James, Eldon R. (Eldon Revare). Papers Relating to his Position as Adviser in Foreign
Affairs to the Siamese Government, 1918-1935: Finding Aid.
Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Harvard Law School
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: HOLLIS 601630
Repository: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: James, Eldon R. (Eldon Revare), 1875-1949
Title: Papers Relating to his Position as Advisor in Foreign Affairs to the Siamese Government,
Quantity: 3 boxes
The papers of Eldon Revare James, law professor, law librarian, and expert in the
field of international law, were found in the attic of the Hotel Beaconsfield in Brookline
when this Hotel was being torn down. They had been stored there by Dr. James' widow,
Phila Smith James, who had since died. They were turned over to the Harvard Law School
Library in the 1960's.
Prepared by Erika Chadbourn, March 1969. Reprocessed by Erica Bicchieri, 2003.
Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law
School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard
Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special
Collections staff for further information.
The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material
in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection
should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission
to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying
and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.
James, Eldon Revare, Professor of Law.
b. Newport, Kentucky, Nov. 21, 1875.
B.S., U. of Cincinnati, 1896; LL.B., 1899.
S.J.D., Harvard, 1912.
m. Phila W. Smith, Dec. 28, 1904.
Practiced law in Cincinnati, 1899-1911.
Instructor and Professor of Law, Cincinnati Law School (U. of Cincinnati), 1902-1912.
Prof. of Law, U. of Wisconsin, 1912-1913.
Prof. of Law, U. of Minnesota, 1913-1914.
Dean, Law School, U. of Missouri, 1914-1918.
Advisor in Foreign Affairs to the Siamese Government, 1918-1924.
Judge, Supreme Court of Siam, 1919-1924.
Prof. of Law and Librarian, Harvard Law School, 1923-1942.
Law Librarian of Congress, 1943-1946.
d. June 2, 1949.
- Series I:Personal Correspondence: Eldon R. James, 1918-1923. 8 folders.1918-1923. This Series consists almost entirely of letters written by Eldon to his mother. The
letters include descriptions of Bangkok, general information about Siam and its people,
his and Phila's daily activities, special events that he attended, and trips that
he and Phila took.
- Series II:Personal Correspondence: Phila S. James, 1917-1923. 21 folders.1917-1923This Series consists primarily of letters written by Phila to her mother, although
some are also addressed to Alma and Wilson, who were also family members. The letters
include detailed descriptions of life in Bangkok, impressions of other Westerners
in Siam, accounts of the servants who lived and worked in their house, and descriptions
of Phila's metal work. All of Phila's letters contain updates on the weather and on
Eldon's and her health, as well as inquiries into the health of those she was writing
to. Her later letters contain much less description of her surroundings and more about
her own activities and her desire to return home.
- Series III:Official and General Correspondence, 1918-1935. 4 folders.1918-1935This Series consists mainly of correspondence between Eldon James and various Siamese
officials, both during and after his employment as Advisor in Foreign Affairs. The
correspondence after his employment contains detailed descriptions of a 1932 coup
that resulted in the creation of a constitutional monarchy in Siam, as well as the
King's abdication two years later. These accounts are particularly valuable as they
are written from the point of view of a member of the Siamese royal family.
- Series IV:Miscellany, 1918-1933. 7 folders.1918-1933This Series includes miscellaneous materials related to Eldon and Phila James and
their time in Siam. Materials include certificates naming Eldon James to various royal
orders, notes about Siam, James's passport used for his and Phila's return to the
United States, a diary kept by Phila, typescripts, postcards, and correspondence.
The papers of Eldon Revare James contain close to 350 personal letters that Dr. and
Mrs. James sent to their respective families and close family friends in the U.S.,
depicting every detail of their official and unofficial life in Bangkok, and their
impressions of the country and its people; official correspondence, primarily between
Dr. James and Prince Devawongse, the Minister for Foreign Affairs; and some miscellaneous
correspondence and other items relating to their connection with Siam.
The papers cover mainly the years 1918 to 1924, with a few items dated earlier and
- Series: Eldon James Personal Correspondence
- 1-1. March 1918 – July 22, 1918,
- Includes descriptions of the boat trip to Siam; initial impressions of Bangkok; an
account of the celebration of the birth of the Buddha; description of James's first
meeting with the King of Siam; and descriptions of fruit, pawnshops, and clothing
worn by the various inhabitants of the city.
- 1-2. April 26, 1918 – May 26, 1918,
- Handwritten rough drafts of letters, no recipient specified; subjects include troubles
encountered on their trip to Siam; their arrival in Bangkok; Eldon's first impressions
of his staff, Siamese officials, and their house; and explanation of what his job
- 1-3. May 29, 1918 – June 16, 1918,
- More handwritten rough drafts of letters; includes descriptions of the Grand Palace,
the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the people of Bangkok.
- 1-4. August 4, 1918 – December 28, 1918,
- Includes descriptions of Buddhist monks; how rice is planted in Siam; Siam's role
in World War I; and armistice festivities in Bangkok.
- 1-5. December 14, 1921 – May 1922,
- Includes descriptions of the Chitrlada Fair, a great event of the Siamese social season;
a trip to the Siamese countryside; the strike in Hong Kong; and the cremation ceremony
for the Supreme Patriarch.
- 1-6. June 4, 1922 – October 28, 1922,
- Includes descriptions of the importance of the 60th birthday for Siamese men; a trip
to Singapore; and a nighttime visit to a Shiite Muslin mosque.
- 1-7. November 4, 1922 – March 31, 1923,
- Includes description of Siamese plays; the activities of American missionaries in
Siam, which seem to be more educational than religious in nature; a Siamese wedding
ceremony; and an offer to Mr. James from Dean Roscoe Pound of a professorship at Harvard
- 1-8. April 7, 1923 – August 5, 1923,
- Includes description of symbolism of white elephant in Siam; the bathing ceremony
for Prince Devawongse, who died on June 27th; mention of the film "Suvarna of Siam,"
the first feature film produced in Siam; and plans of their departure for home.
- Series: Phila James Personal Correspondence
- 1-9. November 26, 1917 – March 26, 1918,
- Includes details of Eldon's meeting with Mr. Westengard and his subsequent agreement
to serve as foreign advisor to the King of Siam; excitement and apprehension about
life in Bangkok; and descriptions of the boat trip from San Francisco.
- 1-10. March 29, 1918 – April 22, 1918,
- All letters in this folder were written while on the boat to Siam.
- 1-11. May 3, 1918 – May 17, 1918,
- Includes Phila's first impressions of Bangkok; descriptions of their house and servants;
and making and receiving introductory calls.
- 1-12. May 25, 1918 – June 18, 1918,
- Includes speculation as to why the Siamese have not given Eldon enough work to keep
him busy; description of Buddha's birthday celebration; of Buddhist beliefs and how
religion affects the daily lives of the Siamese; of the James's first meeting with
the King; and complaints about the strict rules of social propriety that must be observed
- 1-13. June 19, 1918 – August 28, 1918,
- Includes observations about Siamese society, including gender roles; her impressions
of American missionaries in Siam, who seem to be involved more in education than in
religious conversion; a menu from a dinner held by Mr. and Mrs. James; and descriptions
of people and Siamese food.
- 1-14. September 24, 1918 – November 3, 1918,
- Includes description of shopping in Bangkok, and various details about daily life.
- 1-15. November 10, 1918 – December 15, 1918,
- Includes description of prices; of Armistice celebration; and of the dinners she and
- 2-1. December 22, 1918 – January 4, 1919,
- Includes a description of their first Christmas in the Orient.
- 2-2. January 5, 1919 – February 21, 1919,
- Includes a description of festivities in honor of the King's birthday; of the Dusit
Park Fair; of a boat trip she and Eldon took outside of Shanghai; of an opera Phila
is starring in; and various personal topics.
- 2-3. February 21, 1919 – March 31, 1919,
- Includes details about the flu epidemic; the reasons why Eldon has not been sent to
Paris for the Peace Conference, which include a desire on the part of the Siamese
to eliminate foreign influence over their affairs; details about Eldon's work on Siamese
treaties with the French; and description of British and Scottish views of prohibition
in the US.
- 2-4. April 15, 1919 – July 3, 1919,
- Includes further details about Siamese dealings with the French; Eldon's frustration
at not being sufficiently used by the Siamese government; the news that Eldon will
in fact be sent to Paris; and descriptions of the trip from Bangkok to Europe.
- 2-5. July 11, 1919 – September 15, 1919,
- Includes an account of post-war conditions in Europe, such as high prices and difficulty
in getting around; description of a visit to the French battlefields; Eldon is not
being used in Paris, as the Siamese view the peace conference as an opportunity to
assert their equality with other nations, and do not welcome the interference of foreign
advisors; by September they plan to return to the US.
- 2-6. May 25, 1921 – August 20, 1921,
- Includes letters written from New York; from sea on their return trip to Bangkok,
during which they stopped at London, Paris, Italy, and Switzerland; details of their
arrival in Bangkok, which was much nicer than the first time they arrived in 1918.
- 2-7. August 24, 1921 – October 27, 1921,
- Includes description of their interest in spiritualism, including the practice of
table knocking, in which they attempt to make contact with the spirit world; observations
of changes in the Siamese royalty, including the adoption of European dress and an
increase in the use of English; Phila has begun to spend her mornings at the Art School
- 2-8. November 13, 1921 – December 30, 1921,
- Includes expressions of dislike for the foreign community in Bangkok, which led Phila
and Eldon to socialize as little as possible; mention of Eldon's initiation into the
First Order of the Crown, his first decoration; observation that polygamy is on the
rise in Siam; and various questions and comments about activities and people back
- 2-9. January 8, 1922 – February 13, 1922,
- Includes description of a fishing trip in the Siamese countryside; gossip of a British
woman who plans to become the third wife of a Siamese man; and much about Phila's
metal work, which she will use for the remainder of her time in Siam to keep herself
- 2-10. March 4, 1922 – June 16, 1922,
- Includes details about their daily routine; description of how she and Eldon found
out that their servants were spending much more money than they had realized, and
how they have lost faith in Pragasam, their head servant whom they had been considering
taking home to America.
- 2-11. June 29, 1922 – September 3, 1922,
- Includes details about a boat trip to Singapore, during which they visited with Firestone
Tire managers and toured their warehouse; by August 13 they had returned to Bangkok
and moved out of their house and into the Hotel Royal, where they wouldn't need any
servants; observation of the large number of female Americans traveling the world
by themselves; and a description of a Shiite Muslim ceremony.
- 2-12. September 17, 1922 – December 27, 1922 ,
- Includes description of a visit by family friends; concerns about what Eldon will
do for work when they return to the US; and details about the weather and Phila's
- 2-13. January 1, 1923 – March 18, 1923,
- Phila writes that Eldon has informed the Siamese government of his plans to resign
after taking six months leave; by March Eldon has been offered a position at Harvard
Law School by Dean Pound.
- 2-14. March 22, 1923 – July 1, 1923,
- Includes news of the death of Prince Devawongse, and how that might delay their departure.
- 2-15. Undated,
- Includes undated portions of handwritten letters.
- Series: Official and General Correspondence
- 3-1. January 5, 1918 – January 4, 1922,
- Includes Mr. James' correspondence to and from Prince Devawongse and King Rama VI
concerning Eldon's desire to be sent to the Paris Peace Conference; also included
are copies of Eldon's contract with the Siamese government from 1918 and 1921.
- 3-2. January 15, 1922 – March 13, 1923,
- Includes Mr. and Mrs. James' correspondence to and from Prince Devawongse, King Rama
VI, and Prince Vipulya; topics include Siamese treaties, German reparations and the
state of relations between France and Great Britain; Eldon's plans to return to the
United States; and discussion of Eldon's successor.
- 3-3. March 14, 1923 – June 30, 1923,
- Includes further correspondence about Eldon's departure and successor; correspondence
and certificate from Harvard Law School regarding Eldon's new position; and correspondence
regarding the death of Prince Devawongse.
- 3-4. July 1, 1923 – December 21, 1935,
- Includes correspondence to Mr. James from those he knew and worked with in Siam; includes
detailed accounts of a coup that occurred on June 24, 1932, creating a constitutional
monarchy in Siam, as well as the King's abdication in 1935; these accounts are written
by former members of the monarchy, and express very pessimistic views of these events.
- Series: Miscellany
- 3-5. Siamese language cards and royal certificates,
- Includes certificates nominating Eldon James to the Order of the Crown of Siam (1921)
and the Order of the White Elephant (1923).
- 3-6. Eldon James's handwritten notes on Siam,
- Includes notes on topics of history, religion, foreign contacts, government, modern
Siam, education, communications, finance, and commerce.
- 3-7. Typescripts by Eldon James,
- Includes two typescripts: one entitled "Modern Siam", and the other entitled "A Siamese
Statesman," written about Prince Devawongse upon his death.
- 3-8. Miscellaneous Materials,
- Includes greeting cards from Siam; postcards from Siam, China, and Annam; dinner invitations;
receipts; correspondence; handwritten notes; the James' passport for their travel
back to the US from Siam; and photos that have been transferred to the art collection.
- 3-9. Journal of the Society of Siam, April 1933,
- Issue of the Journal of the Society of Siam XXVI, Pt. 1, April 1933; Eldon is listed as a "Lifelong Member" of the Society.
- 3-10. Letter from Marjorie Jones, March 23, 1918,
- One letter written by Marjorie Jones, who traveled with the Jameses to Siam in 1918,
to Wilson; Wilson was a family member of Phila James, and was at the time a suitor
- 3-11. Diary belonging to Phila James,
Diary consists of very short entries; Phila used this diary for several years, so
each page specifying a month and day contains entries from that day for multiple years;
entries consist mainly of details about the weather, dinner plans, and health.
- 3-12. Tintype with original envelope of six unidentified people, one photograph of James
in formal dress, and seven pages titled "Modern Siam" featuring 20 photographs with
typed descriptions of buildings and outdoor locations in Siam.
Thailand -History -20th century.
Thailand -Description and travel.
James, Eldon R. (Eldon Revare), 1875-1949.
James, Phila Smith.
James, Eldon R. (Eldon Revare), 1875-1949.