Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Remembering J. Fred Waring

The first recipient of the Waring Prize, WRA's highest alumni award, was selected 35 years ago when Richard H. Bliss '38, a teacher and headmaster, was honored by the school. Since the Waring Prize committee usually meets in the spring and makes its announcement in June, alumni and friends might like to know more about the award's namesake.

J. Frederick Waring was born in Savannah in 1902, the third of three sons of a real estate broker. He attended "a couple of appalling little private schools" before being sent north to attend Governor Dummer Academy in Massachusetts. He followed other family members to Yale, majored in English, graduated in 1923, then attended Cambridge for advanced study. He remained in England to teach for a year at a "public" school, then returned home in 1926 to teach at the Salisbury School. Later, Waring earned a master's in history at the University of Wisconsin, then taught at a girls school in New Hope, Penn., until 1935 when he joined the WRA faculty.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Waring was a demanding and inspiring teacher of both English and
history. His humor was whimsical and erudite - often baffling for younger students. He was a stickler for accuracy and pushed critical thinking. Headmaster John W. Hallowell cited him for his "enthusiasm, his own love of what is good, his standards of taste and excellence." On campus J. Fred Waring was known for his "literary drawl," his pipes and his tweeds, and his extraordinary insight and desire to help students in need.

During World War II he served for a couple years with the American Field Service as an ambulance driver in North Africa and Syria and later taught for a year at the American University in Beirut. In 1953 he married WRA librarian, Julianna Fitch, who shared his love for books, art, history, and historic architecture.

In his later years Waring worked to organize materials related to the school's history and wrote two volumes: James W. Ellsworth and the Refounding of WRA (1961), and The Growing Years: WRA under Wood, Boothby, and Hayden (1972). He and Julianna retired to Savannah in 1967 where they lived in his ancestral home and were active in civic life. He was serving as president of the Georgia Historical Society at the time of his death in 1972. The Waring Prize was established that same year in his honor.

A few years ago I had a chance to visit Waring's grave at the historic Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. His headstone reads, "His love of the past was equaled by his concern for the present and his faith in the future." Julianna Fitch Waring passed away in 1986.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Waring Manuscript Seeks Publisher

One of the great projects of J. Fred Waring's life was the research and writing of a regimental history of the Confederate unit in which his grandfather, Joseph Frederick Waring (1832-1876) was a colonel. This would be the Georgia Hussars, originally organized as a militia unit in Savannah in 1736. In 1861 the Georgia company joined with others from Mississippi and Alabama to form the "Jeff Davis Cavalry Legion."

Over a period of more than 30 years, Waring spent many of his summers working on his book. His intention was to compile a complete war record of this one Confederate regiment by locating the letters of its soldiers, and then letting excerpts from the letters themselves tell the story. It is a method that Ken Burns would use to great effect in his PBS documentary, The Civil War. It required an immense amount of field work. In a 1963 interview with the Akron Beacon Journal, Waring expressed concern about completing the project but stated that the book was nearing completion. However, it never reached publication.

Fred and Julianna Waring retired to Savannah in 1967. When Waring
died in 1972, he left his notes, transcripts, muster rolls, and manuscript to the Georgia Historical Society. In the fall of 2003, I had a chance to examine Waring's manuscript and notes and to discuss with the Georgia Historical Society Press the possibility of publishing his book. They expressed interest in the matter, but then no more came of this contact.

Waring's manuscript is complete and covers the Jeff Davis Legion's involvement in numerous campaigns including the Seven Days (1862), Brandy Station (1863), Gettysburg (1863), Bentonville (1865) and the surrender in April, 1865. There are five boxes of research notes organized by individual soldiers, components, and military actions, as well as handwritten transcripts of letters, biographical sketches and a number of photos.

Moving the manuscript to publication would be the perfect project for a dedicated historian. Anyone interested?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

WRA's Hopkins is Namesake for Cleveland Airport

Many WRA alumni, students and friends may be unaware that Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was founded by and named in honor of William R. Hopkins, WRA Class of 1892. Hopkins and four of his brothers were WRA graduates, and all five went on to distinguished careers. William R. Hopkins gained an unusual level of recognition as the result of his high-profile political career.

Born in 1869 to parents of Welsh descent, Will Hopkins was the sixth of ten children. Eight of the Hopkins brothers, including Will, worked in Cleveland steel mills before pursuing higher education. Hopkins was already 20
before he enrolled at WRA. Following graduation, he went on to earn both a bachelor's and a law degree from Western Reserve University (now CWRU), and while still in law school was elected to Cleveland City Council. Will and his entrepreneur brother, Ben, teamed up to build a short line railway that linked industries in the Cleveland Flats area. Will continued to be active in politics, and in 1924 he was named city manager when Cleveland was the sixth largest city in the U.S.

During his seven years as manager, Hopkins saw the completion of the Terminal Tower complex and construction of the Municipal Stadium and the Convention Center on the Mall. He persuaded council to buy 700 acres off Brookpark Road for a state-of-the-art Cleveland Municipal Airport, replacing a small airstrip on Woodland Avenue. The new facility helped guarantee that the city would remain on the airmail route between New York and Chicago. By the end of the 1920s, it had proven to be one of the city's finest assets. The airport attracted the national air games and brought in flying celebrities like Amelia Earhart and Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who helped promote the airport as a hub and a destination.

Although Hopkins lost his job in 1930 when the city returned to the mayor/council form of government, he continued as a member of council and was an important player in the civic life of Cleveland. Eventually, the city named the airport he had nurtured: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Recently, the airport added a large portrait of Hopkins that incoming passengers pass on the main concourse. It is something of a belated tribute to the man whose foresight made this airport a reality. Hopkins has an imposing monument at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland which can be located on a visit to this large and magnificent cemetery where many of Cleveland's most important people are buried. Your reporter easily found the Hopkins tomb on a recent visit.

NOTE: William R. Hopkins served as a member of the WRA Board of Trustees from 1925 until his death in 1961 at age 91.

Historic Loomis Letters from London, Paris

When Elias Loomis came to Hudson as a professor at the old Western Reserve College, he had been recruited with the promise that the college would send him to Europe to study observatories so he could plan one for our campus. It is believed that Loomis was the first Hudson resident to travel abroad.

Late in 1836 he sailed for Europe and spent about a year between England and France, during which time he sent home 34 "Letters from Europe" which were published in the Observer, a newspaper edited on our campus. These are fascinating letters that afford a glimpse into life in London and Paris some 170 years ago.

Transatlantic steam service had just begun when Loo
mis left aboard a 1200 ton vessel that steamed to England by way of Newfoundland. He marvelled at the ship's record speed of about 12.5 miles per hour. In London in the spring of 1837, Loomis was on hand when King William IV died and was succeeded by his 18-year old niece, Queen Victoria. It was also the year that construction began on the Houses of Parliament, but Loomis was more interested in the challenges posed by the building of the first tunnel under the Thames River.

The tunnel had been started 10 years earlier and had advanced 400 feet under the river.
In his letter dated May 11, 1837, Loomis reports that "they have lately recommenced and have advanced to upwards of 650 feet in length, about half of the contemplated length of the tunnel." He then describes what he observed of the "quite ingenious" method of construction. The tunnel would be wide enough for carriages to pass one another without a problem.

Other letters deal with his visits to Oxford and Cambridge where he noted that student living conditions seemed luxurious compared to those in Hudson. As a mathematics teacher, Loomis was surprised that so little attention was paid to math at Oxford, while Cambridge was strong in both math and science and also possessed an observatory that had opened in 1824. Its design probably had a strong influence on the observatory built here in Hudson upon Loomis's return.

In France Loomis traveled on a coach called a diligence that could carry 20 passengers "divided into classes" depending on the fare. Several letters deal with his visit to the Tuilleries Gardens, the palace at Versailles and the newly erected Madeleine. He had some harsh comments for the desecration of buildings in order to erase or restore the fleur-de-lis emblems of the Bourbon monarchs. He also was aware that France was something of a police state with informers lurking everywhere - even in this era of the "citizen king" Louis Philippe.

Professor Loomis's expenses for his year in Europe came to $1086 which probably caused some consternation for the cash-poor Western Reserve College. Loomis Observatory opened in September of 1838 and still contains the original telescopes that were purchased in London at a cost of $1750. Photo images of Loomis's original letters from abroad are available for viewing on microfilm at the Hudson Public Library.