Department of Special Collections
Donald C. Davidson Library
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
27 linear feet (54 boxes)
Aristide Rieffel was a French philosopher, social scientist, journalist and inventor whose life spanned eighty-three years, four continents, and two marriages. Parisian born of Alsatian stock, Rieffel maintained a strong lifelong attachment to his native France and to Alsace. Though he lived the last twenty-five years of his life in America, he remained thoroughly French. He was born Arthur Zacharin Rieffel on May 1, 1859. He received a strong Catholic upbringing and, though he often questioned church dogma, he remained deeply religious and spent much of his life pondering and writing on religious questions. Around age nine he received the nickname "Aristide" for his precociousness. As an adult he used Aristide as a pen name, and eventually as his legal name. Young Aristide lived through the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the siege of Paris, and the subsequent uprising of the Paris Commune in 1871. The violence and human suffering of these events deeply impressed him, and he devoted most of his life's work to preventing war and violence. His pacifism brought him into close contact with Alfred Nobel and Fr d ric Passy, with whom he worked for several years. Aristide also was an inventor who developed a marine steam engine and a device for producing halogen for lighting. The latter invention made him a handsome profit, but mismanagement by his business partners cost him his fortune. He also was a traveler and spent time in Russia, North Africa, the Middle East, North America, and various European countries. His travels gave him a wide perspective on the human condition, and he used this perspective to frame concepts of human behavior and social organization that he believed would eliminate war and lead to harmony and social justice. His life's work was "Le Livre" or "The Book," a large work covering virtually every aspect of individual and societal behavior. He hoped that by pointing out humanity's problems and offering constructive solutions he would make the world a better place. UltimatelyAristide's masterwork remained unfinished. However, enough of it exists to give the reader a clear idea of his thought, when combined with his other writings. His vision for a future society was complex, and involved non-competitive education, strong religious and moral upbringing, and the reform of virtually every governmental and societal institution, including marriage and the family. He never outlined how his ideas would be enforced. nevertheless, his writings provide an intriguing glimpse into the mind of a man tortured by human suffering and determined to put an end to it. Aristide moved to Santa Barbara in 1930, and lived in a small house on De La Guerra Street. He often wrote letters to the editor of the Santa Barbara News Press, and was a familiar figure in the coffee houses and theaters downtown. He died on October 5, 1941 following an injury and a prolonged illness. The Aristide Rieffel Collection contains the collected papers of Aristide Rieffel, as well as papers of his second wife Jeanne and his children, Odile, Marc, and Mireille. Almost all of the material is in French. The bulk of the collection consists of the correspondence and writings of Aristide. He was a meticulous note taker and he saved manuscript drafts, notes jotted to himself on scraps of paper, newspaper clippings, and correspondence. Legal and Financial papers contains legal documents AR felt were important enough to save, including records of legal proceedings against him in 1880. It also includes papers that detail financial arrangements concerning his many inventions.