The Erwin H. Richards papers consist of a scrapbook, correspondence, writings, photographs and photograph albums, glass plate negatives, lantern slides, a map, and printer’s blocks that document the family’s missionary activity in Portuguese East Africa.
The writings constitute a significant portion of the Erwin H. Richards papers. Included are writings and translations by Richards, used as instructional tools during his missionary work in Africa. The writings by others also include grammars and translations used for missionary teachings, as well as biographical information relating to the Richards family. Of use to researchers are a typed biography of Richards from a letter written by Barbara Shirley-Scott (dated March 7, 1991), and a typed document detailing the life of Richards and his family, compiled partly from Who’s Who in America, ca. 1930, and by Alden Fletcher, 1977, Helen Richards Hantower, 1991, and Nelson R. Eldred, November 2010.
The correspondence series contains letters written by E.H. Richards and family members from 1879 to 1991, with gaps in the latter part of the 20th century. Oral history recordings of Alden Fletcher’s (son of Dorothy Duncanson Richards Reinhardt and grandson of E.H. Richards) account of the life of the Richards family significantly augment the collection.
The photographic series contains formal portraits, snapshots, and glass plate negatives and lantern slides which document the Richards’ family life and mission work in Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The glass plate negatives and lantern slides from the 1880s to 1890s complement the scrapbook well, providing images of the communities and mission station where Richards and his family and friends were located. While the majority of negatives, slides, and photographs in the scrapbook are not described with standard descriptive elements (date, name of individual or place depicted), the images nonetheless provide a good pictorial representation of missionary life in the late 19th century. The photographs not only document the lives of Richards and his family members, but also highlight the many African friends Richards made during his travels. Several different photographs of the same African family appear throughout the scrapbook. A few photographs in the scrapbook are accompanied by printed text (author unidentified) and reveal a superior and bemused attitude toward African peoples and their culture.
Not included in this collection are books from the Richards family library and a number of African artifacts collected by E.H. Richards; these are temporarily stored in the Archives until a suitable location on campus is identified.
Series 1. Scrapbook, ca. 1884 (1.0 l.f.)
Consisting primarily of photographs, this scrapbook documents Erwin H. Richards’ missionary activity in Portuguese East Africa, concentrating on the areas of Inhamabane, Kambini, and Makodwen. Landscapes, animals, native Africans, and Richards and his fellow missionaries are depicted. A few pictures from Egypt and India also exist. The scrapbook also contains several pages of printed material in which narratives describe the accompanying pictures. The majority of items in this scrapbook are not labeled or identified. The scrapbook was microfilmed in 2004; researchers are requested to use the reference copy of the microfilm. CD-ROMs are also available for review. For additional photographs and photograph albums, see Series 6.
Series 2. Correspondence, 1899-1907, ca. 1910s-1940s, 1963, 1965, 1973-74, 1978, 1990-91, n.d. (0.2 l.f.)
This series consists of correspondence in original form, typescript copies, and microfilm. The typescript copies of correspondence of members of the Richards Family cover the period 1990-91. The letters primarily concern Erwin H. Richards. The copies were compiled in 2001.
Original letters covering the period 1926 to 1978, are, with one exception, written by Erwin H. Richards and family members. The earliest correspondence, from 1899 to 1907 and ca. 1910 to the 1940s, is represented only on 2 reels of 16mm microfilm. Also included in this series are typed and handwritten outlines, undated, of letters written by Richards from 1879 to 1908.
Series 3. Oral History Recordings, 1979-1994 (0.79 l.f.)
Comprises twelve audiocassettes holding recordings of Alden Fletcher’s account of the life of Erwin H. Richards and the Richards family, 1979-1994.
Series 4. Geneology, 1859, 1861, 1966-67, 1974, n.d. (3f)
Geneological materials relating to the E.H. Richards family are arranged into three folders. Folder one holds copies from the Geneological Register of the Descendants of Several Ancient Puritans by Rev. Abner Morse, 1859, and a cover letter by Helen Richards Hantower addressed to “Dorothy and David” dated April 26, 1967. Folder two holds various letters and photocopies sent between family members in 1966-67 and 1974 concerning their family history. Folder three holds a fragile, typed family chart (and photocopies made by Archives staff) for the Duncanson family, beginning with James Duncanson, born 1828, and ending with Alden, Barbara, and David Richards, grandchildren of Alice Carrie Duncanson and Erwin H. Richards.
Series 5. Writings and Postcards, 1878, 1882, 1890, 1899, 1902, 1904-05, 1908, 1919, 1923, 1926, 1972, 1991, n.d. (0.2 l.f.)
The Writings and Postcards series is divided into three subseries: Subseries 1. Postcards; Subseries 2. Writings by Erwin H. Richards; and Subseries 3. Writings by Others. The first subseries contains five envelopes of undated color postcards titled “South-African Fauna.”
The second subseries contains writings by Erwin H. Richards, which are African stories and translations used during his missionary work.
The third subseries also contains translations (mostly Christian-based stories and pamphlets) and grammars, as well as unpublished writings about the Richards Family. The unpublished writings include the Autobiography of Dorothy Reinhardt (with a typescript copy of a letter from Helen Hantower to Dorothy and David Reinhardt, 26 November 1972), 1972 (2 typescript copies), and another typescript of the same material. A Biography of Erwin Richards 1851-1928, by Louise Richards Hantower, 1991 is also represented in two different typescript copies, with a typed note by Hantower to “Kith and Kin,” dated July 4, 1991. Also included is a copy of the unpublished writing The Wolf Collection: The Relevance and the Relationship to the Richard[s] Collection, by Carolyn White, 1991. (The Wolf collection consists of objects from the Thonga tribe in Inhambane, the same people that the Richards Family encountered.) Additionally in subseries three is a typewritten document titled “Why the black man is black!,” which is an undated document with no clear author, written as a reminiscence of a legend from Africa. The third subseries also holds pamphlets, instructional materials, and parts of the Bible and other texts in African languages from the private library of the Richards family.
Series 6. Photographs, Negatives, Lantern Slides, and Photograph Albums, ca. 1850-1957, n.d. (1.85 l.f.)
This series is subdivided into three subseries: Subseries 1. Photographic Prints; Subseries 2. Negatives and Lantern Slides; and Subseries 3. Photograph Albums. The photographic prints comprise portraits of family members, friends, other missionaries, native Africans, and views of African villages, the mission compounds, and landscapes. The glass plate negatives and lantern slides were taken by E.H. Richards in Portuguese East Africa, primarily around Inambane, around 1880-90. They picture scenes from the mission station and African communities where the Richards served as missionaries. The photograph albums contains photographs and picture postcards of Africa, 1910 and undated. (See also the scrapbook in Series 1.)
Series 7. Maps, ca. 1880-85 (1f)
Consists of one fragment of a printed map of South Africa (13 ¼ x 7 ¾ inches) covering Mozambique on the eastern coast, heavily annotated with information regarding missions and expeditions in 1881, 1884 and 1885.
Series 8. Printer’s Blocks, n.d. (0.4 l.f.)
This series contains four undated copper plate printer’s blocks of Erwin H., Mary McClelland, and Dorothy Richards, and an unknown African woman.