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Rodney Gilbert Papers

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Gilbert, Rodney, 1889-
Title: Rodney Gilbert Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1910-1968
Quantity: 6 linear ft.
Abstract: American journalist, Far East expert. Collection includes correspondence, clippings, photographs, published material, notebooks, artifacts and other material.
Language: Majority in English, some items in Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian.
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Rodney Gilbert (1889-1968) was an American conservative editorial writer and newspaper columnist.

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Gilbert graduated from Franklin and Marshall College. In 1912 Gilbert went to China to travel the country; he began as a salesman for Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People but ended up spending 17 years there, becoming fluent in Chinese and eventually working as a correspondent for the North China Daily News. In 1926 his series of columns on traveling in Chinese Turkestan were compiled into his first book, What's Wrong With China. He was a strong supporter of Chinese nationalism and of Chiang Kai-Shek, and firmly anti-Communist.

In 1929 he joined the staff of the Herald Tribune as an editorial writer and returned to the United States. His editorials, which were largely conservative and anti-Communist in nature and which were published under the pseudonym "Heptisax," appeared regularly for 15 years, until 1944. From 1944 to 1946 Gilbert served as Dean of the Post-Graduate School of Journalism of the Central Political Institute of Chungking, organized and established under the auspices of Columbia University. Later, he collaborated with Columbia University to bring Chinese journalism students to the United States to study.

In addition to his Heptisax column, articles and book reviews under his own byline frequently appeared in the Herald Tribune and, later, in conservative-leaning magazines such American Legion and National Review.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Rodney Gilbert Papers consists of biographical material, correspondence, memorabilia, photographs, propaganda and writings.

Biographical material consists of a semi-humorous curriculum vitae by Gilbert of his activities to 1953.

Correspondence spans more than fifty years, and includes both incoming and outgoing items. The earliest correspondence is to his friend Francis Lyman Windolph, and consists of numerous long letters detailing his experiences during his first years in China (1912-1916). Notable correspondents include Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, OSS director William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan, Chinese ambassador Hollington Tong, Nancy Yu (Yu Meng-Yen), founder and editor of Taiwan's English-language newspaper The China Post, Commissioner of Narcotics H. J. Anslinger, and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), for whom Gilbert engaged in anti-Japanese propaganda work. There is also correspondence with various publishers and editors, including Alfred Knopf, E. P. Dutton & Co., Ray Henle (Three Star Extra), Eugene Lyons (Readers Digest), and Frederic Nelson (Saturday Evening Post). Several folders of material relate to Gilbert's work with Columbia University: as lecturer, as Dean of the Post-Graduate School of Journalism of the Central Political Institute of Chungking (a Columbia University project), and with regards to a project to bring Chinese journalism students to the United States to study.

Memorabilia is a mixture of personal items and items collected by Gilbert as souvenirs. Personal items include a date book, clippings about Gilbert, a flag signed with Chinese characters (possibly by his students in Chungking), and various legal documents (alien registration card, military cards, press card, etc.). Of particular interest is a sheet of paper in an unidentified script which, according to an accompanying note, is a tribal safe-conduct letter for Gilbert during his travels in Mongolia. Souvenirs include maps, a Chungking city directory, clippings and typescripts of articles by other journalists such as Dorothy Thompson, and a dozen or so very nice examples of black-and-white block-printed Chinese paper, some with highly detailed designs.

The collection contains a large number of Photographs, some in albums and others loose. Many of the photographs in albums have captions, and a few of the loose photographs are captioned on the back. Photographs include people, places, buildings, landscapes and so on from China, Taiwan and Mongolia. The vast majority are candid shots, presumably taken by Gilbert, but there are also some official photographs from the Chinese Ministry of Information. In some cases, the photographs were in a labeled or addressed envelope; these items have been kept together so as to retain the original organization.

Propaganda consists of both printed/published items as well as "messages" designed (and in some cases illustrated) by Gilbert, with sketches and typed drafts. The majority is anti-Japanese in nature, having been done during World War II, but there is also some anti-Communist propaganda from the 1950s.

Writings contains a wide range of pieces by Gilbert, the majority of which center around his expertise in Asia generally and China specifically; two prevalent topics are the threat of Communism and the danger of narcotics. This series consists of articles for various newspapers and magazines; book reviews written for the Herald Tribune; a book manuscript; more than 15 years of weekly editorials written for the Herald Tribune; columns written for the same paper under the pseudonym "Heptisax"; Gilbert's personal journals from China; letters to the editor, both as himself and as "Heptisax"; speeches; and assorted miscellaneous notes and drafts.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by sender and, within that, chronologically. Other material is arranged alphabetically by type or title, where possible. Editorials and Heptisax columns are arranged chronologically.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

Several of Gilbert's books have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate these titles. A list of these titles is provided in the collection (see Writings : Books : Miscellaneous below).

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Subject Headings


Browder, Earl, 1891-1973.
Chennault, Claire Lee, 1893-1958.
Chiang, May-ling Soong, 1897-2003.
Donovan, William J. (William Joseph), 1883-1959.
Elliston, Herbert Berridge.
FitzGerald, Desmond, 1888-1947.
Gilbert, Rodney, 1889-
Hornbeck, Stanley Kuhl, 1883-1966.
Kao, George, 1912-2008.
Tong, Hollington Kong, 1887-1971.
Windolph, F. Lyman (Francis Lyman), 1889-1978.

Corporate Bodies

New York herald tribune.
United States. -- Office of Strategic Services.


Journalism -- China -- History.
Journalism -- China.
Journalism -- Taiwan.
Journalists -- United States.
Psychological warfare -- China.
Psychological warfare -- Japan.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Propaganda.


China -- Foreign relations.
China -- Politics and government -- 1912-1949.
China -- Travel and description.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts for publication.



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Rodney Gilbert Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. H. M. Gilbert, 1968.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 25 Apr 2010
Revision history: 5 Apr 2013 - processed (MRC); 9 Mar 2016 - bioghist correction (MRC)

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Biographical material
Box 1 Autobiographical sketch, by Gilbert - to 1953
Box 1 Alfred A. Knopf 1944
Box 1 American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations 1938 - confidential report for those attending conference on "Problems of American Far East Policy," Princeton, New Jersey
Box 1 American Mercury
Box 1 Anslinger, H. J. (Harry J.) 1942, 1954-1962 - commissioner of narcotics; includes some printed items by Anslinger
Box 1 Asia (magazine) 1931 - includes several photographs and clippings, annotated by Gilbert, used for an article in the May 31, 1931 issue
See also Writings : Articles : Asia (magazine).
Box 1 Blair, C. Ledyard 1943 - includes a number of clippings by Leo Wolman
Box 1 Cahn, Julius 1954 - includes memo on a meeting of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on International Opium Protocol
Box 1 Chennault, Claire 1945 - regarding the "indoctrination and training of graduates from the Chungking School of Journalism"
Box 1 Chiang Kai-Shek, Madame 1950, 1955-1957 - long chatty letters to Gilbert; printed copy of an "Easter Meditation"
Box 1 Christian Science Monitor 1944-1949
Columbia University
Box 1 Correspondence 1943-1959
Box 1 Printed material 1943, 1945, undated - includes Columbia University Press catalog (1943), a report from the Dean on the Chinese Post-Graduate School of Journalism in Chungking, and a copy of the loyalty oath required of all university professors
Box 1 Student work - copies of papers written by students, presumably as assignments for a journalism course
Box 1 "Students - Chungking" - originally in an envelope with this label hand-written on it; includes correspondence with Dean Ackerman, faculty at other universities, and the students themselves
See also Kao, George; Yu, Nancy
Box 1 Miscellany
Box 1 Conley, Tom 1953-1955
Box 1 Davis, R. W. 1935, 1941
Box 1 Donovan, William J. 1948, 1953
Box 1 E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1956
Box 1 Elliston, Herbert 1956 - includes several clippings of articles by Elliston
Box 1 Epstein, Julius 1953 - mentions Gilbert's assistance to "me and the Katyn Committee, back in 1949"
Box 1 Explorers Club 1942 - regarding something called tsamba
Box 1 Fitzgerald, Desmond 1954 - includes letter to Fitzgerald from Hollington Tong, regarding "the character of a race"
Box 1 Forum (magazine) 1931 - relates to Gilbert's article, "Motormania"
See also Writings : Articles : Forum (magazine) for copy of article
Box 1 Fraser, David 1943 - includes clipping of letter to the editor from Fraser, on Marshal Badoglio in Italy
Gilbert, C. V. (Mrs.) (mother) 1911
Box 1 Gilbert, Hilda Murray (wife?) undated
Box 1 Hall, Charlie 1954, 1957
Box 1 Henle, Ray 1954
Box 1 Heptisax reader mail 1938-1944, 1948, 1959, undated (2 folders)
See also Writings : Heptisax columns : Reader responses for published responses to Heptisax columns.
Box 2 Herald Tribune 1938-1944, 1956, 1961-1962
Box 2 Hoover, Herbert 1943, 1957
Box 2 Hornbeck, Stanley 1943-1944, 1956, 1962-1963
Box 2 Hsia, C. L. 1944, 1946 - with China News Service
Box 2 Hunt, Betty Knowles 1947, 1956
Box 2 Hutton, E. F. 1947 - typescript of speech given by Hutton before the Long Island Association
Box 2 K---, Ralph J. 1956
Box 2 Kao, George 1943, 1947 - includes transcript of article, "The Mikado Must Go"
Box 2 Kohlberg, Alfred 1957
Box 2 Loeb, William 1966
Box 2 Lyons, Eugene 1947, 1956-1957
Box 2 MacAlarney, Robert Emmet 1944, undated
Manchester Union Leader
See Loeb, William.
Box 2 Munson, Lyle H. 1950-1959, undated - includes numerous clippings without a byline, some of which may be by Gilbert
See also Writings : Articles : "For Lyle".
Box 2 Murray, Gladstone 1948 - includes "copies of three memoranda which I have prepared" on propaganda
Box 2 Murray, John 1938-1939 - bank drafts
Box 2 Myers, W. D. ("Dick") 1955
Box 2 "N. C. N." 1956 - only the writer's initials are given; an "N.C.N." is also mentioned in a few other letters
Box 2 National Review 1956-1958
Box 2 Nelson, Frederic 1947, 1953, 1954, 1957
Box 2 North, Maxine (Mrs. Robert Guilford North) 1958
Box 2 OSS (Office of Strategic Services) 1944-1948
Box 2 Paterson, Isabel 1943
Box 2 Pratt, F. L. 1943
Box 2 Pyne, H. Rivington 1942-1943
Box 2 Raman, T. E. 1943
Reader's Digest
See Lyons, Eugene.
Box 2 Remington, W. E. (Woodbern Edwin) 1941 - regarding his book, Cross Winds of Empire
Saturday Evening Post
See Nelson, Frederic.
Box 2 Simkins, Willard 1944, 1957
Box 2 Smith, H. Alexander 1950, 1957
Box 2 Socialist Labor Party 1949 - includes printed pamphlet, "Socialist Labor Party and the War"
Box 2 Sokolsky, George 1944 - includes two clippings of columns by Sokolsky
Soong Mei-ling
See Chiang Kai-Shek, Madame.
Box 2 Syngman Rhee 1942
Box 2 Tan, Alfred undated
Three Star Extra
See Henle, Ray.
Box 2 Tong, Hollington 1946, 1954-1957 - Chinese ambassador; includes clipping of column by Herbert Elliston
See also Fitzgerald, Desmond.
Box 2 Tooker, John C. 1946
Box 2 Tsiang Tingfu 1950, 1955
Box 2 Tseng H. P. 1946-1947, 1950
Box 2 Vaillancourt, Emile 1943-1944 - includes copy of "Canada's Mission in a Free World," an address to the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa
Box 2 W. H. Donald Scholarship 1950
Box 2 Wang Chi-Chen 1939, 1943-1944, 1949, 1963 - includes reprint of monograph, "Lusin: A Chronological Record" by Wang
Box 2 Wei, Jimmy 1955, 1957, undated
Box 2 Weisshart, Herb ("Bosco") 1955, 1957
Box 2 William, Maurice 1936-1942 - includes carbon copies of letters from William to others, as well as typed transcriptions of news clippings, speeches etc. by Walter Lippman and others
Box 2 Willkie, Wendell undated - 4-page letter from Gilbert to Willkie on political matters
Box 3 Windolph, F. Lyman 1912-1916, 1922, 1929, 1956, 1968 - last item is a letter from Windolph to Gilbert's widow, indicating that he is sending her the other letters
Box 3 Winslow, Alan undated
Wolman, Leo
See Blair, C. Ledyard.
Box 3 Yeh, George K. C. 1960-1961 - on Chinese Embassy letterhead
Box 3 Yu, Nancy (Yu Meng-Yen) 1945-1946 - editor of China Post; includes lengthy letters from Gilbert about his activities
Box 3 Miscellaneous, A-Z
Box 3 Unidentified, from Gilbert 1944, 1948, 1955-1956, 1958, undated
Box 3 Unidentified, to Gilbert 1940, 1947, 1954, undated - includes 4-page handwritten unsigned note which may be from Gilbert, and a 3-page letter in beautiful Chinese calligraphy
Box 3 Calendar / date book 1945
Oversize 1 Chinese papers - numerous examples of block-printed Chinese paper, varying sizes, all in black and white, some very complex designs
Oversize 2 Chungking Reporter 1944-1945 - 5 issues, including one with headline about Japanese surrender
Box 3 Clippings about Gilbert 1936, 1938, 1943, 1946, 1956, 1961 - includes announcements of his posting to China, reviews of his books, etc.
Box 3 Clippings, miscellaneous 1936-1966 - press releases from China New Service; part of a Christmas address by Chiang Kai-Shek; clippings of columns by Damon Runyon, Dorothy Thompson, others; an annotated cartoon; miscellaneous other items
Box 3 Flag - Chinese flag, with handwritten Chinese characters on star
Box 3 Legal documents 1944, 1950, undated - alien registration card, military passes, travel passes, etc.
Oversize 2 Maps - in Chinese, Japanese and English
Box 3 Safe-conduct letter 1913 - according to accompanying documentation, the first lines translate as "business at the office of the Horde" and the document was "written by Makhsut Padshah...Imperial Prince of Hanni, to the Chonglari, meaning the great ones of [the] mountain communities northeast of Hanni...recommending Rodney Gilbert to their care" (2 folders)
Box 3 Miscellaneous - Chungking city directory; coin; blank certificate of service in the war against Japan; handwritten Chinese characters; etc.
Box 4 Album (1) [1916?] - cover says "Tabul 1916" but it is not certain this is correct; faded photos of people, places, animals; most have penciled captions, many of which include the appellation "Mongol"
Box 4 Album (2) 1912-1913 - color photos of buildings, people, places in China; some have captions
Album (3) undated - black and white photos, most of buildings but some of soldiers; no captions
Album (4) Oct 1916 - very faded black and white photos, most of landscapes, buildings, etc.; no captions
Box 4 "Mr. Donald..." undated - several photos with accompanying note
Box 4 "To Mrs. C. V. Gilbert" [1913?] - group photo with long, detailed inscription on back
Box 4 "From Mrs. Sao-Ke Alfred Sze" undated - black and white photos, various sizes, some with captions; originally in an envelope addressed to Gilbert
Box 4 Miscellaneous - black and white photos found loose in boxes; mostly candid shots with a few official photos stamped on the back "Ministry of Information, Republic of China"; a few have captions but most do not
See also Correspondence : Asia (magazine) for original photos used in article published therein
Box 5 21 Points of the Third International [Congress of Communist International], Moscow 1920
Box 5 Messages developed - typescripts, printed material, notes, etc. of propaganda items developed by Gilbert
Box 5 Published material - postcards; booklet, "Illustrated History of Sino-Russian Relations"; booklet, "The Great Swindle" (annotated by Gilbert); booklet, "Selection of Chinese Communist Posters and Comic Books"; sheet music, "The Guerrilla Marching Song"; etc.
Box 5 "A Traveler in China's Wild Northwest" undated - scrapbook of articles about Gilbert's travels; apparently published in serial form over several months
Box 5 American Legion (magazine) 1954-1955, 1962-1963 - Dope; What You Should Know About Red China; The Price We Pay for Dope; Vice, Crime and Marijuana
Box 5 American Mercury (magazine) Dec 1954 - We Have a Law Against Russian Imports
Box 5 Asia (magazine) 1931-1933 - Amends to the Camel; China's Shadow Land; Bedlam in Shanghai; Japan Goes into Reverse Against Russia; In the Saddles of the Huns
See also Correspondence : Asia (magazine) for letter and original photos
Oversize 2 Chicago Sunday Tribune (newspaper) circa 1910 - articles on Anna Strunsky, Maria-Teresa of Saxony, Virginia Brooks, and "Lands that have sunk beneath the sea"
Box 5 China Post (newspaper) 1957, 1961, undated
Christian Science Monitor
See "Monitor".
Box 5 Cunarder (magazine) Mar 1931 - Dining Out in China
Box 5 Forum (magazine) May 1931 - Motormania
See also Correspondence : Forum for reader responses.
Box 5 The Freeman (magazine) Nov 1950 - Plan for Counter-Action
Box 5 Herald Tribune (newspaper) 1951, 1953, 1961, 1963 - articles written after Gilbert was no longer on the editorial staff
Box 5 Liberty (magazine) Jan 1931 - The Fragrant Worm (fiction)
Box 5 Literary Digest (magazine) Nov 1933 - Dope Traffic: Eastward Bound
Box 6 "for Lyle" 1965-1966 - possibly for Lyle Munson's news sheet
See Correspondence : Munson, Lyle.
Box 6 Manchester Union Leader (newspaper) 1966
Box 6 "Monitor" (magazine) [1945?] - typescripts of columns, with "Monitor" and date written on back; probably Christian Science Monitor
Box 6 National Review (magazine) 1957-1959, 1961 - numerous articles, all related to China and Communism
Box 6 Reader's Digest (magazine) 1951 Apr-Jun, unidentified - articles on China and Communism, reprinted in numerous international editions (French, Swiss, Danish, German, Italian, Swedish, etc.) (4 folders)
Box 6 Saturday Evening Post (magazine) 1954-1955 - articles on China and drugs
Box 6 Worker's Magazine (newspaper) 1911 - two articles about "Pipe McGraw", one about employers
Box 6 Miscellaneous - unidentified publications
Book reviews
Box 6 Herald Tribune 1932-1944, 1947, 1957 - nearly all on books about China or Asia
Box 7 We the Editor - typescript for a book
Box 7 Miscellaneous - list of titles transferred to Rare Books for cataloging
Editorials, Herald Tribune
Box 7 Clippings 1929-1946 - loose clippings (3 folders)
Box 7 Notes - handwritten drafts of columns
Box 7 Reader responses 1943, 1945 - published reader responses, including letters from Pearl Buck and Earl Browder
Box 7 Scrapbook of clippings 1931 - assorted clippings, mostly duplicates of the loose clippings above
Heptisax columns
See also Letters to the Editor : As Heptisax.
Box 7 Clippings 1933-1944
Box 8 Clippings 1955
Reader responses 1934, 1937-1944, 1953 - published reader responses
See also Correspondence : Heptisax reader mail for letters sent directly to Gilbert.
Box 8 Unidentified 1912 - handwritten journal of travels
Box 8 "Peking Aug 15/16"
Box 8 "Peking" 1918
Box 8 "Peking" 1921, Jan-Feb
Letters to the editor
Box 8 as Gilbert 1945 - regarding General Pat Hurley's "eruption into print"
Box 8 as Heptisax 1935-1939
Box 8 to National Press Club undated - on Taiwan's place in the world
Box 8 Drafts, typescripts, fragments, etc. - topics include words, travels in Germany, modern history, capitalism in China, etc.
Box 8 Notes on the Chinese language - words, phrases, letters, etc.; evidently created as aid to learning Chinese
Box 8 Notes on language development - possibly intended as an article or essay?

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