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John Adams Papers, 1919-1987 | Special Collections & University Archives

By Ellen E. Jarosz

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Collection Overview

Title: John Adams Papers, 1919-1987Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1930-1979

Primary Creator: Adams, John

Extent: 1.46 Linear Feet


I. Publications, 1921-74

II. San Diego State College, 1931-1972

III. San Diego Union, 1931-1982

IV. Personal, 1926-1977

Subjects: Adams, John R., 1900-1994--Archives, San Diego State University--Faculty--Biography--Sources, San Diego State University. Library. Department of Special Collections--History--Sources

Forms of Material: Personal Papers

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The John Adams Papers document Adams' publications and research, his years at San Diego State College as a professor, department chair, and University Archivist, his relationship with San Diego Union as book reviewer, and some limited parts of his personal life.  The collection dates from approximately 1919-1982, with the bulk of documents created from the 1930s-1970s. The collection consists predominantly of publications and correspondence created during John Adams years at Michigan and San Diego State College.  It is divided into four series: Publications, San Diego State College, San Diego Union, and Personal.  Several other collections donated by John and Jane are described and housed separately from these materials.  They are listed under a subsequent heading in this finding aid.

The Publications documents the public face of John Adams' during his years at the University of Michigan and San Diego State College.  Included are some of Adams' own articles published at Michigan, as well as some books and manuscripts he edited or helped other authors complete.  It is arranged alphabetically by file name, and dates from 1921-74.

The San Diego State College series dates from 1931 to 1972, with the bulk of documents generated during the 1950s, and documents John Adams' departure from the University of Washington, as well as his work at San Diego State College.  The series is almost entirely comprised of correspondence documenting such varied topics as the dedication of the Adams Humanities Building and the establishment of San Diego State University's University Archives.  Folders are arranged chronologically, but there is little order within each folder.

The San Diego Union series dates from 1931-1982, with the bulk of documents generated during the 1930s.  The series documents Adams' work reading and publishing book reviews in the San Diego Union, consisting primarily of correspondence between the author and editors.  Book reviews published after the 1930s are covered somewhat unevenly.  Files are arranged both in alpha-numeric order.

Now available online, the Personal series, dating from 1926-1977 documents John and Jane Adams' work as private collectors and the process of donating materials to SDSU's Special Collections and University Archives department, as well as their personal lives and relationships.  It includes correspondence about collecting political buttons, books, memorabilia and ephemera, postcards, and papers, as well as some family correspondence and Christmas postcards by notable artist and friend of the Adams', Everett Gee Jackson.  The final folders of this series are letters, often poignant, to the Adams' from SDSU students serving in WWII, telling of their experiences, hopes, and fears. Of note in this series is a letter from Some D. Ching, a Chinese-American student who admired Dr. Adams. He speaks of the privilege of education and its role in America and the world after the war. It is arranged alphabetically by file name.

Biographical Note

John Adams was born 22 July 1900 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  While attending college at the University of Michigan, John met and married his wife, Jane.  In 1925 the couple moved to Seattle where John had secured a position at the University of Washington.

While in Seattle John contracted tuberculosis, and so, in 1928 the couple moved to San Diego to help improve his health.  He soon accepted a position at San Diego State Teachers College teaching English Composition.  As part of his long career at San Diego State, Dr. Adams eventually became Chairman of Humanities, a post he held from 1956 to his retirement in 1968. 

Throughout his years at Michigan, Washington, and San Diego State, John Adams worked to publish articles, books, and book reviews, and built numerous collections with his wife, Jane, of postcards, cookbooks, books, and ephemera, etc.  Much of the correspondence generated in these pursuits is included in the collection.

After his retirement in 1968, John Adams became part-time university archivist for San Diego State College.  John and Jane donated generously to the university.  Their donations consisted of books, postcards, ephemera, and manuscripts.  One of the university's most noted academicians, Dr. Adams' name graces the Adams Humanities Building, which opened in 1977.  Both John and his wife were charter members of the Friends of the Library, with John serving as chairman of the group.

Subject/Index Terms

Adams, John R., 1900-1994--Archives
San Diego State University--Faculty--Biography--Sources
San Diego State University. Library. Department of Special Collections--History--Sources

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections & University Archives

Access Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: Copyright interests in some the materials found in this collection are owned by San Diego State University.  Some materials may be in the public domain.  Special Collections and University Archives can only grant permission to publish materials for which it is the copyright holder.  For further information, please consult the section on copyright in the rules for using the collections, or contact the United States Copyright Office at (202) 707-3000 or

Acquisition Source: John Adams

Related Materials:

MS-0012 Adams (Jane) Recipe and Menu Collection, 1920-1959

MS-0070 Adams (John and Jane) Artwork Collection, 1890-1936

MS-0056 Adams (John and Jane) Autograph Album Collection, 1851-1933

MS-0384 Adams (John and Jane) Ephemera Collection, 1856-1996

MS-0054 Adams (John and Jane) Greeting Card Collection, 1830-1970

MS-0455 Adams (John and Jane) Photograph Collection, 1840-1946

MS-0008 Adams (John and Jane) Postcard Collection, 1880-2007

MS-0406 Adams (John and Jane) Trade Card Collection, 1975-1915

MS-0369 WWII San Diego State College Servicemen's Correspondence Collection, 1941-1946

Preferred Citation: Identification of item, folder title, box number, John Adams Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Publications, 1921-1974],
[Series 2: San Diego State College, 1931-1972],
[Series 3: San Diego Union, 1931-1982],
[Series 4: Personal, 1926-1977],

Series 3: San Diego Union, 1931-1982Add to your cart.
Box 2Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Book Review Editor Correspondence, 1919Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Book Review Editor Correspondence, 1930sAdd to your cart.
Box 3Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Book Review Editor Correspondence, 1930sAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: Book Review Editor Correspondence, 1930sAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: Book Review Editor Correspondence, 1947-82Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Book Review Editor Correspondence, Carey McWilliamsAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: Book Review, Gospel According to Pontins PilateAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: Literary Guide Posts, 1932-33Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Social NotesAdd to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Publications, 1921-1974],
[Series 2: San Diego State College, 1931-1972],
[Series 3: San Diego Union, 1931-1982],
[Series 4: Personal, 1926-1977],

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