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Collection Overview

Hall, Melvin Adams, 1889-
Melvin A. Hall Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
18 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-18


Melvin A. Hall's renaissance career as adventurer, aviator, soldier, agent, financial administrator and author spanned four and a half decades, and is well represented in this collection. The materials include: diaries; personal and business correspondence; official documents, reports and correspondence from his tenure with the American Financial Mission in Persia; copies of his published writings, including drafts of his books Journey to the End of an Era and Bird of Time; articles, reviews, speeches and military intelligence reports; copies of unpublished writings; subject files containing background and research notes; information on his medals, awards and commendations; diaries and correspondence from Hall's father, William Augustus Hall, Hall's wife Josephine Johnson Hall, a World War I field nurse; and photographs and scrapbooks.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of diaires, correspondence, published and unpublished writings, medals, awards, photographs, and scrapbooks of Hall (Princeton Univerrsity Class of 1910). The collection contains diaries Hall kept throughout his life which chronicle his travels and his reflections on transportation conditions; personal and business correspondence; official documents and reports from his tenure with the American Financial Mission to Persia (1922-1927) which reflect his work as a provincial administrator. (Many of these documents are in Farsi, and several are in French; most are dated in the Iranian calendar.) There are copies of his published writings including JOURNEY TO THE END OF AN ERA, which describes a 45,000 mile motor trip around the world (1912-1913), and BIRD OF TIME, which contains reminiscences of his travels, experience in World War I, and life in Vezelay, France. Photographs document Hall's world travels and his activities in Persia and during World War I when he served as a U.S. Army Air Corps officer. Included are records of his military service, appointments, awards, citations, and medals.

Hall's diaries are detailed and especially valuable for their observations on international travel and transportation conditions. They reflect his fascination with the automobile and aeroplane. Aviation, and his belief in its potential for both defense and commerce, was a life-long commitment. Letters to his family contain analyses of political and social factors in countries where he traveled and was stationed. His assessments and predictions concerning World War II, and later, the future of Indochina, are astute.

Of particular interest are the materials which devolve from Hall's work as a provincial administrator with the American Financial Mission to Persia (1922-1927). Many of these official documents are in Farsi, and several are in French; most are dated in the Iranian calendar. The American Financial Mission paid particular attention to the census value of tax rolls, and the documents contain lists of names and tribal organization charts. Details of agricultural production and land use, observations on uprisings, information on oil concession, the opium trade and pearl fishing industry, and comments on the political regime are highlighted.

Collection Creator Biography:

Hall, Melvin Adams, 1889-

Born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, Hall was the only child of William August Hall and Sarah "Sallie" Jewett (Adams) Hall. His parents exposed him to travel at an early age--an affinity that was to be both vocation and avocation for the rest of his life.

Following his Princeton graduation in 1910, Hall and his mother drove their Packard automobile on a 45,000 mile odyssey around the world. Several of Hall's articles describing that trip were published by the National Geographic Magazine and the events of the journey are documented in Journey to the End of an Era (1947) and in Bird of Time (1949).

At the outbreak of World War I Hall was in France. He volunteered his services to the British Expeditionary Forces and before the entrance of the United States into the war, fought with the French, Belgian and English armies.

At the instigation of Col. William "Billy" Mitchell he transferred to the U.S. Army in 1917, where he worked closely with Mitchell on the formation of the U.S. Air Corps. He believed, as did Mitchell, in the need to build a superior defensive air power. In 1918 Hall was cited for organizing the first American Escadrille for night reconnaissance. He was wounded twice, four times decorated by three different countries and was cited ten times for gallant and distinguished service. His decorations include the Croix de Guerre with Palm from both France and Belgium, and the D.S.O. from Great Britain. He and Mitchell are among only six men honored by an Act of Congress with the rank Military Aviator.

After the war Hall spent three years in London as Assistant Military Attache for Aviation. In 1922 he met and married Josephine Wells Johnson, the daughter of Racine, Wisconsin banker Otis W. Johnson, who had been a field nurse during the war. After their marriage in Paris, the couple left for Persia where Hall joined Arthur Chester Millspaugh's staff as a provincial administrator for the American Financial Mission. During his five years with the Mission, Hall served as Administrator of Finances for East Persia (the provinces of Khorasan, Seistan and Ghayenat), as Acting Treasurer-General of the delegation, and as Administrator of Finances for South Persia (Fars and the Southern Ports). In those positions he was responsible for monitoring activities of the nomadic tribes, taxation, road and railroad construction, investigation of opium traffic for the League of Nations, and the administration of the Anglo-Persian oil fields in Khuzistan.

Following his Persian experience Hall worked as Vice President in charge of European and Asiatic Affairs for the Curtiss-Wright Aeroplane Export Co. While there, he established an airline for the Turkish government, oversaw the reequipping of the Netherlands Air Force, and demonstrated aircraft in twenty countries.

Hall's civilian career spanned the years 1933-1940, when he worked for the Export-Import Bank, Washington, D.C.; as a special advisor on foreign trade for the President; for Sears and for the Diesel Division of Caterpillar Co., and as Chief of the Foreign Economic Section of the Civil Aeronautics Authority.

With another war in Europe imminent, Hall again sought military involvement. He was recommissioned a Lieutenant Commander, United States Naval Reserve in 1939, and when Pearl Harbor was attacked, was serving as a naval attache in Istanbul. He resigned his naval commission in 1942 to accept a commission as Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Corps. By 1943 he served as Chief of Staff of the 9th Air Force. A shattered knee at the Normandy landing ended his military career, which covered both world wars and branches of the service.

After the war Hall authored two autobiographical books filled with picaresque characters and remarkable adventures. In 1951 Walter Bedell Smith, then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent Hall to Indochina as Chief of a special mission attached to the Ambassador to Vietnam and Cambodia. In 1955, Hall reflected that events in Vietnam would 'inevitably affect the concern of America in world evolution,' (Correspondence, Aug 19, 1955).

Colonel and Mrs. Hall retired to "La Grangeotte," their 14th- century residence in Vezelay, France. He was an active member of La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a French wine-tasting society and continued writing on a wide variety of subjects. Included in his papers is a draft of a book on the 12th century pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain--a thousand mile journey which Hall traced by jeep, some 50 years after his Princeton graduation.

Hall died in the Veterans Administration Hospital in New York City, on November 23, 1962.

Collection History


In 1959 Hall offered his papers to the Princeton University Library. Following his death, Hall's widow transferred the materials to the library in several installments in 1964, 1967-1968 and 1974. An additional donation of one of Hall's unpublished manuscripts was made by Michel Sodtmann in 2014. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2014.024.


About 14 maps were transferred to the Maps Division of the Geology Library (now Maps and Geospatial Information Center) in 1991. No other information about appraisal is available for this collection.

Processing Information

This collection was initially processed in the 1970s. Subsequent processing by Barbara Bennet in 1991 resulted in an updated finding aid, series-level description, and container lists.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.

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:

Melvin A. Hall 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 1-18