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John R. Mott Papers

Call Number: RG 45

Scope and Contents

Even a collection of this size cannot document thoroughly the multitude of activities and involvements pursued by John R. Mott in over seventy years of working life. Mott's energy and organizational efficiency were astounding to his contemporaries, a legend in his own time. Particularly in later years, an increasing portion of Mott's zeal was devoted to insuring that a record of his life and work be preserved for posterity. Every note, report, and letter was classified and filed by Mott's faithful secretaries, reshuffled by biographers, and now, in a final reprocessing by the archivist, hopefully organized in a way which not only preserves Mott's trace but provides for access to valuable historical information regarding individuals and movements in the period 1880 to 1955.

Though Mott was a friend of governmental leaders and involved in diplomatic missions, this collection of his papers is likely to be most valuable for its documentation of the organizations which Mott founded and led. Mott occasionally spoke out on issues like Prohibition and was frequently an unofficial spokesman for America abroad, but surprisingly little is found in Mott's papers regarding the conflicts convulsing American society during his lifetime. The cornerstone of Mott's activities was a vision of the Kingdom of God based on individuals transformed by the call of God and moral fortitude. Societal issues such as labor conflicts, big money, and imperialism were viewed through the lenses of this vision with a simplistic confidence undoubtedly heartening to a large body of the American population.

Rising from rural Mid-Western origins to close association with many business, government and religious leaders, Mott was a hero of his time, a symbol for American optimism. Mott's well-documented climb to prominence, his changing and unchanging foci and values, and the abrupt fading of his reputation in the twenty-five years since his his death provide valuable insights into the workings of American society.

In a folder preceding Series I of this collection are copies of the "Source Material Files Catalog" prepared by Mott's secretary, Benjamin R. Barber, in 1952. This catalog and a parallel listing by earlier Divinity Library personnel represent the organizational scheme worked out by Mott and associates for his archives. This scheme was not maintained in the final reorganization of Mott's papers because it provided limited access to specific items and did not encompass the whole of the Mott archive. It will be of interest to the researcher, however, to examine this more topically oriented organizational scheme devised by Mott and his secretaries. Information sheets indicating the archivist's relocation of material are filed with the "Source Material Files Catalog." This information will be of value to the researcher in locating correspondence related to particular organizations served by Mott.

The first series in this collection, GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, dates from 1886 to 1955, nd., and comprises nearly half the bulk of Mott's papers. The letters are arranged primarily under the names of individuals, rather than under organizations or institutions, for the corporate affiliations of the correspondents involved were changing and intertwined. Prominent American governmental leaders represented in Mott's correspondence include: John Foster Dulles, Joseph C. Grew, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Cordell Hull, Franklin K. Lane, Robert Lansing, Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root, Hugh Lenox Scott, Henry L. Stimson, William Howard Taft, Harry S. Truman and Woodid Wilson. Philanthropists with whom Mott corresponded include: Anita McCormick Blaine, Cleveland E. Dodge, Cleveland H. Dodge, Robert Dollar, A.A. Hyde, Cyrus Hall McCormick, Jr., Nettle Fowler McCormick, Starr Murphy, Ransom E. Olds, Annie Pfeiffer, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., James Stokes, and John Wanamaker. International political and social leaders such as Feng Yu Hsiang, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jan Hofmeyr, and Count Shimpei Goto of Japan are represented. On the international religious scene, Mott's correspondents included V.S. Azariah, Karl Fries, Toyohiko Kagawa, T.Z. Koo, Hendrik Kraemer, Joseph H. Oldham, William Paton, Nathan Soderblom, Erich Stange, J.E.K. Studd, J. Hudson Taylor, William Temple, Willem Visser 't Hooft, and Sir George Williams. Mott also corresponded with many of the American Protestant leaders of his time, including George Sherwood Eddy, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Richard C. Morse, Charles K. Ober, David R. Porter, Josiah Strong, Billy Sunday, Henry P. Van Dusen, Robert P. Wilder and Luther D. Wishard, among many others.

Letters from the early, formative years of the YMCA, Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, World Student Christian Federation, and other organizations are available in the collection, but it is also obvious that Mott became more systematic in preserving his correspondence as his career progressed and his secretarial assistance increased. Much valuable early correspondence was gathered in photocopy for the collection by Mott's biographer C. Howard Hopkins. Of particular note is the extensive correspondence between Mott and Joseph H. Oldham related to the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh (1910) and the groundwork for the International Missionary Council, which was formally established in 1921.

The researcher should be alerted to the availability of Mott correspondence in other personal paper collections at the Divinity Library, including the George Sherwood Eddy Papers, Robert P. Wilder Papers, and Clarence P. Shedd Papers. Appendix A of this register is an index to the Mott correspondence in the archives of the World Student Christian Federation (Yale Divinity Library Record Group No. 46), a massive collection largely compiled by Mott and intimately related to his own archives.

The second series, FAMILY PAPERS AND CORRESPONDENCE, dates from 1813 to 1975, nd. It provides valuable biographical and genealogical information as well as revealing another dimension of Mott's life, his role as a devoted son, brother, husband, and father. Mott wrote frequently and regularly to his parents and sisters until around 1910, and these letters represent the most complete information available on the early phases of Mott's career. Leila White Mott was an important accomplice in her husband's career, his editor, advisor, and closest friend. She often accompanied Mott on his voyages, but when she did not, he wrote frequently to keep her abreast of his activities. Leila's general and family correspondence, as well as memorabilia related to her family, are included in this series. The correspondence of Mott's second wife which is contained in the series consists primarily of letters of condolence- received at the the time of Mott's death.

As his own best promoter, Mott made a systematic effort to prepare and circulate narrative accounts of his activities. These REPORT LETTERS, JOURNALS, AND DIARIES, contained in Series III. date from Mott's visits to North American colleges and universities in 1888 to a trip to India in 1939. Objective rather than subjective in content, these accounts were, in later years, often compiled by Mott's current secretary/assistant. Several diaries and journal type writings of Leila White Mott are also included in this series.

Series IV consists of Mott's manuscript NOTES AND NOTEBOOKS dating from 1878 to 1955. It was Mott's habit to record on folded sheets of 8 1/2 by 11" paper his impressions, agendas, and thoughts for the endless meetings, interviews and speaking engagements which formed his life. These scraps of minuscule scrawl are among the most valuable of the Mott papers, for here one can trace evolutions of thought, find raw data on the inner workings of meetings and have access to Mott's informal musings. Some of the most interesting of these notes are located under the topic "Autobiography". In these notes to himself, Mott set down his priorities and ambitions as well as the background to important decisions. Also included in this series are the pocket ledgers which Mott used to record his personal expenses and other pertinent information. A series of important notebooks in this series (some in Mott's handwriting) document the early operations of the Student YMCA and the InterSeminary Missionary Alliance, ca. 1880-1899.

The ADDRESSES AND ARTICLES of Series V represent Mott's shorter published works and date from 1884 to 1948. In some cases, Mott's manuscript notes and preparations for these finished pieces are available in Series IV. Both Series IV and Series V are arranged topically, and chronologically within topics, to facilitate location of connecting items. Though the modern reader is sure to be struck by the repetitiveness and wordy rhetoric of Mott's addresses, it is obvious from their quantity that Mott was much in demand as a public speaker.

Mott wrote several book-length works during his career as well as compiling his magnum opus, the six volume collection of his addresses and papers. Series VI, BOOKS AND FOREWORDS, consists primarily of material related to the distribution and review of Mott's publications. Mott's growing concern that future generations have a record of his work took concrete form in his massive project of compiling his Addresses and Papers and distributing the volumes worldwide. The second section of Series VI contains various forewords and introductions written by Mott for works of others.

The BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTATION of Series VII consists primarily of printed material such as newspaper and magazine clippings, programs, reports, bulletins, publicity releases, and posters. These items, plus a few manuscript reports and citations, and a biographical card file, serve to trace Mott's activities from his college days until his death in 1955. Post-humous tributes and the Mott Centennial observances 1965 are also documented in this series.

Efficient organizer that he was, Mott maintained extensive source material files for use in his committee work and in preparing addresses and written works. Newspaper and magazine articles, brochures, maps, reports, and other printed materials, as well as typescript extracts from books on various subjects were classified and preserved. Mott's interest in biography is represented in this series by files of information related to prominent individuals. Another section of the SUBJECT FILE of Series VIII centers on the geographical areas visited by Mott. A third section documents topics and issues ranging from the ''Bible" and "Evangelism" to "Race Relations" and "Social Issues."

Of particular note in Series VIII are the files of printed material related to the various organizations which Mott served. In some cases, the Divinity Library had previously established archival and pamphlet files for these organizations in other record groups. In the interest of consolidating similar materials, printed material that fit into these files was removed from the Mott papers. The new locations of these items are noted in the finding aid. It should be clear to the researcher that a full analysis of Mott's work would require delving into other collections in the Library including those related to the World Student Christian Federation, Student Volunteer Movement, International Missionary Council, World Council of Churches, and YMCA -- Student Division. Though a certain amount of printed material related to the YMCA (other than Student Division) remains with the Mott papers, the researcher should also be aware of the Mott-related material available in the YMCA archives at the University of Minnesota.

Series IX, EVALUATIONS AND BIOGRAPHIES, contains published and unpublished descriptions and analyses of Mott's life and work written by colleagues and journalists. Many of these descriptions were prepared for publication in religious periodicals; others are in the form of letters or memoranda written in response to the requests of Mott's biographers. Some business and review material for the earlier biographies by Mathews and Fisher is included.

A large section of the series derives from files compiled by C. Howard Hopkins, Mott's most recent biographer. Folders classified by the Hopkins system and the key for deciphering the system have been kept together as a unit. When items have been removed from Hopkins' files to unite them with similar items in the Mott files, information sheets indicating the material removed and its new location have been placed in the Hopkins file. Also included is Hopkins' original final draft, from which the smaller printed draft was derived.

The PHOTOGRAPHS of Series X are organized under various topics. Included are an excellent series of formal portraits of Mott taken over the years as well as informal photos of Mott with his family and at his summer retreat at Lac des Iles, Canada. The section of travel and conference photographs provides historical documentation for various organizations, as well as tracing Mott's activities.


  • 1813-1982


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Primarily a gift of John Raleigh Mott and his children, 1955.


  1. I. General Correspondence.
  2. II. Family Papers and Correspondence
  3. III. Report Letters, Journals and Diaries
  4. IV. Notes and Notebooks.
  5. V. Addresses and Articles
  6. VI. Books and Forewords
  7. VII. Biographical Documentation
  8. VIII. Subject Files
  9. IX. Evaluations and Biographies
  10. X. Photographs

Associated Materials

Appendix A: John R. Mott Correspondence in WSCF Archives

CorrespondentDate Location
Adriani, J.H. n.d. DD 800
Allier, Raoul 1909-1915, 1916-1922DF 800
Andersen, Frank n.d. E 800
Andersin, Ole 1908-1911 DBA 800
Ansus, Franklin n.d. E 800
Baumgartner, A. 1899 DF 332
Bidgrain, Suzanne 11 Aug 1916-31 July 1925 A 800
Boyd, Elsie I. M. n.d. E 800
Box of Correspondence n.d. E 800-810
Brockman, F.S. 1907 FB 600-699
Bull, Oswin and Lildenniod, Henry 1906-1925 H 800
Bun, Prof. 1887-1918 B 800-810
Buvet, Pierre 1900-1910 DF 800
Calkoen, A. van Beeck n.d. DD 800
Clark, N. Walling 1899-1915 DL 800
Davies, Arthur W. 1904-1912 A 810
deBeriot, Pierre 1906-1912 DK 800
deBie, H. Jr. 1902-1912 DD 800
deBilly, Edouard l900-l919 DF 800
deDietrich, Suzanne 1926-1931 DF 800
de la Faille, Hermine Boart 1908-1924 DC 800
deRougement, F. 1909-1923 DK 800
deselincourt, Agnes 1908-1912 FD 800-810
Dodge, Grace 1904-1912 A 800
Eckhoff, K. Martin 1897-1914 DBB 800
Eddy, G. S. (copies of letters from him) DAA 800
Fraser, Donald 1897 H 800
Fries, Karl 1899-1919 A 810
Galland, Emmanuel 1910-1928 CA-CB
Gay, Cesare 1913-1925 DL 800
Gerdener, G.B.A. 1906-1923 H 800
Grant, Donald 13 Apr 1920-22 Aug 1925 A 555
Grauss, Charles 1906-1918 DF 800
Gulick, Alice Gordon 1897 DI 967
Gulin, Eelis 1925-1939 DBA 800
Haslett, Thomas 28 Jun 1913-29 Dec 1925, 1927-1929A 800
Heim, Karl 1900-1909 DC 800
Henriod, Henry-Louis 5 Feb 1915-3 Dec 1920 A 800
1921-1924 A 8001
Heyer, Johannes 1897-1898 DC 800
Hieb, Louis 1896-1897 FD 800-810
Hoffmann, Conrad 1921 A 800II
Humberg, Paul 1905-1921 DC 800
Hurrey, Charles D.1942 A 800II
JRM in Poland (letter to Association Friends)1924 DP 912
Kawai, Michi n.d. FB 800-810
Keller, Edouard 1912-1921 DK 800
Koo, T.Z. 1921-1924, 1925 A 800II
Kose, Jaroslav 1921-1925 DO 800
Kriel, Marguerite n.d. H 800
Kullman, G.G. 1919-1925 DAB 800
Leavitt, Almira Fay 1804-1912 DL 800
Lecco, Marco 1911-1922 DRB 800
Lenwood, F. n.d. E 800
Leseur, Paul 1915DC 800
Liebenberg, F T. 1933-1937 H 800
Liperovsky, L.N. 1926-1937 DAB 800
Lowrie, Donald 1926-1927 DO 800
Lowrie, Walter (Rev. Dr.) 1918 or 1919 A 690
1920-1921 DL 800
Maclean, James H. n.d. E 800
Mann, Theophil 1897-1921 DC 800
Marzinkovsky, V.F. 1923-1925 DAB 800
Matouskova, Julia n.d. DO 800
Maury, Pierre 1919-1925 DF 800
Mayadas, Mohini 1920-1923 FD 800-810
Michaelis, Georg n.d. DC 800
Michelet, Professor 1909-1924 DBB 800
Miller, Francis P. 1920-1925 A 810
Monnier, Jean 1896-1923 DF 800
Nicolay, Paul (Baron) 1909-1912DAA 800
Nikitin, Alexander 1927-1933 DAB 800
Orgewsky, Madame 1913-1915 DAA 800
Papoff, M. N. 1896 DRC 900
Phildius, Eberhard 1910-1914 DM 800
Reynolds, James B. 1889-1892 A 003
Rouse, Ruth 1940-1945 A 001, 002
1904-1905 A 800
1906-1907 A 800-810
Rouse, Ruth and Woods, Edward S. 1912-1914A 800
Rutgers, Herman C. 1908-1923 A 810
Seton, Walter W. 1909-1919 A 810
Steinthal, F.W. 1924 A 003
Swiss YMCA leaders 1896-1898 DK 795
Tatlow, Tissington 1895-1897 E 800
Visser t Hooft, W.A. 1927-1935 A 800-810
Wilder, Robert P. 1897-1916 A 810
Williamson (corres. sec. of WSCF 1895-1897) 1895- 1897 A 800-810
Woods, Edward n.d. E 800
WSCF Conf. Lake Mohonk 1913 A 960
Letter from [?] to JRM 1906 FB 600-699


95 Linear Feet (230 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers document the multitude of activities and involvements pursued by John R. Mott in over seventy years of working life. General correspondence, 1886-1955, comprises nearly half the bulk of Mott's papers, and includes letters to and from prominent American governmental leaders, philanthropists, international political, social, and religious leaders. Family papers and correspondence provide valuable biographical and genealogical information as well as revealing another dimension of Mott's life, his role as a devoted son, brother, husband, and father. John R. Mott was born on May 25, 1865 in Sullivan County, New York. His higher education was pursued at Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa (1881-1885) and at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (Ph.B., 1888: Phi Beta Kappa). He received honorary degrees from Yale, Edinburgh, Princeton, Brown, Toronto, and other universities. He served as administrator and leader of various organizations including the Young Men's Christian Association, Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, World Student Christian Federation, Foreign Missions Conference of North America, International Missionary Council, Interchurch World Movement, Institute of Social and Religious Research, and the World Council of Churches. In 1916, Mott was a member of the commission assigned to negotiate a settlement with Mexico. In 1917, he participated in a special diplomatic mission to Russia headed by Senator Elihu Root. Mott was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946. During his career, he was officially honored by the governments of the United States, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Greece, Jerusalem, Siam, Sweden, China, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Hungary, Estonia, Portugal, and Finland. Mott died in Orlando, Florida on January 31, 1955.

Biographical / Historical

John R. Mott was born on May 25, 1865, in Livingston Manor, Sullivan County, New York. In September of 1865, his family moved to Postville, Iowa, where his father was first a farmer and later a lumber dealer. Mott's higher education was pursued at Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa (1881-1885), and at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (Ph.B., 1888: Phi Beta Kappa). On November 26, 1891, Mott was married to Leila Ada White of Wooster, Ohio. The Motts had four children: John Livingstone, Irene, Frederick Dodge and Eleanor Campbell. Following Leila Mott's death in 1952, Mott was married to Agnes Peter of Washington, D.C., on July 28, 1953. Mott died in Orlando, Florida, on January 31, 1955.

Among the many administrative posts held by Mott were the following:

  1. Student Secretary, International Committee of the Y.M.C.A.
  2. Chairman of the Executive Committee, Student Volunteer Movement.
  3. General Secretary and Chairman, World's Student Christian Federation.
  4. Founder, Foreign Missions Conference of North America.
  5. Chairman, World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh, 1910.
  6. Foreign Secretary and General Secretary, International Committee of the Y.M.C.A.
  7. General Secretary, National Council of the Y.M.C.A. of the United States.
  8. Chairman, World Committee of the Y.M.C.A.
  9. General Secretary, National War Work Council of the Y.M.C.A.
  10. Chairman, International Missionary Council.
  11. Chairman, Institute of Social and Religious Research.
  12. Honorary President and one of the first active Presidents, World Council of Churches.

Mott was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946. During his career he was officially honored by the governments of the United States of America, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Greece, Jerusalem, Siam, Sweden, China, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Hungary, Estonia, Portugal, and Finland. Mott received honorary degrees from Yale, Edinburgh, Princeton, Brown, Toronto, and other universities.

For more detailed description of John R. Mott's life and work, the researcher is referred to C. Howard Hopkins' biography of Mott (Eerdmans, 1979), as well as to earlier biographies by Basil Mathews, Ruth Rouse, and Galen Fisher. Within this register, the listed folder headings of Series VII, BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTATION, provide a quick chronological index to Mott's activities. Also of note are the numerous narrative analyses of Mott's life contained in Series IX, EVALUATIONS AND BIOGRAPHIES.

While few individuals in our time are cognizant of John R. Mott's reputation and achievements, he was a widely acclaimed phenomenon in his own era. Friend of presidents and philanthropists, administrator, evangelist, and architect of Christian unity, Mott traveled over two million miles as an "ambassador for Christ."("John R. Mott: A Hero of Our Time", World Communique, March-April, 1965, p. 4.)

Mott's renown as a religious leader led to his involvement in American diplomatic affairs, particularly during the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson. In 1916 Mott was a member of the commission assigned to negotiate a settlement with Mexico. In 1917 he participated in a special diplomatic mission to Russia headed by Senator Elihu Root. The Root Mission was sent by Wilson to confirm American support of the new Russian Provisional Government and to encourage Russia's continuing war effort. Mott's special commission was to cultivate relations with religious leaders in Russia. His notes are a valuable source of information on religious and political developments in Russia during this period. (See two articles written by John W. Long and C. Howard Hopkins, Series IX, Box 219, Folder 3440)

Guide to the John R. Mott Papers
compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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