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Walter George Whitman Papers

Identifier: M.7

Scope and Contents

This collection spans much of Walter George Whitman’s life, beginning with correspondence from 1894. The correspondence section houses multiple letters, some from his mother regarding visits with his children, numerous letters from his wife during trips, and business correspondence from his time as editor at the American Book Company. The collection includes unpublished manuscripts, an unpublished memoir of his observations while living in China, and selected manuscripts in science education. Whitman also took a series of photographs and lantern slides during his year in China. These images chronicle everyday life of the Chinese, as well as significant places and landmarks. While living in China, Whitman traveled to many Asian and European countries. The collection houses many postcards and travel records from these trips. Also included are American and Hawaiian (pre-statehood) postcards.

This collection would be of use to anyone researching or studying the topic of science education, especially during the first half of the 20th century. Many of Whitman’s publications are tailored for use as lesson plans and include tests and answer keys. The collection houses a great deal of advertisements and periodicals from the early 1900’s that mainly discuss new technologies and advancements in the world of science. Another topic of interest would be images of Europe and Asia during the early 20th century, as the collection includes more than 500 postcards and other images.


  • 1894 - 1959

Biographical / Historical

On May 4, 1874, Walter George Whitman was born in Norway, Maine to George Washington Whitman and Eliza Jane Davis Whitman. Following his graduation from Norway High School, he attended Tufts College. He received an A.B. degree in 1898 and began teaching at Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont; he later taught at high schools in Gloucester and Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1906, he received a M.A. degree at Columbia University while teaching at New York City’s Ethical Culture School. On August 20, 1912, he married Grace Bates. Together, the couple had three children: George B. Whitman, who became the eccentric owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France, Mary C. Whitman and H. Carleton Whitman. Whitman continued to teach at a number of universities and secondary schools. His longest tenure was at the State Normal School, Salem Massachusetts, where he taught Practical Science and served as Head of the Science Department. While teaching, he also established and served on boards of numerous science-based organizations, becoming the founder of General Science Quarterly in 1916. In 1925, Whitman took a yearlong sabbatical from Salem Normal School and, along with his family, moved to China where he taught at Nanking University. While there, Whitman took a number of photographs and lantern slides, chronicling the everyday life of the Chinese people. While in Asia, Whitman traveled to multiple countries including Japan, India and Egypt. During the 1920s and 1930s, Whitman authored and co-authored a number of science textbooks. These textbooks were widely used across the country and abroad and remained in print for decades. Walter George Whitman died from a heart attack in his Orlando, Florida home at age 78 on November 2, 1952. He is largely recognized as a pioneer and leading force in general science and science education in the first half of the 20th century.


10 Linear Feet

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Repository Details

Part of the Salem State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Archivist
352 Lafayette St.
Salem MA 01970 United States