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Giffen Family papers

Identifier: A 298

Scope and Contents note

The Giffen Family Papers are made up of one medium, outgoing correspondence from Edward and Bertha Giffen, during their two year mission (1894-1896) in Hankow and Ching-Ku, China. These letters are all written to their family, Bertha's mother, sister, Lilian, and brother, Plato, residing in Nebraska. The bulk of the letters are written by Bertha and reflect her missionary zeal. Personally, the letters portray the Giffens' missionary interests, observations of Chinese culture, Bertha's declining health due to tuberculosis, and longing for home. Historically, the letters describe some of the circumstances of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), a subsequent Chinese backlash directed towards missionaries, and a Mohammedan Rebellion, most likely a small movement of the revolutionary era. While some of the particular stories of the latter two events seem sensational and are unsubstantiated, they are nonetheless intriguing parts of the collection.

Series I: Correspondence consists of Edward and Bertha Giffen's letters home during their mission. Most of the stationary is uniform except for the first letter, written on a stationary depicting a Japanese landscape. Some of the more notable letters in the collection are as follows. The Sino-Japanese War's declaration is described in the letter of July 30th, 1894 and the war is updated in the letter of October, 7th. In the letter of March 22nd, 1895, Bertha relates witnessing Chinese soldiers practicing in Ching-Ku. The war's cease fire is noted on May 18th. Several aggressions against missionaries by the Chinese are noted; they are related to the Chinese defeat in the war in the letter of August 22nd, 1895. The attack of a missionary family by a mob is described in an August 19th addition to an August 16th letter. A massacre of missionaries in Fukien is noted in the letters of September 25th and October 15th. A Mohammedan Rebellion's violence is characterized in the letters of September 7th and October 15th, 1895 and in the execution of two officials related on October 24th. There are three unidentified letters at the end of the collection: two written by Bertha after her return to the United States, and one from an unidentified source to an unidentified recipient.


  • Creation: 1894-1896


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Edward E. and Bertha Giffen graduated from Hastings College, a Presbyterian college in Hastings, Nebraska. Judging from their letters their families resided in Nebraska as well. In 1894, they became missionaries in Hankow, China. In 1895, they transferred to Ching-Ku. In 1896 Bertha contracted tuberculosis, which cut short their mission and forced their return to the United States.


0.5 linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The Giffen Family Papers consist of outgoing correspondence from Edward and Bertha Giffen written between 1894 and 1896 during their two-year mission in Hankow and Ching-Ku, China.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Correspondence.

General Physical Description note

1 manuscript box

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

FA fixing

Container summary and extent are incorrect

Guide to the Giffen Family Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Aaron Poor
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA