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Archives & Manuscripts

Nelson Fuson Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-RG5-261

Scope and Contents

Nelson Fuson was a physicist and educator, active in Quaker concerns. The collection contains extensive correspondence and papers concerning his service as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service during World War II. As the child of missionaries to China and having spent most of his childhood there, his hope was to do relief service in China, and many of the papers deal with the CPS China Unit. However, the China Unit was never activated due to restrictions placed on conscientious objectors performing foreign service, and Fuson was assigned to camps in Maryland, Indiana, New York, and North Dakota. He also attended training in international administration at Columbia University as part of a detached CPS unit, training intended to prepare military and civilians for post-war occupation. In addition to the CPS material, Nelson, a long time professor of physics at Fisk University, and his wife, Marian, were active in Quaker concerns including participation in International Student Seminars sponsored by the AFSC. During their sabbatical leave in Bordeaux, France, they attended European yearly meetings and traveled widely.

Organized into four series:
  1. Correspondence sent
  2. Correspondence received
  3. Civilian Public Service
  4. Other topical files

Dates

  • 1909-1996

Creator

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Rights Information

opyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf Friends Historical Library 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 reader.

Biographical / Historical

Nelson Fuson was a physicist and educator, active in Quaker concerns. He was born September 4, 1913, in Guang-zhou (Canton), China, the son of American Presbyterian missionaries; he had two brothers, Ben and William. His parents, Chester and Phebe (Meeker) Fuson worked in China from 1905-1949, and Nelson spent most of his first 15 years in China before returning to the U.S. to complete his high school education in Emporia, Kansas. He graduated from the College of Emporia in 1934 and earned an M.A. in physics and astronomy from Kansas University in 1934. In 1938 he earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan, and from 1938-1941, he taught at Rutgers University, N.J.

In 1941 Fuson was drafted as conscientious objector. He wrote that his childhood experiences influenced him to be a life-long pacifist. In 1941, he reported to CPS Unit #3, Patapsco, Maryland, administered by the American Friends Service Committee, where he worked with the Park Service. In February 1942 he was selected to report to Camp #6 in Lagro, Indiana, to train for a China Unit for humanitarian relief in Canton, administered by Church of the Brethren.

In August 1942 he was detached to Columbia University to participate in a joint civilian/military seminar in International Administration, preparing for post-war occupation and relief. In April 1943, he left Columbia to join the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia, training a new China Unit, CPS #99. During this time, he lived at Pendle Hill, the Quaker study center in Wallingford, Pa., and met his future wife, Marian Darnell. That summer, approving the so-called Starnes Rider to an appropriations bill, Congress refused to send conscientious objectors to participate in service work outside of the U.S., so the China Unit was effectively cancelled. In September 1943, Fuson was transferred to CPS Camp #46, Big Flats, N.Y., where he worked on a conservation and nursery program. In late March 1944, he was transferred to Camp #94, Trenton, N.D., involved in an agricultural project.

In January 1945, he was again assigned to detached service, CPS #115, this time at the University of Michigan to do physics research on infrared spectroscopy, under the administration of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). He and Marian Darnell, a birthright Quaker, were married at Moorestown Meeting, N.J., on June 23, 1945. Marian Haines Darnell was the daughter of Howard C. Darnell and Helen Wills Darnell. She was born on 5th month 19, 1920, in Moorestown, New Jersey. Nelson Fuson became a member of the Society of Friends on Dec. 1, 1953. Nelson had long prepared to do relief service in China, but by the end of the War, political and personal concerns had made that impractical. Rather, he began his academic career, still committed to peace and humanitarian relief.

From 1946-1948, Nelson taught at Johns Hopkins University. He taught for one year at Howard University and in 1949 joined the faculty of Fisk University, Tennessee, where he remained until his retirement, serving as Chairman of the Physics Department and director of the Infrared Spectroscopy research laboratory. During his tenure at Fisk, he took a long sabbatical (1956-1959) to research and teach at the University of Bordeaux, France. He and Marian had two sons, Allen and Dan. They were founding members of Nashville Monthly Meeting and Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and active in the AFSC International Seminar program, Friends General Conference, and desegregation and peace activities.

In 1998, Nelson and Marian Fuson moved to Kendal-at Longwood, Kennett Square, Pa., a Quaker retirement community. Nelson Fuson died February 5, 2006.

Extent

5 Linear Feet (10 boxes (includes 9 boxes manuscript, 1 box pictures))

Language

English

Overview

Nelson Fuson was a physicist and educator, active in Quaker concerns. The collection contains extensive correspondence and papers concerning his service as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service during World War II. As the child of missionaries to China, his hope was to do relief service in China, and many of the papers deal with CPS China Units. However, the China Units were never activated and Fuson was assigned to camps in Maryland, Indiana, New York, and North Dakota. He also attended a seminar in international administration at Columbia University as part of a detached CPS unit, training intended to prepare military and civilians for post-war occupation. In addition to the CPS material, Nelson, a long time professor of physics at Fisk University, and his wife, Marian, were active in Quaker concerns including participation in international student seminars sponsored by the AFSC.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: Marian Darnell Fuson, 9/30/2006 (Accession number: 2006-017)

Related Materials

Civilian Public Service files in Swarthmore College Peace Collection

American Friends Service Committee Archives

Chester and Phebe Fuson Papers, Yale University Library

Separated Materials

Photographs stored in PA 139: Includes album of photographs of the Indian Mountain School Seminar, 1947, and the San Cristobal Seminar, 1948. Also snapshots of CPS camps at Lagro, Big Flats, and Trenton.

(5) original etchings and pen/ink works by Eberhard Tacke (1903-1989) are stored in oversized Art.

Processing Information

The papers were received from Nelson Fuson’s widow in three cartons. Some of the correspondence was bundled separately in a single box; these letters (mostly correspondence with Marian Darnell Fuson, correspondence received by Nelson, and some correspondence to folks) were individually described; this inventory provides a sense of the depth of the content of the correspondence in the collection. The bulk of Nelson’s early CPS correspondence (sent to family) and the Tacke correspondence were foldered separately in the boxes containing topical papers. This correspondence was interfiled with the first group. In some cases, there are second copies of Nelson’s letters which were circulated as carbon copies among family members. The Civilian Public Service material was retained as a separate series and other projects and interests filed chronologically by topic.
Title
Finding aid for Nelson Fuson Family Papers, 1909-1996
Author
FHL staff
Date
2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Find It at the Library

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