John Calvin Ferguson Family Papers
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
FSA.A1999.33
Creators:
Ferguson, John Calvin, 1866-1945
Dates:
circa 1850s-1988
bulk 1900-1945
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
6.4 linear feet
Repository:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
The John Calvin Ferguson Family papers measure 6.4 linear feet, and date from circa 1850s to 1988, with the bulk dating from 1900 to 1945. The bulk of the papers consists of John Calvin Ferguson's personal, professional, and family correspondence, and correspondence between other members of the Ferguson family. The papers also include biographical materials; sermons, speeches, and writings by Ferguson and others; printed materials, both collected and given to Ferguson; and photographs, including five photograph albums.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The John Calvin Ferguson Family papers measure 6.4 linear feet, and date from circa 1850s to 1988, with the bulk dating from 1900 to 1945. The bulk of the papers consists of John Calvin Ferguson's personal, professional, and family correspondence, and correspondence between other members of the Ferguson family. The papers also include biographical materials; sermons, speeches, and writings by Ferguson and others; printed materials, both collected and given to Ferguson; and photographs, including five photograph albums.
Biographical materials includes various business cards and professional contacts; an ink sketch portrait of Ferguson by Li Yuling; various membership documents and cards; memorial service and obituary materials for Ferguson and members of the Ferguson family; repatriation documentation and materials from the
M. S. Gripsholm
; and assorted genealogical and family documents.
Correspondence comprises the bulk of the collection, and is both professional and personal in nature. Much of John Calvin Ferguson's correspondence documents his activities and movements while living in China, as well as the state of the political and social climate during the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 and as the Second Sino-Japan War begins in 1937. His journey back to the United States aboard the
M. S. Gripsholm
, as well as his failing health, are also much discussed topics. Extensive correspondence between other members of the Ferguson family are also found within the papers, including Ferguson's wife, Mary Elizabeth Wilson, and his children.
Sermons, speeches, and writings reflect Ferguson's many career interests, including his work as a minister, education administrator, and as an ambassador with the Chinese government. The collection also contains printed materials and photographs, including five photograph albums.

Arrangement
Arrangement
This collection is arranged as 6 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1915-1981 [Box 1, 1 OV Folder; 0.5 linear feet]
Series 2: John Calvin Ferguson Correspondence, 1902-circa 1945 [Boxes 1-7; 2.2 linear feet]
Series 3: Ferguson Family Correspondence, 1886-1982 [Boxes 7-12; 2.1 linear feet]
Series 4: Sermons, Speeches, and Writings, 1896-1988 [Boxes 12-13; 0.3 linear feet]
Series 5: Printed Material, 1896-1988 [Boxes 13-14; 0.4 linear feet]
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1850s-1967 [Boxes 14-17; 0.9 linear feet]

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
John Calvin Ferguson (1866-1945) was an author, collector and scholar of Chinese art, Methodist minister, university president, and Chinese government advisor, born in Napanee, Ontario.
Ferguson attended Albert College in Ontario, received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1886 from Boston University, and was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church shortly thereafter. He received his PhD from Boston University in 1902. In 1887, he married Mary Elizabeth Wilson (1866-1938) and was sent to China as a Methodist missionary, where he spent his first year studying Chinese in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, downriver from Nanjing on the Yangzi. In Nanjing, Ferguson helped found the Methodist school, Huiwen Shuyuan (later Nanjing University), and worked to establish a western curriculum with departments of liberal arts, medicine, and theology. He was the first president of the university, as well as treasurer and then superintendent of the Central China Mission until 1897, when he left the ministry.
In 1897, Qing official Sheng Xuanhuai (1847-1916) invited Ferguson to become first president of Nanyang College at Shanghai, where he worked for five years before leaving his position to assist Sheng with his governmental duties. Ferguson then became a member of the Treaty Commission and foreign secretary to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce in 1902, and chief secretary of the Imperial Chinese Railway Administration a year later until 1905. Concurrently, he was foreign advisor to the Viceroys of Nanjing and Wuchang. While in Shanghai, he was Honorary Secretary of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and editor of the Journal from 1902 to 1911, then becoming president for a year. During his last year in Shanghai, he was Chairman of the Famine Relief Commission until moving to Beijing in 1911 to become foreign secretary to the Ministry of Posts and Communications. He remained in Beijing after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, becoming active in the Red Cross and subsequently Vice President of the Red Cross Society.
In Shanghai, Ferguson developed a popular Chinese-language daily newspaper in 1899,
Sin Wan Pao
, which he owned until 1929. He began collecting Chinese art objects while in Nanjing, and studied Chinese art and literature in earnest while in Beijing. In 1912, Ferguson became a buyer of Chinese art objects for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, becoming a fellow in perpetuity and honorary fellow in recognition of his work. He was then wholly launched into the collecting field, becoming a dealer of Chinese art, working between collectors and vendors in Peking for American museums and individuals, as well as developing his own collection. After being appointed advisor to the new Chinese Republican government in 1915, he traveled between the United States and China until setting up permanent residence with his family in Beijing in 1919. During this time in Beijing he wrote and lectured extensively on Chinese art and archaeology. He ultimately donated the bulk of his personal collection, over one thousand Chinese art objects, to Nanjing University in 1934 for which he received an official thanks by public mandate from the Chinese government. Other gifts of his collection were made to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
He remained in his Beijing home until 1943 when he returned to the United States with his daughter, Mary, via the
M. S. Gripsholm
. He died in Clifton Springs, New York on August 3, 1945.
This biography draws heavily from Lara Jaishree Netting's book,
A Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese Art and Culture
, Hong Kong University Press, 2013; and R. H. Van Gulik's article, "Dr. John c. Ferguson's 75th Anniversary,"
Monumenta Serica: Journal of Oriental Studies of the Catholic University of Peking
, Vol. VI, 1941.
Genealogy Chart, Ferguson Family
John Calvin Ferguson, m. Mary Elizabeth Wilson
Luther Mitchell, m. Edith Gray
Helen Matilda
1) m. George E. Tucker
2) m. John C. Beaumont
Alice Mary
Florence Wilson
1) m. Jay C. Huston
2) m. Raymond C. Mackay
Charles John, m. Isabel M. Marindin
Mary Esther
Robert Mason, m. Margaret Sparr
Duncan Pomeroy
Peter Blair, m. Elizabeth Hamlen

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was archivally processed and a finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel in 2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund. For this collection, minimal level processing was implemented, which included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.
The collection was previously preliminarily processed by Rachael Woody and volunteer Barbara Schultz in 2011.
Author
Anna Rimel
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
The John Calvin Ferguson Family Papers were donated to the Archives by Ferguson's grandson, Peter Ferguson, in 1999.

Digital Content

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access note
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment: AVRreference@si.edu.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.
Preferred Citation note
John Calvin Ferguson Family Papers. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D. C., Gift of Peter Ferguson.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Letters (correspondence) -- 20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Newspaper clippings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Letters (correspondence) -- 19th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Shanghai (China) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Political consultants -- China Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
China Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art collectors -- China Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photograph albums Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nanjing (Jiangsu Sheng, China) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Speeches Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ferguson, John Calvin, 1866-1945 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013
AVRreference@si.edu
URL: