Karl D. Jessen papers
Scope and Contents
The Karl D. Jessen papers house the records of Dr. Karl D. Jessen, a professor of German Literature at Bryn Mawr College. This collection dates from 1872 to 1980, with bulk dates of 1890 to 1917. This collection consists mostly of correspondence between Jessen and his family, friends, and colleagues, with manuscripts and manuscript drafts, clippings, scrapbooks, bibliography cards of Jessen’s research. These records provide insight into Jessen’s research interests, political beliefs, career, and family life, especially leading up to his marriage to Myra Jessen. Researchers interested in the German-American experience on the United States home front during World War I will find this collection of particular interest.
This collection is arranged into three series: “I. Correspondence, 1890-1967,” “II. Research, writings, lectures, 1872-1946,” and “III. Personal, 1890-1980.”
Series “I. Correspondence” dates from 1890 to 1967, with bulk dates of 1890 to 1919. Records in this series include letters and postcards to and from Karl Jessen, some regarding Socialism in the United States and the political situation in Germany. The majority of the letters in this series deal with his career as a professor, especially regarding research, publication, administrative tasks, and professional relationships with both professors and students. Notable correspondents include M. Carey Thomas, Franklin Vonnegut, the Teller family, various university colleagues, and numerous publishers. Of particular interest are several letters detailing Jessen’s experiences of harassment by both citizens and the government because of his status as a German immigrant during WWI. There is some overlap in material with Series “III. Personal” since the exact form of his relationships to some correspondents in unknown. The majority of the materials in this series are handwritten in German although there are some materials in English and French; some are typed. This series is arranged chronologically.
Series “II. Research, writings, lectures” dates from 1872 to 1946, with bulk dates of 1895 to 1917. This series includes many of Jessen’s diaries and date books, bibliography cards, manuscripts and manuscript drafts, lecture drafts and notes, and German-American newsletters and clippings. Most of the materials relate to German culture, Socialism, anti-Imperialism, and Jessen’s professional research interests. Researchers interested in German-American Socialism and German romantic nationalism leading up to World War I will find this series particularly useful. The majority of the materials in this series is in German; both typed and autograph records are present. This series is arranged chronologically.
Series “III. Personal” dates from 1890 to 1980, with bulk dates of 1890 to 1912. This series includes scrapbooks, diplomas and certificates, correspondence with close friends and family members, and genealogical notes. Also included are several photographs of Jessen and various colleagues, as well as personal mementos from professional events and official documents regarding immigration and citizenship. Notable correspondents include Myra Jessen, Berta and Marie Muller, Maria Jessen (Karl Jessen’s mother), Heinrich Freese, and Illona Benda (Jessen’s first wife). There is some overlap in material with Series “I. Correspondence,” as Jessen’s relationship with several correspondents is not immediately discernable. The bulk of the materials in this series are typed, printed, or handwritten in German. This series is arranged chronologically.
This collection is especially significant in its evidence of anti-German sentiment early in World War I, as well as documentation of the growing Socialist movement in the United States before the Bolshevik Revolution. Researchers may also find this collection useful to trace the study of German romantic and mystic literature. Additionally, those interested in Jessen’s family and personal life will find many letters, especially to Berta Muller, particularly abundant.
- 1872 - 1980
- Majority of material found within 1890 - 1917
- Jessen, Karl Detlev (Person)
Language of Materials
Materials are in German, French, and English.
Limitations on Accessing the Collection
This collection is open for research use.
Copyright and Rights Information
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
Biographical / Historical
Karl Detlev Jessen (1872-1919) was a professor of German Literature at Bryn Mawr College from 1910 to 1919. As a young man, Jessen traveled to the United States in 1892 to teach for a time at the University of Iowa. Upon receiving his Ph.D. from Berlin in 1901, he took up a teaching position at Harvard until he came to Bryn Mawr in 1910. He married Ilona Benda in 1901, although the two later separated and divorced at an unknown date. In 1915, he married Myra Richards, a fellow professor at Bryn Mawr. Together they had one daughter, Ingeborg, in 1917. He was involved with the American and German Socialist movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a German immigrant, Jessen was subjected to harassment as a result of anti-German sentiment caused by World War I. He died of acute appendicitis when he was only forty-seven years old.
6.2 Linear Feet (13 document boxes, 3 items)
Karl Detlev Jessen (1872-1919) was a professor of German Literature at Bryn Mawr College from 1910 to 1919. He was involved with the Socialist movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Karl D. Jessen papers house the records of Karl D. Jessen. This collection dates from 1872 to 1980, with bulk dates of 1890 to 1917. This collection consists mostly of correspondence between Jessen and his family, friends, and colleagues, in addition to manuscripts and manuscript drafts, clippings, scrapbooks, bibliography cards of Jessen’s research, and other ephemera.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Ingeborg Jessen Shields; 1984, 2013.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.
- Karl D. Jessen papers
- Annalise Berdini, Christiana Dobrzynski Grippe, and Megan Evans
- 2014 September 26
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
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 reproductions from Bryn Mawr College Library
Bryn Mawr College Library
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