[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.

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