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Guide to the Aristide Rieffel Collection
Mss 153  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material
  • Separations

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Aristide Rieffel Collection
    Dates: 1873-1943
    Collection number: Mss 153
    Creator: Rieffel, Aristide
    Collection Size: 27 linear feet (54 document boxes).
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106
    Abstract: Primarily correspondence and writings [in French] of French philosopher, social scientist, journalist and inventor Rieffel, who spent his last years in Santa Barbara.
    Physical location: SRLF.
    Languages: French, English

    Access Restrictions

    None. Collection is stored off-site; advance notice required for retrieval.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Aristide Rieffel Collection. Mss 153. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated by Jane Crowell Rieffel, 1995-1996.


    Aristide Rieffel was a French philosopher, social scientist, journalist and inventor whose life spanned eighty-three years, four continents, and two marriages. Parisian born of Alsatian stock, Rieffel maintained a strong lifelong attachment to his native France and to Alsace. Though he lived the last twenty-five years of his life in America, he remained thoroughly French.
    He was born Arthur Zacharin Rieffel on May 1, 1859. He received a strong Catholic upbringing and, though he often questioned church dogma, he remained deeply religious and spent much of his life pondering and writing on religious questions. Around age nine he received the nickname "Aristide" for his precociousness. As an adult he used Aristide as a pen name, and eventually as his legal name.
    Young Aristide lived through the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the siege of Paris, and the subsequent uprising of the Paris Commune in 1871. The violence and human suffering of these events deeply impressed him, and he devoted most of his life's work to preventing war and violence. His pacifism brought him into close contact with Alfred Nobel and Frédéric Passy, with whom he worked for several years.
    Aristide also was an inventor who developed a marine steam engine and a device for producing halogen for lighting. The latter invention made him a handsome profit, but mismanagement by his business partners cost him his fortune. He also was a traveler and spent time in Russia, North Africa, the Middle East, North America, and various European countries. His travels gave him a wide perspective on the human condition, and he used this perspective to frame concepts of human behavior and social organization that he believed would eliminate war and lead to harmony and social justice. His life's work was "Le Livre" or "The Book," a large work covering virtually every aspect of individual and societal behavior. He hoped that by pointing out humanity's problems and offering constructive solutions he would make the world a better place.
    Ultimately Aristide's masterwork remained unfinished. However, enough of it exists to give the reader a clear idea of his thought, when combined with his other writings. His vision for a future society was complex, and involved non-competitive education, strong religious and moral upbringing, and the reform of virtually every governmental and societal institution, including marriage and the family. He never outlined how his ideas would be enforced. nevertheless, his writings provide an intriguing glimpse into the mind of a man tortured by human suffering and determined to put an end to it.
    Aristide moved to Santa Barbara in 1930, and lived in a small house on De La Guerra Street. He often wrote letters to the editor of the Santa Barbara News Press, and was a familiar figure in the coffee houses and theaters downtown. He died on October 5, 1941 following an injury and a prolonged illness.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Aristide Rieffel Collection contains the collected papers of Aristide Rieffel, as well as papers of his second wife Jeanne and his children, Odile, Marc, and Mireille. Almost all of the material is in French. The bulk of the collection consists of the correspondence and writings of Aristide. He was a meticulous note taker and he saved manuscript drafts, notes jotted to himself on scraps of paper, newspaper clippings, and correspondence.
    Whenever possible, the original arrangement of materials has been retained. In many cases explanatory notes accompany individual series. Aristide's correspondence includes outgoing as well as incoming letters. Of particular note are letters from Emile Zola, Frédéric Passy, and Alfred Nobel. His works include published articles, unpublished plays, poems, and a novel, as well as a vast array of writings on social, religious, and political issues of his time. These works are almost exclusively written in his own hand, as he disdained the use of a typewriter. His financial and legal papers include court proceedings, bank records, and legal documents pertaining to his marriages and divorce.
    In alphabetical listings, the French particles le, la, les, and à have been ignored. Thus, Les resultats de la guerre comes after Origines de la violence.
    The Rieffel family commonly used abbreviations in reference to each other. These include:
    • AR= Aristide Rieffel
    • JAR= Jeanne Rieffel
    • MAR= Marc-Aurele Rieffel
    • MIR= Mireille Rieffel


    The collection contains four series:
    • Series I: Correspondence (Boxes 1-21). Arranged by the following subseries: Aristide Rieffel to Family; General Correspondence; Correspondence with Named Individuals; Business and Professional Correspondence: Correspondence of Other Family Members (Jeanne Rieffel, Marc-Aurele Rieffel, Mireille Rieffel, Odile Rieffel, Family Letters).
    • Series II: Works (Boxes 2-46). Arranged by the following subseries: Biographie; Articles by Aristide Rieffel; Literary and Artistic Works; Le Livre; Peace, War and the State; Religion and Morality; Science and Mediciine; Social Questions; Spiritisme.
    • Series III: Legal and Financial Papers (Box 47). Includes records of legal proceedings and financial arrangements concerning Rieffel's many inventions.
    • Series IV: Additions (Boxes 48-54). Arranged by the following subseries: Documents and Published Articles; Pages de copie-lettres; Marc-Aurele Rieffel's Biography of Aristide Rieffel.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Rieffel, Aristide
    Politics and war.

    Related Material

    The Hoover Institute on War and Peace at Stanford University holds 36 ms boxes of papers related to Aristide Rieffel, which were donated by Mireille Rieffel. A collection-level record in the RLIN online database provides a brief description of contents. The papers focus on issues of war and peace, international relations, temperance, and government, and consist mainly of Rieffel's published and unpublished articles. There is a small amount of correspondence, as well as several publications by other writers. See the guide  for a detailed listing.


    In addition to manuscript materials, the collection includes a number of monographs and serials collected by Aristide. Nearly all are in French, date from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, and deal with the same sorts of issues as the manuscripts. In addition there are a few European and North African travel guides. The printed works have been cataloged individually and, like the manuscripts, are housed in the Department of Special Collections. For access, search the UCSB Pegasus online catalog under the keyword Rieffel.