Guide to the Alfred W. Ramsey Papers

MSN/MN 0503

 

Collection Summary

Title: Alfred W. Ramsey papers
Dates: 1883-1955 (bulk 1904-1913)
Collection No.: MSN/MN 0503
Creator: Ramsey, Alfred W. (Alfred Winston), 1883-1955
Extent: 3 containers plus 3 flat storage containers, plus 1 mapcase drawer; 3.5 linear feet
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: The manuscripts, printed ephemera, and photographs of business teacher Alfred W. Ramsey (1883-1955), deriving especially from his tenure at the U. S. government's Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania (1909-10).

Selected Search Terms

United States Indian School (Carlisle, Pa.)
Indians of North America -- Education -- Pennsylvania -- Carlisle -- History
Indians of North America -- Cultural assimilation -- Pennsylvania -- Carlisle -- History
Business education -- United States

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: Alfred W. Ramsey Papers, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Alfred W. Ramsey Papers were purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2014, from William Reese Rare Books of New Haven, Connecticut. Arranged and described 2014, by Lauren Golden and Zoe Thrumston. Finding aid 2014, by Zoe Thrumston and George Rugg.

Biographical Note

Alfred Winston Ramsey was born on 11 December 1883 in Bradley County, Tennessee, to George and Sarah Webb Ramsey. He was educated at the Nashville office of Draughon's Practical Business Colleges, in bookkeeeping, shorthand, and typewriting, and also attended a Chicago shorthand reporting school. In a letter of 17 December 1908 (folder 1) Ramsey provides a resume of his professional experience to that point: "[o]ver five years' teaching experience in the various departments of Draughon's Practical Business Colleges, at Nashville, Tenn., Oklahoma City, Okla., and St. Louis, Mo.; one year as President of the Poudre Valley Business College, Fort Collins, Colo.; a practical bookkeeper; a short-hand reporter; a good business penman; an expert touch operator on the typewriter; a thorough English education; and 25 years of age." In January 1909 Ramsey accepted a provisional appointment as business teacher at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was formally hired in March following a satisfactory result on his Civil Service examination. Ramsey was charged with organizing a business department at the school, to complement its trade and academic programs. A typescript in the collection, "Modern Business Training for Indians—and Its Need" (probably written by Ramsey) describes the business curriculum that Ramsey introduced to Carlisle: "The freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors are taught simple business methods and elementary acccounting, to calculate rapidly, to prepare short advertisements for the want columns of newspapers, to fill out bills, checks, notes, and other every day business forms, and to write letters of application and other business letters, and to write a penmanship that is not labored nor illegible. The seniors and the students of telegraphy electing to take it are given typewriting one hour daily. The regular students of the departments, those who have finished the academic work, are taught as much bookkeeping, shorthand, and typewriting as a two term course will permit." In addition to his teaching duties Ramsey was secretary of the YM/YWCA section at the school and advisory member of the "Susans" literary society; he was also involved with Sunday School instruction and Bible study. Ramsey also did a good deal of clerical work for the school and its superintendent, Moses Friedman, ". . . reporting the Commencement exercises, your [Friedman's] addresses, etc., and getting up reports, reading proof, and doing office work . . . ." He resigned his position effective 1 November 1910, apparently disillusioned with the Indian Service and the school. After his work in Carlisle Ramsey found a position as bookkeeper with the Cleveland, Tennessee, National Bank. Sometime thereafter he moved to Los Angeles, where he married Jessie Maud Parker (12 July 1916). He appears to have spent the remainder of his life there, working in various business capacities. He died on 16 August 1955.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, as part of a government project designed to "kill the Indian, save the man." In Ramsey's day it was overseen by the Office of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior. Carlisle became the model for 25 government Indian schools, founded on the premise that Native Americans could be equal to European Americans, provided they assimilate into European American society and culture. While the school removed Native American children from poverty and provided them with a free education, it also encouraged children to abandon their native cultures. Primary and secondary school students were brought to Carlisle from tribes accross the country; they were taught a wide array of vocational skills, supplemented by academic subjects. By 1910 the U. S. government had built more reservation schools in the West, and the need for Indian schools in the East diminished. In 1918, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School officially closed. The site is now home to the U.S. Army War College and the Carlisle Barracks.

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes manuscripts, printed matter, photographs, and realia preserved by Ramsey, most of it ca. 1904-1913. Particularly abundant, and notable, is material dating from Ramsey's time at Carlisle (1909-1910). There is a relatively small amount of personal correspondence of this period, some of it relating to Ramsey's hiring at Carlisle and his resignation the following year. A much larger body of manuscript material includes typescripts of student writing and typing exercises; copies of addresses by Carlisle administrators (especially superintendent Moses Friedman) and commencement speakers; school mission and policy statements; essays on character and behavior with a bearing on Indian education; and other topics. Some of this material would have been generated as a consequence of Ramsey's teaching (including instruction in typing), but much of it was the result of his de facto status as clerical assistant to Friedman. There are also two memory books preserved by Ramsey, with questionnaires filled out in manuscript by 79 different Carlisle students. The printed matter includes a broad selection of items from the Carlisle Indian Press; printing was one of the trades taught at the school, and Edgar Miller, the program's superintendent, was a particular friend of Ramsey's. Included are runs of school periodicals like the weekly The Carlisle Arrow and the monthly The Indian Craftsman (later titled The Red Man). There are also pamphlets, programs, broadsides, dance cards, and other ephemera. Photographs include panoramas of the Carlisle campus and a number of group portraits of the student cast of the comic opera "The Captain of Plymouth". Carlisle materials naturally relate to Ramsey's own duties and interests at the school: the business program itself, of course, as well as shorthand reporting, typing, and other clerical work done for Friedman. (The presence in the collection of so many commencement speeches and other addresses, for example, is attributable to Ramsey's shorthand and transcription capabilities). There are only a few items relating to the Athletic Department (see folders 77 to 77C). Items unrelated to Carlisle include manuscripts, printed matter, and photographs from Ramsey's earlier teaching career, at various Draughon's schools and at Poudre Valley. There are also photographs, postcards, and other materials relating to Purdue University, whose relevance to Ramsey is not clear.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged in two series: 1) Carlisle Indian Industrial School Materials; 2) Miscellaneous Materials.

Container List