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Introduction to Oberlin's Namesake
The town of Oberlin, Ohio and its college were founded in 1833 and named in honor of John Frederick (Jean-Frédéric) Oberlin, a French Lutheran pastor from Strasbourg who served in a remote region called the Ban de la Roche in Alsace, France until his death in 1826. Oberlin's founders in Ohio, having read a biography of Oberlin published in America in 1830, were inspired to create a new community and institution of higher learning, in what was then a wilderness, for scholars and students who wished to be of service to others and change the world for the better, as J.F. Oberlin had done in Alsace.
Today’s Oberlin College and community are the inheritors of J. F. Oberlin’s belief that an enlightened education is the crucible for social change, a sustainable way of life, and a truly democratic society based on equality and self-sufficiency. This presentation explores John Frederick Oberlin’s life and work through materials in the Oberlin College Archives, and the relationship between the College and its namesake.
The painting featured at right depicts J. F. Oberlin's village of Waldersbach in the Ban de la Roche, Alsace. The artist was Juliette Kromer Kessler (1890-1977), a native of Strasbourg who was married to an Oberlin College professor.
Tips for enjoying this presentation
All the images in this interactive, multi-media book can be clicked to enlarge. Access more information on each image by moving the cursor over the image, activating a bar to appear that includes the word "details." Click "details" and descriptive text will drop down.
At the top left of the header bar, mousing over the icon will drop down an abbreviated table of contents. You can use this on each page of this presentation. Below you will find a similar list of contents. A detailed table of contents is listed first; every page in the presentation is linked on that page.
You can use the arrows on the left and right of each page to navigate to the next main section. Within a section, you can delve into subsections by using the "Contents" list at the bottom of the page.
About this project
This project began as an exhibit prepared for a campus visit from a descendant of J. F. Oberlin, Anne Roser-Perru and her husband Didier, in 2009. The electronic exhibit was first designed and published in 2010 using the Pachyderm open source software from the New Media Consortium. It was redesigned in Scalar v.2.1.7 in 2018. All surrogate images are of objects and texts in the Oberlin College Archives unless otherwise noted. For permission to reproduce any images in this presentation, contact the Oberlin College Archives.
Curated and written by Anne Cuyler Salsich, Associate Archivist, Oberlin College Archives. Video by John A. Light, Oberlin College Class of 2011, in 2010. Photography of archival materials by Marsha Bansberg Miles and John T. Seyfried. With appreciation for the late Paul B. Arnold, for the video interview. Hosted by the Oberlin College Library, 2010, 2018.
Copyright © 2010, 2018, Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, Ohio, USA
Paintings of Oberlin's region in Alsace
The painter Juliette Kromer Kessler (born Strasbourg, France, 1890-1977) came to America in 1912. She married Oberlin Professor of Music Maurice P. Kessler, and studied art at Oberlin in 1922-23. Kessler made several paintings of the Ban de la Roche, three of which are in the collections of the Oberlin College Archives.
Waldersbach in Alsace-Lorraine (above), painted by Kessler in 1945, was a gift from Harold S. Wood and the Oberlin College Class of 1923 at their 65th reunion, in 1988. This and the painting represented to the right both depict the village of Waldersbach, where Oberlin and his family lived. The third painting depicts the village of Fouday. Oberlin traveled between five villages in the foothills of the Vosges mountains to carry out his work: Waldersbach, Fouday, Belmont, Bellefosse, and Solbach.