David Gamble (Cincinnati, 1890 – Sydney, 1968), the grandson of James Gamble, founder of Procter & Gamble in 1837, visited China for four periods doing Christian social work for the Y.M.C.A and conducting social surveys.
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He is now best known for his remarkable photographs of Beijing and North China.
Gamble first toured in 1908 accompanying his parents, then after graduating from Princeton in 1912, studied labor and industrial economics at the University of California, Berkeley, spending six months on a fellowship working at a reform school for delinquent boys. At this time, he built the house which became known as the Sidney D. Gamble House.
In 1917, he joined the work of Princeton-in-Peking and the Peking YMCA where his Princeton friend John Stewart Burgess invited him to do the surveys which resulted in Peking: A Social Survey, which included more than fifty photographs. In 1919 Gamble was on hand to capture dramatic photographs of the May Fourth student demonstrations. The motto of the May Fourth Movement, “To save China through science and democracy,” and the missionary ideal of “Saving China through Christianity” for a time seemed to be united. When he returned with his bride, Elizabeth Lowe, to China in 1924, he used his family resources to hire a team of Chinese researchers to survey 283 families. The book was published in 1933 as How Chinese Families Live in Peiping (as Peking was then called). In 1926, Gamble traveled for three weeks in the Soviet Union with Sherwood Eddy, a longtime mentor.
As China became more and more inflamed by patriotic agitation and warlord fighting, he found hope in the Ting Hsien Experiment in Rural Reconstruction conducted by James Yen’s Mass Education Movement. In 1931-32 Gamble traveled to China for the fourth and final time to organize the surveys which he used for three more detailed volumes, Ting Hsien: A North China Rural Community (1954) and North China Villages (1963). Chinese Village Plays, published in 1970, after his death, give translations based on unique transcriptions of now lost village yang ko plays, which differ from the later dances.
Jonathan Spence concludes of Gamble that his “findings were open-minded, clear-headed, methodologically intelligent (though not always beyond criticism by scholars of different views), startlingly imaginative, and — when presented in photographic form — vigorous, ebullient, unsentimental, and starkly, yet never cruelly, illustrative of the deep and real suffering that lay at the heart of China’s long revolution.”
Rescued Slave Girls ; 1917 – 1919
Industrial Training – between 1917 and 1919
Yellow Lama Priest ; 1917 – 1919
between 1917 and 1919
1917 – 1919
The Temple Court — Quiet Save for the Tinkle of the Wind ; 1917 – 1919
The Slaughter House Sign, Pig Bladders ; 1917 – 1919
The Peking Chinese Young Men’s Christian Association ; 1917 – 1919
The foundlings’ home ; 1917 – 1919
The Five Teachers, Christ, Lao Tze, Confucius and … John Howard ; 1917 – 1919
Teng Shih K’ou Church ; 1917 – 1919
The Blind Working for the Blind ; 1917 – 1919
Student Guard at Government Law School, the Student Jail ; 1917 – 1919
Sure of One Hot Meal on a Cold Day ; 1917 – 1919
STITCHING SOLES ; 1917 – 1919
Rickshaw Shelter ; 1917 – 1919
Spreading Modern Ideas Among the Common People ; 1917 – 1919
Reform School Dormitory ; 1917 – 1919
Prostitutes’ Advertising ; 1917 – 1919
Beijing walls, 1917-1919
Peking Model Prison, the First of 39 in China ; 1917 – 1919
Old Style Prison ; 1917 – 1919
National Teachers’ College, the Forge ; 1917 – 1919
Making Match Boxes. Model Prison Workshop ; 1917 – 1919
Industrial Training; shop practice ; 1917 – 1919
Industrial Education. National Teachers’ College ; 1917 – 1919
Student Demonstrations, June 4th and 5th, 1919
Arrested Students Going to Jail, 1919