Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Decker, Clinton A. (Clinton Augustine) (1893-1952)
Clinton A. Decker Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1917-2008 (mostly 1917-1922)
4 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-4


Clinton A. Decker traveled to Russia as part of the American Advisory Commission to Russia of Railway Experts (1917) and later became a member of the Inter-Allied Technical Board (1919-1922). The collection contains personal and business correspondence and photographs documenting Decker's travels in Russia, China, and Japan.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection contains personal and business correspondence and photographs of Clinton A. Decker. The majority of personal correspondence is to Decker's future wife, Gertrude V. O'Brien. The letters, arranged chronologically, describe Decker's activities as a member of the American Advisory Commission of Railway Experts to Russia and reveal Decker's perspective on revolutionary Russia from 1917 to 1919. Included are detailed descriptions of Vladivostok, Harbin, and an account of the July Riots (July Days) in Petrograd, as well as a description of the Cossacks (and one of their leaders, Grigori Semenov) and their role in the revolution. A small amount of newspaper clippings and materials related to events around Decker's experiences is also found. Most of this correspondence has been published in Mission to Russia: An American Journal (Edited by Charles J. Decker, self-published, New York: 1994).

The business correspondence focuses on John F. Stevens's work as President of the Inter-Allied Technical Board for which Decker served as secretary. This correspondence is divided into three sections. The first contains Stevens's personal business files from July 26, 1919 to November 21, 1922, arranged chronologically by outgoing correspondence. The materials range from invitations to social events from Russian, Chinese and Japanese officials to letters from American and Canadian firms asking about possible business opportunities. Also included is a letter from an ex-member of the Chinese Eastern Railway Council who was arrested in Petrograd in 1918. He, and the other members of the Council, sought compensation after their release.

The second section contains correspondence Stevens received from the American Representative to the Technical Board, C.H. Smith, from April 30, 1919 to June 8, 1921, arranged chronologically by incoming letter. Much of the correspondence discusses Japanese presence in the region and the Allies' role in the internal conflicts of Russia. Also included are several detailed accounts of disturbances along the rail line such as impounding equipment and the harassment and murder of passengers. Copies of most of the memoranda are included; however enclosures (letters/invoices/telegrams) are not included in the files.


The collection is separated into correspondence and photograph and arranged chronologically within those categories.

Collection Creator Biography:


Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1893, Clinton A. Decker served as part of the American Advisory Commission of Railway Experts to Russia beginning in May 1917. The Commission, led by John F. Stevens, was created by President Woodrow Wilson to assist Russia's Provisional Government by improving the Trans-Siberian and Chinese Eastern Railways. Coming to power after the February Revolution and amidst the fighting of World War I, the Provisional Government needed to supply the troops on the front to demonstrate that it was able to defend Russia from the German threat. In his memoirs John F. Stevens commented that the Commission was "at least a year too late." The Provisional Government was unable to maintain its position, and the Bolshevik Party came to power in November 1917 under V. I. Lenin. Lenin's main goal was to get Russia out of the war, which he accomplished by signing the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Commission dissolved when the Bolshevik government ended Russian involvement in World War I.

Several Commission members, including Decker, then went to Japan to await the arrival of the Russian Railway Service Corps (RRSC), an Army Reserve unit of railway experts invited by the Provisional Government to assist Russian railway operations. Stevens was to be the Director General of all the railways, but with the fall of the Provisional Government, American role in the region was ambiguous. Alarmed by Russia's withdrawal from the war, many countries, including the United States, refused to recognize the new Bolshevik government.

The Inter-Allied Technical Board was then formed under the aegis of the U.S. State Department to place the RRSC along the railway to protect Allied interests. The Board consisted of representatives from every Allied nation, with troops in Siberia at its disposal. Stevens was made president of the Board and Decker the Board's secretary. Decker returned to the United States in November 1919 and became the U.S. representative of the Technical Board in Washington, D.C. The Board dissolved after the last Allied troops left Siberia in 1922.

Collection History


Charles Decker donated this collection to the Library in 1996 (ML1996-4). An additional accession of photographs, a biography, and a printed volume of Clinton Decker's letters was donated by Charles Decker in 2010 (ML2010.027).


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Nancy M. Shader in 1996. Finding aid written by Nancy M. Shader in 1996.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Clinton A. Decker Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-4