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Finding Aid to the Woodbridge Bingham Papers, 1876-1986
BANC MSS 87/114 cz  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Woodbridge Bingham Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1876-1986
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 87/114 cz
    Extent: Number of containers: 45 boxes, 12 cartons, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 34.25
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: Collection contains family and professional correspondence, diaries, writings, subject files, scrapbooks, clippings, and other miscellaneous personal papers. Also included is material related to textbooks authored by Professor Bingham; materials related to his East Asiatic classes at the University of California, Berkeley; a 1980 doctoral dissertation (Johns Hopkins) about the Bingham family, by Char Miller; and an 1883 published genealogy titled The Woodbridge Record.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research, with one exception: Carton 11, folder 4 is sealed until 2000.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Manuscripts Division. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Preferred Citation [Identification of item], Woodbridge Bingham papers, BANC MSS 87/114 cz, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley., BANC MSS 87/114 cz, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Related Collections

    Title: Bingham Family Genealogical Material, 1631-1914,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 69/64 p
    Title: Bingham Family Papers, [ca. 1810-1908],
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS FILM P-N 148
    Title: Records of the East Asia Teaching Training Committee, 1956-1965,
    Identifier/Call Number: CU-53,
    UC Archives

    Materials Cataloged Separately

    • Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library, except for those used in the preparation of History of Asia, found in Carton 12.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Woodbridge Bingham Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by his wife,Ursula Griswold Bingham,on August 17, 1986 and March 19, 1987, with additions made on August 10, 1990.


    Woodbridge Bingham decided to study Chinese history and language at a time when few people in the U. S. were doing so. As a result, he played a pioneering role in the development of East Asian studies in the United States. In 1924, when he began his studies, there were only a few universities in the entire country offering any Oriental courses and no professional organizations, associations, or publications for support. Bingham began his career at the University of California, Berkeley in 1937, teaching both undergraduate and graduate students the history and civilizations of Asia. The detailed syllabi and reading lists he created for his classes became his Southwest Asia: A Brief History and History of Asia. He was a founding member, in 1941, of the Far Eastern Association, whose purpose was to publish Far Eastern Quarterly (now the Journal of Asian Studies). Bingham served through 1953 as a member of the first board of directors and from 1941 to 1947 was also a member of the editorial advisory board; during 1947-1949, he edited the quarterly's News and Notes and News of the Profession sections.
    In 1949 Bingham founded the University of California's Institute of East Asiatic Studies, and served as director until 1957. He was an advocate of the Faculty Fellows Program, which sought to foster closer ties between students and faculty by providing opportunities for communication outside the classroom, and served as the program's coordinator from 1963 to 1965. Although Bingham became an emeritus professor in 1969, his involvement as a Faculty Fellow lasted until 1977, when, as a member of the advisory board to a program known as CAL-in-the-UN, Bingham travelled to New York City to visit University of California student interns.
    Woodbridge Bingham's strengths were his devotion to his subject area, his enthusiasm for teaching it, and his sincere interest in his students. He motivated his students to their maximum abilities, acting on their behalf far above and beyond the duty of an ordinary professor: he proposed, recommended, encouraged, and cheered them on. He not only advised them academically, but personally as well, helping them to obtain housing, financial aid, foreign travel connections, and employment. Time after time, grateful students wrote to ask Bingham for advice and direction and to thank him for his support, discipline, encouragement, suggestions, and the opportunities he provided to broaden their experience and widen their vision.Hilary ConroyandFrank Iklé,co-authors for A History of Asia, were former students.
    The Binghams were an old, prominent, wealthy, and fascinating New England family. His father, Hiram (1875-1956), son of famous but penniless missionaries, in 1899 marriedAlfreda Mitchell,granddaughter and heiress ofCharles L. Tiffany.An explorer, Hiram discovered Macchu Picchu in the Peruvian highlands in 1911. Later he was elected to the U. S. Senate from Connecticut. Woodbridge was the oldest of seven brothers:Alfred Mitchell,lawyer;Brewster,minister;Charles Tiffany,physician;Hiram (1903-1988),diplomat;Jonathon Brewster,congressman; andMitchell,artist. Although younger than Woodbridge, Alfred eventually settled in as the Bingham family head. In the 1930s, Alfred edited and published Common Sense, a radical left-wing magazine, while Brewster and Mitchell became deeply involved with a group known as M.R.A. (Moral Re-Armament), which eventually emerged in the 1970s as Up With People. Only two of the brothers made their homes away from New England: Mitchell in Florida and Woodbridge in Berkeley, California.
    On 28 June 1928, Woodbridge married a young woman of similar standing and background,Ursula Wolcott Griswold.They had four daughters: Anne (b. 1929), Clarissa (b. 1931), Evelyn (b. 1938) and Marion (b. 1940). By 1930 Woodbridge and Ursula had relocated from the East Coast to Berkeley for reasons of Woodbridge's health and to enable him to begin his Ph.D program at the University of California. During 1934, with two children under age 6, they moved to Beijing (then called Peiping), China where they remained until he joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in 1937.
    Bingham was also a career naval reserve officer, primarily involved in translation and research. During World War II, he was attached to the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas and later, the Office of Strategic Services.
    Woodbridge Bingham died 5 May 1986. His ashes were buried in the family cemetery in Salem, Connecticut.

    Scope and Content

    The Woodbridge Bingham papers, 1876-1986, consist primarily of correspondence from the years 1902 through 1986, as well as journals and daily diaries kept while traveling, and his writings and course textbook materials, including correspondence with co-authors, editors, researchers, and fellow colleagues. Also includes miscellaneous personal and family papers, clippings, subject files, and scrapbooks.
    Bingham's professional correspondence deals largely with details of conferences, publications, research, translations, and his students' difficulties and accomplishments. The strength of the collection is in its family correspondence, which will be of most interest, perhaps, to social historians and women's studies scholars. Throughout his life, Woodbridge was a faithful correspondent to his large and extended family. His mother, Alfreda, wrote nearly every week and his brother, Alfred, was his most reliable correspondent.
    After becoming engaged in September 1926, Woodbridge left for a year of study in China. While this collection lacks the letters from Woodbridge to his fiancée, Ursula Wolcott Griswold, she wrote to him nearly every day. While summers in Connecticut, research trips, World War II, and Ursula's own professional life as a YWCA national board member separated them many times during the next 60 years, each time Ursula renewed their correspondence. Her letters during the Connecticut summers are particularly interesting, as they give day-to-day accounts of life with both of their extended families.
    Bingham's four daughters, who attended boarding school and college away from home, also became faithful letter-writers. Eventually Evelyn settled in the San Francisco Bay area, but the others made their homes elsewhere. The letters from Anne, a medical doctor, particularly indicate the difficulties involved for a bright, motivated woman in dealing with the traditional role of women still dominant in the 1950s.
    In addition to his immediate family members, Woodbridge carried on a significant correspondence with grandchildren, in-laws, nieces and nephews, cousins, and assorted near-family members. These include, but are not limited to, Ursula's family, the Griswolds, on her father's side, and the Sloanes, on her mother's side; CousinKate Reynoldsfrom Woodbridge's father's side; and his nephew,Nathaniel Shaw Bingham.Also included is Woodbridge's Yale roommate and life-long friend,Jerry Bartholomewand his family. While there is abundant correspondence with other family members, letters concerning certain personal events, of family divorce and remarriage, are conspicuously absent. The family correspondence does more than simply chronicle events in the Bingham family; it reflects sixty years of social change in America: radical politics, religion, divorce, inheritance, child-rearing, diminishing wealth, changes in family structure, and the evolving role of women.