Writer, curator, and professor Benjamin Franklin March Jr. (1899-1934) studied, lectured, and wrote in the United States and in China, and through his works gained respect as one of the foremost authorities on Chinese art during the 1920s and 1930s. His papers, dating from 1923 to 1934, document his professional and personal life in the United States and in China and include lecture notes and outlines; research notes; diaries; scrapbooks; and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The Benjamin March Papers span the years 1923 to 1934 and measure 15 linear feet. The collection includes: biographical data included in passports, obituaries, and fifty-seven condolence letters; lecture and course outlines; research notes; four diaries; one scrapbook; four illustrations including sketches for the March bookplate; fourteen photograph albums; printed matter; and 100 personal and artistic photographs.
The collection is divided into the following series:
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1927-1935
Series 2: Diaries, 1925-1934
Series 3: Writings and Research Materials, 1927-1934, undated
— Subseries 3.1: Lecture Materials
— Subseries 3.2: Research
— Subseries 3.3: Printed Matter
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1924-1934
Series 5: Graphic Materials, 1925, 1933, undated
— Subseries 5.1: Illustrations
— Subseries 5.2: Photo Albums
— Subseries 5.3: Photographs
1899 -- Born, Chicago, IL. Son of Benjamin Franklin and Isabel (née McNeal)
[1917?] -- Attended Lewis Institute and the YMCA College before transferring to the University of Chicago
1918-1919 -- Military service, Sergeant, Field Remount Squadron, No. 305, Army Service Corps
1922 -- Graduated from the University of Chicago (Ph.B)
1922-1923 -- Attended the Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
1923-1925 -- Teacher of English, Latin, and Bible Studies at Hopei University; the Second Normal School; and the YMCA in Paotingfu, China
1925 June 25 -- Married Dorothy Rowe in Nanking, China
1925-1927 -- English instructor; Librarian; and Lecturer in Chinese Art, Yenching University Peiping, China
1927, summer -- Lecturer on Chinese art Columbia University
1927-1931 -- Curator of Asiatic Art Detroit Institute of Arts
1928 -- Honorary Curator of Oriental Aesthetic Art at the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
1928 -- Appointed honorary curator at the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
[1929?] -- Daughter (Judith) born
1929 -- China and Japan in Our Museums, published by the American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations
1931 -- Spent six months in China under a special grant from the American Council of Learned Societies to study 13th century painter, Ch'ien Hsuan
1932 -- Curator, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
1932 -- Appointed honorary curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts
1933 -- Awarded a Freer Fellowship
1934 -- Standards of Pottery Description, published by the University of Michigan Press
1934, summer -- Organized, directed, and lectured at a summer session of the Institute of Asiatic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
1934 December -- Died at home in Ann Arbor, Michigan after a five-week illness (heart ailment)
Far Eastern art writer, curator, and lecturer, Benjamin Franklin March Jr., was born in Chicago on July 4, 1899 to Benjamin and Isabel March. He studied, lectured, and wrote in the United States and China and through his works gained respect as one of the foremost authorities on Chinese art during the 1920s and 1930s. Although he lived only thirty-five years, Benjamin March was a respected and influential scholar of Asian art.
After high school, March attended the Lewis Institute and the YMCA College before transferring to the University of Chicago from which he graduated in 1922 (Ph.B). With thoughts of becoming a Methodist minister, March enrolled at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. At the same time, March enrolled in art classes at the Metropolitan Museum. After one year at the seminary, March was presented with and accepted the opportunity to work in China. From 1923 to 1927, March resided in China where he taught and lectured at colleges. Initially, March taught English, Latin, and Bible Studies at Hopei University, the Second Normal School, and the YMCA. From 1925 to 1927, he worked at Yenching University in Peiping (now Peking) as an instructor in English, a librarian, and lecturer in Chinese art.
While in China, March met Dorothy Rowe, the daughter of a Methodist missionary stationed in Nanking. On June 25, 1925 the two were married. Ms. Rowe, whom March sometimes called Doré, had lived in China since infancy. The author of the children's story, "The Begging Dear," Rowe wrote children's stories with Chinese settings.
During the summer of 1927, the March's moved to the United States when Columbia University offered March an appointment as lecturer of Chinese Art. Later that year March was appointed curator of Asiatic art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He remained at the Detroit Institute of Arts in this capacity until 1931. In 1928, March was appointed Honorary Curator of Oriental Aesthetic Art by the University of Michigan's Museum of Anthropology. The next year, Dorothy March gave birth to the couple's only child, Judith.
During this period March published extensively, including two publications, China and Japan in Our Museums, in 1929 and, Standards of Pottery Description, in 1934. In the latter, March developed a new technique for the scientific study of the materials and methods of manufacture of ancient Chinese pottery. ( Ann Arbor Daily News. -- "Death Takes Noted Curator". -- December 14, 1934)
In 1931, March received a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. This grant allowed March the opportunity to travel to China and Europe to study the 13th century painter, Ch'ien Hsuan. In 1932, March was named a curator at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. The following year he was named a Freer Fellow. The summer of 1934 found March in Berkeley, California, organizing and directing the Institute of Asiatic Studies at the University of California. During the fall of 1934, March fell ill with a heart ailment. He was ill for five weeks before he died, at the age of 35, in December of 1934. At the time of his death, Benjamin March was survived by his wife Dorothy and their daughter, Judith.
The Detroit Institute of Arts maintains administrative correspondence and files generated by Benjamin March during his tenure as curator.
The Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan houses the Benjamin Franklin March drawings collection, This is a collection of drawings by March for his daughter; includes illustrated poems of Pentwater Beach, Michigan.
Judith March Davis, the daughter of Benjamin March, donated her father's papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1995.
Benjamin March's daughter, Judith March Davis, donated her father's papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1995.
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment: AVRreference@si.edu.