Frank Bruce Robinson papers, 1929-1951

Overview of the Collection

Robinson, Frank B. (Frank Bruce), 1886-1948
Frank Bruce Robinson papers
1929-1951 (inclusive)
8 linear feet
Collection Number
MG 101
Dr. Frank Robinson was born in 1886 in New York City. This colleciton contatins, editions of the Psychiana lessons, typescripts of Robinson's books, journal articles, and correspondence from students.
University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 2350
Moscow, ID
Telephone: 2088850845
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

In August 1955 Alfred Robinson and Pearl Robinson gave the University of Idaho Library many Psychiana related items including four large boxes which were to remain sealed for 25 years. These boxes were opened in January 1980 and the contents sorted; the material is now contained in seven file boxes. Included in the three boxes of correspondence are letters between Psychiana headquarters and students in eighteen countries. Carbon copies of Psychiana's replies are attached to most of the original letters from students. The letters from students which Robinson used in his publications are marked with quotation marks; occasionally words were changed or sentences rearranged. The remaining boxes contain copies of all the Psychiana lessons, copies of Psychiana Weekly and other similar publications, typescripts of speeches and articles by Frank Robinson, broadsides used in advertising, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, a scrapbook of clippings kept by Robinson, and photographs.

This is a very important collection not only for those researching Dr. Frank B. Robinson and the impact of Psychiana, but also for those interested in non-orthodox religion. Anyone interested in effective advertising methods would also find this collection useful.

The contents of each section of this collection are described in the following Description of Series.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Material concerning the early life of Dr. Frank Robinson is quite sketchy and necessarily biased as one must rely totally on Robinson's own accounts. He says he was born on July 5, 1886 in New York City; his brother Sydney and others say he was born in a small village in Buckinghamshire, England (Latah Journal (Deary, Idaho) August 12, 1937). Stratford-on-Avon and Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, are also mentioned as birthplaces in later articles on Robinson. His mother was Hannah Rosella Coope, his father the Reverend John Henry Robinson. In March 1888 his father became pastor of the Long Crendon Baptist Chapel after "a long visit in America. " Long Crendon is a small village with a population of less than 100, situated about 12 miles southwest of Aylesbury, at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, near the River Thames, in Buckinghamshire. When visiting Long Crendon in 1934 Frank was shown a book containing the history of the Long Crendon Baptist Chapel which included the reference to the American visit of his parents; however, Rev. Robinson stated he was never in America.

After a few years in Long Crendon the family moved to Halifax, a small town southwest of Leeds in southwest Yorkshire, known for its cloth trade. It was here in about 1894 that Hannah Robinson died--Frank said he was eight when his mother died. Soon Rev. Robinson moved his four boys a few miles to the southeast to the industrial town of Huddersfield, where he soon remarried. Frank claimed his step-mother, Ellen Haigh, was very cruel and often beat him and his brother Sydney. Upon returning to the house one day Frank caught her beating Arthur (aged 10) and became so angry he turned on her and beat her. As a result of this insolence his father forced him to join the British Navy (he was 13 or 14 at the time), but he didn't like the navy so schemed to get a medical discharge. He returned to the family home briefly, but was soon sent, with Sydney, to Canada. This was, according to Frank, in 1900 (the boys would have been 14 and 12); Sydney said it was 1902. After arriving in Montreal the two boys found their way to Ontario where both obtained farm work. At this point their paths seem to have separated. Sydney died in Montreal in 1944 or 45, the youngest brother, Leonard, was killed in World War I, and at the time of Frank Robinson's death in 1948 his brother Arthur was on the crew of an English freight boat (The Psychiana Bulletin, May 1952, p. 7).

Frank Robinson worked at various odd jobs, eventually obtaining employment at Robert Templeton's drug store in Belleville, Ontario in 1908. While there he was arrested for passing counterfeit money, but was acquitted of the charge. Nonetheless, it was not long before he was again on the move, this time settling in Toronto where he worked for Robert's nephew, J.G. Templeton. While there he was urged by Dr. Elmore Harris to enter the Bible Training College; Dr. Harris even offered to pay his expenses. He soon became disillusioned however, and left before the end of term. He joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (stating on the application that he was born in England) and was sent to Regina, Saskatchewan. After two months he was dismissed as a chronic alcoholic. He then worked as a druggist in various small towns, eventually arriving in Vancouver and Victoria.

In 1910 he entered the United States and worked as a pharmacist in Portland, Oregon before joining the Navy as a Hospital Apprentice First Class on the U.S.S. Philadelphia. Again his excessive drinking resulted in his discharge.

About 1915 or 16 Robinson made his way to Ellensburg, Washington, where he worked at the Ball Pharmacy. Here his drinking had unusual results. While drunk he found his way to Spokane where he enlisted in the U.S. Army under the name Earl Meyer, stating he was born in Ellensburg. He was sent to Manila where he was later court-martialed for disobedience--he says it was because he refused to have all his teeth pulled. After spending about six months in disciplinary barracks he was discharged from the army; he was also, at this time, cured of his drinking problems. He worked for a time in San Jose, California, moved to San Francisco in 1919, and then to Oregon where, on his application for a job in Klamath Falls he again claimed England as his birthplace.

On November 23, 1919 Robinson married Pearl Leavitt of Klamath Falls. They moved to Tucson, Arizona where their son, Alfred, was born on March 1, 1923. A series of moves followed Alfred's birth; first to Los Angeles, then Portland, Oregon, next to Yakima, Washington where they remained for two years. Finally, in April 1928 they moved to Moscow, Idaho where Robinson was employed by Charles E. Bolles at the Corner Drug Store. The Robinson's daughter, Florence, was born in Moscow in January 1931.

Robinson began the Psychiana organization shortly after arriving in Moscow, but continued his work at the drug store until his new religion was firmly established. In 1933 he bought William Marineau's printing operation in Elk River and had it moved to Moscow where, in addition to printing the Psychiana lessons, he established Moscow's second daily newspaper, the News Review, which later merged with its rival, the Star-Mirror, to form The Daily Idahonian. The year 1933 also saw the opening of the Psychiana Clinic under Dr. Charles F. Magee. The clinic, located in a former businessmen's club on the corner of First and Jackson Streets, could accommodate about 30 patients. (A picture of the clinic can be found in the Psychiana Quarterly, June 1933, p. 16) The Professional Building on Third and Jackson Streets was built by Robinson in 1936. It housed most of the doctors and lawyers in Moscow, as well as the Exclusive Prescription Pharmacy, one of three pharmacies owned by Robinson, the others being the Moscow Pharmacy and the University Pharmacy.

In 1936 Dr. Robinson purchased 160 acres of land and deeded it to the public of Latah County for a park, called, appropriately, Robinson Lake Park. The Soil Conservation Service built a dam, which in turn made a lake of about twenty acres. Robinson started a youth center for Moscow in 1945, but it does not appear to have been in operation long.

When Dr. Robinson applied for his passport for his 1934 trip to Europe he stated on the application that he was born in New York City. During a subsequent postal investigation of Psychiana, a religion which relied exclusively on the mails, the postal inspectors came across this passport, and in 1936 Robinson found himself involved in legal proceedings. A Federal Grand Jury indictment was returned against Robinson in Boise on February 11, 1936; on May 20, after a four day trial, he was acquitted of the charge of having knowingly lied about his birthplace on his passport application. In August of 1936 he was involved in a deportation hearing and ordered to leave the United States. Senator William Borah, a good friend of the Robinson family, intervened, and it was agreed that Robinson could re-enter the United States, having first secured the proper immigration documents. He left for Cuba in August of 1937 and re-entered through Florida. In 1942 he became a naturalized citizen.

Robinson never mentions where he received the D.D. and Ph.D. degrees he used after his name, but Rev. Clifford M. Drury, in his article "Psychiana-The New Religion" in the August 3, 1933 issue of The Presbyterian Banner, says Robinson received them from the College of Divine Metaphysics in Indianapolis. This institution operated a correspondence school and apparently Robinson studied with them from 1915-1918. The 1948 information bulletin issued by Psychiana stated the Ph.D. was an honorary degree from Reed College in San Francisco. In 1945 Bishop Aneed of the Byzantine American Catholic Church raised Robinson to the episcopate of that church, hence the title "Archbishop of Psychiana" [Arthur Carl Piepkorn. Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada, (New York: Harper & Row, 1977) I, 92].

In 1940 Dr. Robinson suffered a serious heart attack, but recovered and continued his work with Psychiana. He suffered with coronary thrombosis for several years, and shortly after noon on October 19, 1948 he succumbed to a lung hemorrhage. On Friday the 22nd Marcus Bach arrived in Moscow to deliver the funeral eulogy. Following the funeral Dr. Robinson's body was taken to Spokane for cremation.

His wife Pearl, son Alfred and daughter Florence were still living when the four sealed boxes of his personal papers were opened January 15, 1980. Pearl Robinson died November 27, 1982.


While living in Portland, Oregon in the mid 1920's, Frank Robinson had a "vision of the future" seeing himself at the head of a new religion, one based on I Corinthians 3:16: "Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of God--and that the Spirit of God liveth in you?" Following this experience Robinson moved to Yakima, Washington where he worked at the Pioneer Drug Store for about two years, but found the late hours left him little time for the development of his teaching. Seeking a location where drug stores closed at 6 p.m., he and his family moved to Moscow, Idaho, in April 1928. It was not long before he began giving evening lectures in the dining room of the Moscow Hotel on the power of the spirit of God; about sixty people attended his first lecture.

While working at the Corner Drug Store he continually jotted notes to himself, and on a Saturday night he locked his door, sat at his typewriter, and in the next thirty-six hours typed the first set of ten lessons for his unnamed religion. Borrowing about $2500 from several towns people, Robinson had the lessons printed and commenced advertising. According to the Psychiana Bulletin for April 1950, "Psychiana was chartered in the late fall of 1929 and the first Psychiana advertisement was placed shortly after the turn of the year." Before long the advertisements for this new religion appeared in 700 newspapers, 86 magazines, and over 18 radio stations. Anyone answering one of these advertisements received approximately 67 pieces of literature over a 22 week span.

In his Strange Autobiography, p. 207, Dr. Robinson relates how he arrived at a name for his teaching. In a dream he entered "a room about twelve feet square painted black and in the middle of it was a Helen Gould canvas army cot. On the cot was a male corpse with hands folded across his breasts. Standing over the head of the corpse and making downward motions with his hands was a man I had never seen before." After watching this procedure for a time Dr. Robinson asked the man what he was doing and received the reply: "You ought to know. This is Psychiana, the Power which will bring new life to a spiritually dead world." Several months after this dream, as Dr. Robinson was passing a clerk's desk, he happened to notice a photograph of a student on the desk--a photograph of the same man he had seen in the dream. He learned this man was Geoffrey Peel Birley, of Alexandria, Egypt, and immediately wrote him asking for $40,000, a sum which Mr. Birley sent within three weeks. Robinson visited Birley in 1934 and in November 1936 Geoffrey Birley spent several days in Moscow visiting the Robinsons [News-Review (Moscow, Idaho) November 2, 1936].

Early in the development of Psychiana Frank and Pearl Robinson would spend evenings attending to the assembling and mailing of lessons, but as the enrollment increased--within a year the teachings were being sent to 600,000 students in 67 countries--Robinson had to quit his job at the drugstore and hire an office staff to deal with the volume of mail. The operations began in a single room of the Urquhart Building, next to the Corner Drug Store, then expanded to three additional rooms in the same building. Soon a five year lease was signed for offices in the Bratton Building on East Third Street, but in six months this too was inadequate, and in 1932 Robinson bought a quarter block on Third and Jackson Streets which was originally occupied by Short's undertaking parlor. This building was occupied for two years and was later torn down to make room for the Robinson Professional Building. It was not long before it became necessary to split the Psychiana operations, the printing and bookkeeping division occupied a building on First and Main (now Dahmen Insurance parking lot) and the mailing operation, or International Headquarters, was housed near the new Professional Building (now the parking lot for Idaho First National Bank). At its peak Psychiana was reported to be the seventh largest religious organization; it employed nearly one hundred people, mostly women, and handled up to 50,000 pieces of mail per day. In 1950 a large multi-story building was being planned, but it was never built.

Most of Robinson's early printing had been done by George Lamphere, owner of Moscow's newspaper, the Star-Mirror. In 1933 Robinson discovered he was being greatly over-charged, purchased the Elk River paper owned by William Marineau, moved the printing plant and Mr. Marineau to Moscow, began doing his own printing and started a second paper, the News-Review, which eventually merged with the Star-Mirror to form the Daily Idahonian.

In addition to the lessons, Dr. Robinson also developed a series of radio programs which were broadcast nationwide in the mid 1930's. He attracted large crowds whenever he lectured and was also invited to speak to classes in religion at several college campuses, most notably to Dr. Marcus Bach's classes at the University of Iowa.

By 1936 Robinson was no longer able to handle all the correspondence and give lectures so he hired Charles Wesley Tenney, a retired Methodist minister associated with the Idaho Institute of Religious Studies on the University of Idaho Campus. Tenney answered almost all of the student mail until he was forced by the Methodist church to sever his relations with Psychiana. He went to Portland where he worked as a hospital orderly. His place as Robinson's assistant was taken by William Walter DeBolt, who, soon after his work with Psychiana began, was expelled by the Church of God. He left Psychiana after several years to become pastor of the Methodist church in Lind, Oregon.

When Frank Robinson died on October 19, 1948, his son, Alfred, who had assisted his father since 1947, attempted to continue operations, but after several years he was forced to close, the rapid rise in postal rates being given as the main reason. The last mailings were sent out in 1952, and in January 1953 all operations ceased. The sorting of the remaining lessons and other material took several years. By 1955 the University of Idaho Library was fortunate enough to have obtained copies of the lessons and books authored by Dr. Robinson. In August 1955 Robinson's widow and son delivered four sealed boxes to the Library. After a period of twenty-five years these boxes were opened; the contents are described in the following inventory.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Description of Item], Frank Bruce Robinson Papers, MG 101, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Processing Note

This collection was processed into a digtial collection, which can be found at the UI Library Special Collections website. It is called, "Psychiana Digital Collection."

During the creation of this resource, it was found that errors were made during the digitization project. This includes folder numbers, where some were skipped or others don't correlate to the folder number listed in the digital collection item descriptions.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Correspondence, 1935-1941; 1947-1949Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
1 2
1 3
Correspondence (A-J)
1 3
Correspondence (K-Z)
1 5
1 6
1 7
Correspondence (A-J)
1 8
Correspondence (K-Z)
1 9
1 10
Correspondence (A-B)
1 11
Correspondence (C-D)
1 12
Correspondence (E-G)
1 13
Correspondence (H-J)
1 14
Correspondence (K-M)
1 15
Correspondence (N-Q)
1 16
Correspondence (R-S)
1 17
Correspondence (T-V)
1 18
Correspondence (W-Z)
2 1
Correspondence (Ab-Ay)
2 2
Correspondence (Ba-Bo)
2 3
Correspondence (Br-By)
2 4
Correspondence (Ca-Ch)
2 5
Correspondence (Cl-Cu)
2 6
Correspondence (D)
2 7
Correspondence (E)
2 8
Correspondence (F)
2 9
Correspondence (G)
2 10
Correspondence (Ha-He)
2 11
Correspondence (Hi-I)
2 12
Correspondence (J)
2 13
Correspondence (K)
2 14
Correspondence (Ma-Me)
2 15
Correspondence (L)
2 16
Correspondence (Mi-My)
2 17 1948
3 1
Miscellaneous Correspondence
3 2
Correspondence (O-Pe)
3 3
Correspondence (Ph-Q)
3 4
Correspondence (R)
3 5
Correspondence (S-Sl)
3 6
Correspondence (Sm-Sw)
3 7
Correspondence (T)
3 8
Correspondence (U-V)
3 9
Correspondence (W)
3 10
Correspondence (Y-Z)
3 11
Correspondence (A-B)
3 12
Correspondence (C-D)
3 13
Correspondence (E-G)
3 14
Correspondence (H-J)
3 15
Correspondence (K-L)
3 16
Correspondence (M-N)
3 17
Correspondence (O-R)
3 18
Correspondence (V-Z)
3 19
Psychiana Library Correspondence
3 20
Correspondence (S-T)
3 21
Psychiana Form Letter

Psychiana Lessons and PublicationsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
4 1
4 2
Advanced Course #1
ca. 1932
4 3
Advanced Course #1
ca. 1932
4 4
Advanced Course #2
ca. 1932
4 5
Advanced Teaching #3
ca. 1936
4 6
Advanced Teaching #3 (21-40)
4 7
The League of Eternal Life
4 8
Man Can Now Talk With God Study Lessons (1-54)
ca. 1938
4 9
Man Can Now Talk With God Study Lessons (55-105)
ca. 1938-1941
4 10
The New Psychiana Lessons (15-26)
4 11
The New Psychiana Lessons (5-17)
4 12
The New Psychiana Lessons (6-14)
4 13
Psychiana in Dutch
4 14
Psychiana in Spanish - Introductory Lectures and Lessons (1-9)
4 15
Psychiana in Spanish - Lessons (10-20)
4 16
4 17
Hymn Books
4 18
4 19 1948
4 20
Psychiana Quarterly
4 21
Introductory Lectures
4 22
Psychiana Information Booklets
4 23
Psychiana Monthly
December 1931
4 24
Psychiana in Spanish
4 25
Psychiana Weekly/Monthly Transitional Notes
4 26
Psychiana Bulletin
4 27
Man Can Now Talk With God Master File Lessons (1-7)
ca. 1938
4 28
Psychiana Weekly Vol. 1, No. 1-52

WritingsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
5 1
5 2
Believest Thou This (1) - Original
5 3
The Better Way
5 4
Believest Thou This (1) - Carbon
5 5
Believest Thou This (2)
5 6
Believest Thou This (3) - Original
5 7
Believest Thou This (3) - Carbon
5 8
God vs. the Axis
5 11
5 13
5 14
5 16
5 17
5 20
5 21
5 22-23
5 24
5 40

Lectures and Broadcasts, 1929-1941Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
5 9 1930
5 10 1941
5 12 1935
5 15
New Visions of God - Los Angeles
5 18 1941
5 25 1929
5 26 1929?
5 27
Easter Lecture
5 28 1934
5 29 1934
5 30 1934
5 31 1935?
5 32 1937
5 33
Radio Broadcasts
5 34
National Convention Speech
5 35
Psychiana Programs (7-18)
5 36
5 37 1938?
5 38 1938
5 39
Radio Broadcasts

Clippings and ArticlesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
6 1
Miscellaneous Clippings
6 2
Clippings About Robinson
6 11
6 13
Clippings Kept By Robinson
6 17
6 18

PhotographsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 3
Robinson Addressing Groups
6 5
Robinson Family
6 6
Robinson and Friends
6 8
Frank Robinson (Negatives)
6 9
Frank Robinson, Photographs
6 10
Psychiana Photographs
6 14
Miscellaneous Negatives

MiscellaneousReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 4
6 5
Aneed, Antonius Joseph
6 7
Student Literature
6 12
Psychiana Pins
6 15
Photographs of Jesus
6 16
Lists of Newspapers Regularly Used for Dr. Frank B. Robinson's 'Psychiana' Advertising

BroadsidesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
7 1
American Spiritual Awakening
7 2
7 3
Dahlman, Stephen Bern. Drawings
7 4
Direct Mail
7 5
7 6
7 7
7 8
7 9
7 10
7 11
7 12
7 13
7 14
7 15
7 16
7 17
7 18
7 19
7 20
Letters from Robinson, Printed
7 21
Letters to Robinson, Printed
7 22
Letters Sent With Lessons
7 23
Messages to Students
7 24
Letters - Overdue Accounts
7 25
Order Forms, Lessons
7 26
Miscellaneous Broadsides
7 27
Order Forms - Books
7 28
Pictures Used as Enclosures
7 29
Psychiana Church Material
7 30
Quiet Talks With God
7 31
War Messages
7 32
Speech and Convention Announcements
7 33
7 34

ArtifactsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
8 1
Cassette Tapes
8 2
Pins and Button
8 3
Box of Pins

OversizedReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Oversized 1
Psychiana Broadside
Photographs in Frames

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Cults
  • Psychiana movement
  • Religious institutions

Geographical Names

  • Moscow (Idaho)