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Edgar Zavitz Palmer and Boyd Zavitz Palmer papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-113

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the life of Edgar Zavitz Palmer, a Quaker business economist and author. It includes material relating to Palmer’s interest in images of Quaker meeting houses, his personal and professional correspondence, and photographs from his relief work in France after World War I. It also contains documents related to his son Boyd Zavitz Palmer’s application for conscientious objector status and the alternative service that he completed with the American Friends Service Committee.


  • Creation: 1890 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See

Biographical / Historical

Edgar Zavitz Palmer (1898-1977) was the son of Charles Palmer and Arletta Cutler Palmer of Chester, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Swarthmore College, Class of 1919. He spent 1919-1920 in Europe on relief work with the American Friends Service Committee and then taught economics at Ogden College (Bowling Green, Kentucky), the University of Kentucky, and University of Wisconsin. From 1946 to 1963, he directed the Bureau of Business Research in Lincoln, Nebraska. He married Ruth Opal Yarborough in 1924 and was a founder of Lincoln Friends Meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Edgar and Opal’s son Boyd Zavitz Palmer was born in 1929 while the family was living in Kentucky. He attended Earlham College, and from 1952 to 1954 worked with the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago as an alternative to military service. In 1950 he married Alice Howe (1928-2013). The couple lived successively in Wilmington, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Maryland, and Maine.


3 linear ft. (5 boxes and 1 set of index drawers)

Language of Materials



Edgar Zavitz Palmer (1898-1977) was a graduate of Swarthmore College, Class of 1919, and a professor of economics at several universities. This collection contains material relating to Edgar’s collection of Quaker meeting house pictures, his personal and professional correspondence, his relief work in Europe after World War I, and his son Boyd Zavitz Palmer’s application for conscientious objector status.


Arranged in 3 series:

  1. Edgar Zavitz Palmer meeting house research papers, which includes correspondence and other material relating to Palmer's activities in collecting pictures (mostly photographs) of Quaker meeting houses in the U.S. and around the world.
  2. Edgar Zavitz Palmer personal papers, which includes Palmer’s personal and professional correspondence, writings by and about him, World War I photographs, and ephemera.
  3. Boyd Zavitz Palmer papers, which includes materials related to Boyd Zavitz Palmer’s application for conscientious objector status and his alternative service.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Opal Y. Palmer, 1978.

Gift of Caryn Lesko, 2021 and 2022.

Related Materials

  • Friends Historical Library collection of meetinghouse photograph collections, SFHL-PA-QMH
  • Edgar Z. Palmer meetinghouse slides, 1946-1974, SFHL-PA-041

Separated Materials

The following material, originally part of the collection, has been removed and recatalogued:

  1. Pictures collected by Palmer and donated in 1978 are housed in the repository's Picture Collection. Most are in the Meeting House File, though the large slide collection has become PA 41.
  2. Reference material donated in 1978 was transferred to other collections. Articles and clippings were put in Pamphlet Groups, directories in PG 1, maps in map collection.

Processing Information

Edgar Zavitz Palmer’s collection of meeting house pictures and research papers were donated by his widow Opal Y. Palmer in 1978. The papers were processed by FHL staff and cited as “Edgar Zavitz Palmer Meeting House Research Papers.” Some materials from this accession were placed in other collections - see the Separated Materials note. In 2021 and 2022 Edgar’s personal papers, as well as material from his son Boyd Zavitz Palmer, were given to FHL by Boyd’s daughter Caryn Lesko. In 2022 this material was processed and added to the collection, which was renamed the “Edgar Zavitz Palmer and Boyd Zavitz Palmer papers”. The material from the original 1978 donation now makes up Series 1, “Edgar Zavitz Palmer meeting house research papers.” The 2021 and 2022 additions were processed as series 2 and series 3.

Edgar Zavitz Palmer and Boyd Zavitz Palmer papers, 1890-1994
James Truitt
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Language of description note
Encoding made possible by a grant by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation to the Philadelphia Consortium of Special Collections Libraries

Revision Statements

  • 2016: This electronic finding aid was updated in Summer 2016 by Abdulrezak Kemal in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace, to conform to current markup standards and the ArchivesSpace data model.
  • 2022: This electronic finding aid was updated in June 2022 by James Truitt to include material added to the collection during the preceding year.

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA