Inventory of the Elsie Thomas Culver Collection, 1945 - 1979 (bulk, 1945-55)

Processed by Lucinda Glenn Rand; machine-readable finding aid created by Xiuzhi Zhou
Graduate Theological Union Archives
2400 Ridge Road
Berkeley, California, 94709
Phone: (510) 649-2523/2501
© 1999
The Graduate Theological Union. All rights reserved.

Inventory of the Elsie Thomas Culver Collection, 1945 - 1979 (bulk, 1945-55)

Accession number: GTU 92-9-01

Shelf location: 2/I/2 - 2/I/3

The Graduate Theological Union Archives

Berkeley, California

Contact Information:

  • Graduate Theological Union Archives
  • 2400 Ridge Road
  • Berkeley, California, 94709
  • Phone: (510) 649-2523/2501
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
Lucinda Glenn Rand
Date Completed:
Encoded by:
Xiuzhi Zhou
© 1999 Graduate Theological Union. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Elsie Thomas Culver Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1945 - 1979
Date (bulk): (bulk, 1945-55)
Accession number: GTU 92-9-01
Shelf location: 2/I/2 - 2/I/3
Creator: Culver, Elsie Thomas
Collection Size: 2.5 linear feet (8-5" record boxes) 50+ images and documents
Repository: The Graduate Theological Union.
Berkeley, California
Language: English.
Online exhibit: Elsie Thomas Culver: A Journey Through Post-World War II Europe.

Administrative Information

Source and Date

Helen Peterson, 1992


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Graduate Theological Union. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Graduate Theological Union as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Elsie Thomas Culver Collection, GTU 92-9-01, The Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

Access Points

World War, 1939-1945 - Civilian relief, Church Committee on Overseas Relief and Reconstruction
World War, 1939-1945 - Religious aspects
World War, 1939-1945 - Children
World War, 1939-1945 - Women
World War, 1939-1945 - Medical care
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Religious aspects
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Holland
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - France
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Czechoslovakia
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Germany
Church work with refugees - Pakistan
Church work with refugees - India
Church work with refugees - China
Missions - History - Sources
Africa - Missions - Pictorial works
India - Missions - Pictorial works
Pakistan - Missions - Pictorial works
Egypt - Missions - Pictorial works
Burma - Missions - Pictorial works
Thailand - Missions - Pictorial works
Iraq - Missions - Pictorial works
Philippines - Missions - Pictorial works
Japan - Missions - Pictorial works
World Council of Churches - History - Sources
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States. Church World Service -- History

Biographical/Historical Description

Elsie Thomas Culver (January 3, 1898 - August 21, 1988) was born in Connecticut to Dudley and Orie (Streeter) Thomas, and raised in Oakland, CA. She received an A.B. in political science (with honors) from the University of California, Berkeley. She married and had a daughter, Helen. While raising her family, she did part-time commercial journalistic and promotional work to 1935. She then began studies at the Pacific School of Religion (M.A. 1941, B.D. 1942). During her time at PSR, she continued to work: on the school's publicity, publicity for the 1939 World's Fair, and assignments for various religious papers. She was widowed sometime in the 1930's.
During World War II, in 1941, Culver was called to New York to handle promotion for the Committee on Foreign Relief Appeals in the Churches. This was an organization established in the United States by churches and other participating organizations which included the Foreign Missions Conference, the YMCA, and the YWCA to coordinate war relief efforts. This committee was changed, and its charge expanded in 1942, to become the Church Committee on Overseas Relief and Reconstruction. (This Committee later became Church World Service in 1946 under the National Council of Churches.) She was in charge of planning and creating material for fund raising campaigns.
Culver was ordained a Congregational minister in New York, 1943, to a writing and ecumenical ministry.
In the fall of 1945, Culver went to Europe under CCORR auspices to consult "with church leaders, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration officials, and others... . Articles and stories I wrote and pictures I took appeared in leading secular magazines and in church publications of practically all denominations." She continued to serve Church World Service as publicity director until 1948. She then resigned "to undertake an around-the-world trip [1948-49], speaking, writing and taking photographs for a number of interested agencies and editors. ... Primarily, I was looking for evidence that essentially, around the world, people are friends."
Culver accepted the position of Director of Public Relations for the World Council of Churches in 1950, working in the New York office and traveling extensively. Her many responsibilities included writing articles for church and secular press, editing the Ecumenical Courier, and preparing film strips, radio scripts, press folders, posters, etc. She retired in 1957 to return to Berkeley, CA.
She continued to be active in issues of aging and the churches' responsibility to older persons, serving on various committees and commissions. She was also founder, director, and newsletter editor (The Cornerstone) of Senior Peacebuilders, an incorporated non-profit educational organization. She continued to write articles, including some work for the GTU, for various organizations and publications, and published a book, Women in the World of Religion (Doubleday: 1967).
After a ten-year battle with Alzheimer's disease, she died in Santa Rosa, CA, August 1988. (For further information, see: Box 1, ff 1, Biographical material.)

Scope and Content

The collection apparently was donated by Elsie Thomas Culver to the Center for Women and Religion (CWR) at the GTU around 1979. In 1992, the collection was transferred from CWR to the GTU Archives, still in its original boxes and containers. Since there was no conclusive documentation on the collection, Culver's daughter was located. She formally donated the collection to the GTU Archives. The collection consists mainly of photographs taken on Culver's two major trips in 1945 to Europe and in 1948-49 around the world. Culver numbered and provided captions or other identification on the majority of the photographs.

Background reading

(including GTU Library call numbers)
Elsie Thomas Culver, Women in the World of Religion (Doubleday, NYC: 1967). HQ1394 C8
Ronald E. Stenning, Church World Service: Fifty Years of Help and Hope (Friendship Press, NYC: 1996). BX6 N2 S74 1996
Foreign Missions Conference of North America, "Reports of the Meetings". BV2390 F7 vols. 50-53 (for information on the Church Committee on Overseas Relief and Reconstruction)
David P. Gaines, The World Council of Churches, a Study of Its Background and History (R.R. Smith, Peterborough, NH: 1966).

Container List


Subject Files, arranged chronologically

Box Box 1, Folder ff 1

Elsie Thomas Culver: biographical material

Folder ff 2

Travel Journal, mss, Post-WWII Europe, 8-12/1945

Folder ff 3

Travel Journal, mimeographed, Post-WWII Europe, 8-12/1945

Folder ff 4

1945 trip: Correspondence

Folder ff 5

1945 trip: Travel documents

Folder ff 6

1945 trip: Maps and information

Folder ff 7

1945 trip: Notebook - expenses, addresses, calling cards

Folder ff 8

Brochure: Church Christmas Packages, Com. On Overseas Relief, ca. 1945-46

Folder ff 9

Brochure: This is Our Story, Aid to Czech Children, ca. 1945-46

Folder ff 10

Brochure: Church World Service: Children of War Areas, ca. 1945-46

Folder ff 11

World Trip, 1948-49: Correspondence

Folder ff 12

World Trip, 1948-49: Articles

Folder ff 13

Copy and design for brochure: Building the Kingdom in India, ca. 1949-50

Folder ff 14

Article: Medical Emphasis Year, Eye Glasses, 1950

Folder ff 15

Africa Trip, 1955

Folder ff 16

Correspondence, 1950-68

Folder ff 17

Peace Builders Movement, 1965-66, 1974-78

Folder ff 18

Graduate Theological Union, 1967

Folder ff 19

PSR President's Cabinet Award/Certificate, 1968

Folder ff 20

Correspondence/Postcards, 1969-73

Folder ff 21

Articles, 1945-79


Subject Files

Additional Note

Location Note: Small Collections (legal size), 3/C/5
Box Box 9, Folder ff 3

Alcorn Hotel Brochure and Map of Prague, 1945

Folder ff 4

The Crow's Nest, ship's newsletter, SS Alexander, 1945

Folder ff 5

World Trip, 1948-49: Travel Journal, Articles, Photo List



Additional Note

Arranged chronologically, then alphabetically by country.

1945 Post-WWII Europe Trip. ETC numbered all photographs sequentially within each country. Most have captions. All are black & white. See Travel Journal, Box 1, ff 2-3. See also negatives in Box 7.

Box Box 2, Folder ff 1

England, unnumbered

Folder ff 2

SS Isle De France, unnumbered

Folder ff 3-5

SS Alexander, en route

Folder ff 6-30


Folder ff 31-65


Folder ff 66-75


Box Box 3, Folder ff 1-48


Folder ff 49-53


Folder ff 54-58

Holland, 1946-48,


World Trip, 1948-49.

Additional Note

ETC numbered the photographs sequentially within countries. Most have captions. All are black & white with some color (filed separately and marked). The countries are arranged in the order she visited them. However, some of the countries are out of order in the beginning (ff 69-78). See Travel Journal/Photo List, (Small Collections Box 9, ff 5, 3/C/5). See also numbered film negative canisters in Box 6, individual negatives in Box 8, and slides in Slide Box 1/C.
Folder ff 59-68


Folder ff 69-74


Folder ff 74-75


Folder ff 76


Folder ff 77


Folder ff 78

China, Japan

Box Box 4, Folder ff 1-6


Folder ff 7-9


Folder ff 10-19


Folder ff 11-71



(ff 64-68 contain unnumbered photos of India and Pakistan)

Box Box 5, Folder ff 1


Folder ff 2-5


Folder ff 6-14

Thailand (she sometimes marks them Siam)

Folder ff 15-16

unnumbered, color photos, Burma and Thailand

Folder ff 17-19


Folder ff 20


Folder ff 21-22

Japan (ff 22, color)

Folder ff 23

Greece, 1949

Folder ff 24

Elsie Thomas Culver, ca. 1949-50

Folder ff 25

New York City, ca. 1950

Folder ff 26

Photo Christmas Cards, 1950

Folder ff 27

birds (from which Christmas cards were taken?)

Folder ff 28

Iraq, 1950, Bd. Of Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church

Folder ff 29-33

UN photos, 1950-52


Africa Trip, 1955.

Additional Note

See also numbered negative film canisters in Box 6, and slides in Slide Box 1/E.
Folder ff 34-47

Africa Trip, 1955.

Folder ff 48

John and Anne Bennett and family, ca. 1955-57

Folder ff 49

Heron Island, ME, with the Bennett's, 1957

Folder ff 50

GTU Seminar or class, Mary Hunt leading. n.d., ca. late 1970's

Folder ff 51

Canada, n.d.

Folder ff 52-54

England, 1952 (see negatives, Box 6, and Slide Box 1/D)

Folder ff 55

Geneva, n.d.

Folder ff 56

Wales, 1952 (see negatives, Box 6, and Slide Box 1/D)

Folder ff 57

Mountains, unidentified, n.d.

Folder ff 58

Norway, 1952 (see Slide Box 1/E)

Folder ff 59-60

Scotland, 1952 (see negatives, Box 6, and Slide Box 1/D)

Folder ff 61

unidentified man, n.d.


Negatives: Top layer:

Additional Note

Rolled negative film strips in canisters.
Box Box 6

Folio box

1) Film strips -- "Go Heal", "Blessed to Receive" and "Blessed to Receive 2", "Delayed Pilgrims", "Joyful Giving" (2 copies), "Ecumenical: Are We?"


2) Lund


3) WCC


4) Gulls, Puget Sound, 1949


5) Personal Trip, 1952: Norway, England (Chester), England (Chirk Castle), Scotland (St. Andrews), Scotland (2 rolls), Wales


6) Africa Trip, 1955: I - IX, French Cameroon; X - XI, Nigeria; XII, Gold Coast; XIII, Liberia; XIV, Dakar; XV, Spain


7) World Trip, 1948-49:


Amsterdam Conference, 1948


Holland, 1, 2, and CXLI


Egypt, 27, 28


Negatives: Bottom layer:

Box Box 6

Folio box

1) World Trip, 1948-49 (con't.)


Egypt, 29, 30, 31, 32


Iraq, 33, 34, 35


Pakistan 36-44


India, 45-65 (50, 58 missing)


Ceylon/Burma, 67


Siam (Thailand), 71-76 (74, 75 missing)


Philippines, 77, 78


China/Japan, 79



Box Box 7

Folio box

Post-WWII Trip, 1945. The negatives are in individual sleeves with numbers corresponding to the prints in Boxes 2 and 3.




1) World Trip, 1948-49

Box Box 8

Folio box, Folder ff 1

Italy and Greece

Folder ff 2

Iraq and Egypt

Folder ff 3


Folder ff 4


Folder ff 5


Folder ff 6



2) New York City, Village Art Show, 1949


3) A series of negatives unidentified, n.d.: appears to be a camp of some sort, perhaps a displaced person's camp in Germany or Czechoslovakia ca. 1945?

Box Slide Box


Additional Note

Arranged chronologically. ETC did not number the slides. They are numbered sequentially for GTU Archives identification.

1) World Trip, 1948-49


Italy, Slides #629-633


Pakistan, #634-653


India, #654-707


Burma, #708-723


Thailand, #724-742


Philippines, #743-752


Japan, #753-760


2) World Council of Churches Central Committee, Rolle, Switzerland, 8/4-11/1951. Photos by Jane (?) A. Ryberg, Slides #761-785

Box Slide Box



1) World Council of Churches generic slides, numbered 1-59, n.d. (ca. early 1950's), unidentified (meetings, people, programs in various parts of the world). Slides #786-845


2) World Council of Churches, Evanston, IL, 1954, Slides #846-874


3) Personal Trip, 1952


England, Slides #875-913


Oxford, #914-925


Chirk Castle, #926-941


Wales, #942-959


Scotland, #960-996


Chester, #997-1006

Box Slide Box



1) Personal Trip, 1952 (con't.)


Norway, #1007-1048


Stuttgart, #1049-1053


New York City, #1054-1057


2) Africa Trip, 1955, Slides #1058-1119