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Aitkin Family papers

Identifier: Ax 754

Scope and Contents note

The Aitken Family Papers consist of correspondence, diaries, teaching materials, and photographs. The collection is arranged in series by type or format of material, and then by family member who created the material.

The Outgoing Correspondence of Alva Aitken, 1908–1951, comprises letters written to her mother Carrie and sister Geraldine. Arranged chronologically, these letters expose her daily life and her commitment to the Unitarian community. Those written while she lived in Waldo Hall at the Oregon Agricultural College, 1908-1910, are filled with details of simple college life.

The Outgoing Correspondence of Carrie Aitken consists of letters to her daughters, Alva and Geraldine between 1915 and 1946. Her letters contain family news and delightful reflections of the Unitarian community in Portland and its patriarch Thomas Lamb Eliot.

Outgoing Correspondence of Geraldine Aitken is arranged chronologically and covers the years 1909 to 1951. Her letters are written to her mother Carrie and sister Alva from her stay in Boston, Hawaii, New York, and New Jersey. Her letters reflect a professional life and a determination to remain independent of her mother and sister. Of some historical importance are her letters from Honolulu on and after December 7, 1941.

The Incoming Correspondence of Alva Aitken is arranged chronologically containing letters from Margaret Peacock and Harold Masten. Masten’s letters make up almost the entire series, ranging in date from September 30, 1906–May 17, 1920. Masten, an Oregonian, was a student at Harvard, 1906–1909, and spent the summer of 1907 in Paris. His letters are usefully descriptive from both places. Peacock’s letters are dated from November 19, 1929–February 15, 1953.

The Incoming Correspondence of Carrie Aitken, 1876–1947, but the bulk dating from 1884–1900, are letters from her husband Alvord Aitken, her father-in-law, John W.D. Aitken, two brothers-in-law, Hedrick D. and John M. Aitken, and J. Boughton, a businessman in Prescott, Arizona Territory. Except for the John W.D. Aitken letters this incoming correspondence all emanated from Prescott, Arizona and is filled with male gossip of that community. There are frequent references to social events, political matters, and personalities. Among the names commonly mentioned are Morris and Barry Goldwater.

Incoming Correspondence of Geraldine Aitken is one folder containing letters from her friends and one from her grandfather, John W.D. Aitken. The letters date from 1895–1909.

The Diaries of Alva, 1909-1969, are useful for day-by-day accounts of events; there is almost no reflection. A very small number of miscellaneous papers are included at the end of this series, including a baptismal certificate.

The diaries of Carrie are generally the same as Alva’s, day-by-day accounts of events, but included in this series are autograph books and papers dealing with her own funeral service: cremation certificate, information of how it should be carried out, and a speech given by Dr. Steener at her funeral.

In 1895 Carrie received a diploma from Oregon Kindergarten Training School and went on to teach for five years in McMinnville and Portland. The diploma, class notes, and demonstration booklets constitute the ninth series in this collection.

The Personal Papers of Geraldine contain her baby book, passport, many music programs, 1938-1942, a photo diary, a photo album from her stay in Honolulu, a large scrapbook/photo album from Hawaii and one from her stay in New York centered around her music and the music there, and finally, her own will and testament.

Photographs are of the Aitken family, relatives and friends.

The Personal Papers of Alvord Aitken center around his death to include funeral notices, telegrams to relatives transmitting the news of his death, a speech given at his funeral, and formal court documents that distribute his property since his death was sudden and he had no will.


  • 1865-1966


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

Carrie Aitken (1860–1947) was born Carrie Johnson in Butteville, Oregon. In 1874 she was living with her widowed mother in Portland, Oregon. From 1876 to 1879 she attended Mills Seminary in Benicia, California; in 1880 she went with her mother to Arizona and taught in mining camps. In 1886 she married Alvord Aitken, a businessman in Prescott, Arizona. He died in 1890 when Carrie and her two infant daughters, Alva and Geraldine, were visiting her mother in Oregon. Carrie went on to become a Kindergarten teacher in McMinnville and Portland for about five years, after receiving her training from the Oregon Kindergarten Training School (O.K.T.S.). The rest of her life was spent in Portland where she was active in the Unitarian Church and in charge of its reading room and the Post Office Mission.

Frances Alva, known always as Alva, (1889–1970), attended the Oregon Agricultural College, 1908–1910. Upon graduating, she taught home economics in junior high and grade schools in Salem, Oregon until 1917 and then went to teach at Woodmere grade school in Portland, Oregon until 1918. Thereafter she held a succession of stenographic positions in Portland, except for a four-year period, 1920–1924, in Honolulu. In Portland she lived with her mother and shared her mother’s preoccupation with service to the Unitarian Church.

The musical one in the family, Geraldine Aitken, attended music school in Boston in 1909. She was teaching music in Hawaii in 1916 at Oahu College, Honolulu until she moved to New York in 1927, teaching at the Seymour School of Musical Reeducation and running a private piano school in Maplewood, New Jersey. She continued to be a private piano teacher in Honolulu when she returned in 1935.


15.75 linear feet (36 containers)

Language of Materials



The Aitken Family Papers tell the story of a widowed mother and her two daughters, in their dedication to the Unitarian church; teaching kindergarten; teaching home economics in elementary, and junior high schools; and music in colleges in Hawaii and New York. This collection consists mainly of correspondence, diaries, scrapbook and photograph albums, photographs, a few funeral papers, and miscellaneous familial memorabilia.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I: Outgoing Correspondence of Alva AitkenSeries II: Outgoing Correspondence of Carrie AitkenSeries III: Outgoing Correspondence of Geraldine AitkenSeries IV: Incoming Correspondence of Alva AitkenSeries V: Incoming Correspondence of Carrie AitkenSeries VI: Incoming Correspondence of Geraldine AitkenSeries VII: Diaries and Personal Records of Alva AitkenSeries VIII: Diaries and Personal Records of Carrie AitkenSeries IX: O.K.T.S. MaterialsSeries X: Personal Papers of Geraldine AitkenSeries XI: PhotographsSeries XII: Personal Papers of Alvord Aitken

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Geraldine and Alva Aitken in 1968.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Available in microfilm as part of: Women's lives. Series 3, American women missionaries and pioneers collection (MICROFILM BV3703 .W66 2006, reel 75-80); Primary Source Microfilm, 12 Lunar Dr., Woodbridge, Conn. 06525.

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection has been microfilmed. Microfilm reels are available for purchase, or via Inter-library Loan. When requesting reels for this collection, please request: “Women’s Lives, Series 3, American Women Missionaries and Pioneers Collection, reel(s) 75-80."

Processing Information note

Collection processed by Paz Mendez, Troy Barnard, and David Young, Manuscripts Processors.

Guide to the Aitken Family papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Paz Mendez, Troy Barnard, and David Young
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