On July 1, 1975 Sayre formalized his intention of depositing his "office files" in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection by signing a statement to that effect. It also included the files still at his home after they were no longer needed. The office files of twenty-four cartons were transferred to the SCPC in July 1975, along with the large accumulation of F.O.R. records at the national office in Nyack, NY. The curator of the Peace Collection decided that the Sayre materials should be a separate document group, DG 117. A unit within the Sayre Papers contained his files of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, which were separated to form the nucleus of DG 118.
The collection of peace related materials at the Sayre home in South Nyack included four steel cabinets of reference files which he and his wife Kathleen had collected and used for half a century. There were also personal and family writings including small diaries from childhood throughout adulthood, and lifelong correspondence with his beloved brother Francis B. Sayre who became a prominent diplomat. A copy of John Nevin Sayre's unpublished memoirs was donated by his daughter Faith Sayre Schindler who arranged for a visit of several days in the home in 1978 in order to examine and select materials offered to the SCPC. These were brought to Swarthmore in July 1978.
In 1981 more cartons of Sayre materials were found at Shadowcliff, the national F.O.R. office. They included sermons and speeches, materials about Kathleen Sayre's peace work, and books and photographs from the period of the first World War.
Additional personal and family materials were contributed by Faith S. Schindler. In 1993 she sent a suitcase full of letters. The earliest were written by Nevin Sayre's parents in the 1890s. The bulk of the correspondence comprises the exchange of letters between Nevin and Kathleen from their courtship in 1921 through the years when he was delivering speeches and building structures of peace in the U.S. and around the world.
The last accession of Sayre material was received in July 1998 from Faith S. Schindler in response to a suggestion from the SCPC. It is a collection of photocopies of letters of condolence received by Kathleen W. Sayre at the time of Nevin Sayre's death in 1977.
Scope and Contents
The major part of the Sayre papers consists of the extensive correspondence of a lifetime which was centered in the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The principal categories are his American (U.S.) and international files. There is also a large quantity of family letters. Related to the international correspondence are the files of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (I.F.O.R.), of which Sayre was chairman in 1935-1955. They include meeting minutes and reports of Conferences, the Council and Executive Committees. These files also contain historical records, materials on policy discussions, adjunct programs and fund raising. There are some miscellaneous historical materials of the F.O.R.-USA concerning Sayre's particular interests, like the 1933 referendum of the membership. Another series is given to programs and special projects of the F.O.R.-USA, 1919-1958, some in collaboration with other organizations. These files include correspondence, meeting minutes, reports and releases.
Some of Sayre's principal correspondents were: Devere Allen, Roger N. Baldwin, Percy W. Bartlett, Arthur W. Blaxall, Vera Brittain, K.K. Chandy, E. Philip Eastman, Hildegard and Jean Goss-Mayr, Allan A. Hunter, Howard Kester, Herbert Jehle, Muriel Lester, Kaspar Mayr, Wilhelm Mensching, Premysl Pitter, Charles E. Raven, Henri Roser, Paul M. Sekiya, Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze, Emily Parker Simon, Glenn E. Smiley, John M. Swomley, Evan W. Thomas, Charles A. Thomson, and André and Magda Trocmé.
The private side of Sayre's life is expressed primarily in family letters (1892-1972) particularly with his brother Francis B. Sayre, a prominent diplomat, and his wife Kathleen Whitaker Sayre. Additional autobiographical sources are pocket diaries and travel journals. His unpublished memoirs, written after his stroke, are a compilation of reflective writings on aspects of his personal and public life.
Writing and speaking were important aspects of Sayre's most active years. His periodical articles, pamphlets, mimeographed reports on F.O.R. work, hearings in Washington, broadcasts, letters to public officials and editors constitute one category. Another includes sermons and study series given in churches which are mainly in manuscript, often in outline or notes. Sayre kept collections of frequently used illustrations and quotations. Supplemental records about speaking engagements include press clippings, schedules, titles, etc. An extensive subject file, which he and his wife assembled, provided them with ample reference materials, in all printed forms, on national, international and religious issues.