Gamble, Sidney D. (Sidney David), 1890-1968

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Sidney D. Gamble (1890-1968) was a pre-eminent China scholar, an economist, sociologist, and an avid amateur photographer. He visited China four times between 1908 and 1932 to collect data for socio-economic surveys, and to photograph urban and rural life, public events, architecture, religious statuary, and the countryside.

From the description of Sidney D. Gamble photographs, 1906-2007. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 369383203

Sociologist, renowned China scholar, and amateur photographer Sidney D. Gamble (1890-1968) visited China four times between 1908 and 1932 to collect data for socio-economic surveys and to photograph urban and rural life, public events, architecture, religious statuary, and the countryside. Gamble published four influential studies of Chinese life: Peking: A Social Survey, 1921; How Chinese Families Live in Peiping, 1933; Ting Hsien: A North China Rural Community, 1954; and North China Villages: Social, Political, and Economic Activities Before 1933, 1963.

  • 1890: Born on July 12 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to David Berry and Mary Huggins Gamble; grandson of James Gamble, who, with William Proctor, founded Proctor & Gamble in 1837.
  • 1896 - 1907 : Attended Miss Sattler's School and University School on Cincinnati, and Thacher School in Ojai, California.
  • 1908: First sojourn in China. Traveled with parents to Hangzhou by way of Honolulu, Japan, and Korea.
  • 1912: Graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Literature degree; elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
  • 1913 - 1914 : Served as secretary and treasurer of Escondido Land and Town Company, San Diego, California.
  • 1914 - 1916 : Worked part-time for the California State Commission on Immigration and Housing while studying for a Master of Arts degree in economics at the University of California at Berkeley. Awarded fellowship in 1915 which involved a six-month residence at the Preston School of Industry in Ione, California.
  • 1916 - 1917 : Taught in the economics department, University of California at Berkeley.
  • 1916 - 1917 : Arrived in China in May for second sojourn. Together with Robert Fitch and J.H. Arthur, traveled up the Yangzi River, from Zheijiang province deep into Sichuan province, taking numerous photographs.
  • 1918 Spring: Visited flood relief camps in Tianjin and traveled to Beijing. Traveled with G. Sherwood Eddy to Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, Hong Kong, and Manila. Joined the international staff of the YMCA in Beijing and became a member of Princeton University Center in China (Princeton Court).
  • 1918 Summer: Visited Beidaihe and Bei Niu Ding (Hebei).
  • 1918 Fall: Conducted field-work for a social survey of Beijing with John Stewart Burgess while teaching elementary economics and the principles of philanthropic and institutional work at Yenching University.
  • 1919 Spring: Visited Baoding and Kaifeng during Spring Festival, and Taishan, Jinan, and Qufu in March.
  • 1919 Summer: Worked on survey materials at Beidaihe.
  • 1919 Fall: Traveled to Hangzhou.
  • 1919 Winter: Returned to Pasadena, California, in December, with negatives of some 2,500 photographs taken during second sojourn.
  • 1921: Published first book, Peking: A Social Survey, with the assistance of J. Stewart Burgess. Traveled as member of a commission headed by G. Sherwood Eddy to study the labor movement in England and relief work in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.
  • 1922 - 1923 : Prepared for third sojourn in China at New York Union Theological Seminary, New York School of Social Work, and Columbia University.
  • 1924 Spring: Married Elizabeth Pritchard Lowe, daughter of Dr. Walter I. Lowe and Catherine Caskey Lowe of Hamilton, New York, on January 18. Arrived in Beijing on March 13 to resume post as secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA. Began studying Chinese at the North China Union Language School and conducting socio-economic surveys of Chinese family life. First trip to Miao Feng Shan in April, a popular pilgrimage site northwest of Beijing.
  • 1924 Fall: Traveled to Chengde, Lanxian, Tangshan, And Tianjin.
  • 1925 Spring: Traveled to Shanghai in January to meet a commission on social and economic research, and returned to Beijing by way of Qinhuangdao and Tianjin. Second trip to Miao Feng Shan with Arthur W. Hummel, Franklin C.H. Lee, and L. Carrington Goodrich in April.
  • 1925 Fall: Taught at Yenching University, Union Medical College, and the American Women's College Club.
  • 1925 Summer: Traveled to Japan to join Dr. and Mrs. Lowe, and accompanied them to Beijing, Beidaihe, and Shanhaiguan.
  • 1926 Spring: Conducted research on prices, wages, and the standard of living in Beijing. Gamble's first child born on March 21st.
  • 1926 Fall: Traveled for three weeks in the Soviet Union with G. Sherwood Eddy and 25 Americans, including brother Dr. Clarence Gamble.
  • 1926 Winter: Accompanied wife and daughter back to the United States on November 11, and stayed in Pasadena until early 1927.
  • 1927 Spring: Sailed for China on February 26, arriving in Shanghai on March 25; then traveled to Beijing by way of Qingdao and Tianjin. Took film footage of pilgrimage activities on a third trip to Miao Feng Shan in April.
  • 1927 Fall: Visited Dingxian where the National Association for the Mass Education Movement, led by Dr. James Yen, was based.
  • 1927 Winter: Returned to the United States.
  • 1929: Elected President of Princeton-Yenching Foundation.
  • 1931 Summer: Returned to China for fourth and last sojourn, following a second trip to the Soviet Union. Became involved in the administration of Yenching University.
  • 1931 Fall: Moved Dingxian to serve as research secretary of the National Association for the Mass Education Movement, and carried out surveys of village life in northern China.
  • 1932 Spring: Departed Shanghai for the United States on February 23.
  • 1933: Published How Chinese Families Live in Peiping.
  • 1934 - 1968 : Continued to publish books and articles on aspects of Chinese village and family life. Elected member of the National Council of the YMCA. Became Treasurer, Vice Chairman, Chairman, and President Emeritus of Church World Service; Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation; President and Honorary Chairman of Princeton-in-Asia.
  • 1968: Died in New York on March 29 at the age of 78, survived by his widow and four children; Catherine, Louise, David, and Anne.

Taken from Sidney Gamble's China Revisited (2004).

In 1984, Sidney Gamble's daughter, Catherine Gamble Curran, discovered in the attic of the family home 5,000 black and white negatives, 600 hand-colored glass slides, and 21 rolls of 16mm film documenting her father's travels in China. In 1986, Curran helped found the Sidney D. Gamble Foundation for China Studies to preserve, catalog, reproduce, and publicly exhibit the extensive collection of photographs and hand-colored slides taken by Sidney Gamble in China. The foundation has sponsored several exhibitions of Gamble's photography including Turbulent Years: Sidney D. Gamble's Photographs of China, a traveling exhibition in China, and China Between Revolutions, an exhibition at several universities and art museums throughout the United States. The foundation also coordinated publication of Sidney D. Gamble's China, 1917-1932: Photographs of the Land and its People (1988), China Between Revolutions: Photographs by Sidney D. Gamble, 1917-1927 (1989), and Sidney Gamble's China Revisited: Photographs by Sidney D. Gamble from 1917 to 1931 (2004).

From the guide to the Sidney D. Gamble Photographs, 1906-2007, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Greene & Greene. Residence for Mr. Sidney D. Gamble at Escondido, Cal. [graphic] / Greene & Greene, Architects. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Gamble, Sidney D. (Sidney David), 1890-1968. Sidney D. Gamble photographs, 1906-2007. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Gamble, Sidney D. : [miscellaneous ephemeral material]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
creatorOf Sidney D. Gamble Photographs, 1906-2007 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Edwards, Dwight Woodbridge, 1883-1967. Dwight W. Edwards papers, 1905-1982 (inclusive). Yale University, Divinity School Library
referencedIn Dwight W. Edwards Papers, 1905-1982 Yale University Divinity School Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Edwards, Dwight Woodbridge. person
associatedWith Edwards, Dwight Woodbridge, 1883-1967. person
associatedWith Greene & Greene. corporateBody
associatedWith Sidney D. Gamble Foundation for China Studies. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Documentary photography


Birth 1890-07-12

Death 1968





Ark ID: w6b57g3f

SNAC ID: 24757989