Scope and Content
Existence and Location of Originals
Title: Paul Radin Papers
Date (inclusive): 1933-2000
Date (bulk): 1934-1935
Collection Identifier: SFH 23
Radin, Paul, 1883-1959
(4 cu. ft.)
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
Chiefly surveys from Radin's supervision of over 200 workers who interviewed ethnic groups in the San Francisco Bay Area for
the State Emergency Relief Administration of California (SERA) over a period of nine months in 1934-1935. Known as SERA project
2-F2-98 (3-F2-145), its abstract was published in September 1935 as
The Survey of San Francisco's Minorities: Its Purpose and Results.
In addition to records from the WPA project, there is one folder of later correspondence from Jon Lee, a graduate of Oakland
Technical High School whom Radin hired to collect and translate Chinese folklore, as well as a small amount of Mary Wolf's
research materials on Radin, which includes Wolf's academic papers, a few of Radin's files, and some biographical information.
The collection includes a series of index cards containing survey data on Italians in San Francisco, which was received as
a separate accession but appears to be from the same SERA survey.
Collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.
The collection is open for research. Paper is extremely acidic and fragile; please handle with care.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission
for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.
[Identification of item], Paul Radin Papers (SFH 23), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Donated by Professor Luis S. Kemnitzer of San Francisco State University on behalf of Calvin Fast Wolf and Mary Sacharoff-Fast
Wolf, Nov. 2003. Mary Wolf was a would-be biographer of Radin who had acquired original papers from her friend and Radin's
widow, Doris Woodward Radin, as well as colleagues, associates, and relatives.
For related materials in the San Francisco History Center, please see the library's online catalog:
Chinese Tales Told in California, Collected by Jon Lee; revised by Paul Radin. San Francisco: Sutro Branch, California State Library, 1940.
The Italians of San Francisco, [San Francisco: SERA Headquarters]: August, 1938. SERA project 2-F2-98 (3-F2-145)
Paper clips and staples were removed; files transferred to acid free folders and boxes.
Jason Carson Baxter and Wendy Kramer.
Prepared by Jason Carson Baxter and Wendy Kramer in 2010. Revised in 2019 to reflect documents on Japanese and Philippines populations incorporated into Series 1.
Dr. Paul Radin is considered to be one of the formative influences in contemporary anthropology and ethnography in the United
States and Europe. He was born in Lodz (Russian Poland) on April 2, 1883, the son of a reform rabbi and scholar. In 1884,
his family moved to Elmira, New York, and then to New York City in 1890. Educated in the public school system, Radin entered
the College of the City of New York as a sub-freshman at the age of fourteen, graduating in 1902. After a brief stint in graduate
studies at Columbia exploring the zoology of fish, Radin went to study physical anthropology in Munich. This two-year period
afforded him time in Germany, Switzerland and Italy, where he began a process of self-cultivation. He returned to Columbia
in 1907 with a major in anthropology and a minor in statistics under the famed professor Franz Boas, the so-called "Father
of American Anthropology." Receiving his Ph.D. in 1911, Radin took a series of appointments around North America, first with
the Bureau of American Ethnology (1911-12), then a joint fellowship from Columbia and Harvard to study the Zapotec culture
(1912-13), followed by four years with the Geological Survey of Canada, studying the Ojibwa of southeast Ontario. His ancillary
work on the Winnebago culminated in his
Autobiography of The Winnebego Indian in 1920.
From 1920-1925, he wrote and did field research at the University of Cambridge, publishing
Primitive Man as Philosopher in 1927. From 1927 to 1930, while at Fisk University in Nashville, Radin collected oral histories of former slaves' conversion
experiences, many of which remain unpublished.
During the Great Depression, Radin moved to Berkeley, where he remained until 1941. From 1930 to 1940, Radin accomplished
three major feats: an analysis of the Patwin language of California, his
Survey of San Francisco's Minorities in 1934-1935 for the State Economic Recovery Act (SERA Project 2-F2-98 (3-F2-145)), and the monumental
Catalogue of Mexican Pamphlets in the Sutro Collection of the California State Library in 1939 for the Works Progress Administration (WPA project 665-08-3-236).
During these trying years of the Depression, Radin still managed to publish
Social Anthropology (1932),
Method and Theory of Ethnology (1933), and
Primitive Religion (1937) at a time when publication--especially in academia--was curtailed.
After 1949, Radin lectured in Oxford, Cambridge and Carl Jung's Institute in Zurich. Working from Bollingen Foundation grants,
he continued his research on the Winnebago. He joined Brandeis University in 1957, where he worked until his death on February
21, 1959 in New York City.
Scope and Content
The bulk of the collection consists of surveys from Radin's supervision of over 200 workers who interviewed ethnic groups
in the San Francisco Bay Area for the State Emergency Relief Administration of California (SERA) over a period of nine months
in 1934-1935. Known as SERA project 2-F2-98 (3-F2-145), its abstract was published in September 1935 as
The Survey of San Francisco's Minorities: Its Purpose and Results. The stated purpose was a cultural survey to find employment for "white collar" unemployed workers on temporary relief. Radin's
focus was "to study the steps in the adjustment and assimilation of minority groups in San Francisco and Alameda counties,
from the first arrival to the present time, with particular emphasis upon certain aspects of this acculturation such as...making
for the acceleration and retardation of this process and specific influence of such major disturbance of the Depression."
Bypassing a typical questionnaire method, Radin instead had the amateur interviewers record anything and everything which
the interviewees wished to say. The results appear in a narrative format-- sometimes in the form of poetry and short stories--
and encompass all manner of immigrant experience. Survey materials include typed and handwritten interviews and research on
ethnic groups; many duplicated and variant versions are found. Some interviewers identify themselves, and their report appears
in their own hand. Sometimes the interviewees are named or given pseudonyms or just a form of address and initial ("Mr. X").
Occasionally, the reports take the form of correspondence to "Dr. Radin," and some are written on hotel stationery from San
Radin wanted to present the material in two forms: monographic analyses of minorities and illustrative autobiographies. He
"The information obtained was divided into two groups, that which was definitely autobiographical, and that which consisted
of comments on every imaginable topic of contemporary life, in San Francisco and the world in general. Since the survey was
made in 1934-35, the General Strike and the effects of the Depression were naturally favorite subjects, and since many of
those interviewed had either themselves gone through the Great War or whose fortunates had been specifically affected by it,
we meet references to it in almost every account." (p. 6)
In the first series of general files, those on the Italians are also those used in Radin's monograph
The Italians of San Francisco: Their Adjustment and Acculturation, published in August, 1935. The second series contains the work of Jon Lee of Oakland, a recent graduate of Oakland Technical
High School whom Radin hired to collect and translate Chinese folklore. The materials were collected as part of the SERA project
that contained the other ethnic surveys but were later published separately as
The Golden Mountain: Chinese Tales Told in California by the Sutro Branch library in 1940 (WPA no. 666-08-3-236). The collection includes a series of index cards containing survey
data on Italians in San Francisco, which was received as a separate accession but appears to be from the same SERA survey.
In addition to records from the WPA project, there is one folder of later correspondence from Jon Lee, as well as a small
amount of Mary Wolf's research materials on Radin, which includes Wolf's academic papers, a few of Radin's files, and some
The collection is arranged in five series: Series 1. General Ethnic Surveys; Series 2. Ethnic Surveys on China; Series 3.
Letters from Jon Lee; Series 4. Italians Survey Cards; and Series 5. Mary Wolf Papers. Series 2 is subdivided into general
ethnic surveys and ethnic surveys and research on China, including Jon Lee's work on folklore and material for The Golden
Mountain. Since Radin's numbering system reflects several rewrites and rearrangements, his original labeling and arrangement
have been retained. Pages have been re-ordered only when a page was out of order or an ethnic group was misfiled (i.e., Irish
in Icelandic). Others have been left as originally filed; i.e., "Italians" includes Sicilians and Swiss. Identifying notes,
such as "Lower Class," have been kept in the folder as received. No attempt has been made by the archivist to sort out ethnic
groups from nationalities in that confulsing era of multi-generational immigration and war-torn geographies. Hence, there
is a file called "Jews" in the "Racial Minorities Survey," featuring Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Roumanian and other groups,
as well as files on "Roumanians" and "Russians" that include Jewish experiences. "Mexican" sometimes encompasses Central and
South America, even though there are separate files for these as well. On a curious note, one will also find a file for "Miqueton,"
apparently a territory in Northern France.
Existence and Location of Originals
Photocopies of documents on Japanese population incorporated into Series 1. Existence and location of originals is unknown.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Radin, Paul, 1883-1959 -- Archives
Wolf, Mary Sacharoff-Fast -- Archives
Chinese Americans--California--San Francisco Bay Area--Folklore
Chinese--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Depressions--1929--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Ethnology--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Immigrants--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Italian Americans--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Italians--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Minorities--California--San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco (Calif.)--Social conditions
San Francisco (Calif.)--Social life and customs