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Herbert Nicholson papers


Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Herbert Nicholson (1892-1983) was born in 1892 in Rochester, New York, to Quaker parents. Nicholson was educated at Quaker schools, including Haverford College. On his 23rd birthday, he announced that he wanted to become a missionary in Japan. In 1915, he began working as secretary to Gilbert Bowles, a Quaker missionary in Tokyo, where he met Congregational missionary Madeline Waterhouse, whom he married in 1920. In 1922, feeling the call of rural duty, the couple relocated to Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture, where farmers were less responsive to proselytizing than to practical aid. Nicholson started a savings account program for them, launched a goat farm, involved himself in the temperance movement, built a home for the aged, and ministered to people affected by leprosy. In the late 1930s, Japan's aggressive military incursions in China and the resulting political tensions between Japan and the United States hampered the Nicholsons' ability to work and live in Japan. They returned to the United States in 1940, and settled in Pasadena, California. During World War II, in addition to offering spiritual succor and ferrying belongings and people between concentration camps, detention centers, and medical facilities, Nicholson defended prisoners in speeches at churches and community organizations, traveled to military bases to comfort Nisei soldiers, and to the halls of power in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the release of their families from prison camps. When Nicholson was approached to fill in for an ailing Methodist minister at the all-Japanese American West Los Angeles Methodist Church in 1940 for $40 a month, he agreed, preaching in both English and Japanese while Madeline served as Sunday School superintendent.

This collection is comprised of the papers of Herbert Nicholson. It includes sections of a manuscript, possibly "Valiant Odyssey: Herbert Nicholson in and out of America's concentration camps"; letters to Herbert Nicholson from individuals he met in Japan, some thanking him for his efforts to aid Japanese-Americans in the United States after World War II began; photographs of Herbert Nicholson and others; and Nicholson's research notes related to Japanese internment.


Processed by Kara Flynn; completed March, 2016.

Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Kara Flynn
Finding Aid Date
March, 2016
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Collection Inventory

Correspondence, 1949-1982.
Box 31 Folder 1
Scope and Content note

Typed and handwritten correspondence addressed to Herbert Nicholson, some letters thanking him for his efforts to aid Japanese-Americans in the U.S. after World War II began.

Manuscript, 1973.
Box 31 Folder 2
Scope and Content note

Sections of a book, entitled Valiant Odyssey by Herbert Nicholson, edited by Michi Weglyn and Betty E. Mitson.

Photographs, Undated.
Box 31 Folder 3
Scope and Content note

Photographs of Herbert Nicholson and various family members.

Research notes, Undated.
Box 31 Folder 4
Scope and Content note

Typed lists, including a "list of the people who contributed in Mito for Nicholson's journey in Japan," "list of the people who attended Sunday Worship and Luncheon in Mito," a list of letters from the people who did not attend the welcome party in Mito, a map of Relocation Centers and Prisoner of War camps, and a map of Japan.

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