Thursday, June 5, 2014

Phillips Andover in the Early 20th Century (June 5, 2014)

Arnold G. Tew's Phillips Andover urn (circa 1912)

As I have written previously here at The Prism, my paternal grandfather, Arnold G. Tew, lost his father in a tragic train accident when my grandfather was just three months past his sixth birthday.  His father was hit and killed by a train in Providence while on his way to work one day.  About 7 or 8 years later my grandfather was accepted to attend Phillips Academy -- Andover (“Phillips Andover”) prep school in Andover, Massachusetts.

A.G. Tew (kneeling) with classmate on
Phillips Academy -- Andover campus
circa 1913.

Since the family was of very modest means and probably barely considered middle class, it has always been an unsolved mystery about how my widowed great grandmother was able to afford to pay for her son’s attendance at Phillips Andover.  There is speculation that there might have been some insurance settlement for the death of my great grandfather, but that is unexplored and remains mere speculation.

My grandfather was lame from a congenital defect in one knee that could not be corrected despite at least two surgeries.  As a result of his knee malady, he was not able to play sports and so he read with a passion and skipped one or two grades prior to high school based on his academic performance.  The family circumstances and his scholastic ability probably contributed to his being accepted at Phillips Andover in about 1910.

1913 photo believed to have been taken by my grandfather.

In 1912, my grandfather was one of eight students at Phillips Andover from Rhode Island.  He was a “Junior Middler” or sophomore in the Classical Department.[1]  His mother, Margaret "Maggie" Tew, ran a rooming house in Andover and my grandfather was living in that home along with at least two other Phillips Andover students (William Joseph Hever of New York, NY and Phillip Williams Burges of Petersham, MA).  Unfortunately, the address of my great grandmother’s rooming house in Andover in 1912 is not yet known and perhaps never will be.

Phillips Andover had several school-owned dormitories or "cottages" in 1912 -- Bancroft, Bartlett, Eaton, Abbot, Andover, etc. – but there were also several rooming houses in addition to “Mrs. Tew’s.”  There was Mrs. Clark’s, Mr. McCurdy’s, Mr. Fletcher’s, Miss Merrill’s and Mrs. Whitney’s to name just a few.  All together the cottages and rooming houses provided a residence for the 566 Phillips Andover students in 1912.

Period post card from showing some of the student resident cottages at Phillips Academy -- Andover.

A.G. Tew's room in 1913-1914 -- Andover Cottage 9.

For some unknown reason, I have never yet visited Phillips Andover, but my blogging friend, Barbara Poole of Life From The Roots blog,  has generously shared some current photos of the campus taken during her recent visit there.  Barbara's photos can be viewed here.  I do have two of my grandfather’s yearbooks – Pot Pourri – from 1912 and 1914, several photographs from my grandfather’s time at Phillips Academy, and some images from a vintage postcard website (credited below).  Between Barbara’s blog post showing Phillips Academy today, and the photos shown here, a sense of the changing face of Phillips Andover over the last century can be seen.

The Academy Building (1912)

The new indoor swimming pool (1912)

South Hall under construction (April 26, 1912)

The new baseball diamond (1912)

A period post card from showing some of the academic buildings at Phillips Andover in the early 20th century.

[1]  The four years at Phillips Andover consisted of the “Junior” or what would be called the freshman year in most high schools today (when the PA students were then called “preps”); the “Junior Middle” or sophomore year; the “Middle” or what would be recognized as the junior year in most high schools today; and the final “Senior” year.

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Photos of the Andover urn and of A.G. Tew and his classmate from the personal collection of the author.

Period post card images from as described.

Photographs of the Academy Building, the new indoor swimming pool, the construction of South Hall, and the new baseball diamond are all from the author's copy of the Phillips Andover 1912 "Pot Pourri" yearbook that belonged to his grandfather, Arnold G. Tew, Sr.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew

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  1. Have you ever tried to contact Philips Academy to see if they have a school archives? They might be interested in some of what you have and might be able to provide additional information about or photographs of your grandfather (and maybe even your great-grandmother). Certainly worth a phone call!

  2. I agree! I have had very good experiences with school archives at Acadia College, Dartmouth, Harvard, Boston University and at Phillips Exeter. Heather Rojo via iPhone

  3. John,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  4. This was an interesting post, John. Do you know the date of the "Dear Paul" postcard? A friend recently showed me a booklet that our local newspaper created a century ago as a history of the area. The frames and decorative line drawings are similar on your postcard and in that booklet. I find them very appealing.