Archive for August, 2014


Charles Allen Sumner, Honorary M.A. 1887

   Posted by: rring    in College Archives, Interns

[Posted as 10 of 10 in a series on the College Archives by Emma Paine, a graduate student intern from Simmons College]

Sumner_1I like Charles Sumner’s alumni file not because it tells a complete story, but because it opens so many possibilities—every time I think I understand the man, I find out something new about his life!

A writer for the 1900 Trinity College Bulletin perhaps said it best when he declared, “His career, full of energy and enterprise in the most varied fields, furnishes rare material for biography.”  In the course of his life, he was the head of the Junction Telegraph Office in North Adams, MA, a student of law and phonography, a sailor, a newspaper reporter, a shorthand court reporter, a special correspondent in the first stagecoach to ever cross the Sierra Mountains, an editor of the Sacramento Daily State Sentinel, Assistant Quartermaster in the U.S. Army, Colonel of the First Regiment Nevada Infantry, a Nevada State Senator, a Congressman from California, a lawyer, a legal stenographer, an orator, and a published author.


Sumner_2He fought against the Confederate Army, monopolies in the railroad industry, the “notorious Denis Kearney” (a nativist labor organizer in California), and the Shafter land bill, “which sought to dispossess most of the people of San Francisco.”   He convinced the San Francisco bar that shorthand reports of legal proceedings were important; he “saved from public plunders the San Francisco Marine Hospital, which has become a Sailor’s Home”; and, as a Congressman, he introduced a “Bill to Enlarge the Postal Facilities of the People of the United States” in an attempt to save the American people from the tyranny of telegram monopolies and expensive communication.  He wrote a book of poems with his brother, including a piece on one of his favorite subjects—short-hand reporting.  Oh, and he was also an accomplished traveler, boarding the clipper ship Fleetwing in 1856 for a “voyage around the horn” to California and later publishing a travel guide to Sweden.

Sumner_3To see this collection and learn more about any of Sumner’s many activities, stop by the Watkinson and ask for the file.

[Posted as 9 of 10 in a series on the College Archives by Emma Paine, a graduate student intern from Simmons College]

Townsend_1“Please don’t send sticky envelopes to the tropics!” the note read, followed with a kindly reminder “US stamp no good here.”   The hastily handwritten scrawl on the bottom of the nearly empty alumni survey immediately caught my attention.  “Where is this man?” I thought as I began to look through the file, “And what is he doing there?”

Townsend_2According to the ink stamp on the document, Trinity received this message in November 1958, just as its author, the Rev. Jack Townsend, was wrapping up his eleventh year as Executive Secretary of the Missionary District of the Panama Canal Zone and Archdeacon for the Republic of Colombia. By November, Rev. Townsend would also have been preparing for a two-month trip to the fairly new missionary territory of Ecuador, where he was one of the first Episcopal clergymen chosen “to provide ministrations of the Words and Sacraments, until [the Bishop Gooden] could go himself and later provide resident priests.”  There are two accounts of this trip in his Alumni File, describing his first view of “the headlands from which Balboa (not stout Cortes) first saw the Pacific Ocean,” a baptism conducted in English and Spanish (“the first time in their lives they heard a baptism conducted in their own language”), and a flight to Quito, Peru through the High Andes (“There was not a sign of life as we threaded our way back and forth.  It was like flying on the moon!”).

Townsend_3The Rev. Townsend graduated from Trinity in 1916 and then spent three years in France as part of the Ambulance Corps for the French and American Red Cross during World War I.  Four years after returning to America to finish his education at Berkeley Divinity School, he left the country again, this time to begin his lifelong career as a missionary in Latin America. In addition to his posts in Panama and Ecuador, he also served in Guantanamo and Camagüey Cuba, where he saw the beginnings of the Cuban Revolution in the 1930’s and reported them in a mailing titled “¡Hola, Amigos de Cuba!”  “Many friends of Cuba will be wondering what is happening down here,” he begins, “I only wish I knew!  We are cut off from real news by censors and by the extraordinary rumors circulating about, most of them false.  Perhaps if I tell what I have seen it will help.”

If you want to know what he saw, stop by the Watkinson and ask for the file!

[Posted as 8 of 10 in a series on the College Archives by Emma Paine, a graduate student intern from Simmons College]

Tudor_1An English professor and a poet, Stephen Tudor, Class of 1955, was clearly a fan of the written word, and his folder is full of correspondence, most of which is addressed to a couple named John and Phyllis.  It appears Stephen was in the habit of writing them yearly letters to exchange birthday wishes and to give John the status update on his Girand-Perregaux timepiece, an earlier gift that proved itself “a remarkable watch, through thick and thin” and always seems to be “ticking along heartily as ever.”

In addition to updating John on the watch, Stephen also talks about his work, his family, and his travels, and, in this way, his whole life unfolds through his letters.  Although he would have preferred history, Tudor got his first job as an English professor. He then earned his MFA at the University of Oregon and found a job at Wayne State University, where he’d teach English and creative writing for the rest of his life.  He and his wife, Ellie, had a child named Michael, and when he was old enough, Ellie earned her own M.A. in dance and became a teacher.  They all spent a sabbatical year in Wales, where they met “Welsh Tudors” and Mike showed his new classmates “the proper way to do a lay-up.”  Stephen continued to write and to sail and to publish many poems and short stories about the Great Lakes, and he died while competing in the 1994 Singlehanded Challenge Regatta on Lake Huron.

Tudor_2Woven in and around these major events are stories about dogs, sewing rooms, snow days and sled rides, observations about education in America and Wales, and commentary on what it’s like to be married to a working woman (“Naturally, I raise my eyebrows when I come home from a long day in Detroit and find that there’s no supper on the table.”)




Together with his manuscripts and the official alumni surveys and press releases in his file, they tell an unexpectedly rich and complete narrative of life as (in Tudor’s words) it “goes on going on.”

To learn more about Tudor, or anyone in the Alumni Files, stop by the Watkinson and ask at the front desk.


[Posted as 7 of 10 in a series on the College Archives by Emma Paine, a graduate student intern from Simmons College]

Barnett_1Speaking at their 50th wedding anniversary party, Mrs. Barnett offered the Rev. Joseph Barnett, Class of 1913, the greatest tribute he’d ever received, saying “Thanks to my husband I’ve never lived a monotonous life.”  I found these words in newspaper article about the 77-year-old’s trip up to Trinity in a camper trailer, so it’s safe to say she was telling the truth about that!

After graduating from Trinity in 1913, Barnett followed his father’s example and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church.  Although he could have avoided the action on the front lines by serving as a chaplain during World War I, he insisted on going to the front as a private. Several newspapers, including the Hartford Courant and the New York Evening Post reported the story, but Barnett didn’t plan to tell his fellow soldiers that he was a clergyman—“I’m not going to sermonize and preach, and I’m not going to do missionary work for the church, but I do think that when it’s all over—whether I come back or not will not make much different, perhaps—the men will know that at least one clergyman was not above living with them and dying with them, if need be,” he said.Barnett_2

When the war ended, Barnett continued his work with the Church, traveling around the country to live and preach in a dozen states before purchasing a $3,600 mobile home and settling down in Florida. In addition to this trailer home, he and his wife also purchased a camper they used as their everyday car; Barnett brought this camper to Trinity for at least three reunions, parking it near the dorms and using the campus’ electricity to power his stove and the refrigerator that kept his meat from spoiling.  “We think mobile homes are the greatest invention since the telephone,” he said in another newspaper interview, and it’s easy to see why— a moving house not only got Rev. Barnett where he was going—like to his beloved Trinity—but also let him meet new people along the way!Barnett_3

To learn more about Rev. Barnett, or anyone in the Alumni Files, stop by the Watkinson and ask at the front desk.

[Posted as 6 of 10 in a series on the College Archives by Emma Paine, a graduate student intern from Simmons College]

Fuller_1In 1977, alumnus Henry Fuller received a letter from a friend who shared his interest in Russian history and, specifically, the Romanovs—the last Russian royal family.  Accompanied by a signed photograph of a Romanov relative, the letter suggests, “”Why don’t you stuff them in with Anna Viroubova’s watercolors and let some graduate student at Palo Alto sort it out in 2196, the bicentennial of Nicky and Sunny’s coronation?”  Trinity’s not Paolo Alto, but Fuller did take his friend’s advice, donating his collection of Russian history books, scrapbooks, letters, and, yes, Anna Viroubova’s watercolors, to the College Archives upon his death in 2001.  (A lifelong supporter of Trinity, he also donated $39 million from his estate to the College.  New Hampshire’s Currier Art Gallery and the Manchester, New Hampshire Historical Society also received gifts from his estate.)

Although the items themselves are incredible, the story behind his collection is equally amazing.   Throughout his high school and college years, Fuller had a habit of requesting autographs from world leaders and famous individuals.  Sometimes, he also included a small gift, like when he sent King George V “an unusually centered guideline strip of four of the current 1¢ U.S. Postal issue” to add to his stamp collection. (These, along with Mr. Fuller’s self-addressed envelope, were returned because “His Majesty only collects stamps of the British Empire.”)Fuller_2

In 1934, he wrote a letter to Anna Viroubova, a former lady in waiting to the last Tsarina of the Russian Empire.  Fuller was interested in the history of the Russian Revolution (as well as in purchasing some of Viroubova’s photographs of the royal family), and they began to correspond regularly, eventually making plans for Fuller to visit and interview Viroubova in Finland that summer.  Later, in an English class at Trinity, he would write the story of her relationship with the Royal Family and her harrowing escape from Russia, attempting to redeem a woman many viewed as despicable and dangerous.  Whether he succeeded in convincing his professor is another story!Fuller_3

2196 may be a long way off, but if you’d like to start sorting out the many stories this collection has to tell, just stop by the Watkinson and ask to see the box inventory.