Preliminary Guide to the Leynse Family Papers, circa 1920s-1970s circa 1920s-1970s

Summary Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Leynse family Leynse, James P. Leynse, Humphrey W. (Humphrey William)
Preliminary Guide to the Leynse Family Papers
Date [inclusive]
circa 1920s-1970s
14.5 linear feet, 13 containers, plus loose oversized material.
(MASC staff use) MS.1985.45: 2-5-29-6, MS.2013.06: 2-9-6-4, MS.2013.10: 2-9-6-5, MS.2015.03: 2-9-6-6, MS.2016.08: 2-9-4-7, MS.2019.14: 2-9-5-7.
Collection materials are in English.
Materials are in English and Chinese, with a few others in Korean and Dutch.
This collection consists of materials related to filmmaker and educator Humphrey Leynse, his father, missionary James P. Leynse, Francina Leynse Gaylord, and other members of the Leynse family.

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Biography of Humphrey Leynse, from the guide to Cage 438:

Humphrey W. Leynse was born on June 22, 1921 in Peking, China. His parents, Reverend James and Anna Groenendyk Leynse, were Dutch Reformed Church Missionaries at the Presbyterian Mission in Peking. As a child, Leynse attended the Peking American School, where he first learned to speak English; previously he spoke only Dutch and Mandarin Chinese, and he remained fluent in these languages throughout his life. He also studied French and Indonesian.

Peking was Leynse's home until age twenty, when he came to the United States to study at Pomona College in Pomona, California. World War II interrupted his education. He served in the U.S. Army and from 1943 to 1945 as a special agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) in the Philippines and New Guinea. His duties included teaching the Chinese language, formulating an English-Indonesian dictionary, and engaging in combat duty as an Agent Investigator. During his time as an Agent Investigator then Sergeant Leynse investigated foreign political groups in the Manila area and helped to establish an informant network. The Army awarded him the Bronze Star in 1945.

At the end of the war, Leynse returned to Pomona to complete his studies for a bachelor's degree in liberal arts. From 1949 through 1951 Leynse served as an educational advisor for the United States Department of the Army and as superintendent of an Educational Center in Karlsruhle, Germany. In 1951, Leynse returned to the Pacific (the Marshall Islands) as an administrator of the Department of the Interior. From1954 to 1957 he again worked for the State Department, investigating those Chinese visa applicants in Hong Kong who sought to emigrate to the United States under the Refugee Relief Act.

Leynse's career in filmmaking began in 1957 as a Motion Picture Officer for the United States Information Service (USIS), first in Djakarta, Indonesia, and later in Seoul, Korea. He made more than fifty documentary films with USIS. It was during his time in Seoul that he met and married Judith L. Light, a journalist who was assigned to Seoul as a Motion Picture Officer.

Despite his successful career with USIS, Leynse tired of governmental bureaucracy and desired to produce his own full-length feature film. In 1966 he resigned his Foreign Service position and began the odyssey that led him, with Judith and their baby son, to the remote island of Ullung-Do, Korea, some 180 miles east of the mainland in the Sea of Japan. For two years he recorded the harsh life of the fishermen and their families on Ullung-Do. His film, Out There, a Lone Island, won Leynse several awards and was featured in various New York venues, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Film Festival, and the Ethnological Film Festival at the Museum of Natural History. Leynse made this film and many others under the auspices of Oceania Productions, a company he created in 1951 to produce educational and theatrical films concerning the Far East.

In 1970 Leynse came to Washington State University as an Assistant Professor of Communications. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1975. Throughout his tenure at Washington State Leynse played an important part developing cinema instruction as part of the Washington State University's mass media curriculum. In addition to his classes on film criticism, scripting, and documentary film, he taught the very popular "Masters of Cinema" course, which grew from an enrollment of thirty-seven students in the fall of 1970 to seven hundred in the spring of 1977. His film experience was also combined with his Asian interests in a course on Asian society as revealed through Asian films. Leynse also helped to produce one of the area's most popular radio programs, "Moviegoers," which was written by students in his film criticism classes.

Leynse became ill in April of 1977. Despite this he was able to complete teaching all of his classes and missed only two weeks of the semester; when at one point he dropped in on one of his classes to see how things were going, he was given a spontaneous standing ovation by the students. Following surgery for a brain tumor, Leynse died on August 20, 1977, at the age of fifty-six.

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Biography of James P. Leynse, from the guide to Cage 444:

James P. Leynse was born in Middleburg, Holland, on March 20, 1890. At an early age Leynse showed a talent for rhetoric and had ambitions as a stage actor. His Dutch-Calvanist father challenged him to do more with his life and this eventually led him to the University of Leiden to study for the ministry in the Dutch Reformed Church.

As soon as he was ordained, Leynse elected to serve as a missionary in China. His church did not have any missions in China at that time; but this stopped him only momentarily. He decided to seek affiliation with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in the United States. The American officials, however, were not satisfied with his education and required him to study for two more years at Princeton University and be ordained once again.

Shortly after he completed his additional studies, his Dutch fiancee, Anna Marie Groenendyk, came to America and they were married on June 21, 1920. They sailed for China in December 1920 and for the next 29 years their home was the Presbyterian Mission in Peking. It was there that their two sons, Humphrey and Waldo, were born.

Leynse's first three years in China were spent learning to read and speak Mandarin Chinese at the College of Chinese studies. At this time Peking was noted for its poverty, beggars, and disease. One of Leynse's first jobs was the organization of kitchens which served free millet porridge to thousands of the hungry. Leynse soon realized, however, that he was only treating a symptom of the problem. Therefore, he wrote to Holland and asked his sister Francina Leynse for help. She arrived in 1930 and for 15 years helped to establish and run an industrial center where homeless women and children could learn a skill.

With the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of China, larger problems loomed for the Leynses. At first the Japanese permitted Leynse to continue the Peking Poor Relief Committee. Even though other foreigners were being evacuated the Leynses stayed on in the hopes that the Japanese would continue to overlook them. Late in 1941, they travelled to Japan in order to secure passage to America for their younger son, Waldo. While in Japan they were placed under house arrest and confined for a year and a half. With the aid of Japanese friends they were released and returned to China only to be recaptured and held at the British Embassy in Peking for the remainder of World War II.

During his captivity, Leynse was considerably weakened by bouts with typhoid fever and "sprue" (a disease of the liver and intestines brought on by malnutrition). Despite this ill health he stayed on in China after the Japanese surrender to reorganize and reopen the mission kitchens and hospital.

In 1946 "sprue" attacked him again and he became almost bedridden. Owing to his long service and poor health the mission retired him in 1949. Upon his retirement, Leynse settled in Claremont, California where he began to write.

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Scope and Content

This collection consists of materials related to filmmaker and educator Humphrey Leynse, his father, missionary James P. Leynse, Francina Leynse Gaylord, and other members of the Leynse family.

MS.1985.45: Humphrey Leynse papers. Includes rolled oversized items (Korean art gallery poster, Korea map, art print circa 1960s); a mimeographed synopsis and information to accompany a screening of "Out There, A Lone Island."

MS.2013.06: Photograph albums (4 volumes), loose mounted photographs (production stills, probably from Island Doctor, 15 items), and one notebook, "1965 motion pictures USIS."

MS.2013.10: This collection consists primarily of papers of Humphrey Leynse, including records of Oceania Productions, with a small amount of material related to his father, James Leynse.

Preliminary inventory, MS.2013.10:

Box 1. "Masters of the Cinema" book files; WSU collection files; "Out There" files; a small amount of Oceania Productions financial records; H.L. resumes; film treatments, miscellaneous files; James Leynse documents (circa 1930s).

Box 2. James P. Leynse "China Tales" files; incoming correspondence to the Leynse family at Ulleung-do, Korea; unsorted/unlabeled materials.

Box 3. H.L. passports and other official documents; Oceania address/contact notebooks; audio recording (sound effects); Oceania Productions account books (includes "Out There" expense record); 2-volume China project by H.L. (circa 1940?).

Box 4. Rolled photographs (enlargements from "Opium" film project).

MS.2015.03: Papers, primarily photograph albums, of the James P. Leynse family. Most of the material relates to the family's time in China, circa 1920s-1940s.

Preliminary inventory, MS.2015.03:

1. Studio photograph of [Humphrey Leynse?], undated.

2. Photograph album of Francina Gaylord, sister of James P. Leynse, from the time when she lived with the Leynse family in China. Circa 1920s-1940s.

3. Leynse family photograph album (China), circa 1930s.

4. Leynse family photograph album (China), with Dutch-language captions, circa 1920s.

5. Leynse family scrapbook, including newspaper clippings, and loose insertions (mainly photographs), circa 1930-1970s.

6. James Leynse manuscripts ("What the Pilgrims Saw," with associated documentation, and "Talks on Writing"), undated.

MS.2016.08: Photograph albums (3 volumes) of the James Leynse family during their years as missionaries in China, circa 1920s-1930s.

Preliminary inventory, MS.2016.08:

Box 1. Albums 1 and 2. Album 1 contains captioned reproductions of Chinese works of art, and photographs of scenes in China (temples, palaces, landscapes, street scenes). Album 2 contains Leynse family photographs taken in China, Europe, and the Philippines, and photographs of scenes and people in China, as well as a pastel portrait of Humphrey Leynse. Few of the items are captioned.

Box 2. Album 3. Contains photographs of mission work in China: churches and congregations, Bible study groups, schools, etc. Also photographs of the Imperial court, street scenes, weddings and other events, and reproductions of works of art.

MS.2019.14: Undated black and white photographs, and a bound volume of Humbphrey Leynse's account of film production for "Out There, a lone island", 1963-1969.

Preliminary inventory, MS.2019.14:

1. (Box 1) Black box of black and white photographs, most mounted on heavy duty cardboard, approximately 8"x11" size, undated, most with yellow post-it notes on back identifying who and where photograph taken.

2. (Box 1) Black box of black and white photographs, approximately 8"x11" size, undated, most mounted on heavy duty cardboard, note in box states that most are duplicates from item 1.

3. (Box 2) Blue and yellow box of black and white photographs, approximately 8"x11" size, undated, most mounted on heavy duty cardboard, includes one sheet of photographs on both sides of paper, in plastic, of Humphrey Leynse in 1945 in the Philippines and Japan.

4. (Box 2) Green cloth bound volume of Humphrey Leynse's handwritten account of travels for and film production of "Out There, a lone island". Six letters from Humphrey Leynse to his wife and a paper with stapled handwritten quotes from "critiques" of the film are in the back of this volume.

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This is an unprocessed collection. Any arrangement reflects either a pre-existing order from the records' creators or previous custodians, or preliminary sorting performed by staff.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries

Terrell Library

P.O. Box 645610

Pullman, WA, 99164-5610 USA


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open and available for research use. Copyright restrictions apply.

Acquisition Information

The family of Humphrey Leynse donated the majority of this collection to the Washington State University Libraries in multiple installments, beginning in 2013 (MS.2013.06, MS.2013.10, MS.2015.03, MS.2016.08). One installment was transferred from the WSU Foreign Language Department in 1985 (MS.1985.45).

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Related Materials

Related Material

Humphrey Leynse Collection (Cage 438)

James P. Leynse Papers (Cage 444)

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Names and Subjects


  • China--20th century--Photographs

Personal Name(s)

Subject(s) :
  • Leynse, James P.
  • Leynse, Humphrey W. (Humphrey William)


  • Motion picture producers and directors--Archives
  • Missionaries--China
  • Religion

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