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Snow, Edgar (1905-1972)



  • Existence: 1905 - 1972


Edgar Parks Snow was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 19, 1905. He received his education locally and briefly attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. At 19, he left college and moved to New York City to embark on a career in advertising. In 1928, after making a little money in the stock market, he left to travel and write of his journeys around the world.

He arrived in Shanghai July 6, 1928, and was to remain in China for the next thirteen years. His first job was with The China Weekly Review in Shanghai. Working as a foreign correspondent, he wrote numerous articles for many leading American and English newspapers and periodicals. In 1932, he married Helen (Peg) Foster, (also known as Nym Wales). The following year, the couple settled in Beijing where Snow taught at Yenching University.

Edgar Snow spent part of the early 1930’s traveling over much of China on assignment for the Ministry of Railways of the National Government. These experiences led to the first of his books, Far Eastern Front (1934). In 1936, he compiled a volume of modern Chinese short stories, Living China. That same year he became the first western journalist to visit the revolutionary army’s stronghold in the western hills of Shaanxi Province. In the town of Baoan and the caves of Yanan, Snow spent five months interviewing Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese Communist leaders, while he observed the Red Army in action and saw how guerrilla forces lived among the people. His classic work, Red Star Over China (RSOC), published in 1937, made him world famous. Many journalists followed him and gave independent reports, but RSOC remains a standard introduction to the revolutionary movement that eventually succeeded in founding the People’s Republic of China.

In the late 1930’s, Edgar Snow, Nym Wales, and Rewi Alley established the Chinese Industrial Cooperative organization, Indusco. Created to develop a new economic foundation in China based on democratic principles, Indusco sought to provide work, education, consumer and industrial goods, and a chance for Chinese workers to manage their own organizations. Snow’s primary responsibility as chair of the Membership and Propaganda Subcommittee was to build public and financial support for Indusco.

Edgar Snow published his second major book, Battle for Asia, in 1941. In 1942, the Saturday Evening Post appointed him a roving war correspondent covering Europe, India, the Middle East, and Russia. He published three short books, People on Our Side (1944), The Pattern of Soviet Power (1945), and Stalin Must Have Peace (1947), about Russia’s role in the war and world affairs. In 1949, Snow divorced Helen Foster and later that year married Lois Wheeler.

After World War II, Snow’s association with the Chinese Communist movement made him an object of suspicion. During the McCarthy period, he was questioned by the FBI and asked to disclose the extent of his Communist activities. Later in the 1950’s, he published two more books about China: Random Notes on Red China (1957), a research aid for scholars containing previously unused China material; and Journey to the Beginning (1958), an autobiographical account of events prior to 1949. Yet, he found it increasingly difficult to make a living through his writing in the United States. Thus, in 1959, he moved his family to Geneva, Switzerland, but retained his American citizenship and passport. Beginning in 1959, he served as a faculty member for two years at the International School of America, traveling with his students to such places as India, Europe, and Japan.

In 1960, classified as a “writer” rather than an unwelcome journalist, he became the first American correspondent to re-enter China for an extended visit. He subsequently published The Other Side of the River--Red China Today in 1961. He made another visit to China in 1964 that resulted in several articles and the television documentary, “One Fourth of Humanity.” During these visits, the Chinese government invited him to exclusively interview both Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai.

Edgar Snow made a final trip to China in 1970. During this cordial visit, he received word that President Richard M. Nixon would be welcomed in China, either as a tourist or in an official capacity. Two articles published in Life magazine made that invitation known. On February 15, 1972, the week that President Nixon was traveling to China, Edgar Snow died of cancer. As he wished, his ashes were buried at Sneden’s Landing, New York, and on the grounds of Beijing University. The Long Revolution, his final book, was published posthumously by Lois Wheeler Snow.

Found in 30 Collections and/or Records:

Alvin Joslin Papers

Identifier: KC-19-4
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Mrs. Alvin Joslin in August 1984. The Alvin Joslin Papers consist of one letter written to Alvin Joslin by Edgar Snow while "stow-away" to Yokahama, June 21, 1928, and one folder of contextual materials.

Dates: 1928-1929, 1972

Beijing Museum Collection of Edgar Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-29
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by the Beijing Museum and presented by Liu Liqun in 1986.

This collection includes inscriptions by Snow for various public buildings in China, articles by Snow, correspondence to and from Snow, and Chinese articles and photographs. Correspondence includes letters from Snow to George Hatem (Ma Haide), Rewi Alley, Chou-en Lai, Mao Tse-tung, and Israel Epstein.

Dates: 1937-1960, undated

Charles White Papers

Identifier: KC-19-22
Scope and Contents

This letter was donated by Charles White and was removed from the Mary Clark Dimond Papers in July 1985.

The letter from Edgar Snow to his boyhood friend Charles White reminisces about a summer trip they took together as youths.

Dates: 1954

Claude and Mildred Snow Mackey Papers

Identifier: KC-19-2
Scope and Contents This material was donated to University Archives by Mildred Snow Mackey, Edgar Snow's sister, and her husband Claude. The material consists of correspondence, photographs, several manuscripts and printed items. The bulk consists of correspondence from Edgar Snow to family members discussing his time spent in China as a correspondent during the Chinese revolution, the time succeeding it and two wars. It also includes correspondence to and from other family members discussing personal and...
Dates: 1899-1982

Dorothy Salisbury Davis and Harry Davis Papers

Identifier: KC-19-36
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Dorothy Salisbury Davis and Harry Davis, friends and neighbors of the Snow family at Sneden's Landing, New York, and removed from the Mary Clark Dimond Papers in 1985. Dorothy Davis sent an addition to the collection to E. Grey Dimond in March 1991.

The papers include correspondence from Edgar Snow to the Davises discussing Dorothy's books, Edgar's work, family business affairs, and visits.

Dates: 1956-1970

Dr. Corliss Lamont Papers

Identifier: KC-19-37
Scope and Contents This material was donated by Dr. Corliss Lamont, a New Jersey neighbor of Edgar Snow's, and was removed from the Mary Clark Dimond Papers in July 1985.This material consists of correspondence between Edgar Snow and Corliss Lamont regarding Snow's trips to China in 1956 and 1970. Correspondence also includes an exchange between Lamont and his lawyer concerning the use of Lamont's land for a neighborhood playground, and an account of a Snow memorial ceremony in Sneden's Landing,...
Dates: 1956, 1970, 1974

Dr. E. Grey Dimond Collection of Edgar Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-8
Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence between UMKC School of Medicine Dean Dr. E. Grey Dimond, his wife Mary Clark Dimond, and Edgar Snow. The collection also includes correspondence, promotional materials, speeches, and scholarly papers related to E. Grey Dimond's activities promoting Edgar Snow's legacy after his death and Dimond's membership with the Smedley-Strong-Snow Society of China.

Dates: 1966-1987

Dr. Kenneth E. Shewmaker Papers

Identifier: KC-19-25
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Dr. Kenneth E. Shewmaker to E. Grey Dimond in April 1987.

This folder contains letters from Edgar Snow to Dr. Shewmaker concerning his request for information on Agnes Smedley, his book, and a proposed project for Snow.

Dates: 1964-1971

Dr. Theodore Herman Papers

Identifier: KC-19-26
Scope and Contents This material was donated by Theodore Herman, a friend of Edgar Snow's, and removed from the Mary Clark Dimond Papers in July 1985.This material consists of correspondence between Theodore Herman, a professor at Colgate University, and Edgar Snow, regarding a possible lecture by Snow at Colgate. The correspondence includes discussion of Snow's documentary film "One Fourth of Humanity: The China Story," and of the student unrest at Colgate. The papers also contain photographs of...
Dates: 1937-1940, 1968-1971

Edgar Snow Correspondence to Raymond J. Marcus

Identifier: KC-19-48
Scope and Contents

Richard J. Marcus had written to Edgar Snow after reading "Will China Become a Russian Satellite," published in the April 9, 1949 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, through a letter to one of the newspaper's editors. Edgar Snow wrote directly to Marcus in response, and that letter is included in this folder.

Dates: 1951 January 25

Edgar Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-1
Scope and Contents The Edgar Snow Papers are divided into seven sections which reflect Edgar Snow's contribution to American journalism and Sino-American relations. In general, the papers are straightforward in their contents and are arranged to follow the course of Snow's life work: personal and business correspondence; diaries and notebooks; notes related to manuscripts and interviews; various drafts and revisions of both article and book manuscripts; clippings of published articles and book reviews;...
Dates: 1928-1982

Eleanor Babcock Papers

Identifier: KC-19-24
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Eleanor Babcock, a correspondent of Edgar Snow's, and was removed from the Mary Clark Dimond Papers in July 1985.

This material contains correspondence from Edgar Snow to Eleanor Babcock and concerns Snow family genealogy, a portrait of Samuel Snow given to Edgar Snow by Babcock, and the autobiography Snow was writing at the time. Also included is a photograph of Snow with his family.

Dates: 1951-1957

George Hatem / Ma Haide Papers

Identifier: KC-19-28
Scope and Contents This material includes a film script for "Travels to the West: Edgar Snow and Ma Haide (George Hatem)" that was translated from Chinese to English. The material also contains public speaking addresses by or about Hatem, flyers for fundraising and foundations, and correspondence and articles about Hatem and the leprosy program in China. Hatem was a public health official in China who is credited with helping eliminate leprosy and other venereal diseases in post-war China, for which he...
Dates: 1935-1990

George O. Pratt Papers

Identifier: KC-19-17
Scope and Contents This material was donated by George O. Pratt, a longtime friend of Edgar Snow's, to Mary Clark Dimond and was removed from her papers in July 1985.This folder consists of correspondence concerning a proposed U.S. Senate-sponsored trip to China to observe the country's progress in river and power development. Most of the correspondence is between George O. Pratt, an engineer and specialist in underdeveloped countries, and Edgar Snow, who at Pratt's request was attempting to secure...
Dates: 1959-1965

Harry and Betty Price Papers

Identifier: KC-19-20
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Harry and Betty Price and was removed from the Mary Clark Dimond papers in July 1985. E. Grey Dimond donated an addition from Harry Price in April 1990.

These papers consist of a letter from Edgar Snow to Harry and Betty Price concerning the political climate in Japan in 1938. They also contain a page from Betty Price's diary from 1935, when the Prices visited Edgar and Helen "Peg" Snow in Beijing.

Dates: 1935-1938

Henry Mitchell Collection of Edgar Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-5
Scope and Contents This collection contains research material on international journalist Edgar Snow compiled by University of Missouri-Kansas City Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and International Affairs Henry Mitchell. The collection includes correspondence, photographs, transcripts, books, and records created by or about Edgar Snow. Of note are four folders containing reproduced material from Edgar Snow's official Federal Bureau of Investigation file. Senstitive and classified information had been...
Dates: 1911-1985

Howard Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-3
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Howard Snow, brother of Edgar Snow, in August 1984. This material consists of correspondence, magazines, printed material, newsclips and photos. It includes correspondence from Lois Snow, Mildred Mackey, Mary Clark Dimond, and copies of letters from Howard Snow to various editors and discusses family matters, Edgar Snow's illness, trip to China in 1970 and disposition of his papers.

Dates: 1954-1972

Hugh Deane Collection of Edgar Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-40
Scope and Contents This collection was donated by Hugh Deane in March 1988. He was a contemporary of Edgar Snow, having first visited China in 1936 as a student and later returning as a freelance writer and correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and the Springfield (Mass.) Union and Republic newspapers in 1940, 1944-1946. He was an officer for the U.S.-China People's Friendship Association. The collection consists of reviews of Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China, two letters between Edgar Snow and Peg...
Dates: 1938-1992

Israel Epstein and Elsie Fairfax-Cholmeley Papers

Identifier: KC-19-11
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Dr. Henry Mitchell, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and International Affairs at UMKC. He secured the material from the Epsteins via UMKC professor Dr. Robert Farnsworth in China in November 1984.

This collection contains one folder of copies of letters sent by Edgar Snow to Chinese journalist and author Israel Epstein and his wife Elsie Fairfax-Cholmeley. The letters discuss publications as well as Chinese and world affairs.

Dates: 1939, 1948, 1958, 1962-1968

James Bertram Papers

Identifier: KC-19-39
Scope and Contents This material was donated by James Bertram through Robert Farnsworth in November 1987.The first folder consists of correspondence between James Bertram and Edgar Snow, and correspondence between Edgar and Lois Snow and Bertram, discussing Snow's immediate family; current and future publications; Chinese, U.S., and world issues; travel to China; and Snow's BBC film. The correspondence includes a leaflet for the film. The second folder consists of correspondence between Bertram and...
Dates: 1952-1975, 1988

John S. Service Papers

Identifier: KC-19-23
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by John Service to E. Grey Dimond in April 1987.

This material contains correspondence between John Service, of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California - Berkeley, and Edgar Snow and concerns Service's trip to China, the leadership struggles in China in the early 1970s, Snow's book Journey to the Beginning, and Snow's attempts to finish his last book.

Dates: 1958-1971

John Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-18
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by John Snow, Edgar Snow's nephew, to Mary Clark Dimond and was removed from her papers in July 1985.

These three folders contain correspondence from Edgar Snow to his nephew John Snow and to Edgar Snow from a Senate subcommittee, as well as notes for a speech Edgar Snow delivered to the Council for World Affairs in Cleveland, Ohio on March 28, 1955.

Dates: 1955-1965

Kuan-Mien Lu Papers

Identifier: KC-19-21
Scope and Contents These materials were donated by Kuan-Mien Lu and removed from the Mary Clark Dimond Papers in July 1985.This folder contains correspondence from Kuan-Mien Lu to Mary Clark Dimond concerning the UMKC commencement honoring Edgar Snow, and Lu's visit to the United States. The folder also includes a typed manuscript article by Edgar Snow, "Indusco Pioneers of the Northwest," written in 1939, concerning Lu's leadership role in Indusco; and an article concerning UMKC's commencement...
Dates: 1939, 1983

Lois Wheeler Snow Papers

Identifier: KC-19-50
Scope and Contents

This material was donated by Lois Wheeler Snow, widow of Edgar Snow, in April 1988.

The major portion of Lois Wheeler Snow's papers relate to the 1982 symposium held in China commemorating the tenth anniversary of Edgar Snow's death. It consists primarily of printed material.

Dates: 1956-1982

Nym Wales Papers

Identifier: KC-19-6
Scope and Contents The Nym Wales papers document American journalist Helen Foster Snow's activities when she reported from China in the 1930s under the name Nym Wales. She reported on the developing Chinese Civil War, the Korean independence movement, and the Second Sino-Japanese War. The materials include her reminiscences of her time reporting in China between 1933 through 1937. Helen married Edgar Snow in 1932 and interviewed Chinese Communist leaders in Yan'an alongside her husband in 1937. The couple...
Dates: 1928-1987