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Inventory of the Robert W. Whitaker Collection
GTU 2003-11-01  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Other Finding Aids
  • Separated Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Collection of Robert W. Whitaker
    Dates: 1885-1969
    Bulk Dates: 1917-1944
    Collection number: GTU 2003-11-01
    Creator: Robert W. Whitaker
    Collection Size: 7 record boxes (7 linear feet) 1 image
    Repository: The Graduate Theological Union. Library.
    Berkeley, CA 94709
    Abstract: Robert Whitaker was a Baptist minister who served churches in Seattle; Salem, Oregon; Oakland and Los Gatos, California. He was politically active throughout his ministry. participating in socialism, communism, pacifism, the labor movement, and the American Civil Liberties Union. He authored many articles and poem published in liberal religious and labor journals. He was once arrested under the Criminal Syndicalism Act for participating in a pacifist assembly, and later worked to free labor activist Tom Mooney from prison. Whitaker counted among his friends and collegues Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Fanny Bixby Spencer, John Haynes Holmes, and Anna Louise Strong.
    Physical location: 5/I/4-6
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    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

    Collection of Robert W. Whitaker , GTU 2003-11-01. Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

    Acquisition Information

    The Collection came to the Graduate Theological Union Archives from the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley, California. PSR acquired the papers from Geoffrey Tobin of Los Gatos, California, a grand-nephew of Robert and Claire Whitaker. The diaries from 1917-1925 came to the Graduate Theological Union Archives from the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research.
    Claire Whitaker had originally loaned these diaries and other papers and photographs to Ralph Shaffer, a professor of history at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, when he was researching radical political circles in Los Angeles in the early twentieth century. Shaffer never returned the diaries to Claire Whitaker (died ca. 1980), but instead donated them in 2003 to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research in Los Angeles. The Southern California Library forwarded the diaries to the Graduate Theological Union Archives upon request in order to complete the diary series. The Southern California Library retained in its collection the other materials Shaffer deposited there which include materials documenting Whitaker's political activities in Los Angeles, including correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and collected clippings and pamphlets. (See Box 3 File Folder 34 for Finding Aid to the Collection and contact information for the Library.)

    Biography / Administrative History

    Robert Whitaker was born in Padiham, Lancashire, England in 1863, and moved with his family to the United States in 1869. After working at a watch factory in Waltham, Massachusetts, Whitaker attended first Lawrence Academy in Croton, Massachusetts, and then Andover-Newton Theological School. He began his pastoral work in Aguas Calientes, Mexico, where he worked as a missionary from 1887-1888. Thereafter he held Baptist pastorates in Seattle, Washington; Salem, Oregon; and Oakland and Los Gatos, California. His first wife, Ellen ("Ellie") died in 1901. In 1907 he married Claire Wall, who outlived him.
    Whitaker was politically active throughout his ministry. The Collection reflects his diverse social, political, and educational interests as well as the strong religious beliefs that informed them. He addressed political themes in his sermons, spoke at political events, and participated in Socialist organizations such as the Ruskin Club of Oakland, California. He ran as the Socialist candidate for the 8th congressional district of California in 1912. In 1917, Whitaker and other Pacifist ministers worked with Fanny Bixby Spencer to organize the ecumenical Conference of Christian Pacifists in Long Beach "to protest...the militaristic interpretation of Christianity by the Churches" (A Brief Account of the Conference of Christian Pacifists in California). At the first meeting, Whitaker was arrested along with Harold Storey, a Quaker, and Rev. Floyd Hardin, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Atwater. After being convicted of unlawful assembly under the California Criminal Syndicalism Act, Whitaker spent three months in jail, but was subsequently released and cleared by the California Supreme Court.
    Although Whitaker was a life long Baptist, his Socialist political beliefs and his "open membership" policy of allowing the un-baptized to join his church alienated some members of his church and the Baptist leadership. In 1922, Whitaker left Los Gatos to serve as the pastor of the Queen Anne Congregational Church in Seattle, Washington. In 1924, he returned to California, and he became the editor of the Open Forum, the newsletter of the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles from 1924 - 1926. Thereafter Whitaker focused his considerable energy on his writing. He published articles, letters to the editor and poetry in Socialist, labor, and Christian journals such as Unity, Labor Defender (where he was on the national committee), The Industrial Democrat, The Christian: A Liberal Journal of Religion, The Christian Century, The Vangard,and the Labor Clarion. He also founded presses such as The U.F.I. Press, The Cosman Press, The Progressive Publishing Company, and Whitaker and Ray, Co. to publish literary and socialist works by himself and others.
    Whitaker remained politically active throughout his life and was personally acquainted with prominent socialists and radicals such as Jack London, Eugene Debs, Upton Sinclair, Fanny Bixby Spencer, Anna Louise Strong, and John Haynes Holmes. For decades he labored to obtain the release of Tom Mooney, a labor activist convicted for the Preparedness Day bombing, July 22, 1916, a conviction that was later found to be based on false testimony. Whitaker held prominent positions in a number of politically and socially oriented organizations such as The Ukraine Farming and Machinery Corporation, The Imperial Farming Company, Inc., and The International Polytechnical University, Inc. He organized or was active in educational institutions such as People's Institute, the Los Gatos Idea, The Montezuma Mountain Ranch School for Boys, and Home Educator Works.
    Robert Whitaker died June 1944 in Los Gatos, California.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Whitaker collection consists of diaries spanning most of Whitaker's adult life, and many of his writings. There is a small collection of correspondence to Claire Whitaker, as well as some of her writings.


    The collection is arranged as follows: Series 1, Diaries; Series 2, Correspondence; Series 3, Personal; Series 4, Political Activity: Series 5, Robert Whitaker's Essays, Articles, and Lectures: Published and Unpublished, Reprints and Manuscripts; Series 6, Poetry; Series 7, Collected Pamphlets; and Series 8, Periodicals.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Mooney, Tom.
    Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968.
    London, Jack, 1876-1916.
    Spencer, Fanny Bixby.
    Holmes, John Haynes, 1879-1964.
    Strong, Anna Louise, 1885-1970.
    American Civil Liberties Union -- History.
    Clergy--Political activity.
    Poetry--20th Century.
    Religion--Philosophy--History--20th Century.
    Socialism, Christian--History--Sources.
    Communism and Christianity--History--Sources.
    Pacifism--History--20th Century.
    Criminal syndicalism--California.

    Other Finding Aids

    The Sutro Library in San Francisco has a collection of Whitaker's pamphlets and manuscripts, and the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, has some of Whitaker's published work in its collection.

    Separated Material

    What We Believe, ed. William W. Ferrier; "Our Changed Conception of God," Charles Sumner Nash; "The Changed View of the Bible," Raymond C. Brooks; "Christ from the Modern Point of View," Albert W. Palmer, 1914. Transferred to GTU Rare Book collection.
    The Emancipator: An Independent Forward-Looking Monthly, vol. VII, no. 6, February 1945. Discarded.
    Federal Council Bulletin, vol. XXXII, no. 2, February 1949. Discarded.