Graham Peck


Graham Peck was born in Derby in 1914. His father was Irving Peck, a prominent industrialist who ran the Sterling Pin Company and helped found the Recreation Camp. Graham graduated from Yale and set out to circle the world, but was captivated by what he saw in China.

He returned to Derby in 1937 and wrote and illustrated his first book on China, Through China's Wall, which received positive reviews as both a travel and history book. He then returned to China and witnessed the Japanese War and the tumultuous times that have shaped the development of China. He authored two other major books on China - Two Kinds of Time in 1950 and China - The Remembered Life.

He also wrote several children's books. He died in 1968 in Vermont, but he is buried in Oak Cliff Cemetery.

Dr. Robert Feeney wrote the following story for the Derby Historical Society describing Peck:

Graham Peck is absent from records of the distinguished citizens of Derby—for example the Town and Historical Society web sites. And yet Graham Peck is cited dozens of times even today on the Internet and in the Archives of The New York Times as a distinguished author, artist and war correspondent who reported events in China (1937-1946) during a tumultuous period of war
and revolution. It is a fair assertion that Peck was Derby’s most important citizen from a world history perspective in the Twentieth Century.

Graham Peck was born in Derby in 1914 to Irving H. and Sara Hobart Peck, a wealthy industrialist family. After graduating from Andover and Yale (June 18, 1935) he set out with $2000 and his art supplies to circle the world, but once in China, remained for over a year. He returned to Derby in 1937 and there wrote and illustrated a book on his travels (“Through China’s Wall-1940”).
Time Magazine featured commentary on his book in 1940 “as part exquisite travel book, part exciting history, part exotic philosophy and above all a portrait of a race that explains why the Chinese people lose battles but somehow win wars.”

Peck returned to China in 1939 and witnessed and reported at first hand the Japanese War, the rising tide of peasant revolt and the tyranny and despotic rule of the Nationalist Government led
by Chiang Kaishek. He lived for years under the incessant aerial bombing by the Japanese of Chongquing and joined the Office of War Information after Pearl Harbor. Peck then wrote a second book (“Two Kinds of Time”-1950 ) about the events of this period. He later coauthored
a third book (“The Remembered Life”-1968) and illustrated several books for children (“Little Wu and the Watermelon”; “The Valley of the Larks”). His life in China spanned some six and one half years and his writings and satirizing art work are seen today by scholars as the very best record of China in that revolutionary time.

Graham Peck died in Rutland, Vermont on July 3, 1968 at the age of 54; he had lived in South Pomfret, Vermont and was buried in Oak Cliff Cemetery in Derby. In its review of “Two Kinds of
Time” The New York Times observed that “Peck lived in caves, Chinese Inns, missionary compounds, and American barracks. No dirt, no privation, no danger ever seemed to have
inconvenienced him. Peck was obviously destined to travel in China as were Doughy and Burton to travel in Arabia.”

Peck’s art work is memorialized today in “Who Was Who in American Art”.

Epilogue Graham Peck was one of a small cadre of American journalists living in China in the 1940s
( Theodore White-later to author the Making of the Presidents; Edgar Snow; Alice Smedley, etc.) These reporters witnessed the Communist Revolution and argued that U.S. policy in support
of the Nationalists was misplaced and doomed to fail. The 1950s later saw a political storm in the United States seeking to fix blame “for who lost China”. The written word was the primary instrument of communication of that time and no words were more powerful nor more prophetic
as to these events in China than those of Graham Peck.

Here at the beginning of the 21st Century China is a global power by any measure and thru trade has emerged as the banker to America. Some believe China could well become the pre-eminent nation state in the world of this Century.

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