The compilation and digitization of records related to the King-Crane Commission offers new opportunities for research—and also the opportunity to remedy one of the tragedies surrounding the Commission. After the Commission finished its work and dispersed, the group’s records were split amongst the members. Though the Oberlin College Archives are home to the papers of Henry Churchill King, this is only a fraction of the documents produced by the King-Crane Commission.
Most significantly, the majority of petitions submitted to the Commission by the people of the region are not held in a single collection. These petitions are essential—they were the means through which the “wishes” of the people of the region were to be determined. The King-Crane Commission Report noted that 1863 petitions were received, some of which may have been presented verbally by the 442 delegations in the region. While the petitions gathered by other Peace Conference commissions have been preserved in single archival collections, such as those from the commission investigating the Adriatic region, which are held in the Woodrow Wilson papers at the Library of Congress, the King-Crane Commission’s have not.
One of the primary goals of this project has been to locate these petitions—so that these lost voices can be recovered and digitized never to be lost again. Approximately 100 petitions have been found among the King, Lybyer, Montgomery, and Brodie papers, and included in this digital collection. However, those located thus far are fewer than the total examined by the Commission. Additional petitions may have been sent directly to President Woodrow Wilson or the American Mission to Negotiate Peace at the Paris Peace Conference. Another 300 from these sources have been located and inventoried by the project team. The search for petitions continues and the project hopes to regularly add more, seeking to restore them to their rightful place in history while making them accessible from all over the world.
This digital collection encompasses all Commission-relevant documents from several archival repositories, which each hold the papers of different members of the King-Crane Commission.
- The Henry Churchill King Papers at Oberlin College. The heart of the collection, these records include extensive correspondence and photographs from the time of the Commission, as well as several Arabic petitions.
- The Albert H. Lybyer Papers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. These records include Lybyer’s diaries from the time of the Commission, as well as extensive logistical documents, such as schedules of interviews and travel itineraries, and a number of petitions.
- The Donald M. Brodie Miscellaneous Papers at the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University. This collection includes petitions and extensive correspondence from after the Commission, particularly surrounding the suppression and publication of the report, as well as the memoirs of Charles R. Crane.
- The George Montgomery Papers at the Library of Congress. These records, housed in the Montgomery Family Collection in the Manuscript Division, include an extensive set of handwritten notes taken by Montgomery during interviews with delegations, as well as petitions written in Arabic, French, and Turkish.
- The William Yale Papers at the University of New Hampshire. This collection primarily includes correspondence, memorandums, and reports to and from William Yale concerning the Commission’s work and the regional circumstances. Additional copies of archival records are housed at Harvard University, Yale University, Boston University, and Oxford University, but have not been included in this project.
- The Sami Haddad Papers at Oberlin College, a small collection comprising one photo album from his service to the Commission and additional materials produced by his granddaughter, were received after the period of the grant-funded project, in 2021.
Additional archival repositories contain records broadly related to the Commission and to the situation in the Middle East following World War I. The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is home to the Woodrow Wilson papers, which document the uncertainty that surrounded the Commission’s appointment and departure amidst British and French hesitance and maneuvering. A number of organizations and private citizens in America, as well as expatriates living in Turkey, petitioned Wilson to act, citing the urgency of political and economic conditions in the collapsing Ottoman Empire. This correspondence provides a valuable context for the ongoing situation that the Commission found in the region, and also contains copies of some Commission-related documents found in other repositories.
The National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland, holds both the general internal records of the U.S. Department of State and the records of the American Mission to Negotiate Peace. This extensive documentation, preserved on microfilm, shows many facets of American planning for the Commission. For example, an American fact-finding mission to the Middle East was tentatively planned in the early days of the Peace Conference, until the intended leader, Leon Dominian, withdrew. Two members of this cancelled mission, Lybyer and Yale, were then chosen to join the coalescing King-Crane Commission. NARA holds a significant quantity of petitions from organizations and individuals both in the Middle East and America, sent either to the Paris Peace Conference or to American diplomatic posts in the region. In the majority of cases, these petitions were received in the early months of 1919, before the Commission’s departure, and it is thus conceivable that members of the Commission could have read and referred to these documents. However, there is no indication of whether or not copies of these petitions were brought on the journey, or were counted amongst the 1863 used by the Commission in formulating its recommendations.
The King-Crane Commission material in the Henry Churchill King Papers, the Donald M. Brodie and a portion of the Albert H. Lybyer Papers are now online and accessible to the public. Arabic language documents from the King, Lybyer, and Brodie papers have been digitized and are also available online.