Guide to the Pfeiffer-Merner Family Collection
Collection Number Mss 19987
G.A. Pfeiffer Library, Mary Fisher Floyd Archives & Special Collections
Detailed Description of the Collection
Abstract: The Pfeiffer-Merner Family Collection is comprised of: items donated by members of the Pfeiffer and Merner family; materials transferred to the Pfeiffer University archives by members of the Pfeiffer College administration; and clippings, news articles, and research materials about the family collected by school faculty and staff. Materials were collected over more than fifty years, but the bulk of materials date from the 1940s to 1960s.
Information for Users
All biographical information given here is found within the Pfeiffer-Merner Family Collection. More complete data may be available elsewhere.
Henry Pfeiffer, (1857-1939)
Henry Pfeiffer was the oldest of ten children born to Heinrich and Barbara Kluftinger Pfeiffer, German immigrants. He was born in Lewiston, PA, but the Pfeiffers moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa soon after his birth. He received his early education in the Cedar Falls public schools and later attended North Central College, Naperville, Illinois. While a young man he became a clerk in a retail drugstore in Cedar Falls and later opened his own drugstore there. His business successes led him to found the Pfeiffer Chemical Company, and gain control of both William R. Warner and Company, and Richard Hudnut Company. His brother Gustavus was a business partner. Henry Pfeiffer married Annie Merner in 1882. They lived modestly and never had children. Instead they devoted time and money to philanthropic enterprises under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Upon his death Henry Pfeiffer left the greater part of his estate to a group of religious, educational, scientific, and similar institutions, after making generous provisions to a number of relations.
Annie Merner Pfeiffer, (1860-1946)
The young Annie Merner was educated in the public schools of Ontario. She was the daughter of John and Anna Marie Zingg Merner, well-to-do farmers who moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa to escape the Canadian winters. In Cedar Falls she met and married Henry Pfeiffer in 1882. The Pfeiffers began their affiliation with the Methodist Episcopal Church when the couple moved to St. Louis in 1917. They were originally members of the Evangelical Church, but there were no such churches in St. Louis. When the couple again moved, this time to New York in 1927, Annie Merner Pfeiffer became president of the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the New York Conference. One of the first institutions to which the Pfeiffers first made a gift was the Ethel Harpst Home in Cedartown, Georgia. As their knowledge of and interest in the projects of the WHMS grew, they began to single out other institutions for financial assistance. Mrs. W. H. C. Goode, president o the national WHMS, directed Mrs. Pfeiffer's attention to Mitchell Home School in 1929, and Mrs. Pfeiffer made her first visit to Misenheimer in that year. Gifts totaling over 1.5 million dollars followed, including gifts of buildings, cash, and stocks. Annie Merner Pfeiffer received honorary degrees from the following institutions:
1937 Albright College, Reading, PA
Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer and Louise Foote Pfeiffer, (1872-1953)
G. A. Pfeiffer was the ninth of ten children born to Heinrich and Barbara Kluftinger Pfeiffer. He went into business with his oldest brother Henry, and also pursued similar philanthropic interests. He and his wife, Louise Foote Pfeiffer, contributed thousands of dollars to Pfeiffer Junior College, was an avid collector, a writer and philosopher, and founded the Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation. G. A. and Louise Pfeiffer had one son, Max, who died as an infant.
Garfield Merner, (1883-1972)
A native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Garfield Merner was the son of David C. and Emma Pfeiffer Merner. He was vice president of William R. Warner & Co. from 1908 to 1920. From 1923 to 1929 he was president of the Merner Lumber Company of Palo Alto, CA. During World War II he was director of the American Red Cross supply service to the Pacific area. With his wife, Benetta, who died in 1958, Merner founded in 1929 the Allied Arts Guild. He was on the Board of Trustees of the Pfeiffer Foundation, and several colleges and universities, including Pfeiffer College. He never completed college but earned several honorary degrees. Garfield Merner had four children with Benetta Delight and later married (date uncertain) Ruth Conklin Geggie. Garfield D. Merner was the nephew of Annie Merner Pfeiffer.
Scope and Content Note
The collection of the Pfeiffer-Merner family spans the years 1930 to 1998, although the bulk of materials dates from the 1940s to the mid-1960s. They consist of addresses; correspondence; miscellaneous items including some printed materials and ephemera; photographs; biographical information; and papers relating to the administration of the estates of several family members. Subject areas represented in the collection include: Pfeiffer Junior College (later Pfeiffer College); philanthropy; higher education; the Woman's Home Missionary Society; genealogy on branches of the Merner and Pfeiffer families; inheritance; and, to a lesser degree, family life.
The Addresses Series consists of four speeches delivered in honor or memory of Henry and/or Annie Merner Pfeiffer. The addresses illustrate the philanthropic impact of the Pfeiffers on higher education in the US and abroad. There is also some biographical information. The addresses are largely testimonials.
Data compiled by researchers comprises the Biographical Series. Much of the information is taken from past editions of Who's Who publications, but some was provided by Adele Brockhoff, who had served as personal secretary to both Gustavus Pfeiffer and Garfield Merner. Genealogical details were provided by a distant Merner relation in 1995. The series also houses newspaper clippings assembled by Pfeiffer College staff about members of the Pfeiffer-Merner family.
The Correspondence Series is divided into sub-groups of correspondence: Garfield Merner Sub-series; Annie Merner Pfeiffer Sub-series; and the Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer Sub-series. Correspondence generally relates to the business of Pfeiffer College, although personal letters are scattered throughout the series. The Garfield Merner Sub-series forms more than half the series: it demonstrates his interest in Pfeiffer Junior College developing into a senior institution; his interest in books, reading, and travel; and his influential circle of associates. The Annie Merner Pfeiffer Sub-series contains only two letters, but they reflect the woman's commitment to the Woman's Home Missionary Society and Pfeiffer Junior College. The Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer Sub-series holds the highest proportion of personal correspondence. Herein are letters to and from various family members, where he is referred to as "Uncle Gus." The sub-series also shows G. A. Pfeiffer's growing interest in Pfeiffer Junior College.
The Estate Series is divided into sub-groups by estate: the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Estate Sub-series; the Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer Estate Sub-series; the Louise Foote Pfeiffer Estate Sub-series. Each Estate Sub-series holds legal records and correspondence relating to the execution of the individual's estate. The papers from the estate of G. A. Pfeiffer form the majority of this series, and contain correspondence between the law firm representing the estate and the president of Pfeiffer Junior College. Legal documents include exhibits and two copies of G. A. Pfeiffer's last will and testament. Of note are the Exhibits; they sought to prove ownership of an Ernest Hemingway manuscript (Hemingway was at one time married to a niece of G. A. Pfeiffer).
A variety of materials constitute the Miscellaneous Series: the Pfeiffer bookplate; stock certificates; and printed items such as invitations and programs.
Within the Photographs Series are photograph portraits of Pfeiffer family members.
The final series consists of Oversize Materials, such as oil paintings, large format photographs, and realia. Also housed as part of this series is a Pfeiffer family tree donated in October 1998.
The Pfeiffer-Merner Family Collection documents the commitment of a family to philanthropy and higher education, largely evidenced here by the documentation of interest in Pfeiffer College. Other collections in the Mary Fisher Floyd Archives which relate to the Pfeiffer-Merner family include: the Office of the President Record Group in the Pfeiffer University Archives, as well as the Advancement Record Group; Woman's Home Missionary Society Papers; Pfeiffer University Buildings Collection; and Mitchell Home School Collection. Numerous books donated by the Pfeiffers and Merners and located both in Special Collections and in the G. A. Pfeiffer Library's circulating collection.
Online Catalog Headings
Organization of Collection
The collection is divided into 10 series.
Detailed Description of the Collection
- Largely comprised of speeches given in honor or memory of a member of the Pfeiffer family. Addresses delivered at dedications and convocations.
- Information gathered about members of the Pfeiffer and Merner families by faculty and staff of Pfeiffer College. Sources of information are usually noted (e.g., Who's Who, 1942-1943); G. A. Pfeiffer's personal secretary also provided some information. Genealogical materials about the Merner family included, as well as newspaper clippings about the members of the families.
- Includes some personal correspondence, although most letters relate to Pfeiffer Junior College. The correspondence series is separated into sub-series according to family member; letters are then arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and further subdivided chronologically by year, and month when necessary.
- This sub-series represents the bulk of materials in the Pfeiffer-Merner Family Collection. Garfield Merner took a great interest in Pfeiffer Junior College; much of the correspondence was produced as a result of his position on the Board of Trustees. There are also examples of personal letters; notable correspondents include Dwight D. Eisenhower and Herbert Hoover.
- These letters concern Mrs. Pfeiffer's financial contributions to Pfeiffer Junior College.
- Although Pfeiffer's personal secretary, Adele Brockhoff, stated that G. A. Pfeiffer requested all his personal papers be destroyed upon his death, a few have survived to form this sub-series. Contained within the sub-series are: letters to and from Pfeiffer; personal notes to family members; business letters; and open letters of an instructive nature similar to some of his published works.
Estate Series, 1943-1958.
- First grouped according to family member. There are printed wills and other legal documents, including among other records: correspondence, exhibits, and financial records from the estates.
- The Pfeiffer bookplate, stock certificates, and printed materials from other colleges receiving financial support from the Pfeiffer family.
- Photographs consist exclusively of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pfeiffer, G. A. . Pfeiffer and Charles Leonard Pfeiffer.
- Items too large to be housed with the rest of the collection. Oil paintings and furniture form most of this series; it also includes however realia such as a carving that appears to have come from an area of Pacific Asia. Furniture was part of the Henry and Annie Merner Pfeiffer estate and was bequeathed to Pfeiffer Junior College. Unfortunately no complete inventory of items appears to have been undertaken, and thus individual items are not listed.
Archives Home | Manuscript Listing |Library Home | Online Catalog | University Home