Biography and History

United Service to China was founded as United China Relief on February 7, 1941 as a membership corporation in the state and county of New York. However, the origins of UCR/USC stretch back more than a year to January 1940 when a group of men known as the Committee of Five first suggested that the various relief agencies raising money for China could work more effectively if they were to work together. The Committee of Five promoted, without much success, this idea throughout the year among the various agencies associated with relief for China. This committee consisted of Dr. Claude Forkner, Mr. Roger Greene, Dr. Edward H. Hume, Dr. John Earl Baker, and Dr. B. A. Garside. The Coordinating Committee for China Relief and Rehabilitation decided in December 1940 that the idea had some merit and began studying ways in which to coordinate their fundraising activities. This committee consisted of representatives from the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China (ABMAC), the China Emergency Relief Committee, the China Aid Council, the American Committee for Chinese War Orphans, the Church Committee for China Relief, China Famine Relief, the American Committee for Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (Indusco, Inc.), and the Associated Boards for Christian Colleges in China (ABCCC). These agencies decided to establish a corporation that would carry on a joint fundraising campaign. All of the agencies on the committee except China Famine Relief elected to become cooperating agencies of the newly formed United China Relief, Inc.

The original intent of the cooperating agencies was that UCR would be a temporary institution which would last only long enough to conduct a 1941 fundraising campaign. The goal of this campaign was to raise $5 million, approximately four times as much as the agencies had been able to raise separately in 1940. UCR was unable to meet this goal by the original July 31 deadline, so the board extended the deadline several times. By the end of the year, UCR had been so successful that the agencies decided to maintain it as a permanent institution in order to raise money on a permanent basis.

In 1942 UCR conducted a very successful campaign, raising approximately $7 million for relief for China. However, this was UCR‘s last independent campaign for several years, because in 1943 UCR joined the National War Fund and conducted most of its fundraising through that agency and under its supervision. This arrangement was a great financial success for UCR.

The next major change in the organization came at the end of the war in 1945. Most of UCR‘s efforts up to this time had been focused on short-term relief work in China to deal with the devastation of the country by the war with the Japanese. After the war the UCR turned instead to projects with more long-term benefits, such as education. The directors felt that the best way they could fulfill their duty to China was to help the Chinese help themselves. As a reflection of its new mission, the board decided in 1946 to change the name of the corporation to United Service to China, Inc.

USC attempted to conduct its first independent campaign in several years in 1946 and extending through 1947. This was not as successful as the campaigns during the war years had been, a condition which the directors attributed to lack of interest in philanthropic organizations among the American people. In an attempt to generate more income, USC joined with an organization known as American Overseas Aid - United Nations Appeal for Children in a joint campaign, through which they had hoped to receive $4.8 million, but eventually received only a few hundred thousand dollars. Although USC tried other fundraising techniques, such as direct mail to those considered most likely to contribute, USC revenue was still far less than in previous years. In addition, growing Communist influence in China made it seem less and less likely that USC would be able to generate support for China, no matter how assiduously it campaigned. As a result, USC had to scale back its activities. USC operated on an ever decreasing scale until the end of 1950, when the directors decided that USC should become inactive. They dismissed all of their employees and ceased all active solicitation as of December 31, 1950.

During the next few months, all the assets of USC except for a small reserve fund were handed over to the two cooperating agencies which were still operating and associated with USC: the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China (ABMAC) and the United Board for Christian Colleges in China (UBCCC, formerly ABCCC). The contributors to USC were informed of the change and asked to make all their contributions either to ABMAC or UBCCC. In the years that followed, USC carried on very limited activities. It did not solicit funds, but it did receive some unsolicited contributions and bequests from estates. It passed these funds, along with interest from the reserve fund, on to its cooperating agencies. The board met once every year in order to maintain USC‘s legal status. The meetings usually lasted only 10 to 15 minutes and consisted of little more than reelecting all the members of the board for the upcoming year.

In 1965, the board decided that USC could do more for China by giving all of its funds to agencies which were actually active in China than by waiting to reactivate itself at some unknown time in the future. It decided to liquidate its reserve fund and hand over the funds to the cooperating agencies to help them continue their programs. The board therefore ordered that the officers of the corporation look into (1) recovering all the funds from dormant accounts which had previously been held by local committees of UCR/USC, and (2) finding a way of terminating USC‘s legal existence. The officers conducted the search for the dormant funds, but the amount that they recovered was negligible.

At the next meeting of the board, in November 1966, the directors voted to divide the financial assets and liabilities of USC evenly between the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China (ABMAC) and the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (UBCHEA, formerly UBCCC). They also voted to consolidate USC and ABMAC, so that ABMAC would take on all the legal obligations of USC, and it would go out of existence as of the close of business on December 31, 1966. In total, UCR/USC had raised over $52 million to aid China, 90% of it between 1941 and 1946, and 99% between 1941 and 1950.

The United Council for Civilian Relief in China was one of many relief organizations established to voice the cause of China during the Sino-Japanese conflict of the late 1930s. As most of these Chinese relief organizations merged to create United China Relief, Inc. around 1941, United Council for Civilian Relief in China is considered a predecessor to UCR.

Source: From the finding aid for MC135

  • United Service to China Records. 1934-1967 (inclusive), 1941-1950 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC135

    The Records of United Service to China, Inc., known from 1941 to 1946 as United China Relief, Inc., document the activities of the organization from the early formation in 1940 to its official consolidation with the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China in 1966. In addition there is a limited amount of material from other Chinese relief agencies that predate the founding of United China Relief / United Service to China. The Records focus on UCR/USC attempts to raise money in the United States, to educate Americans about China and the Chinese people, and to carry on relief work in China. The collection consists primarily of correspondence among the various individuals and agencies involved with UCR/USC, along with other material produced by the agency, such as minutes and publicity material. In addition, the collection includes a series of photographs dealing with China during the 1940s and efforts in the United States to raise money for China during the same period.