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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2549

Harley Farnsworth MacNair and Florence Wheelock Ayscough diaries


Diaries and other papers of Far East historian, Harley Farnsworth MacNair, and his wife, translator and writer, Florence Wheelock Ayscough.


  • 1903-1945

Language of Materials

Collection materials are primarily in English, with a few in Chinese.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


.5 linear feet (1 box)

Primarily autograph manuscript diaries concerning various time periods in both lives, but also includes loose materials such as letters, photographs, clippings, articles, pamphlets, and leaflets. Also includes photographs of Amy Lowell and autograph manuscript poems by Amy Lowell, Monadnock and Before dawn.

Biographical / Historical

Harley Farnsworth MacNair (1891-1947) (HFM) was a Far East historian, the son of Douglad Evander MacNair and Nettie Adelia Farnsworth MacNair. He graduated from the University of Redlands with a Ph.B. degree in 1912. He went to Shanghai, China immediately after graduation and taught history at St. John's University. He stayed there until 1927, becoming professor of history and government in 1916, and head of the department in 1919. During this period he completed his MA at Columbia University in 1916 and received a Ph.D. in 1922 from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1927-1928 he returned to the United States and taught at the University of Seattle, then moved to the University of Chicago where he remained for the rest of his career teaching Far Eastern history. MacNair published voluminously, but he was especially known as a talented teacher.

Florence Wheelock Ayscough (1878-1942) (FWA) was born in Shanghai, China, the daughter of a Canadian business-man father and an American mother. She lived in China until she was eleven, when her parents returned to the United States. In her early twenties, she returned to China and eventually married Francis Ayscough, a British importer living in Shanghai. They periodically visited the U.S., while residing in China. FWA developed as a writer and a translator of Chinese poetry and eventually became a friend of the American poet, Amy Lowell, who she had first met in Boston when they were both girls. They worked together on various publishing projects, especially: Fir-flower tablets : poems translated from the Chinese / by Florence Asycough ; English versions by Amy Lowell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921. Francis Ayscough died in 1935 while they were living in Chicago. FWA married Harley MacNair shortly after, having originally met him in China in 1916. . After their marriage, their home in Chicago became the gathering place for persons concerned with China.


Arranged into the following series:

  1. I. Harley Farnsworth MacNair diaries
  2. II. Florence Wheelock Ayscough diaries

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

49M-119, 49M-120. Gift of Mrs. Gerald J. Steiner, 5656 Dorchester Avenue, Chicago 37, Illinois; 1950 January 15.

Related Materials

Other papers concerning Harley Farnsworth MacNair and Florence Wheelock Ayscough can be found at:

  1. University of Redlands Library, Redlands, California.
  2. Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Library.
  3. Also see HOLLIS for other manuscript materials at Houghton pertaining to both individuals.


  • Ayscough, Florence Wheelock. Florence Ayscough & Amy Lowell; correspondence of a friendship. Edited with a preface by Harley Farnsworth MacNair. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945.
  • MacNair, Harley Farnsworth, editor. The incomparable lady; tributes and other memorabilia pertaining to Florence Wheelock Ayscough macNair. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946.

General note

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Harley Farnsworth MacNair and Florence Wheelock Ayscough diaries, 1903-1945: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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