Fonds 665 - Arthur W. Slagel fonds (photograph collection)

Beginning American Mennonite Relief Tractor Program American Mennonite Relief Worker A. W. Slagel American Mennonite Relief Worker at desk Four American Mennonite Relief workers 5 American Mennonite Relief Workers in Russia Two American Mennonite Relief Workers in Russia Four male American Mennonite Relief Workers in Russia Two American Mennonite Relief Workers in Russia American Mennonite Relief seedlings Group of AMR workers in Russia, relaxing in the shade Russian friend of American Mennonite Relief workers in Russia. AMR workers travelling through Russia Harvest time at Michael Horsch's relief center in Germany Threshing by the South German Mennonite Relief organization Threshing - South German Mennonite relief, Christenpflicht
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Identity area

Reference code

CA MHC 665


Arthur W. Slagel fonds (photograph collection)


  • 1920-1924 (Creation)

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276 photographs

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Arthur Slagel was born to D. W. and Mary Slagel in Flanagan, Illinois. He graduated Goshen College and performed service work with a Near East Relief expedition in Constantinople. He later served with American Mennonite Relief (AMR) in the Soviet Union, establishing and operating feeding stations.

Arthur Slagel (1891-1943) was one of three American volunteers sent to Russia with Orie Miller and Clayton Kratz in 1920. Initially Slagel remained in Constantinople to gather relief supplies and from there organized the shipment to the Russian Mennonite colonies. From 1922-1923 Arthur Slagel supervised the feeding program for 75,000 people in the Ukraine, including 60,000 Mennonites. The AMR under his direction appointed local committees whose duties were to receive and distribute relief supplies in their districts according to the official AMR instructions. Slagel oversaw the delivery of food for three Mennonite centres -- Chortitza, Ohrloff and Halbstadt.

During his three years on this assignment he also witnessed the first groups of Mennonites leaving for Canada in 1923. He also traveled to Moscow and other countries before returning home to the United States.

Upon his return to the United States, he resided in Chicago and worked for the Donnelly Advertising Corporation and later the Thiesan Printing Company.

Arthur W. Slagel married Vesta Zook in 1925, who had been an American relief worker in Constantinople in 1921, working in an orphanage that Mennonite Central Committee had just taken over from the American Red Cross in 1921. Initially they made their home in Chicago. Their son Donald (Don) was born in 1928. In 1932 the Slagel family move to a farm in Topeka, Indiana. Slagel was killed in an acident at the farm in 1943. Vesta died in Meadows, Illinois in 1973.

Archival history

The Centre received these photographs as part of the A.A. Vogt's Mennonite Genealogy Inc. collection. Margaret Kroeker was of the opinion that her father, A. A. Vogt acquired them from his friend John P. Klassen of Bluffton, Ohio, sometime during the early 1960s. Klassen and Vogt were long-time friends from Russia. Both got involved in the early emigration movement in 1923. Just prior to his immigration, A.A. Vogt had worked closely with Slagel in the relief effort. Slagel had appointed Vogt as the chair of the Schoenwiese committee in April 1922 and also accepted his resignation as the time of emigration drew nearer. Correspondence between Klassen and Vogt from 1962 and 1963 mentions and describes immigration papers related to the negotiations for the 2nd train load of the 1923 emigrants, as well as photographs which Klassen has in his possession. He tells Vogt the photographs will be of interest to him and that he will know what to do with them. It seems quite likely that Klassen was referring to these photos taken by Arthur W. Slagel. Klassen visited Manitoba in 1965. A.A. Vogt made some annotations on the photos before he died in 1968. The Mennonite Heritage Centre acquired the A.A. Vogt Mennonite Genealogy Inc. collection in 2007.

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Scope and content

This fonds contains 276 photographs taken and received by Arthur W. Slagel during his 3-year assignment with Mennonite Central Committee from 1920-1923. The collection has photos of the relief work in Russia showing various aspects of the work including workers, headquarters, storage, distribution, seeded and distributed crops, transportation, buildings and homes. The photos were taken in locations such as Chortitza, Alexandrosk, Schoenwiese, Rosenthal, Halbstadt, Gnadenfeld, Ohrloff, Nicopol, and Sagradowka. There are images of the 1923 emigration group from Schoenwiese leaving for Canada. There are general scenic photos of the Dnieper rapids, the Kremlin and other sites in Moscow. Some photographs were likely given to Slagel from Mennonite workers in Russia, such as the Solomon Ediger family, the Peter Nikkel family, the Johann Janzen family, the Ohrloff teachers and others. And, finally there are photos of travels taken in England, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland, Egypt, Palestine and Syria.

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Related material: "The Orie O. Miller Diary: 1920-21." Pandora Press, 2018.

Arthur W. Slagel correspondence,Mss. 1-589 SC, Mennonite Church USA Archives, Goshen, IN.

Vesta (Zook) Slagel papers and photographs, Hist. Mss. 1-403, Mennonite Church USA Archives, Goshen, IN.

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