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John Adams Papers

Identifier: MS-0377

Scope and Contents

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.

[url=]Now available online[/url], 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.


  • Creation: 1919-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1930-1979


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

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.


1.46 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Publications, 1921-74

II. San Diego State College, 1931-1972

III. San Diego Union, 1931-1982

IV. Personal, 1926-1977

Source of Acquisition

John Adams



Related Materials

Jane Adams Recipe and Menu Collection, 1920-1959

John and Jane Adams Artwork Collection, 1890-1936

John and Jane Adams Autograph Album Collection, 1851-1933

John and Jane Adams Ephemera Collection, 1856-1996

John and Jane Adams Greeting Card Collection, 1830-1970

John and Jane Adams Photograph Collection, 1840-1946

John and Jane Adams Postcard Collection, 1880-2007

John and Jane Adams Trade Card Collection, 1975-1915

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

John Adams Papers
Ellen E. Jarosz
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US