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William Oliver Stevens Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 1995-90

Collection Scope

These documents consist of office records in the form of correspondence to and carboncopies and drafts from William O. Stevens, first headmaster of Cranbrook school (1927-1934). Additionally, correspondence to and from Dr. Stevens after his tenure at Cranbrook, but concerning Cranbrook masters, other employees, and alumni is included. Some black and white photographs are appended to alumni, faculty and student documents.

The bulk of the collection is administrative correspondence, policies, and curriculum materials.

The collection also contains six (6) pencil drawings and three (3) oversized sketches.

Dates

  • 1927 - 1935

Creator

Access

Access to the collection is unrestricted.

Use

Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.

History

William O. Stevens (18781955) was the fifth generation of his family to choose teaching as a career. His maternal grandfather, Francis Mason, was a wellknown missionary of the time, who conducted a training school for native preachers and teachers and translated the Bible into the two Burmese dialects. Although he spent his early boyhood in Burma, Dr. Stevens came to the United States for his preparatory schooling in public and private institutions in Maine and Massachusetts. He graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Colby College, Maine, in 1899. He was captain of the tennis and track teams.

He was married to Claudia Wilson Miles in 1901. They had two sons: Mason (Cranbrook '33, d. 1942 near Pearl Harbor, Oahu, HI), and Hugo Osterhaus Stevens (graduate of Pratt Institute and a wellknown portrait painter who resided in Richmond, VA). In 1903 he received a Ph. D. in English Literature from Yale University (New Haven, CT). Prior to his doctoral work, he had been employed as an English instructor at Colby College. After receiving his doctorate he taught at the U.S. Naval Academy for 21 years, attaining the position of Senior Professor and Executive of the English Department.

In 1924, he left the Academy to become headmaster of the upper division at Roger Ascham Country Day School, White Plains, NY. In 1926 he accepted the position as the first headmaster of Cranbrook School (Bloomfield Hills, MI), which he assumed in late February, 1927.

He believed in the progressive philosophies of education. He believed that character building and selfdiscipline were as important as a sound academic background to the development of able and honorable young men. He did not believe in rigid, unmodifiable educational planning and was open to many ideas that would improve academic performance. He retired as headmaster in May, 1935, because of ill health. Following a period of recuperation he was acting dean, College of Literature, Oglethorpe University (Georgia) for a year. After leaving that position he devoted the rest of his life to writing and illustrating articles and books, primarily on travel and psychic phenomena.

He was the author of more than 30 books, including multibiographies for young adults--e.g., Famous Men of Science, Famous Women of America, and Famous Statesmen of America--conduct books for young men--e.g., The Correct Thing--local histories, e.g., Old Williamsburg and Her Neighbors; Charleston, Historic City of Gardens; Annapolis, Anne Arundel's Town, and others. Early on he produced satiric verse and illustrations, e.g., An Annapolis Alphabet (1906), and "The Strike at Santa Claus", St. Nicholas Magazine (Dec, 1907). After the death of his younger son, Mason, his writings became increasingly philosophic and somewhat mystical, The Mystery of Dreams (1949) and Psychics and Common Sense (1953), being typical titles. He was an accomplished cartoonist and fine artist, most at ease with pen, pencil or watercolor. He died in his sleep at his Manhattan home, 20 W. 9th Street, on 15 January, 1955.

Extent

4.1 Linear Feet (5 MS, 1 OS)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

William Oliver Stevens was headmaster of Cranbrook School from 1927-1935. These documents consist of office records in the form of correspondence, carbon copies, and drafts from William O. Stevens, first headmaster of Cranbrook School. Additionally, there is correspondence after his tenure at Cranbrook, but concerning Cranbrook masters, other employees, and alumni is included. Some black and white photographs are appended to alumni, faculty and student documents. The bulk of the collection is administrative correspondence, policies, and curriculum materials.

Arrangement

The primary arrangement of the collection is alphanumeric, with correspondence files interspersed with other types of material. Correspondence is arranged chronologically within the alphanumeric divisions.

Acquisition

Transferred from Cranbrook Schools to Cranbrook Archives in 1989. The collection contains six (6) pencil drawings removed in 1979 from the papers of Lee A. White, and three (3) oversized sketches donated to the Archives by Edward Lerchen in 1979.

Related Materials

Roswell G. Curtis, Jr. Papers (1997-03)

Cranbrook School Records (1979-06)

Lee A White Papers (1979-02)

Processing History

Gregg T. Trendowski, May 1990. Gina Tecos, October 2015.
Title
Guide to the William Oliver Stevens Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid written by Gregg T. Trendowski
Date
May 1990
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.

Revision Statements

  • October 2015: Revised by Gina Tecos.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository

Contact:
39221 Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills MI 48303 US