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Frank C. Laubach Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: DRC, MW
Date: May 1974

Biographical History

Frank C. Laubach (1884-1970) was a Christian Evangelical missionary, author, and educator who specialized in international literacy. Dr. Laubach recognized literacy as a "first step toward ending the suffering and exploitation of the world's disadvantaged" (Laubach Literacy International brochure); he was the founder of the "Each One Teach One" literacy teaching method and of Laubach Literacy, and is credited with teaching more than 100 million people to read."

Frank C. Laubach

Frank Charles Laubach was born in Benton, Pennsylvania on September 2, 1884. He studied at Bloomsburg State College (1901), Perkiomen Prep School (1905), Princeton University (BA, 1909), and Union Theological Seminary (1913). He was married to Effa Seely on May 15, 1912, and earned his MA (1912) and PhD (1915) from Columbia University.

In 1915, Dr. Laubach and his wife went to the Philippines as Congregational missionaries with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He was a minister at Cagayan, and taught at Union Theological Seminary in Manila. In 1930, he began literacy work on the island of Mindanao and developed an alphabet for the Maranaws in their own Maranaw language. This was the start of his "Each One Teach One" concept, which encouraged adults taught by the system to then volunteer their time to teach others. From 1930 to 1970, Dr. Laubach traveled to more than one hundred countries developing literacy primers in 312 languages. He and his literacy teams worked with missions, private agencies, governments, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, and UNESCO.

In 1935 Dr. Laubach organized the World Literacy Committee, and in 1941 he became one of the founders of the Committee on World Literacy and Christian Literature, known as "Lit-Lit" (later Intermedia) of the National Council of Churches. He worked with this organization until his retirement in 1954 at the age of 70. In 1951, to facilitate cooperation with government and secular organizations, Dr. Laubach started World Literacy, Inc. (now World Education). In 1955, the year after his retirement, he founded Laubach Literacy, Inc., a non-profit literacy organization with headquarters in Syracuse, New York. His son, Robert, took over the presidency of LLI after Dr. Laubach's death on June 11, 1970. Mrs. Effa Laubach died on March 29, 1973, at the age of 85; the couple are buried in the family plot in Benton, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Laubach was a prolific writer whose books covered a variety of interests, including the Philippines, prayer and spiritual life, challenges to world literacy and to international technical assistance, and materials to teach adults to read (including literacy primers in 312 languages). He gave the impetus to the opening of literacy and journalism courses at Hartford School of Missions, Syracuse University, Asbury College, Baylor University, University of California, and more than twenty other centers across the United States.

Laubach has been recognized many times for his accomplishments. He received honorary degrees from Princeton, Columbia, Syracuse, and Temple Universities, and from Lafayette, Wooster, Muskingam, Marietta, Findlay, and Baldwin-Wallace Colleges. Time magazine referred to him as the founder of a world-wide literacy drive. Norman Vincent Peale, in Look, called Laubach one of the five greatest men in the world, and Newsweek featured him as "one of the grand men of the missionary world." Lowell Thomas called him "the foremost teacher of our times." On the 100th anniversary of his birth, the United States Postal Service honored Dr. Laubach with the issue of a commemorative stamp in the "Great Americans" series.

Four books have been written about him: Apostle to the Illiterates, by David E. Mason; Each One Teach One, by Marjorie Medary; Champion of the Silent Billion, by Helen M. Roberts; and Frank C. Laubach, Teacher of Millions, by David E. Mason. His work has been taught to Sunday School children in the curriculum of the Methodist, Lutheran, and other denominations. Dozens of religious and secular magazines including Together, The Lutheran Standard, Christian Herald, Time, Look, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Collier's, and Saturday Evening Post have run articles about "Mr. Literacy."

Laubach Literacy, Inc.

For a detailed history of Laubach Literacy and related organizations, including the National Affilication for Literacy Advance (NALA), Laubach Literacy Action (LLA), New Readers Press (NRP), and ProLiteracy Worldwide, please refer to the Laubach Literacy, Inc. Records finding aid.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Frank C. Laubach Collection contains both the organizational papers of Laubach Literacy, Inc. (LLI) and the personal papers of Frank C. Laubach. The collection traces the development of literacy teaching from the early 1920's, at the beginning of Dr. Laubach's missionary career with the Moro tribe in the Philippines, and reaches into the present efforts of Laubach Literacy, Inc., to deal with illiteracy on a worldwide scale. As such, it is a valuable research tool for students of literacy in America or of world literacy.

The collection includes correspondence, personal papers of both Frank and Effa Laubach, administrative papers, financial papers, writings (manuscripts and articles), organizational and meeting material, and photographs, as well as material relating to trustees, domestic and international projects, languages, and some miscellany.

Correspondence, the first major group of the Laubach Collection, is divided into four subgroups: Frank Laubach, General, Foreign, and Specific files. Dr. Laubach's own correspondence dates are considerably earlier than the other sub-groups. General correspondence contains organizational correspondence of a varied nature, covering the broad range of questions concerning Laubach Literacy, Inc. Foreign correspondence pertains to foreign correspondence of such a general nature that it has no specific file. Specific files contains the correspondence of specific individuals and projects.

The next series, Frank C. Laubach papers, consist of a great variety of material accumulated over Dr. Laubach's lifetime: biographical material; essays, articles and speeches; scrapbooks and diaries, manuscripts dated before 1955. The notes, memorabilia and data collected during Dr. Laubach's missionary career in the Philippines are of particular philosophical and historical interest.

The papers of Laubach's wife, Effa Seely Laubach (1882-1973), consist of a small amount of correspondence and miscellaneous notes.

Trustees' material consists of agenda, meetings, minutes of meetings and decisions concerning the Board of Trustees of Laubach Literacy, Inc.

Administrative files are divided into two subgroups. Administrative papers consists of major materials regarding organizational policy, contracts and personnel information. Administrative correspondence is all interoffice memoranda within and from Laubach Literacy, Inc.

Financial papers include budgets, auditors' reports, bank statements and corporate assessments.

Projects, domestic consist of literacy programs, projects, and training workshops sponsored by Laubach Literacy in the United States. Included here is National Affiliation for Literacy Advance (NALA) material as well as the papers and records of state and local literacy organizations.

Projects, overseas contains material related to literacy projects abroad, such as U.S. Government (AID, Peace Corps) contracts, proposals, and support; and monthly reports from Laubach staff members located in other countries.

Languages contain all the primers and reading materials developed or used by Laubach in any language. More than 300 languages are represented.

Manuscripts and articles contain the manuscripts developed at Laubach Literacy, Inc., from 1955 to 1969. This group also holds other manuscripts and articles prepared by Laubach staff members or interested persons.

Organizations and meetings contains the records and papers of organizations, conferences and meetings not directly sponsored by Laubach Literacy, but of interest to Laubach staff members or Trustees.

Miscellaneous holds over six boxes of newspaper clippings collected at Laubach Literacy, and also includes unclassified newsletters and pamphlets.

Photographs relate to a variety of Laubach projects, both domestic and overseas, and are filed by geographical location. Also included are photographs of the Laubach family.

The collection closes with 99 Streamlined Reading films covering lessons in literacy instruction.

Arrangement of the Collection

The subdivisions of Correspondence are arranged chronologically except for Specific files, which are alphabetical by name. All remaining series are arranged alphabetically by name, title, or topic as appropriate.


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.

Related Material

See also the Laubach Literacy International Records. In addition, the library has many published works by Frank Laubach; please refer to the Classic Catalog for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Laubach, Effa S., 1882-1973.
Laubach, Frank Charles, 1884-1970.
Laubach, Robert S (Robert Seely), 1918-
Mason, David E.

Corporate Bodies

Laubach Literacy, Inc.


Adult education -- United States.
Adult education teachers -- Training of.
Clergy -- United States.
Clergy as authors.
Educators -- United States.
English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers.
English language -- Textbooks for foreign speakers.
Evening and continuation schools -- United States.
Literacy -- Africa.
Literacy -- Asia.
Literacy -- Colombia.
Literacy -- India.
Literacy -- Latin America.
Literacy -- Mexico.
Literacy -- United States.
New literates, Writing for.
Television in adult education.
Visual literacy.

Genres and Forms

Bank statements.
Financial records.
Manuscripts for publication.
Maps (documents)
Minutes (administrative records)
Motion pictures (visual works)
Progress reports.


Adult education teachers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Frank C. Laubach Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Majority gift of Frank C. Laubach, 1966-1978.

Material in boxes 328A, 328B and 328C, gift of David Mason, 2011.

Table of Contents


Laubach, Frank

Laubach, Effa Seeley


Administrative files

Financial papers

Projects, domestic

Projects, overseas


Manuscripts and articles

Organizations and meetings



Streamlined Reading Series Kinescope reels