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Dickson H. and Marjorie B. Leavens papers

Call Number: MS 715

Scope and Contents

The Dickson and Marjorie Leavens Papers are arranged in six series: I. Dickson H. Leavens: Correspondence with Family; II. Dickson H. Leavens: General Correspondence; III. Dickson H. Leavens: Subject Files; IV. Dickson H. Leavens: Writings; V. Marjorie B. Leavens: Correspondence. VI. Miscellany.

Series I, DICKSON H. LEAVENS: CORRESPONDENCE WITH FAMILY, consists of letters written by Leavens to his parents and sisters Delia and Faith from 1909-1922. The letters, written almost weekly, give a detailed account of Leavens' day-to-day activities as a faculty member and treasurer of the Yale Mission College. They also contain Leavens' observations on political conditions in Changsha and Hunan, the Changsha riots of April, 1910, the revolution of 1911, and the student strike of June, 1919.

Series II, DICKSON H. LEAVENS: GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, contains correspondence between Leavens and approximately ninety individuals, primarily members of the Yale-in-China Association staff, from 1909-1955. Correspondents of note include: Palmer Bevis, Rachel Dowd, Edward H. Hume, Kenneth Scott Latourette, Matilda C. Thurston, H. H. Vreeland, and Amos Wilder.

Subjects discussed include routine business and financial matters, mission activities, political conditions in Changsha, and personal news.

Series III, DICKSON H. LEAVENS: SUBJECT FILES, contains approximately forty reference files primarily relating to Leaven's activities as a faculty member and treasurer of the Yale Mission College.

Series IV, DICKSON H. LEAVENS: WRITINGS, contains copies of Leavens published and unpublished articles on the economics of silver and the history of the Yale-in-China Association. Among those relating to Yale-in-China history are: "The History of Yale-in-China" 1921-1922, "Memoirs of Yale In China" 1921-1922, and "Student Activities at Yali" 1913-1914.

Series V, MARJORIE B. LEAVENS: CORRESPONDENCE, 1908-1972, is composed of letters between Marjorie Leavens and her family and members of the Yale-in-China Association staff. The bulk of the correspondence consists of Marjorie Leavens' letters to her family during the years 1915-1927 when she was living at the Yale Mission in Changsha. Subjects discussed include her day-to-day activities as a mission housewife, family matters, and her reactions to the Chinese people and culture.

Series VI, MISCELLANY, contains copies of Dickson H. Leavens' obituaries, newspaper clippings relating to his Yale-in-China Association activities, and fifty photographs. The subjects of the photographs are: Dickson and Marjorie Leavens, landscapes and urban scenes in Java and Hong Kong, and the damage done during the Changsha riots of 1910.

The major portion of the Dickson and Marjorie Leavens Papers was donated to the Yale University Library by Dickson Leavens in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1973 Marjorie Leavens donated further materials to the Yale Divinity School Library. These items were transferred to Manuscripts and Archives in 1977.


  • 1904-1972


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Dickson H. Leavens, ca. 1940-1950; Marjorie Leavens, 1973; and Emily B. Visher, 1986.


Arranged in six series and one addition: I. Dickson H. Leavens: Correspondence with Family. II. Dickson H. Leavens: General Correspondence. III. Dickson H. Leavens: Subject Files. IV. Dickson H. Leavens: Writings. V. Marjorie B. Leavens: Correspondence. VI. Miscellany. Accession: 87-M-19


5.25 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The major portion of the papers of Dickson H. Leavens, economist and faculty member of the Yale Mission College in China, is made up of family and business correspondence. In the family correspondence, conducted regularly over nearly two decades (1909-1922), Leavens reports on the activities of the College and on political events in China, particularly in Changsha and Hunan. With his business correspondents, who were largely members of the Yale-in-China staff, the main subject is mission activities. The papers also include Leavens' writings on the economics of silver and essays on the history of Yale-in-China. The subject files largely concern the administration and finances of the mission (1902-1940). Marjorie Leavens's correspondence with her family and friends from 1915 and 1927 contains accounts of domestic affairs and her observations on Chinese life. Also in the collection are newspaper clippings and photographs of Changsha during the riots of 1910, Java, and Hong Kong.

Biographical / Historical


Dickson Hammond Leavens, missionary, teacher, and economist, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on March 16, 1887. After preparing at the Norwich Free Academy, Leavens entered Yale College as a member of the Class of 1909. Upon graduation he received a three-year appointment to teach English, history, and geography at the Yale Mission College in Changsha, China. Leavens returned to the United States in 1912 and studied mathematics at Columbia University and the Yale Graduate School, where he received his M.A. in 1915. Later the same year he married Marjorie Lathrop Browning of Norwich, Connecticut, and returned to Changsha, where he had received a joint appointment as treasurer and faculty member of the Yale Mission College. In the spring of 1921 he took a four-month leave of absence to aid in famine relief work at Paotingfu near Peking and in June returned to the United States on leave. During the summer of 1922 Leavens once again returned to Changsha and resumed his duties at the college. When the revolution of 1927 forced the closing of the Yale-in-China facilities in Changsha, most of the staff returned to the United States. Leavens, however, stayed on in Shanghai as the representative of the Yale-in-China Association's trustees. He was able to reenter Changsha in the spring of 1928 and make arrangements for the resumption of work with a Chinese staff.

After his return to the United States in late 1928, Leavens was employed as a research assistant at the Harvard Business School. He began a systematic study of the economic aspects of silver, a subject in which he had become interested while serving as treasurer of the Yale Mission College. In 1931 his first book, Problems in Business Statistics, was published. A second book, Silver Money, was published in 1939. From 1939 to 1936 Leavens served as a trustee of the Yale-in-China Association and during 1934 was employed as a Special Agent for the United States Treasury Department in China and India. In 1936 he was appointed a research associate by the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics. During the same year he became the editor of the Econometric Society's journal, Econometrica, which he edited until his retirement in 1948.

Dickson Leavens died on December 3, 1955, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.



Marjorie Browning Leavens was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on October 30, 1888. She graduated from Smith College in 1910 and later earned a masters degree in astronomy at Radcliffe College. In 1915 she married Dickson H. Leavens and accompanied him to Changsha, Hunan, where he had been appointed a member of the Yale Mission College faculty. While living in Changsha, Marjorie Leavens taught mathematics and astronomy at the Yale Mission College and encouraged the women of the city to develop a small cross-stitch embroidery industry. Returning to the United States in 1928, she lived with her husband in Cambridge, Chicago, and Colorado Springs, where she continued her interest in China by lecturing on her experiences in Hunan. She died on July 22, 1977, in Carmel, California.

Guide to the Dickson H. and Marjorie B. Leavens Papers
Under Revision
compiled by John Dojka
November 1977
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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