Education About Asia: Online Archives

China 1905–1908: Harrison Sacket Elliott’s Letters and Photographs

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Harrison Sacket Elliott

While a student at Ohio Wesleyan, Harrison Elliott served as secretary to President J. W. Bashford. When Bashford became the Bishop in charge of the Methodist Church’s work in China, he asked twenty-two-year-old Elliott to accompany him on his inspection tours of China and serve as his stenographer. Between 1905 and 1908, Elliott helped organize the Bishop’s trips, took charge of all his correspondence, and detailed their experiences in several hundred photographs taken with a bellows camera and developed on the way. Elliott also wrote detailed letters to his family. His dream of returning to China was dashed by his father’s unexpected death, which left Elliott with the major responsibility for his family’s well-being. He later became Professor of Religious Education at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he pioneered the discussion method for Biblical Studies. His letters from China are preserved in The Burke Library Archives at Union Theological Seminary.

Elliott reported,

At the beginning the host said he was sorry but they hadn’t anything much to eat. But when twenty-five courses were served with twenty other dishes left on the table, we realized the Chinese custom of speaking disparagingly about your own things and complimentary about your neighbors. (note 1) (December 1905)


All letters come from the Harrison Sacket Elliott Papers (New York City: The Burke Library Archives at Union Theological Seminary), Box 1.

1. File 4, Letter 39, December 1905.