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Marion Dexter Learned papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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

Marion Dexter Learned was born near Dover, Delaware, of parents of English and Welsh heritage. After graduating from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he served for four years as the chair of ancient and modern languages at Dickinson Seminary in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He went on to pursue graduate work in German at Johns Hopkins University, and in the course of his studies visited Germany for the first time in 1885, when he studied for several months at the University of Leipzig. He received a Ph.D. in German from Johns Hopkins in 1887, and subsequently taught there, eventually reaching the rank of associate professor of German. In 1895, Learned moved to the University of Pennsylvania, where he became professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and also served as the department's first chair. German-American cultural intersections were a major area of Learned's scholarly interest. His publications included, for example, The Pennsylvania German Dialect (1889), "Anfänge der deutschen Kultur in Amerika" (1893), The German American Turner Lyric (1897), and The Life of Francis Daniel Pastorius (1908). He gave academic addresses on such topics such as "German Influence in America" (Baltimore, 1892-1893), "German as a Culture Element in American Education" (Cincinnati, 1898) and "The Turner as Champions of American Liberty" (Allegheny, PA, ca. 1900). Learned was the founder, in 1897, of the monograph series Americana Germanica, and later, of the related German American Annals, both devoted to the comparative study of the historical, literary, linguistic, and other cultural relations of Germany and America. Among his many other accomplishments and honors, Learned was the organizer of the Association of Teachers of German in Pennsylvania; served as president of the National German-American Teachers Alliance (Nationaler Deutsch-Amerikanischer Lehrerbund), from 1899 to 1901; and helped to found the German-American Historical Society, in 1901.

The collection comprises mainly correspondence, writings, and research notes and materials of Marion Dexter Learned. The great majority of the items are related to an unfinished scholarly project of Learned that took its focus from a Wilhelm Tell ballad that was published in Philadelphia in 1768, by the German-born printer Heinrich Miller (Ein schön Lied von dem schweizerischen Erz-Freyheitssohn Wilhelm Thellen, dem Urheber der Löbl. Eydgenossenschaft, samt einem andern Liede von dem Ursprung und Herkommen der Schweizer). In order to illuminate the background of this publication of the Tell ballad in the colonial American context, Professor Learned set about tracing the evolution of the ballad from its earliest beginnings to 1768, through examination of manuscripts and publications in Europe. The result of his research took shape in an outline and preliminary draft on small note paper (folder 23); a fragmentary manuscript consisting mostly of notes on versions of the ballads (folder 17); and a later manuscript of over a hundred leaves (folders 18-21).

In addition, the collection includes related correspondence to Learned from libraries and archives in Germany, Switzerland, France, and the United States, dated 1903 to 1906 (folders 11-13); photographic reproductions and handwritten transcriptions of different versions of the Tell ballad and associated works, many of them with annotations by Learned (folders 34-50); and loose notes by Learned, including charts and analyses of song variations (folders 23-33). Among these materials is what appears to be a prototype of the journal Americana Germanica, which was founded by Learned and began publication in 1897. Dated 1896, it offers a transcription of the 1768 Wilhelm Tell publication in Philadelphia (folder 44).

Aside from the materials related to the Wilhelm Tell project, the collection includes a sparse assembly of general correspondence to Learned from 11 correspondents (folders 1-11) on a variety of matters, mostly related to his scholarly work or academic responsibilities; two personal documents related to his studies at the University of Leipzig during his graduate-student years (folder 15 and oversize item in map drawer); printed copies of two speeches by him (folder 22); miscellaneous research materials collected by him, including some copies from German archives that seem to concern German immigration to America (folders 52 and 53); and some miscellaneous publications collected by him, a few of which relate to German-American concerns from around the turn of the century (folders 55 and 56).

Gift of Marion Dexter Learned, circa 1917.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Violet Lutz
Finding Aid Date
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Collection Inventory

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Ames, Herman Vandenburg (Dean of Graduate School, University of Pennsylvania).
Box 1 Folder 1
Avil Printing Co.
Box 1 Folder 2
Block, Paul (editor of the newspaper Berliner Tageblatt).
Box 1 Folder 3
Bradford, C.S. (photographer).
Box 1 Folder 4
Ellicott, Eugene (Assistant to Provost, University of Pennsylvania). Includes enclosures to Ellicott from Samuel H. Dean and Charles D. Kreider.
Box 1 Folder 5
Girard Life Insurance, Annuity, and Trust Company.
Box 1 Folder 6
Goepel, Paul (President of Liederkranz, Philadelphia).
Box 1 Folder 7
Howard, Burt Estes (professor; friend of Learned).
Box 1 Folder 8
Leary, Stuart & Co. (bookstore).
Box 1 Folder 9
Quick, Fritz (bookseller and archivist). Concerns research for Learned's Pastorius biography.
Box 1 Folder 10
Voretzsch, Max. Copy of his article "Ein Blick auf die Vergangenheit der Stadt Altenburg" (1890), dedicated to Learned. .
Box 1 Folder 11
B. Correspondence concerning Wilhelm Tell songs.
Box 1 Folder 12-14
Arrangement and Description

Arranged chronologically, this correspondence is mostly from libraries and archives. A few drafts of letters by Learned are included.


See also: Oversize (Series VII)

Universität Leipzig certificate for philology studies , 1885.
Box 1 Folder 15

"The Wartburg: the watchtower of the Reformation," handwritten manuscript, 3 leaves, undated.
Box 1 Folder 16
"Tell ballad," handwritten notes and analyses, 37 leaves, undated.
Box 1 Folder 17
[The Wilhelm Tell ballads in Europe and America], handwritten manuscript, 107 pages plus additional leaves of inserts and related material , undated.
Box 1 Folder 18-21

The working title appears in Learned's outline, found among his notes (folder 23).

"Philology and the study of literature," delivered at the commencement of John Hopkins University in June 1895. Printed copy.
Box 2 Folder 22
"Differentiation and environment in modern language instruction," paper read at a meeting of the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, in Easton, PA, undated. Printed copy.
Box 2 Folder 22

Wilhelm Tell notes.
Box 2 Folder 23-33

Includes an outline of the manuscript; fragmentary drafts and research notes, with bibliographic references; analyses and charts detailing variations among versions of the Wilhelm Tell ballads.

Copies of ballads of Wilhelm Tell and associated works.
Box 3 Folder 34-50
Arrangement and Description

Arranged roughly in chronological order of the works, with similar materials grouped together. The copies are in the form of photographic reproductions and handwritten transcriptions from manuscripts or publications, sometimes with accompanying correspondence from libraries/archives where items are located, and/or annotations by Learned.

Copies of materials related to Learned's biography of Francis Daniel Pastorius (most or all are reproduced in the book published in 1908).
Box 3 Folder 51
Copies of materials related to German immigration to America (?), from Kreisarchiv Neuburg an der Donau .
Box 3 Folder 52
Copies of materials related to German immigration to America (?), from Kreisarchiv Speyer .
Box 3 Folder 53
Notes by Learned on various topics .
Box 3 Folder 54

* handwritten notes on August Mühlhausen's Geschichte des grimmischen Wörterbuchs(1888)
* handwritten notes on Reinhold Becker's Der altheimische Minnesang (1882)
* typed transcription of the Old Norse song "Geyta Tattur," from Faeröiske Kvaeder edited by Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb (1851-1855)

Two brochures in German promoting German participation in the 1904 World's Fair, St. Louis, Berlin, 1903.
Box 3 Folder 55

Both items by Dr. Hermann Fabri, and issued by the Centralbureau zur Vertretung und Förderung deutscher Interessen auf der Weltausstellung in St. Louis 1904.

New Immigrants' Protective League (Neue Schutzliga für Einwanderer), No. 3, New York, NY, 1906.
Box 3 Folder 56
Publisher's brochure for the series Miniaturen aus Handschriften der Königl. Hof- und Staatsbibliothek München, ed. Georg Leidinger (Munich: Riehn & Tietze, 1912 ff.), with insert (sample reproduction).
Box 3 Folder 57
Miscellaneous scholarly articles.
Box 3 Folder 58

* Deike, Wilhelm. Schillers Ansichten über die tragische Kunst verglichen mit denen des Aristoteles (Helmstedt: printed by J. C. Schmid, 1891; dissertation, Jena)
* Hasse, Ernst. Schillers "Glocke" und das griechische Chorlied, circa 1890s (königliche Gymnasium zu Breitenstein)
* Heidrich, R. Das theologische System des Meister Eckhart (Posen: W. Decker & Comp., 1864)

Universität Leipzig certificate of Marion Dexter Learned for study of philology (in Latin) , 1885.
Drawer 39 Folder 59

Print, Suggest