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Register of the Robert Ezra McCann papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Collection Summary

    Title: Robert Ezra McCann papers
    Dates: ca. 1900-1961
    Collection Number: 76040
    Creator: McCann, Robert Ezra, 1901-1961.
    Collection Size: 6 manuscript boxes (2.4 linear feet)
    Repository: Hoover Institution Archives
    Stanford, California 94305-6010
    Abstract: The papers include correspondence relating to American business interests in China and to the detainment of Robert Ezra McCann, who was arrested in 1951 by Chinese authorities and charged with espionage in 1956. Also included are slides depicting Beijing in the early twentieth century.
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Languages: The collection is in English, with some documents in German.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.
    The Hoover Institution Archives only allows access to copies of audiovisual items. To listen to sound recordings or to view videos or films during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all audiovisual material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Robert Ezra McCann papers, [Box number], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 1976.


    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/ . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the online catalog is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Related Materials

    J. Arthur Duff papers, Hoover Institution Archives
    Benjamin W. Gally miscellany, Hoover Institution Archives

    Biographical Note

    1901 Born, Chefoo, Shandong Province, China
    1922 Graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California
    1930s-1951, circa President, Frazer Federal Inc., USA
    1941-1943, circa Interned by Japan
    1943 Repatriated to the United States
    1946 Returned to Tianjin, China, to resume work at Frazer Federal
    1951 June 14 Arrested by the government of the People's Republic of China (Communist Party of China)
    1951-1961 Detained in various prisons in China
    1956 Charged with espionage and sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment
    1961 Petition of Flora McCann (wife) to release McCann from prison accepted
    1961 May Died of lung cancer at Clark Air Force Base, Philippines, en route to the United States
    "Ex-China Captive Dead of Cancer." New York Times. 5 May 1961.
    "In Humanitarian Spirit." Time. 14 April 1961.
    "Peiping to Free Ill U.S. Prisoner." New York Times 4 April 1961.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Robert Ezra McCann papers document McCann's automotive business in China and responses to his arrest and detainment by Chinese authorities, as well as the effects of changing political conditions on American business in China.
    Before his arrest, McCann worked in Tianjin, China, as president of Frazer Federal Inc., USA, an automotive transportation company that imported and exported supplies. The Correspondence consists of letters written by or addressed to employees of Frazer Federal. Many of the letters contain discussions of business matters such as finances, business deals, and the importation and exportation of automotive supplies. However, much of the correspondence concerns McCann's imprisonment in China, including the events leading up to his arrest, his condition after detainment, and possible options to assist him. The correspondents discuss the changes in China occurring as a result of shifting political circumstances and report on what they know of McCann's location and condition, as well as the status of other businessmen in China.
    The majority of the letters are addressed to or sent from William Haenisch, who was vice president of Frazer Federal and a principle shareholder. The correspondence filed under William Haenisch's name is inter-company correspondence between Haenisch and the Tianjin (also spelled Tientsin) and Qingdao (also spelled Tsingtao) offices of Frazer Federal. Letters filed under the name of Floyd F. Spielman, who engaged in business with Frazer Federal, consist of correspondence between Spielman and Haenisch.
    The only correspondence grouped by subject, instead of by individual or company name, concerns the S.S. Perico, a ship carrying tires that was seized by the Chinese Nationalist Government while en route to Tianjin, China, from Hong Kong.
    The collection also includes Photographs of Beijing (labeled Peking), most likely from the early 20th century. This file contains slides taken by Donald Mennie and Hugo J. Wessels, as well as slides used as an educational aid for the North China Christian Rural Service Union.


    The collection is organized into three series: Correspondence, Miscellany file, and Photographs.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Frazer Federal.
    Business enterprises--China.
    Corporations, American--China.
    Espionage, American--China.
    Peking (China)--Pictorial works.
    Slides (Photography).