922 involving efforts to raise money for specific funds. An alphabetical file of prospective donors is on index cards and contains biographical statements and past records of giving.
Items not directly connected with Bohn's work as a college official are contained in Series V, Personal File. This short series consists of articles and talks by Bohn as well as correspondence and genealogy. Correspondence concerns his retirement, his connections with Chinese missionaries, and offers he entertained regarding presidencies at other colleges. The genealogy establishes Bohn's position as a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Two scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from 1923 and 1926-28 respectively, capture a specific slice of time at Oberlin. The clippings, from newspapers across the country, chronicle events and activities within Oberlin. The 1923 volume is focused on the 1923 fund raising campaign and contains numerous articles concerning progress. Descriptions of addresses and talks as well as athletic events are to be found in the clippings.
Noticeably lacking in the Bohn papers are records of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, which Bohn aided in establishing. His tenure as a trustee and later chairman of Shansi is not well documented among his papers. Only one folder of general printed material points out his affiliation with Shansi. Likewise, work performed in the Oberlin community is not well evidenced among his papers. The service to Shansi and the community is surpassed by documentation of the administrative functions performed on behalf of the College.
Series I. Administrative Records (Formerly Numerical File), 1899-1947, n.d. (7.5 l.f.) Primarily administrative records, this series was originally maintained by Bohn as a numerical file in order to organize his office files. An index on 3"x5" notebook cards as well as a one page summary of the "Oberlin Numbers" help to illustrate the original intent of the numerical filing system. Material in this series runs the gamut of Bohn's responsibilities both to the College and community. The records include correspondence, printed material, reports, and questionnaires. Documentation includes the alumni association, annual reports of his office and other campus departments, committees, faculty, fund raising, student life, and the Village of Oberlin. The material is alphabetically arranged by subject.
Series II. Bureau of Appointments Correspondence (Old File), 1909-13 (2.5 l.f.) This series documents Bohn's work as secretary for the Bureau of Appointments for the years 1909 to 1913, although he served in this position from 1906 to 1915. Consisting almost exclusively of correspondence between individuals seeking employment and agencies and institutions seeking employees, the correspondence is useful in investigating the operation of teachers' agencies, requirements and wages for teachers, and how the college aided its graduates. The file is alphabetical by the name of the writer, thus a researcher seeking information on a given institution will need to know several individual names in order to access the information.
Series III. General Correspondence, 1912-55 (7.5 l.f.)
This alphabetical general correspondence series represents the broad areas of responsibility handled by the Assistant to the President. The bulk of the correspondence deals with fund raising and potential donors although some files on designated topics are present, such as smoking and Negroes at Oberlin. Some of the fund raising contacts were developed by Charles Whiting Williams and continued by Bohn. Other donor contacts were begun by Bohn and sustained by his successors, which accounts for the later dates present in the series. A detailed alphabetical listing of correspondents and topics has been prepared and is available in the case file. (Note: The sequence P-Z is the only original segment of this file. A-O was reconstructed by Archivist William E. Bigglestone.)
Series IV. Fund Raising, 1908-ca.1958, (3.1 l.f.)
Consisting mainly of files from the monumental campaign of 1923, this series chronicles the development of fund raising at Oberlin College. When viewed in conjunction with the correspondence in Series III, and fund raising files found in the administrative records series (Series I), a full picture of fund raising at Oberlin College emerges. The records of the 1923 campaign were apparently the files from the New York consulting firm of Tamblyn and Brown, and represent the office files of the Oberlin contact, J.H. Hutchinson. The files were sent to Bohn and maintained as part of his records. The files contain correspondence between Bohn and Hutchinson, as well as with campaign directors and chairmen and prospective donors. Literature from the campaign is included here along with the general plan and contracts. Other material in this includes files on specific fund raising objectives such as an equipment fund, a professorship, and the Shansi fund. A box of index cards, arranged alphabetically contains information on various fund raising prospects. The cards may have been created by Bohn, but were continued by others following his retirement. The correspondence files contain letters and signatures from many politicians and celebrities, including Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Wendell Willkie, and Bing Crosby.
Series V. Personal File, 1915-47 (0.4 l.f.) Consists of miscellaneous personal material that aids in reconstructing a wide range of activities and interests of Bohn's. Included in this brief series are articles and talks by Bohn on subjects ranging from fund raising to history, personal correspondence, clippings, genealogy and miscellaneous printed material. The correspondence, personal in nature, includes letters from Knox College and Ripon College soliciting Bohn to consider becoming president at these institutions. Other material documents his membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, and his receipt of the Order of the Jade from the Chinese government.
Series VI. Scrapbooks, 1923, 1926-28 (1.0 l.f.) Two oversized scrapbooks of newspaper clippings that profile Oberlin in the news. The first book dates from 1923 and was presumably used as promotional material during the 1923 fund raising campaign. The second volume chronicles Oberlin College from 1926 through 1926.