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William Smith Clark Papers, 1814-2003 (Bulk: 1844-1886, 1956-1976)
29 boxes (14.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: RG 3/1 C63

Abstract:
Massachusetts native, Civil War veteran, botanist, chemist, mineralogist, and educator who held the presidency of Massachusetts Agricultural College (now University of Massachusetts Amherst) from 1867-1879 and who helped to found Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University) in Japan in 1876. Papers include correspondence with fellow professors and scientists, students in Japan, and family; photographs and personal items; official correspondence and memoranda; published articles; books, articles, television, and radio materials relating to Dr. Clark, in Japanese and English; and materials regarding Hokkaido University and its continuing relationship with the University of Massachusetts.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is available for research. Some fragile originals have been copied for use.

Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Biographical Note

William Smith Clark was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts, July 31, 1826. He attended Williston Academy in Easthampton, Massachusetts, in the first class, that of 1844. He graduated from Amherst College in 1848 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. As a boy, he became interested in collecting birds and plants; at Amherst College, under the influence of the professors, he became greatly interested in science, especially mineralogy. As a result, he went to study in Germany, where he obtained his Ph.D. at Georgia Augusta University in Goettingen in 1852.

He returned to Amherst College to an appointment as a professor. For the next fifteen years, from 1852 to 1867, he was a member of the Amherst faculty, where he became known as an educational innovator, a fine and inspiring teacher, and a fund raiser for the college. His teaching at Amherst College was interrupted only by the Civil War, during which he served the Union Army with distinction from 1861 to 1863. Soon after his return from the war, he became the leader in the successful efforts by the town of Amherst to become the seat of a new agricultural college just authorized by the Massachusetts General Court under the provision of the Morrill Act, the "Land Grant Act" that established state agricultural and mechanical colleges throughout the United States. Just before the new Massachusetts Agricultural College opened its doors in September 1867, he was appointed president, the third to hold the title, the first two having no school over which to preside. He held the presidency of MAC for twelve years, until 1879.

Clark taught and administered the affairs of the struggling college. He insisted on making his school into a general liberal arts school, not simply a training school for farmers-to-be. Early in 1876, he obtained a leave of absence from MAC and accepted the appointment by the Japanese government to open a new agricultural college on the model of MAC. He went to Japan in the late spring and arrived on his fiftieth birthday in Sapporo, where he opened the Sapporo Agricultural College in mid-August. He remained there for eight and a half months, during which he established the school, taught four hours a day, served as the technical advisor to the island of Hokkaido, and paved the way for the conversion to Christianity of all the members of the first class. At SAC, he demonstrated anew his qualities as a fine teacher that had been revealed at both AC and MAC. He was a great inspiration to his students, all of whom became leaders in Hokkaido or nationally in Japan. As a result of his highly successful mission, his name remained well-known in Japan more than a century after his brief stay there. All Japanese school children since his time have learned as a motto his farewell statement, "Boys, be ambitious, (B.B.A.)", since extended to students of both sexes.

On returning to MAC in 1877 he found that the school's existence had become even more precarious than before. He resigned as president early in 1879 and accepted the presidency of an innovative "floating college" which was to circumnavigate the globe. However, the unfortunate premature death of the promoter brought that venture to an end shortly before the intended date of departure. Clark then became involved with a shady character with whom he founded the firm of Clark and Bothwell, a mining venture. Within a year Clark made and lost a considerable fortune. The collapse of the firm, with the disappearance of his partner, resulted in losses to the investors in the mines operated by the firm, including many citizens of Amherst.

Clark's health failed immediately after the firm's collapse in 1882 and he remained a semi-invalid until his death on March 9, 1886. Although he was a leading citizen of Amherst and prominent in the affairs of the Commonwealth, his fame has endured primarily in Japan.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of William Smith Clark, 1814-2001 (bulk 1844-1886, 1956-1976), include correspondence with fellow professors and scientists, students in Japan, and family; photographs and personal items; official correspondence and memoranda; published articles; books, articles, television, and radio materials relating to Dr. Clark, in Japanese and English; and materials regarding Hokkaido University and its continuing relationship with the University of Massachusetts.

The papers reveal many details about the early days of MAC, student life at AC, the Civil War, the island of Hokkaido in the late nineteenth century, and the role of WSC in the founding of SAC, as well as his interactions with colleagues, officials, students, and family. As to full documentation of his life, however, the papers are an uneven representation. The correspondence, for example, adequately covers his undergraduate years at AC, his two years of graduate school in Germany, his less than two years at the front in the Civil War, and his year in Japan. Virtually nothing in the correspondence, however, deals with his years as a professor at AC, his presidency of MAC, his disastrous mining venture, or the final four years of his life.

Clark was not a prolific writer. Apart from his MAC and SAC presidential reports, his writings consisted largely of printed versions of lectures on botanical experiments carried out at MAC during his presidency, and articles on educational issues related to MAC.

Because of his AC career, his MAC presidency, and his prominence as a leading citizen of his town and state, his activities were given a fairly extensive coverage in the local press. A considerable number of newspaper clippings is included in the papers, but his political activities are not represented in other ways. The clippings are generally photocopies, often of poor legibility, especially those in oversize Box 27.

The photographs in Series 1 are numerous enough to be of significance in documenting the life of WSC.

As compared with the number of documents written or received by Clark, there is a disproportionately large amount of material written about him in both English and Japanese. This is a reflection of the breadth of the impact that Clark had on the island of Hokkaido, on SAC (which became Tohoku Imperial University, then Hokkaido Imperial University, and finally Hokkaido University), and on his Japanese students who became leaders in Hokkaido and Japan itself. Clark's fame has long remained green in Japan, as indicated by the long television documentary on his life shown on a Japanese national network in 1981.

Because of WSC's involvement with the establishment of SAC and the constant presence of MAC personnel on its campus in the early years, a close relationship between the two agricultural schools was established long ago. This relationship continued in both formal and informal ways through the years and is documented in the papers, particularly in Series 5.

The Clark papers include copies of a few items of correspondence and other materials at AC, and copies of WSC's official memoranda in the Hokudai Library. The latter also has reproductions of all the original personal correspondence in the Clark papers at the University of Massachusetts.

Additional materials relating to WSC or HU is to be found in the University Archives in the official minutes of the MAC Board of Trustees (RG-2/1), in the published Annual Reports of MAC (RG-1/00/2) (reports for 1864-1932/33 available online), in the papers of William Wheeler (RG-2/3), Horace Stockbridge (RG-40/11), David P. Penhallow (RG-50/6-1873), William P. Brooks (RG-3/1-1905), Jean Paul Mather (RG-3/1-1954), the Center for International Agriculture (RG-15/4), International Programs (RG-6/4/9), Student Union (RG-36/100), John Lederle (RG-3/1-1960), and Charles Goessman (RG-40/11).


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is available for research. Some fragile originals have been copied for use.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: William Smith Clark Papers (RG 3/1-1867). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

The papers of William Smith Clark (b. 1826, d. 1886), botanist, chemist, mineralogist, and educator, were acquired in part by the Library of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1974 by gift of the widow of Dr. Clark's grandson, Mrs. William S. (Gladys) Clark II. Copies of original documents in the Amherst College Library and the Hokkaido University Library were acquired mainly in 1974-77. Materials about Dr. Clark and the Hokkaido University / University of Massachusetts relationship were acquired from Professors John Maki, Richard Woodbury, H. Leland Varley, and others. Some materials had long been in the University of Massachusetts Library.

Processing Information

Processed by John Maki and SCUA staff, 1983, 2004.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399
Language
English and Japanese
Note on Abbreviations and Japanese Names

Abbreviations used in reference to the William Smith Clark papers are as follows:

AC Amherst College
D Doshisha University
HU or Hokudai Hokkaido University ("Hokudai" is to Hokkaido University as "UMass" is to the University of Massachusetts)
MAC Massachusetts Agricultural College (earlier name of University of Massachusetts)
SAC Sapporo Agricultural College (earlier name of Hokkaido University)
WSC William Smith Clark

Note: To avoid confusion in the order of Japanese names, this finding aid follows the standard form of family name in UPPERCASE. Also note that names may have been romanized in different ways, both within the collection and in the finding aid.