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Nelson Fuson photographs of Civilian Public Service (CPS)


Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 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

Nelson Fuson was a physicist and educator, active in Quaker concerns. He was born September 4, 1913, in Guang-zhou (Canton), China, the son of American Presbyterian missionaries; he had two brothers, Ben and William. His parents, Chester and Phebe (Meeker) Fuson worked in China from 1905-1949, and Nelson spent most of his first 15 years in China before returning to the U.S. to complete his high school education in Emporia, Kansas. He graduated from the College of Emporia in 1934 and earned an M.A. in physics and astronomy from Kansas University in 1934. In 1938 he earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan, and from 1938-1941, he taught at Rutgers University, N.J.

In 1941 Fuson was drafted as conscientious objector. He wrote that his childhood experiences influenced him to be a life-long pacifist. In 1941, he reported to CPS Unit #3, Patapsco, Maryland, administered by the American Friends Service Committee, where he worked with the Park Service. In February 1942 he was selected to report to Camp #6 in Lagro, Indiana, to train for a China Unit for humanitarian relief in Canton, administered by Church of the Brethren.

In August 1942 he was detached to Columbia University to participate in a joint civilian/military seminar in International Administration, preparing for post-war occupation and relief. In April 1943, he left Columbia to join the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia, training a new China Unit, CPS #99. During this time, he lived at Pendle Hill, the Quaker study center in Wallingford, Pa., and met his future wife, Marian Darnell. That summer, approving the so-called Starnes Rider to an appropriations bill, Congress refused to send conscientious objectors to participate in service work outside of the U.S., so the China Unit was effectively cancelled. In September 1943, Fuson was transferred to CPS Camp #46, Big Flats, N.Y., where he worked on a conservation and nursery program. In late March 1944, he was transferred to Camp #94, Trenton, N.D., involved in an agricultural project.

In January 1945, he was again assigned to detached service, CPS #115, this time at the University of Michigan to do physics research on infrared spectroscopy, under the administration of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). He and Marian Darnell, a birthright Quaker, were married at Moorestown Meeting, N.J., on June 23, 1945. Marian Haines Darnell was the daughter of Howard C. Darnell and Helen Wills Darnell. She was born on 5th month 19, 1920, in Moorestown, New Jersey. Nelson Fuson became a member of the Society of Friends on Dec. 1, 1953. Nelson had long prepared to do relief service in China, but by the end of the War, political and personal concerns had made that impractical. Rather, he began his academic career, still committed to peace and humanitarian relief.

From 1946-1948, Nelson taught at Johns Hopkins University. He taught for one year at Howard University and in 1949 joined the faculty of Fisk University, Tennessee, where he remained until his retirement, serving as Chairman of the Physics Department and director of the Infrared Spectroscopy research laboratory. During his tenure at Fisk, he took a long sabbatical (1956-1959) to research and teach at the University of Bordeaux, France. He and Marian had two sons, Allen and Dan. They were founding members of Nashville Monthly Meeting and Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and active in the AFSC International Seminar program, Friends General Conference, and desegregation and peace activities.

In 1998, Nelson and Marian Fuson moved to Kendal-at Longwood, Kennett Square, Pa., a Quaker retirement community. Nelson Fuson died February 5, 2006.

This collection includes loose black and white photos and black and white scrapbook pages, along with a handdrawn map.

Gift of Marian Darnell Fuson, 9/30/2006 (Accession number: 2006-017). Part of RG5/261.

This collection was removed from RG5/261: Nelson Fuson family papers.

Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Finding Aid Author
Zoe Peyton Jones
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

This collection is available for research use.

Use Restrictions

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

Collection Inventory

1. Group photo.
2. Group in meeting.
3. " 'Doc' teaches China—Lagro CPS China Unit.".
4. "Sollenberger lecture on China—Lagro CPS China Unit.".

2 photocopies of news articles relating to tornado.
5-31. Small photos of CPS unit, tornado damage, repair work.
32. Man holding piece of bamboo as a flute.
33. "CPS China Unit in Goshen tornado, March '42." Tornado damage (Small and a larger reproduction.).
34. "CPS China Unit in Goshen tornado, March '42." Tornado damage (Small and a larger reproduction.).
35. "CPS China Unit in Goshen tornado, March '42." Tornado damage (Small and a larger reproduction.).

36. The BSC CPS group at Columbia University.
Scope and Contents

Relief Admin. Training core, left to right: Bonnie Snavely now at CPS College Park Maryland, me now here at Big Flats, Chuck Webb now at some CPS hospital unit, Tartt [?] Bell now Ed. Dir. – Alexei, Gene Kidder now in army, Howard Gustafson now at V.I. (in charge of Satterhwase[?]!), Rufus King now at P.R. (in charge of all 3 units there)."

37. Group.
38. Group.
39. "NF & Jim Hatchett on project at Big Flats NY 12/43".
40. "Big Flats CPS 43-44".
41. "Bill Fuson CPS Big Flats laundry man Jan 1944".
42. "Going to bkfast? At Big Flats CPS Sunday ~Jan '44".
43. "Big Flats CPS Jan '44. Daryl Randall & Nelson".
44. "Big Flats NY CPS 43-44".
45. "Harry Burke, E.B. Fuciher, John Swain—the 'Delta' Society of Crew #1 CPS Big Flats NY Jan 1944.".
46. "Big Flats CPS ~Jan. '44".
47. "Big Flats, NY CPS camp ~9/43".
48. "Hagner, L. Tange, Kilner, Tylutke, Savery, McWhirter, Blumberg on project. Big Flats, Ny CPs camp 9/43".

49. CPS Trenton N. Dak—Group assembled to 'send off' the camp delegation to the S.P. Election Year Political S[?] in Pittburgh, PA in August '44.
Scope and Contents

Left to right: Galen Cain, George Willoughby, Chris Johnson, Jack Woodward, Ben Stalver, Andy Hain, Owen Johnson, (head?), Ed Moyer (squatting), Hawk Dyer, Lea Spring, Oscar Johnson, Mark Kurtz, Bill Darr, Tom Rusch, _____, Keith Slawanson, Olin Byerly, Fran Groasdal, N.F."

50. "Some of the Daily Scripture Reading Group. CPS 94, Trenton N. Dak Jan 1945.".
Scope and Contents

Back row: Forrest Earl, Tom Mitchell, John Plew, Bob Mathes, Ted Pfeiffer. Front row: Ogden Hannaford, Canby Jones, Roy Thurman, Grant Frazer.

51-60. 5x7 photographs of CPS camp and work in progress.
61. Map of work area, hand-drawn.

"Indian Mt. School Seminar, July-Aug. 1947.".
Scope and Contents

15 pages

"Tacke Family, 46-48.".
Scope and Contents

1 page.

"San Cristobal Seminar, N.M., 1948." .
Scope and Contents

29 pages. Folder also included a loose photograph of a toddler: "Maria-Alex, 15 months old. G. & E. Bakakais, Xmas 1954."

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