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George S. Rentz, Jr. Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS434

Scope and Contents

The George S. Rentz, Jr. Papers contain the correspondence, photographs, journals, and collected printed materials of George S. Rentz, Jr., the noted Arabist who pioneered the Research and Translation division of the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco). The collection provides primary and secondary source material for the history of the Arabian American Oil Company, U.S.-Saudi relations, the politics of oil, and the Palestinian revolution. Rentz's private notebooks and appointment diaries provide the only personal aspects of the collection; the evolution, expansion, and politics of Aramco dominate Rentz's papers.

The content of the collection can be divided into three parts, each reflecting one of Rentz's titles: scholar, Arabist, and Aramco pioneer. As a scholar, Rentz produced a number of articles, encyclopedia entries, and books relating to the history, culture, and evolution of Saudi Arabia, as well as keeping contact with professors from around the world. After retiring from Aramco and joining the faculty of Stanford University, Rentz became interested in the tensions of the modern Arab world--particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition to the newspapers and publicity materials of al-Fatah (the Palestinian National Liberation Movement), Rentz's printed materials contain speeches, press releases, and publications generated by Yasser Arafat, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Kings Sa'ud and Faisal of Saudi Arabia. As an enthusiastic Arabist, Rentz collected maps, articles, and photographs that provide researchers with a timeline of the Arab world's development from the early 1930s through its modernization in the 1970s. Of particular interest is the substantial collection of photographs from a 1945 "Locust" expedition to Saudi Arabia and from Rentz's travels to Syria, Egypt, Eritrea and Tunisia in 1932. Finally, George Rentz played an important role in the development of the Arabian American Oil Company, or Aramco. His correspondence provides a window into the daily workings of the company and reveals both the grand ambitions of American and British oilmen and the delicate position they held in a fast-changing Arab world. The collection contains letters to and from Aramco notables, including Tom Barger, Floyd Ohliger, William Mulligan, and Homer C. Mueller (who was working undercover for the CIA). Rentz also preserved a significant number of issues of Aramco's weekly newspaper, the "Sun and Flare", as well as a typed narrative of an Aramco employee's 16,000 mile road trip around North America with the grandson of the Saudi Minister of Finance in 1949. Another item of special interest is the commemorative booklet and photographs of the U.S.S. Rentz, a guided missile frigate named after Rentz's father, George S. Rentz, Sr. George Rentz, Sr. was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary who entered the U.S. Navy during World War I as a chaplain and rose to the rank of commander by World War II. His ship, the U.S.S. Houston, was attacked in the Pacific in 1942, and Rentz was killed in action. He received the Navy Cross posthumously. The Georgetown University Library Special Collections Division also preserves the collection of William Mulligan, Rentz's colleague and successor at Aramco.


  • 1932 - 2008
  • Majority of material found within 1948 - 1969


Language of materials note

Although most of the collection is in English, the Rentz Papers contain a substantial number of Arabic-language documents, including the propaganda material printed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the 1960s and letters from Saudi officials.

Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical Note

George Snavely Rentz, Jr. (1912-1987) was an Arabist, author, and scholar who worked with the Arabian American Oil Company for 17 years. Born in Welsh Run, Pennsylvania on April 10, 1912, Rentz was the oldest of four children. He graduated from Pensacola High School in 1928 and studied engineering at Georgia Tech until his father (a Navy officer and clergyman) was transferred to the Philippines. Rentz moved with his family and from 1930 to 1932, studied at the University of the Philippines as a mathematics major. In 1932 he was returning to the U.S. by way of the Middle East when he impulsively accepted a three-year teaching position at the North Syrian School for Boys in Aleppo, Syria. Rentz finally returned to the United States in 1935 and entered the University of California at Berkeley, receiving his B.A. in European History in 1937 and a Master's Degree in 1938 in Fourteenth-Century Egypt. The entry of the United States into World War II interrupted his doctoral studies, but because he was hard of hearing, Rentz could not enlist. In 1942 he was assigned civilian duty at the Office of War Information in Cairo, where he worked as head of Research and Translation. He met his wife, Sophia Bassili (an Egyptian Copt) in Cairo, and they married in 1944. After the war, Aramco recruited Rentz as a temporary translator, but he went on to serve 17 years with the company. In 1946, a Research and Translation section of Aramco's Government Relations Department was set up under Rentz's direction, and thereafter he directed the Company's policies with respect to the religion, culture, and customs of Saudi employees and government contacts. He also documented oral histories from Bedouin tribes and published a series of Aramco handbooks that were later released under general distribution as "The Arabia of Ibn Sa'ud." During this time he finished his doctoral thesis for the University of California at Berkeley, receiving his Ph.D. in 1948 for his dissertation on Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. In 1954, Rentz became Aramco's Adviser on Arab Affairs, devoting much of his time to the Buraimi boundary dispute between Saudi Arabia and Great Britain. Retiring from Aramco in 1963, Rentz moved to Stanford University to become curator of the Hoover Institution, aggressively expanding its Arabic, Turkish, and Persian collections and lecturing on Islam, Russo-Saudi relations, oil's role in Middle Eastern politics and the modern Arab world. In 1976, he became a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. and then the scholar-in-residence at John Hopkins University. In his final years, Rentz returned to Stanford to work on a book about King Ibn Sa'ud. After a long illness, Rentz died on December 22, 1987 in California. He was survived by his wife and three daughters, Maureen, Tanya, and Janine. (Sources: George S. Rentz, Jr., "Curriculum Vitae" dated 1953, Box 2, Folder 90; "George Rentz, Noted Arabist, Dies" dated 2/1988 from the "Arabian Sun", Box 2, Folder 91; "Memorial Service for George Rentz" dated 2/10/1988 from Stanford University's "Campus Report", Box 2, Folder 92)


5.25 Cubic Feet (8 boxes)

Metadata Rights Declarations


Series 1 - Correspondence from George S. Rentz, Jr.

Series 2 - Correspondence to George S. Rentz, Jr.

Series 3 - Manuscripts by Sophie Rentz

Series 4 - Notebooks of George S. Rentz, Jr.

Series 5 - Photographs of George S. Rentz, Jr. and other subjects

Series 6 - Printed Materials by, or collected by, George S. Rentz, Jr.

Series 7 - Issues of Aramco's weekly newspaper the "Sun and Flare"

Series 8 - Biographical documents of George S. Rentz, Jr.

Series 9 - Rentz - Private Library Bibliography

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Tanya Rentz, 2007 and 2012 (GTM-071115 and GTM-120724). Source of Rentz - Private Library Bibliography (GTM-20231211) is unknown.

Processing Information

The collection was rehoused in acid-free boxes and folders after it was received. In December 2023 portions of the collection were moved from record storage boxes to document cases. Rentz - Private Library Bibliography series was added to the collection at this time. Photographic negatives were also sleeved at this time.

George S. Rentz, Jr. Papers
Erin C. Stewart
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023: Edited for DACS compliance by John Zarrillo
  • 2023-12: Collection rehoused by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057