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Edward L. Bliss papers

Call Number: RG 319

Scope and Contents

These papers document the life of missionary Edward L. Bliss through correspondence, personal items and memorabilia, and photographs. Born on December 10th, 1865 in Massachusetts, Edward L. Bliss was a teacher, doctor, and missionary stationed in China. Commissioned by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Bliss worked in Shaowu, China as a medical missionary from 1892-1932. According to the biography published by his son in 2001,Beyond the Stone Arches: An American Missionary Doctor in China, 1892–1932, Bliss considered some of his most important work in China to be his medical training of young men. Many of these men studied with Bliss for two years and then became "druggists" running their own dispensaries, or "barefoot doctors" who practiced medicine in the countryside. Some went on to Nanjing for additional study.

In addition to his medical teaching, practice, and fundraising for local hospitals, Bliss devoted his missionary life to the immunization of cattle against rinderpest. Beyond the Stone Arches: An American Missionary Doctor in China, 1892–1932 further details Bliss’ medical missionary work and documents the family’s response to important developments within Chinese history, including the First Sino-Japanese War and the Xinhai Revolution. Correspondence within the collection provides insight into the daily life of missionaries during the emergence of the Republican era.

Series I, Correspondence, includes family correspondence, circular letters sent to family, and correspondence with notable missionary colleagues including Emily Hartwell. The bulk of documents in Series I consist of letters, spanning from 1887-1925, sent from Bliss to his parents. Bliss sent letters mainly from Shaowu, with the occasional letter from Fuzhou or Shanghai as Bliss was evacuated from Shaowu during the Xinhai Revolution. While stationed as a missionary in China, Bliss also sent individual and circular letters to his extended family--including to his six siblings, aunts, and son. Items from Minnie May Bliss, wife of Edward L. Bliss, are also retained in the collection. Correspondence with notable missionary Emily Hartwell, on the topic of China’s Children Fund and orphanages in Fujian province, can be found in the collection. While writing his father’s biography, Edward L. Bliss annotated many of his father’s letters, arranging them topically. These letters are listed under Topical Files of Correspondence and include important correspondence from Bliss on his vocational choices and personal philosophies.

Series II, Personal Items and Memorabilia, includes a smaller section of material ranging from Bliss’ personal notes to items like a passport and calling card. There also includes a recent article from the New York Times (2010) on Bliss’ contribution to the eradication of rinderpest in China.

Series III consists of photographs collected by Bliss. Both Western and Chinese colleagues sent Bliss family photographs, often including identification on the back of the image. Photographs in Series III also include photographs of the Bliss family, missionary groups, landscapes and buildings, and unaddressed postcards.

Material in the Donald MacInnis Papers, Record Group 204, Series I, Research Files, filed by individual, “Bliss, Edward, MD (ABCFM, Shaowu), 1997-2000” supplements material available in this collection.


  • 1884-1946, 2010
  • Majority of material found within 1884 - 1946

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been transferred to Yale University

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Bliss family, 2020


2 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Persistent URL


This collection includes correspondence personal memorabilia, and photographs documenting the life of missionary Edward L. Bliss. Edward L. Bliss (1865-1960) was stationed in Shaowu, China as a medical missionary by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Bliss contributed to the eradication of rinderpest in cattle and lived in China through the First Sino-Japanese War and the Xinhai Revolution.

Biographical / Historical


1865 December 10
Edward Lydston Blisss born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, son of Charles and Emily Lydston Bliss
B.A. Yale University
1891 June
M.D., Yale University Medical School
1892 September
Departed from San Francisco to China as a missionary serving under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
1893 February
Arrived at station in Shaowu, Fujian Province
Building of hospital in Shaowu, funded by Bliss and the First and Second Congregational Churches of Waterbury, Connecticut
Furlough in US
Return to China
1902 September
Married to Minnie May Bortz
Furlough in US
Son Edward L. Bliss Jr. born. The Blisses also had two daughters, Ruth and Beth.
Furlough in US
Returned to US where the family lived in Oberlin, Ohio
Bliss and his wife moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts
Bliss and his wife moved to Boston to live with daughter Ruth
1960 January 22
Edward Bliss died
Minnie May Bliss died
Publication of biography, Beyond the Stone Arches: An American Missionary Doctor in China, 1892–1932 by son, Edward L. Bliss Jr.
Guide to the Edward L. Bliss Papers
Claire Barnes and Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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