Coombs-Learned Family Papers
Scope and Content
The Coombs-Learned Family Papers consist of 19th and early 20th century family papers created by Palmer Coombs and his wife Genevieve (Learned) Coombs, as well as by their ancestors and extended families, who primarily lived in Michigan, California, and Ohio. The collection is arranged into six series with three subseries.
Series I, Business Records, consists of financial papers, business records, and deeds created by George Palmer, John C. Coombs, Jonas Learned, and the Letcher family, dated between 1840 and 1914.
Series II, Correspondence, the largest series in the collection, consists of correspondence received by family members from one another as well as from other individuals, dated between 1819 and 1957. This series also contains a few photographs, if those photographs were enclosed in a piece of correspondence. This series is divided into three sub-series: Sub-series IA: Coombs Family, Sub-series IIB: Learned Family, and Sub-series IIC: Envelopes.
Subseries IIA, Coombs Family Correspondence, consists of correspondence received by members of the Coombs family, dated between 1872 and 1957. Most of the letters are addressed to Genevieve Learned or to her grandparents Jonas and Louise Learned. Most notable in this series are letters written by future president James A. Garfield from 1855-1862. Garfield was a family friend of Charles G. and Maria Learned (Genevieve Learned's great-grandparents), and Louise Letcher, who married Charles and Maria's son Jonas Learned, was a relative of Garfield's. Correspondence is organized according to the correspondents involved, as well as chronologically.
Subseries IIB, Learned Family Correspondence, consists of correspondence received by members of the Learned family, dated between 1855 and 1949. Most of the letters are addressed to Palmer Coombs. Correspondence is organized according to the correspondents involved, as well as chronologically.
Subseries IIC, Envelopes, consists of the original envelopes from correspondence in both Sub-series IIA and Sub-series IIB. Materials in this sub-series are organized chronologically and date between 1819 and 1951.
Series III, Palmer Coombs World War I Materials, consists of three diaries and a handful of other miscellaneous papers written by Palmer B. Coombs during his World War I service, from 1917 to 1919. The diaries in this series have been digitized and can be viewed online in Wright State University's Campus Online Repository (CORE Scholar): http://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/special_ms182/.
Series IV, Diaries, consists of 3 diaries with dates between 1861 and 1921. Two of the diaries were written by Louise (Letcher) Learned in 1861-1864 and 1903-1905. The third was written by Genevieve (Learned) Coombs from 1919-1921.
Series V, Miscellaneous Family Papers and Records, consists of various family papers pertaining to members of both the Coombs and Learned families, including a law license, art book, naturalization papers, military papers, essay books, a recipe book, and other materials.
Series VI, Photographs, consists of approximately 300 photographs. Most of the photographs are undated and unidentified. They appear to date from about 1870 to about 1950, with the bulk being from the early 20th century. A few of the photographs appear to depict soldiers overseas.
- Creation: 1819-1985
Restrictions on Access
There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.
Restrictions on Use
Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.
History of The Coombs and Learned Families
The Coombs and Learned families were joined when Palmer Bennett Coombs married Genevieve Learned on September 6, 1924, in Pointe Aux Barques, Huron County, Michigan.
Palmer Bennett Coombs was born August 23, 1893, in Sioux City, Iowa, the youngest child of John Charles Coombs (1842-1914) and Edith (Manvel) Coombs (1854-1893). Palmer's mother died when he was two days old from childbirth complications. For much of his childhood, Palmer's family lived in Los Angeles, California. Palmer later moved to Michigan.
At Ann Arbor, Michigan, on April 6, 1917, the day that the United States formally entered World War I, Palmer enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He trained at Camp Paul Jones (IL), Wakefield Naval Rifle Range (VA), Mount Pleasant (SC), Camp Logan (IL), and Sandy Hook (NJ) before being sent overseas. He served in France at Saint-Nazaire, assembling gun mounts and cars, as well as at Nuisement, Soissons, Verdun, and St. Bernard Woods. He was released from the service on January 8, 1919.
In the early 1920s, prior to his marriage, Palmer lived at the YMCA in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and was employed as a foundry manager, an occupation he held for most of his life.
Genevieve Learned was born January 27, 1897, in Renfro, Alabama, a daughter of Edward Raymond Learned (1868-1936) and Josephine (Farrell) Learned (1869-1943). For a time, Genevieve lived and attended school in Eugene, Oregon. She later returned to Michigan, where her family had been from. As a young woman, Genevieve was a teacher.
Palmer and Genevieve were married on September 6, 1924, after having known each other at least 12 years. They made their life together in Kalamazoo. By 1930, they were already living in the home at 2005 Waite Avenue, where this collection was found in 1974. Palmer had a long and successful career at Riverside Foundry & Galvanizing Company, of which he eventually became president.
Palmer B. Coombs died July 13, 1959, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Genevieve died March 20, 1988, in Los Angeles, California. They were survived by two sons, Manvel (born about 1926) and Charles P. (born 1931).
6.5 linear feet
Language of Materials
A collection of 19th and early 20th century family papers of the Coombs and Learned extended families who lived in Michigan, California, and Ohio. Papers include extensive family correspondence, diaries, business and financial records, and over 300 photographs. Noteworthy among the contents are several letters written by President James A. Garfield to a family member when he was a young man, as well as Palmer Coombs' World War I diaries and papers. Portions of this collection, including Palmer B. Coombs' World War I Materials (Series III), have been digitized and can be viewed online in Wright State University's Campus Online Repository (CORE Scholar): http://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/special_ms182/.
Statement of Arrangement
The collection is arranged into six series and three subseries.
- Series I: Business Records, 1840-1914
- Series II: Correspondence, 1819-1957
- Subseries IIA: Coombs Family Correspondence, 1872-1957
- Subseries IIB: Learned Family Correspondence, 1855-1949
- Subseries IIC: Envelopes, 1819-1951
- Series III: Palmer Coombs World War I Materials, 1917-1922, 1940
- Series IV: Diaries, 1861-1921
- Series V: Miscellaneous Family Papers and Records, 1857-1940, 1985
- Series VI: Photographs, Circa 1870-1950
The Coombs-Learned Papers were accumulated by Palmer B. Coombs and his wife Genevieve (Learned) Coombs over many years. The papers were compiled by Marcia (Sugg) Coombs, wife of Charles P. Coombs, of Dayton, Ohio, after she discovered the papers in the attic of her mother-in-law Genevieve (Learned) Coombs’s house at 2005 Waite Avenue, Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1974. Mrs. Coombs then brought the collection to her home in Dayton, Ohio, and contacted Dr. Patrick Nolan about the collection shortly after that. However, it was not donated to Wright State University Special Collections and Archives until 1986.
The Coombs-Learned Family Papers were donated to Wright State University Special Collections and Archives by Charles Palmer Coombs, son of Palmer B. and Genevieve (Learned) Coombs, in December 1986.
Processed by: Archives staff, December 2002; revised, November 2010 and April 2014.
- Guide to the Coombs-Learned Family Papers (MS-182)
- Finding aid prepared by Archives staff, December 2002; revised, November 2010 and April 2014.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Special Collections Repository
Special Collections and Archives
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