Gerow D. Brill Papers, 1884-1924

Collection Number: 1379

Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Cornell University Library


Gerow D. Brill papers, 1884-1924.
Collection Number:
Gerow D., Brill 1864-1931.
3.4 cubic ft.
Forms of Material:
Correspondence, diaries, accounts, manuscript articles, reports, lecture notebooks, pamphlets, newspapers, Chinese grammar notebooks, photographs, and other items.
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
Correspondence, diaries, accounts, and manuscript articles and reports, pertaining chiefly to Brill's work in Wuchang, China, as head of the Hupeh Agricultural College and Experimental Farm and as a scientific explorer for the United States Department of Agriculture (1897-1901) and later in a similar capacity with the Department of Public Instruction on the Philippine Islands (1901-1902).
Collection material in English


Agricultural economist.
Cornell University Class of 1888.


Correspondence, diaries, accounts, and manuscript articles and reports, pertaining chiefly to Brill's work in Wuchang, China, as head of the Hupeh Agricultural College and Experimental Farm and as a scientific explorer for the United States Department of Agriculture (1897-1901) and later in a similar capacity with the Department of Public Instruction on the Philippine Islands (1901-1902); includes a diary-cash account book (1899) kept by Brill while he was head of the Hupeh Agricultural College and Experiment Farm containing comments on agricultural and industrial education in China, the presence of Japanese and German influence, and the punishment of criminals, and a detailed description of a visit to Wuchang by a Chinese prince; correspondence, including a few letters to Brill regarding agricultural education and poultry raising and mounting for shipment in China, Brill's proposed trip to explore the Upper Yangtze Valley, his safety and activities during the Boxer Rebellion, Hong Kong in 1900, life in the Philippines and Portugese West Africa as witnessed by two missionaries, and literature available in the United States on practical agricultural schools (1902); and miscellaneous papers. Also included are lecture notebooks from Cornell (1884-1888); pamphlets, newspapers, and other printed materials, many of which are in Chinese; Chinese grammar notebooks; photographs; and other items.
Correspondence is with or about Fred W. Atkinson, Liberty Hyde Bailey, W. C. Bell, George M. Brill, William Addison Brown, Chang Chi Tung, T. T. Chang, Frederick V. Coville, John C. Ferguson, Cyrus David Foss, John Gilmore, E. W. Hilgard, George N. Lauman, Frank Lamson-Scribner, Albert R. Mann, Sidney C. Partridge, George T. Powell, Gilbert Reid, Isaac P. Roberts, Jacob Gould Schurman, John L. Stone, William Howard Taft, James Wilson, American Rights League, Briarcliff Manor School of Practical Agriculture and Horticulture, Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Philafrican League.

Calendar of the letters Brill wrote to his aunt, Mrs. Statia Dodge, approx. 75 items, 1897-1901; Letters dated Sept. 24, 1897-Nov. 27, 1897 describe arrival and first experiences

Aug. 30, 1897 - On Steamer Peru to Pacific
Sept. 24, 1897 - Japan
Sept. 24, 1897 - Shanghai
Oct. 10, 1897 - Difficulties of learning the language; walled cities, crowded streets; abundance of unexploited resources - coal, iron, coffee, tin, gold
Nov. 5, 1897 - Comment of background and character of Sidney Partridge; foods available; lack of patriotism among people, French, British, German rivalry; difficulty of working for improvements
Dec. 5, 1897 - Trip on Yangtze - homes, daily activites of people living along river; fish-traps, hooks, nets, spears, cormorants; reaction of peasants to foreigners; use of cash for transactions in hinterland
Jan. 2, 1898 - Administrative difficulties encountered by the Viceroy; plans for experimental farms - 50 acres; unrealistic plans of Viceroy; more on French-German-British rivalry; corruption in government - justice only to be bought; RR building; Religion - much superstition and ceremony; disregard of Confucian and Buddhist ethics - need for Christian example; Model farm - change in plans for
Jan. 25, 1898 - Formalities involved in getting pay for foreign dinner; first Chinese dinner - foods, serving practices, etc; New Year's celebrations - lanterns, firecrackers, gay costumes; begging - "It is a regular profession and the merchants pay them a certain amount each month and then they paste up a slip and the rest will keep away; but if they are not paid all will come until it is a great nuisance;" foot binding; need of China to borrow money for RR construction; inter-power rivalry [see earlier letters]
Mar. 3, 1898 - Unfavorable conditions around Wuchang - inundation of 1,000's of acres; request of Viceroy to be near city - need for strong government; workers stealing parts of machinery in Shanghai cotton mills - variety of troops; city, provincial, Viceroy's, military schools; resistance to innovation
Mar. 22, 1898 - Comment on various cliques in Eurpoean and American colony in Hankow - gloomy outlook for school; unreliable Chinese aids
Mar. 31, 1898 - Hope for land about seven miles from city - could get more and better land in Szechwan Province or near Nanking; tax and multifarious customs duties paid - to be turned over to foreign customs to secure loan; what will Viceroy do for money?; difficulties Viceroy having with military school; indifference to Brill's urgings that work be started; foreign goods available; protection against anti-foreign riots afforded by English gunboat; death and burial customs
Apr. 16, 1898 - Extreme heat - how Chinese dress for it; work at standstill; no land - no funds because taxes being paid to foreign customs to secure loan; possibility of war - English fleet - Russian troops - restlessness among Chinese becasue of crediting land to foreign countries; no danger in Wuchang: English gunboat
Apr. 24, 1898 - Hankow's preparation for visit of Prince Henry of Germany, brother of Emperor; Dowager Empress' proclamations; contrasts Japan and China - Japan cleaner, but more dishonest
May 8, 1898 - Has formal agreement with Chinese; German interest in provincial affairs
May 14, 1898 - Riots in Sha Si - foreign buildings burned - due to foreign customs taking over salt and other tax proceeds - places blame on literate and officials; Chinese women - smoking pipes, check corruption and graft in government
June 6, 1898 - First interview with Viceroy; work being done on school, but useless without land; corrupt practices in customs, etc.; friendly terms between Viceroy and British Commissioner of Customs; dance in Hankow - international society; anti-foreign feeling
June 18, 1898 - Superstitions - small pox epidemic, 6 pp. Mss.
June 27, 1898 - Status of married women; funeral customs; misfortune of no sons
July 7, 1898 - Dismissal of Professor R(?); would not submit to "tricks" of Viceroy' aides; extreme heat
July 19, 1898 - Viceroy's plan for soap and candle factory; silk mill idle
Aug. 7, 1898 - p. 2 missing? routine letter
Aug. 21, 1898 - Heat, drought; Viceroy went daily to the dragon temple to pray for rain-punishing gods for not sending rain; other superstitions: serpent hill, spirit's liberty
Sept. 9, 1898 - Routine
Sept. 13, 1898 - Empress Dowager squeezing Viceroy for 1 million taels ($750,000); Viceroy wants Brill to be able to run school on paying basis; very pessimistic about government doing anything; British customs with Sir Robert Hart OK; Chinese RR building - Sheng, Hankow-Canton RR; resignation of the Emperor so Dowager Empress, "6th concubine of Emperor's father," can place 9 year old boy on throne; possibility of Japanese, Russian, other foreign interference; sex mores - Oriental mistresses, etc.; Japanese-Russian animosity; Japanese encroachments on China
Sept. 19, 1898 - Difficulties plowing with oxen; city boys with no knowledge of farming
Oct. 5, 1898 - Comment on Dowager Empress - beheading six of most progressive men; escape of leading reformer to English protection; conservatives completely in power - but reform must come or China will disintegrate; H.E. Chang Chi Tung not yet touched; fire in Hankow - missionary aid for the destitute
Oct. 21, 1898 - Skill of Chinese flower gardeners - their sprinkling methods!; Viceroy on guard because of Empress - no progress - no certainty of getting desired land; comment on foot binding; superstition; more fires
Nov. 13, 1898 - Haggling with boatmen on six mile trip on lake, walk back - gates of city closed - let in for 20 cents!; arsonists in Hankow fires caught and beheaded - heads exposed in public
Nov. 27, 1898 - More on Empress (Manchu); RR's progressing; English survey line to run to Berma; Americans - Wuchang-Canton lines; political anarchy, crop failures; superstitions
Dec. 14-15(?), 1898 - French in Nanking - demands for extensions of Shanghai concessions; visit of American party to Wuchang; [part of letter missing]
Jan. 1, 1899 - Chirstmas at Wuchang; continued drought; bridal procession
Jan. 15, 1899 - Status in Chinese society; Hankow and Wuchang street scenes; firecracker industry
Jan. 30, 1899 - "We started the first Agriculture School in China..."; Crop failures - plans for dykes and windmills - high price of rice; organized and hereditary begging class; discrimination against admitting sons and grandsons of coolies, barbers, etc. to civil service jobs
Feb. 10, 1899 - Chinese New Year ceremonies and celebrations
Mar. 5, 1899 - Rebels - French priest incident; transportation difficulties - no RR's to transport troops; Americans interested in RR's having reached Canton; missionary activities
Mar. 26, 1899 - 500-600 applications for school, only 5 or 6 can speak English; "...any Irishmen with blackthorn sticks..." Sir Robert Hart; Russian brick tea factory
May 4, 1899 - Visit of Prince Henry, brother of German Emperor to Wuchang, gala decorations - banquet; French-German rivalry; parition of French-Catholic missionaries; new rumors re: land appropriations
May 27, 1899 - Position of Eurasians; grand opening next week (June 3); wheat harvest; drill ground, which is being used as farm, to be returned to Viceroy; Catholic missionaries - own property where largest line of river and coast steamers land
June 30, 1899 - Difficulties of learning language; superstitions re: eclipse of moon; anti-foreign riots; Roman Catholic; French influence around Peking
July 9, 1899 - Looking over more land - same difficulties
July 12, 1899 - Dragon boat festival; drought
July 16, 1899 - (from Shanghai) about to leave for Japan; comment on life in Shanghai
Aug. 3, 1899 - (Tokyo) style of dress - meeting with Schurmans in Tokyo; impressions of city
Sept. 2, 1899 - (Shanghai) contrasts Japan with China in favor of the former
Sept. 27, 1899 - More confusion re: land
Oct. 6, 1899 - Hopes to influence Viceroy indirectly through United States Consul; Roman Catholic activity - dependence on French influence; difficulties with Chinese over discipline of students
Oct. 17, 1899 - Difficulties with translators of reports of Viceroy; expects new Chinese director for school
Oct. 27, 1899 - Funeral-death customs; Chinese fire fighting
Nov. 5, 1899 - Attempts to get American Consul to push things with Viceroy; erroneous reports in Occidental press re: China: foot binding still common, etc.
Nov. 20, 1899 - Drill hall and German-trained drill master for boys; Mrs. Little's lectures against foot binding
Nov. 26, 1899 - Requests coming in for Chinese students trained in foreign methods to manage farms in other areas - no one to recommend yet; "Foreign Devil" incident - Japanese infiltration - Brill and Gilmore asked to resign
Dec. 12, 1899 - Routine note
Dec. 15, 1899 - School to close Feb. 1, 1900 - plans for trip home - circumstances of his resignation (Tao Tai's opposition)
Dec. 25, 1899 - Engagement to Mary Williams; comment on why leaving China
Jan. 21, 1900 - Has receievd telegrams from United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.; describes trip to country; 60 miles downstream; describes city - Wuchang, Hsien; relations of missionaries with people; Roman Catholc infl.
Feb. 3, 1900 - Unusually cold winter for Wuchang - beggars dying; Dowager Empress; if England stays involed in Transvaal, Russia and France may move in China; no further words from Washington
Feb. 11, 1900 - Viceroy's troubles; Japanese successor to Brill coming
Feb. 11, 1900 - Postcard: going to country for month
Feb. 26, 1900 - From Liang [Tiang Jon Wan]; travelling with Wesleyan Missionaries; prices of accomodations; poor roads - travellers met; cotton and wheat country; gathering agricultural information
Mar. 25, 1900 - Wuchang - contrasts Episcol and Wesleyan proselytizing techniques; desires of many to join Christian Church (especially Roman Catholic) for protection it affords from Chinese officialdom; further describes trip; Sacred Hill of Hupeh - 3,000 ft. above Yangtze; trip down river on house boat; food "poached eggs in sugar syrup;" has made arrangements to stay in China for awhile - going on plant collecting trip
Apr. 4, 1900 - Living at American mission - expects to leave soon on 8 month trip for Agricultural Department [Brill appointed Agricultural Explorer, Apr. 2, 1900]; fears rioting in No. China; Russian encroachments
Apr. 13, 1900 - Comment on friends at Episcopal compound, Wuchang; Viceroy's military reviews; partition on China
May 8, 1900 - Trip to tea country; friction between Japanese and German officers - Japanese in ascendary because they flatter Chinese; riot among workmen on Hankow-Peking RR
May 29, 1900 - On board ship: trip upstream - hopes to reach Chunking; describes rapids - high narrow gorges; may go to Tibet
June 25, 1900 - "Just below Chunking;" travel up rapids - "tracking;" (missionary friends); much traffic but no regular tow paths; at 8 miles below Chucking, heard at Customs station that there had been an attack on Taku Forts, July 2nd - staying at China inland mission; precautions being taken against possible uprising at Peking, but not likely
July 6, 1900 - Preparations for evacuation, if necessary
July 30, 1900 - Possible evacuation of missionaries at Chucking; French-British rivalry in west China
Aug. 7, 1900 - Further evacuation preparations, Chucking
Aug. 29, 1900 - Women and children have left Hankow, Ichang, etc.; all quiet; murder of 100 Roman Catholics and priest - 10 days travel inland - wating for more missionaries to arrive from hinterland before leaving Hankow
Oct. 1, 1900 - Ichang, explains cancellation of trip beyond Chucking (evacuation of missionaries); whole China buisness has added to Russian prestige - French policy towards Empress; comments on Chinese reactions
Oct. 21, 1900 - Hankow, [W.W.] Rockhill at Hankow [See Straight Papers, #1260]; Viceroy has new camps, more soldiers, since May; new government very pro-Boxer; war party lead bu Tuan Yung Tu
Nov. 4, 1900 - Hankow - factions around Empress; preparation for peace negotiations; rebellion in S. spreading - Russia poses as friend of China - but infiltrating Manchuria - thinks atrocity stories in Occidental press exaggerated
Dec. 17, 1900 - Postcard: leaving soon for Shanghai
Dec. 29, 1900 - Hankow - delay in leaving; sinking of German steamer abover Ichang (struck rock); famine in Shensi province; Moslem rebellion in Kansuli??; Russia in Manchuria
May 20, 1901 - Manila, decsription of city ; conditions, etc.; has declined offer to stay on with Superintendent of Public Instruction (last letter)
undated 9 pp. letter - Characteristics of Chinese people; corrupt civil services; ancestor worship; position of women; confidence of Chinese Viceroy in Mission schools; famines - due to faulty distribution

Brill, Gerow D.,1864-1931.
Atkinson, Fred W.
Bailey, L. H.(Liberty Hyde), 1858-1954.
Bell, W. C.
Brill, George M.
Brown, William Addison.
Chang, Chi Tung, 1837-1909.
Chang, T. T.
Coville, Frederick V.
Ferguson, John Calvin, 1866-1945.
Foss, Cyrus David.
Gilmore, John.
Hilgard, E. W.
Lamson-Scribner, F.
Lauman, George N.
Mann, Albert Russell, 1880-1947.
Partridge, Sidney C.
Powell, George T.
Reid, Gilbert.
Roberts, Isaac Phillips, 1833-1928.
Schurman, Jacob Gould, 1854-1942.
Stone, John L.
Taft, William H.(William Howard), 1857-1930.
Wilson, James.
American Rights League.
Briarcliff Manor School of Practical Agriculture and Horticulture.
Cornell University.
Hupeh Agricultural College and Experimental Farm.
New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Philafrican League.
Philippines (Commonwealth).Department of Public Instruction.
United States.Department of Agriculture.

Agricultural colleges.
Agriculture--Economic aspects.
Agricultural economists.

Africa, West.
China--History--Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901.
Hong Kong.
Wuchang (Wuhan, China)
Yangtze River Valley (China)

Form and Genre Terms:


Restrictions on Use:
Restricted use of map due to fragile state
Cite As:
Gerow D. Brill papers, #1379. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.


Series I. Writings
Box 1 Folder 1
May 1891, Oct. 1892
Box 1 Folder 2
Mar.-Aug. 1897
Box 1 Folder 3
Letters to Molly
Aug.-Sept. 1897
Box 1 Folder 4
Sept.-Dec. 1897
Box 1 Folder 5
Letters to Molly
Oct.-Dec. 1987-Jan. 1898
Box 1 Folder 6
Jan.-Feb. 1898
Box 1 Folder 7
Letters to Molly
May-Aug. 1898
Box 1 Folder 8
Mar. 1898
Box 1 Folder 10
Letters to Molly
May-Aug. 1898
Box 1 Folder 11
May 1898
Box 1 Folder 12
June 1898
Box 1 Folder 13
July-Aug. 1898
Box 1 Folder 14
Letters to Molly
Sept.-Dec. 1898
Box 1 Folder 15
Sept.-Oct. 1898
Box 1 Folder 16
Nov.-Dec. 1898
Box 1 Folder 17
Jan.-Mar. 1899
Box 1 Folder 18
Letters to Molly
Jan.-Apr. 1899
Box 1 Folder 19
Apr.-June 1899
Box 1 Folder 20
Letters to Molly
May-Sept. 1899
Box 1 Folder 21
July-Sept. 1899
Box 1 Folder 22
Oct.-Nov. 1899
Box 1 Folder 23
Letters to Molly
Oct.-Dec. 1899
Box 2 Folder 1
Letters to Molly
Jan.-May 1900
Box 2 Folder 2
Mar.-June 1900
Box 2 Folder 3
Letters to Molly
June-Dec. 1900
Box 2 Folder 4
July 1900
Box 2 Folder 5
Aug.-Dec. 1900
Box 2 Folder 6
Letters to Molly
Jan.-May 1901
Box 2 Folder 7
Letters to Molly
June-Oct. 1901
Box 2 Folder 8
Jan.-Dec. 1901
Box 2 Folder 9
Jan.-May 1902
Box 2 Folder 10
Letters to Molly
Jan.-July 1902
Box 2 Folder 11
July-Dec. 1902
Box 2 Folder 12
Letters to Molly
Aug.-Dec. 1902
Box 2 Folder 13
Letters to Molly
1903, 1905, n.d.
Box 2 Folder 14
Sept. 1903-Dec. 1904
Box 2 Folder 15
Box 2 Folder 16
Box 2 Folder 17
Box 2 Folder 18
9 paintings (fragile) depicting "justice"/torture
Box 2 Folder 19
Box 2 Folder 20
The Spirit of Missions (cover only)
July 1901
Box 3
English and Chinese diary and Almanac include topographical maps and a few botanical specimens
1898, 1899, 1900
Box 4-6
Cornell Course Work - lecture notes, etc.
Box 7
Travel Journals and Accounts
Box 8
English and Chinese Diary and Almanac
1898, 1899, 1900
Box 9
Travel Journals - Agricultural Notes on China
Box 10
Booklet - Anglican Church (Wu-chang?) dedication ceremony
Box 10
Calling cards, Laundry lists, Leave slips, Receipts
Box 10
Governor of province announcement of college for industrial school (12-16)
Box 10
Announcement for ag. college
Box 10
Anti-Opium League in China - printed material
Series II. Prints and negatives of Peking, China
Box 11 Photo 1
A View of the Forbidden City from the Wall
Box 11 Photo 2
Gate House, Forbidden City
Box 11 Photo 3
Island Inside Forbidden City
Box 11 Photo 4
Walk in Forbidden City
Box 11 Photo 5a
Inner Gateway, Imperial City
Box 11 Photo 5b
Gate to Forbidden City
Box 11 Photo 6
Empress' Palace, Forbidden City
Box 11 Photo 7
Lion in Front of Palace
Box 11 Photo 8
Inside Imperial Palace
Box 11 Photo 9
Eunuchs in the Grounds of the Forbidden City
Box 11 Photo 10
Water Clock in Palace
Box 11 Photo 11
Imperial Throne (3 views)
Box 11 Photo 12
Temple of Heaven (3 views)
Box 11 Photo 13
Temple of Heaven
Box 11 Photo 14
Gateway to Audience Room (3 views)
Box 11 Photo 15
Marble Platform, Temple of Heaven Grounds
Box 11 Photo 16
Altar, Temple of Heaven, Iron Brazier
Box 11 Photo 17
Shrine in Temple of Heavens Grounds
Box 11 Photo 18
Tablet in Temple of Heaven
Box 11 Photo 19
Summer Palace Grounds, Lake, etc., North of Peking
Box 11 Photo 20
Bridge in the Grounds of the Summer Palace Outside the City
Box 11 Photo 21
Photo of a Painting of the Summer Palace near Peking
Box 11 Photo 22
Lake in the Forbidden City
Box 11 Photo 23
Temple on Summit of Hill at Summer Palace, Colored Tile
Box 11 Photo 24
Pavillion on Stone Boat in Lake at Summer Palace near Peking
Box 11 Photo 25
Temple to God of Agriculture
Box 11 Photo 26
Old Throne at Peking
Box 11 Photo 27
Peking - The Drum Tower
Box 11 Photo 28
Wall of Peking
Box 11 Photo 29a
Peking Gate and Camel in Left Foreground
Box 11 Photo 29b
One of City Gates
Box 11 Photo 29c
Gate in Wall, "A very unusual one." Wall to Keep Out Evil Spirits
Box 11 Photo 29d
Gate in City Wall
Box 11 Photo 29e
One of City Gates
Box 11 Photo 29f
One of Gateways to City Partially Destroyed During the Boxer Rising
Box 11 Photo 29g
Gate House in Wall of Peking After Boxer Rising
Box 11 Photo 30
Looking South on City Wall Where Much Fighting Occured between Boxers and Americans
Box 11 Photo 31
Cannon on Wall
Box 11 Photo 32
Cannon on City Wall - Iron Barrel Bound with Iron Bands over Wooden Staves to Imitate Bronze (3 views)
Box 11 Photo 33
Gate House
Box 11 Photo 34
Print of G.D. Brill
Series III. Glass slides
Box 12
Glass Negatives - prints available in Box 11
Box 13
China slides 659 to 716, Egypt, India, Palestine
Upper Yang Tse, Hong Kong, Macao, Tea processing, Pagodas
Box 14
Phillipines slides 1 to 110
Pekin, farming and daily life scenes
Box 15
Phillipines slides 111 to 225
Farming, varia
Box 16
Phillipines slides 226-315
Box 17
Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Java, Adirondacks, slides
Box 18
China slides 413 to 536
Box 19
China slides 537 to 639
Box 20
China slides 640 to 652, produce images not numbered, untitled
Box 21
Philippines slides not numbered
Box 22
China, China Episcopal Mission, Phillipines slides
Series IV. Oversized items
Mapcase Folder 1
United States Department of Agriculture documents, one appointing Brill "an Honorary representative of the United States Department of Agriculture in the Empire of China," and one charging Brill with the "investigation of the useful plants of the Yangste Valley in the Empire of China"; and a government document and agreement establishing an agricultural school in Hubei Province
Mapcase Folder 2
"Passport" (safe-conduct) of G.D. Brill
Mapcase Folder 3
Large map - Hu-pei Province; Smaller map - Wu-chang, capital of Hy-pei
Mapcase Folder 4
Miscellaneous Chinese-related