The Papers of Chellis Evanson, 1914-1993
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Brief Description:

Series I contains the records of the W.W.II. Letter Project conducted in 1992 which resulted in a computer database to the letters.  Each piece was numbered and entered into a database.  Two indices are provided here: an alpha list by sender with date of letter and topic; and an alpha list by topic with sender and date.  The series also contains a rubbing of the memorial plaque done in 1993 at the end of the project.

Series II contains what is believed to be a complete set of the newsletter, "Scuttlebutt" written by Evanson and distributed to Luther College servicemen.  The newsletters were intended to keep the Luther "boys" in touch with their alma mater and with each other.  Interesting letters exist in the next series pertaining to the restrictions Evanson was compelled to follow by the War Department censors.

Series III contains the 707 Letters and 1,064 Service Records of the Luther College servicemen.  The letters range from poignant to light-hearted.  The young men were clearly pleased to be part of a "family" of classmates.  Many letters give details on conditions under which they lived and fought.  The military service records are one-page forms detailing the men's service.  These are good sources of basic biographical data.  All are indexed.

The files of the Luther College War Memorial Plaque Campaign is detailed in Series IV.  Most of the material is an extensive collection of letters from contributors to the fund.  Many letters confirm or add names to the list of men and women to be honored on the plaque.  Along with the Service Records in Series III, it is the single best place to get information on the military service of Luther College students in World Wars I and II. This series includes the final Honor Roll and the Plaque's Dedication Service held in 1949.

A small selection of Programs and Pamphlets are found in Series V.  These pertain to Luther College ceremonies honoring veterans during and after World War II.  Programs to memorial services, wartime commencement programs and a special edition of the Luther College Bulletin can be found here.

Series VI contains remarkable photographs and records of the 1936 European Diamond Jubilee Concert Band Tour organized to commemorate the College's 75th Anniversary.  Evanson was the Press Agent and Assistant Manager of the tour.  He produced five scrapbooks of candid photographs covering everything from the farewell concert on campus to a street scene in Germany with Nazi flags on display.  Files contain correspondence, contracts and photograph lists. Finding Guide to the Papers of Chellis Evanson

Files and photographs of the 50th Reunion of the 1914 Concert Band Tour can be found in Series VII.  Evanson helped to organize the event held on campus in 1964 for the alumni of that tour.  The material is sparse and consists of letters to Evanson from participants and candid photographs taken during the reunion.

The Biographical Files in Series VIII contains only an "Ode to Chellis" by Barbara Bahe.  Unfortunately no other biographical material or academic files came with this collection.

Series IX holds World War II Memorabilia collected by Evanson.  The contents of this series is noted in the Box Inventory.

Held at:
Luther College Archives
700 College Drive
Decorah, IA 52101
Phone: 563-387-1805
Fax: 563-387-1657
Email: archives [at]
Record Series Number: LCA/RG15/Evanson, C
Created by: Evanson, Chellis N. (1896-1983)
Volume: 4.2 Cubic Feet
Acquired: 00/00/1983.
Arrangement: The collection is principally the outstanding collection of correspondence between Evanson and Luther College servicemen and others during the Second World War.  The collection is organized into 9 series:  Series I. World War II Letter Project Files;  Series II. Issues of "Scuttlebutt";  Series III. Letters and Military Records of Luther College Servicemen;  Series IV. War Memorial Plaque Files;  Series V. Programs and Pamphlets;  Series VI. 1936 Concert Band Tour Files and Scrapbooks;  Series VII. 50th Reunion of the 1914 Concert Band Tour Files;  Series VIII.  Biographical Files;  Series IX. World War II Memorabilia.
Biographical Note for Evanson, Chellis N. (1896-1983) :

Chellis Evanson entered Luther College in 1911.  After graduating from Luther in 1918, he served the last year of World War I in the United States Navy where he was stationed on the flagship, Pennsylvania.  In 1919, Evanson returned to Luther College to accept a position as Professor of History.  That same year he became the head of the History Department following the death of his mentor, Knut Gjerset.

Evanson had an unorthodox style of teaching; a style much less structured than Gjerset's.  Some students found  themselves capable of "getting by" without reading all the material he assigned.  Other students, those truly interested in history, found his classes fascinating.  One of his students, John Gimbel, went on to teach with Evanson at Luther College from 1950-1959.

During World War II, Evanson stayed in contact with Naval recruits from Luther.  He composed a newsletter entitled, "Scuttlebutt" which he sent to the navel recruits and eventually to all servicemen from Luther.  He also corresponded with Luther College servicemen which resulted in the remarkable collection of 707 letters found in Evanson's personal papers.

Evanson remained a strong supporter of the Navy and an active member of the American Legion all of his life.  He was also active in the Decorah community as a member of the local school board and many other organizations.  Evanson, along with David Th. Nelson and area veterans organizations raised money to place a war memorial in the Main Building at Luther College.  The bronze pages honor all the men and women who served in the American Armed Forces in World Wars I and II.

Evanson retired from teaching in 1966.  He and his wife continued to live in Decorah.  He died in 1983 at the age of 87.

Subject Index
Luther College (Decorah, Iowa)
Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) - Faculty and Staff
World War, 1939-1945 - Correspondence
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
Acquisition Notes:   Chellis Evanson collected all of the material in this collection except the database project records.  The materials were given to the Luther College Archives after his death by his widow.  No other information on the transfer survives.
PreferredCitation: Cite unpublished materials: Chellis Evanson Papers RG15 Manuscripts, Luther College Archives, Decorah, Iowa
Finding Aid Revisions: 11/15/19: EC updated the preferred citation.