Guide to the Ralph W. Barnes papers

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Barnes, Ralph W.
Title: Ralph W. Barnes papers
Dates: 1918-1943 ( inclusive )
1926-1940 ( bulk )
Quantity: 3 linear feet (3 boxes and 20 scrapbooks)
Location of Collection: Mark O. Hatfield Library
Collection Number: WUA016
Summary: This collection contains materials that relate to Ralph W. Barnes’ fourteen year career as a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Barnes reported in Europe from 1926 to 1940, and was stationed in Benito Mussolini’s Italy, Joseph Stalin’s Russia, and Adolf Hitler’s Germany. The collection includes items related to Barnes’ career as well as his personal life. Correspondence, journals, and scrapbooks created by his wife, Esther Barnes are also included. The majority of Barnes’ published stories are documented in scrapbooks created by his father, E.T. Barnes. A notable item in this collection is a letter from Joseph Stalin to Barnes, written in 1933.
Repository: Willamette University Archives and Special Collections
Contact Information: Archives and Special Collections
Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem, OR
Telephone: 503-370-6866
Fax: 503-370-6141
Languages: Materials are in English.  

Biographical Note

Ralph Waldo Barnes was born on June 14, 1899 in Salem, Oregon to Edward Talbot Barnes and Mabel Nancy Baker Barnes. Barnes attended local public schools and graduated from Salem High School in 1917. The summer after graduation Barnes took military training at St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin. He returned to Salem in the fall of 1918 to begin studies at Willamette University, but his studies were interrupted when his military reserve unit was called for training at Fort McArthur in Waco, Texas. He returned to Willamette and graduated in 1922 with a degree in history. After receiving a Master’s degree in Economics from Harvard University, Barnes returned to Salem to marry his longtime sweetheart, Esther Parounagian, who had graduated from Willamette in 1923.

In 1924, Barnes and Esther moved to New York City where he found a job working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A brief stretch with the Evening World allowed Barnes to leverage himself into a position with the New York Herald Tribune, which he held from 1924 until his death in 1940.

His first assignment as a foreign correspondent took him to Paris, France in 1926. In 1930 Barnes was given a promotion and transferred to Rome, Italy where he reported under the rule of Benito Mussolini. In May of 1930, Esther gave birth to a daughter named Joan in Italy. Almost a year later, Barnes was transferred to Russia during the height of Joseph Stalin’s government. He was assigned to the Moscow bureau where he reported from 1931 to 1935. Barnes was an avid reader and heavily supplemented his news reporting with background research. During his first month in Moscow, he wrote to his father “My Britannica is not here yet; hope to have it within a couple of weeks; for, without it, I feel like a nearsighted man who has lost his spectacles.” In the fall of 1931, a second daughter, Suzanne, was born while Esther and Joan were in Paris.

Barnes was conscious of his unique position in Russia, “Here I’m one of a few observers of what is undoubtedly the most important experiment of this century; and perhaps for several centuries; either for good or bad.” He carried this perspective to each of his subsequent posts throughout Europe.

Barnes left Moscow to take over the Berlin, Germany bureau in 1935 and spent four years under the rule of Adolph Hitler. In March of 1939, just before the start of the Second World War, he was offered a position as head of the London bureau in England. In 1940, Barnes returned to Berlin to report on the war. On June 21, 1940 he was expelled from Berlin for a story that government censors found abrasive. Due to escalating tensions in Europe, a few weeks earlier on June 2, Esther, Joan, and Suzanne returned to New York from Dublin, Ireland, via the ship the U.S.S. Roosevelt.

Barnes continued traveling as a journalist, despite the expulsion, going from Berlin to Budapest, Hungary and then on to Bucharest, Romania and eventually Egypt. In Egypt, Barnes became an official war correspondent and was stationed with the British Army. When Italy invaded Greece, Barnes and the other correspondents accompanied the British forces to Greece on a warship. On November 17, 1940 Barnes was given permission to accompany the Royal Air Force (RAF) on a night raid. Weather conditions drove the plane off course, causing it to crash into a mountain range in Yugoslavia, killing all on board. Barnes was the first war correspondent to be killed in WWII. He was buried with military honors in Yugoslavia. Leland Stowe, a longtime friend and colleague of Barnes, wrote an obituary in which he quoted a war correspondent also assigned to the RAF, “Ralph always wanted to know everything about everything. He had to see for himself. He always asked more questions than the rest of us put together. Out in the desert he got interested in the stars, so he bought several books on astronomy as soon as he got back to Cairo. Of course, he was a veteran and we were lots of us younger than he, but he could never get over his enthusiasm.” Three years after his death, a Liberty ship was christened the S.S. Ralph Barnes in his honor.

Esther raised her two daughters in Salem and married Chester Downs in 1946. Esther died in 1985 and is buried in Salem, Oregon.

Content Description

The Ralph W. Barnes collection is arranged into four series: Series I. Ralph Barnes, 1918-1940; Series II. Esther Barnes, 1924-1940; Series III. E.T. Barnes, 1930-1940; and Series IV. Photographs, 1918-1943.

The collection contains letters, newspaper clippings, photographs, bound scrapbooks, passports, journals. There are also typed transcripts of Ralph and Esther Barnes’ letters.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

This collection is open to researchers.

Restrictions on Use :  

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Preferred Citation :  

[Identification of item], Ralph W. Barnes papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mark O. Hatfield Library, Willamette University.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

These records are arranged into four series based upon creator. Each series is ordered by the type of material and is in chronological order.

Custodial History :  

Gift of Suzanne Barnes Morrison and Joan Barnes Kelly, January 17, 2008.

Bibliography :  

    Mahoney, Barbara S. 2002. Dispatches and dictators :Ralph Barnes for the Herald Tribune. 1st ed. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press.

Related Materials :  

Robert C. Notson papers

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I:  Ralph W. Barnes, 1918-1940

This series covers Barnes education and subsequent fourteen year career as a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune in Europe. The bulk of the series is outgoing correspondence from Barnes to family members. Included are essays from graduate school, journals, a letter from Joseph Stalin to Barnes, and articles about the ship christened in his honor, S.S. Ralph Barnes.

This series is organized into two subseries: Professional Files and Personal Files. These are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries A: Professional Files 1924-1943
1.1 Harvard Essay 1924
1.2 Journal from Eagle 1925
1.3 Journal from England and Russia 1927
1.4 Stalin letter 1933
1.5 Liberty Ship 1943
Subseries B: Personal Files 1918-1940
1.6 Early letters to Esther 1918
1.7 Letter to classmates 1927
1.8 Letters 1929-1932
1.9 Letters 1932-1933
1.10 Letters 1937
1.11 Letters 1939
1.12 Letters 1940
1.13 Telegrams 1932-1940
1.14 Legal Documents 1926-1940

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Series II:  Esther Barnes, 1924-1983

This series includes letters to family, journals, scrapbooks, passports, and the unpublished 1983 interview she gave to the Statesman Journal regarding Ralph Barnes.

This series is divided into six subseries, each of which is arranged chronologically.
Subseries A: Correspondence 1930-1940
2.1 Letters 1930-1932
2.2 Letters 1933
2.3 Letters 1934
2.4 Letters 1935
2.5 Letters 1936
2.6 Letters 1937
2.7 Letters 1938
2.8 Letters 1939
2.9 Letters 1940
Subseries B: Journals and other writings 1925-1927
2.10 Journal, pp 1-10 1925
2.11 Journal, pp 11-20 1925
2.12 Journal, pp 21-30 1925
2.13 Journal, pp 31-38 1925
2.14 Journal, pp 1-10 1926
2.15 Journal, pp 11-20 1926
2.16 Journal, pp 21-30 1926
2.17 Journal, pp 31-40 1926
2.18 Journal, pp 41-47 1926
2.19 Journal, pp 1-10 1927
2.20 Journal, pp 11-20 1927
2.21 Journal, pp 21-30 1927
2.22 Journal, pp 31-40 1927
2.23 Journal, pp 41-48 1927
2.24 Bound Journal 1927
2.25 Handwritten page, brief history of Russia undated
Subseries C: Scrapbooks and Memorabilia 1927-1931
2.26 Heidelberg 1927
2.27 Le Voyage d’ Esther et Ralph 1927
2.28 Passport issued in Rome 1931

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Series III:  E.T. Barnes, 1930-1940

This series is comprised of materials assembled by E.T. Barnes to record Ralph Barnes’ career. It includes scrapbooks of published stories from 1930 to 1940 as well as typed transcripts of letters sent home from Ralph and Esther Barnes.

Subseries A: Scrapbooks 1930-1940
Sub-subseries 1: Italy 1930-1931
1 January 1930- February 1931 1930-1931
2 February 1930- February 1931 1930-1931
Sub-subseries 2: Russia 1931-1935
1 April 1931- June 1934 1931-1934
2 May 1931-1934 1931-1934
3 April- December 1931 1931
4 January- September 1932 1932
5 May 1933- January 1934 1933-1934
6 January- July 1934 1934
7 December 1934- August 1935 1934-1935
8 December 1934- July 1935 1934-1935
9 July-August 1935 1935
Sub-subseries 3: Germany 1935-1939
1 August 1935- September 1936 1935-1936
2 September 1931- December 1937 1931-1937
3 December 1937- March 1939 1937-1939
Sub-subseries 4: England 1939-1940
1 April 12- August 12, 1939 1939
2 August- December 1939 1939
3 January- June 1940 1940
4 June- October 1940 1940
Sub-subseries 5: Mid-East 1940
1 October 19-November 17, 1940 1940
3.1 Articles on death of Ralph Barnes 1940
3.2 Ralph Barnes best stories 1927-1940
Subseries B: Typed transcripts of letters from Ralph W. Barnes 1931-1940
3.1 Experiences of a foreign correspondent in Europe undated
3.2 April 13, 1931- November 21, 1931, Russia 1931
3.3 November 25, 1931- November 7, 1932, Russia 1931-1932
3.4 November 18, 1932- August 1933, Russia 1932-1933
3.5 August 7, 1933- January 9, 1935, Russia 1933-1935
3.6 January 16, 1935- June 5, 1936, Russia 1935-1936
3.7 June 8, 1936-April 16, 1937, Germany 1936-1937
3.8 May 18, 1937- July 10, 1938, Germany 1937-1938
3.9 July 24, 1938- August 4, 1939, England 1938-1939
3.10 August 12, 1939- September 1940, England 1939-1940
3.11 August 19- October 6, 1940 1940
Subseries C: Typed transcripts of letters from Esther Barnes 1933-1940
3.12 June 1933- May 1934, Russia 1933-1934
3.13 May 2, 1934- January 21, 1936, Russia, Germany 1934-1936
3.14 January 29, 1936- December 31, 1936, Germany 1936
3.15 November 27, 1936- October 1937, Germany 1936-1937
3.16 October 27, 1937- October 1938, Germany 1937-1938
3.17 November 9, 1938- January 1940, England 1938-1940
3.18 January 27, 1940- July 8, 1940, England 1940

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Series IV:  Photographs, 1918-1943

Included in this series are a variety of photographs of Ralph and Esther Barnes. Some of the photographs are have dates and locations while others do not have any information. They are housed in Box 1.

This series is arranged in chronological order.
1.15 Salem High School yearbook, Ralph Barnes and Esther Parounagian 1917
1.16 Ralph Barnes in military uniform 1918
1.17 Ralph Barnes honorable discharge from the United States Army 1918
1.18 Group, includes Ralph and Esther Barnes 1925
1.19 Group, includes Ralph and Esther Barnes 1927
1.20 Ralph and Esther Barnes 1929
1.21 Ralph Barnes 1929
1.22 Ralph Barnes, Istanbul 1940
1.23 Esther, Suzanne, and Joan Barnes arriving from Europe aboard the S.S. Roosevelt 1940
1.24 Ralph Barnes, Athens 1940
1.25 Esther Barnes undated
1.26 Ralph Barnes undated
1.27 Ralph and Esther Barnes undated
1.28 Ralph Barnes undated
1.29 Kiwanis luncheon undated
1.30 Ralph Barnes undated
1.31 “Ralph W. Barnes” Liberty ship undated
1.32 The Shirers and the Barnes undated
1.33 Ralph W. Barnes undated
1.34 Karl Radek and Esther, Moscow 1935 1935
1.35 Esther at Pacific City undated
1.36 Barnes writing a story in Red Square undated

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This collection is indexed under the following headings for information purposes. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should use these names and subject terms as search terms.

  • Personal Names :
  • Barnes, Ralph W.--Archives
  • Duranty, Walter, 1884-1957
  • Franco, Francisco, 1892-1975
  • Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945
  • Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich, 1870-1924
  • Lindbergh, Charles A. (Charles Augustus), 1902-1974
  • Mussolini, Benito, 1883-1945
  • Notson, Robert C., 1902-1999
  • Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
  • Corporate Names :
  • Brooklyn daily eagle
  • New York herald tribune
  • New York Times Company
  • Geographical Names :
  • Red Square (Moscow, Russia)
  • Subject Terms :
  • Capitol Mall expansion, Salem, Oregon
  • Kristallnacht, 1938
  • Soviet Union- Economic policy- Five-year plan (1928-1932)
  • Soviet Union- Economic policy- Five-year plan, Second (1933-1937)
  • Willamette University
  • Subject Terms :
  • World War, 1914-1918 --United States
  • World War, 1939-1945 --European Theater
  • World War, 1939-1945 -Royal Air Force
  • World War, 1939-1945 --United States
  • Other Creators :
  • Barnes, Esther, 1901-1985
  • Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953

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