Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the Perley F. Ayer Papers

Accession Number: 21
Perley F. Ayer (1900-1967)
Papers, 1952-1968
Bulk Dates: 1959-1967
5.8 linear feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Overview & Series Description
Series I- Personal/Biographical
Series II- Correspondence
Series III- Speeches and Interviews
Series IV - Photographs
Series V- Printed Materials
Series VI - Subjects
Series VII - Writings
Series VIII - Great Cities/Gray Areas
Series IX - Sound Recordings

Overview of the Collection

These are papers, memorabilia, and sound recordings relating to Perley F. Ayer, Berea College instructor (1947-1967) and executive director of the Council of the Southern Mountains (1951-1967).

Related Berea College Archives

Council of the Southern Mountains Records, 1912-1970, SAA 1


Ayer, a native of New Hampshire, was educated at the University of New Hampshire (B.S. 1922), and at Cornell University (M.S. 1947). Prior to coming to Berea in 1947, Ayer had been employed as an extension agent in New Hampshire and as an instructor at Pleasant Hill Academy in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee. He worked at Berea College as supervisor of an agricultural training program in the Foundation School, as a field representative for the Admissions office, and later as an instructor in sociology. He was appointed executive secretary of the Council of the Southern Mountains in 1951 and continued in that position until his death in 1967. The Council, a non-profit corporation whose general goal was improvement of social, health, and economic conditions in the Southern Appalachian region, had been in existence since 1912, but by 1951 had suffered decreased membership and diminished influence. Ayer is credited with reviving interest in the council's programs during his fifteen-year tenure and also with making the Council perhaps the largest and most significant social organization in the southern mountains.

Materials include miscellaneous correspondence; speeches and related notes; articles; and program materials reflecting Ayer's activities as executive director of the Council of the Southern Mountains (CSM), as well as his general interest in improving the quality of life in the region. Correspondence details Ayer's fundraising efforts, arrangements for speaking engagements, and the Council's publication of Mountain Life and Work. Other materials document Ayer's work with the Ford Foundation's Great Cities / Gray Areas Project (1960-1964). In this project, the Foundation utilized Ayer as a part-time consultant and, through the CSM, funded workshops and consultant services to enable urban educators to aid rural children in adjusting to the urban environment. Materials reflect Ayer's participation in such workshops at numerous urban centers including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C., among others. Also included are reports to the Foundation, expense accounts, correspondence, and meeting agendas, as well as newspaper clippings and correspondence relating to Ayer's death and the memorial fund subsequently established in his name (1967-1968).

Series Description
14 Manuscript Boxes

Series I Personal/Biographical Boxes 1-4

This series consists of biographical information about Perley Ayer, personal correspondence, clippings relating to his death, and various certificates and awards. Also included are appointment calendars and scrapbooks documenting speaking engagements and his work with the CSM.

Series II Correspondence Box 5

This series includes correspondence relating to Ayer's work with the CSM, accounts from friends involved in the War on Poverty, and letters regarding his various speaking engagements. Student comments on Ayer's teaching at Berea's Foundation School are also included.

Series III Speeches and Interviews Boxes 6-7

This series consists of notes, manuscripts, and clippings relating to Ayer's numerous speeches on education, literacy, and Appalachia. Also included are news accounts of his speaking engagements, interview preparation notes and published interviews relating to Ayer's philosophy of education and his concerns for Appalachia.

Series IV Photographs Box 8

This series consists of CSM publicity photos of Ayer relating to various public appearances, including a visit to Iron Mountain Stoneware in Abingdon, Virginia.

Series V Printed Materials Box 8, Cont.

This series consists of miscellaneous published materials that may have served as resource in various aspects of Ayer's work.

Series VI Subject Files Box 8, Cont.

This series consists of fragmentary correspondence and notes relating the Council of the Southern Mountain, Kentucky Welfare Association and the War on Poverty.

Series VII Writings Box 8, Cont.

This series consists of correspondence, agendas and minutes of meetings, 1966-1969.

Series VIII Ford Foundation Great Cities/Gray Areas Project Boxes 9-14

This series consists of material relating to Ayer's work as a project consultant, including expenses, fragmentary correspondence, and reports from individual cities involved in the Project. Also included are related publications, clippings, and correspondence.

Series IX Sound Recordings Boxes 15-16

This series consists of fifteen open reel sound recordings that document several of Ayer's speeches and radio interviews during the early 1960s. Cassette listening copies are included.

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