Sumner, William Graham, 1840-1910

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William Graham Sumner was born in Paterson, New Jersey on October 30, 1840. He graduated from Yale University (B.A., 1863) and studied in Europe (1863-1866). He served as a tutor at Yale (1866-1869) and was ordained as a priest of the Calvary Church in New York City in 1869. In 1872 Sumner was appointed to the newly created chair of political and social science at Yale. He retired as professor emeritus in 1909. Sumner was an educational and administrative leader at Yale, and had a substantive impact on the curriculum. As a leading international sociologist Sumner wrote several major works during his lifetime. He died in Englewood, New Jersey on April 12, 1910.

From the description of William Graham Sumner papers, 1863-1946 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702156819

From the description of William Graham Sumner papers, 1863-1946 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122390604

William Graham Sumner was born in Paterson, New Jersey on October 30, 1840. He graduated from Yale University (B.A., 1863) and studied in Europe (1863-1866). He served as a tutor at Yale (1866-1869) and was ordained as a priest of the Calvary Church in New York City in 1869. In 1872 Sumner was appointed to the newly created chair of political and social science at Yale. He retired as professor emeritus in 1909. Sumner was an educational and administrative leader at Yale, and had a substantive impact on the curriculum. As a leading international sociologist Sumner wrote several major works during his lifetime. He died in Englewood, New Jersey on April 12, 1910.

William Graham Sumner was born to Thomas and Sarah Sumner on 30 October 1840 in Paterson, New Jersey. William's father, Thomas, was a mechanic who moved his family from one town to another until 1845, when the Sumners settled in Hartford, Connecticut. William grew up in Hartford, attended its public schools, and then entered Yale College in 1859 with the intention of becoming a minister.

Elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, Sumner achieved an impressive record at Yale as a scholar and orator. Sumner graduated in 1863 and then, with the financial help of his friends, set off for Europe to study theology at Geneva, Göttingen, and Oxford. He returned to America in 1866 to serve as a tutor at Yale.

Although a successful teacher, Sumner did not abandon his plans to enter the ministry. On 28 December 1867 he was ordained by the Episcopal Church and three months later moved to New York City to serve as the assistant rector at the Calvary Church. One of his major accomplishments as assistant rector was to found and edit a religious journal called The Living Church . (The journal lasted barely a year, 1869-1870.) He also delivered an occasional sermon at the church and translated W.F. Bahr's Book of Kings .

During this time, the young minister found time to woo and marry Jeannie Whittemore Elliott. The two were married 17 April 1871 and had three sons, one of whom died in infancy.

After personal difficulties with the rector of Calvary Church in 1870, Sumner accepted the post of rector at the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, New Jersey. He remained in Morristown until 1872 when the Yale Corporation appointed him to the new chair of political and social science. Sumner stayed at Yale for the rest of his career, serving as a teacher, administrator, scholar and publicist.

Sumner was undoubtedly Yale's most dynamic teacher of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Students clamored to enroll in his classes, and years later they continued to testify to the impact he had on their thinking. Sumner was also a champion of academic freedom and a leader in modernizing Yale's curriculum.

This devotion to academic reform nearly cost him his professorship. On 6 December 1879 Yale's President, Noah Porter, asked Sumner to ban Spencer's Study of Sociology from the classroom, arguing that it would "bring intellectual and moral harm" to impressionable undergraduates. Sumner saw this as a threat to academic freedom and bluntly refused Porter's request. The faculty soon split into two factions one supporting and the other opposing Sumner's defiance. Sumner seriously considered resigning, but friends persuaded him to stay. Eventually, his opponents capitulated and allowed Sumner to use any textbook he wanted.

Sumner's refusal to compromise and his ability to speak and write bluntly served him well outside of Yale as a publicist. From 1872 until the early 1890's Sumner wrote and spoke constantly on the economic and political issues of the day. He vigorously opposed protectionism, bimetallism, imperialism, and socialism in an acidic style which infuriated his opponents and delighted his supporters.

Sumner was a dedicated scholar as well as a nationally known polemicist. His scholarly books on economic history include: A History of American Currency (1874), Alexander Hamilton (1890), The Financier and the Finances of the Revolution (1891), and A History of Banking in the United States (1896). As an economist, however, Sumner broke no new intellectual ground. He accepted the doctrines of earlier classical economists and applied their theories to specific events.

It was as a sociologist that Sumner made his most lasting mark as a scholar. During the 1890's Sumner turned his attention to the field of sociology, or, as he later called it, the science of society. Compiling thousands of notes on the practices of various cultures, he envisioned writing a systematic work entitled Societology which he later changed to The Science of Society . After writing seventeen chapters of his book, Sumner realized his chapter on customs or "mores" was nearly a book in itself. He took time off from his main project and turned this chapter into Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores and Morals (1906). While never a best seller in his lifetime, Folkways became Sumner's greatest scholarly achievement, establishing him as one of America's foremost sociologists.

Following the publication of Folkways, Sumner's health, which had been poor since 1890, declined precipitously. Realizing he had neither the strength nor the energy to finish his Science of Society, he entrusted the project to his disciple, Albert Galloway Keller. Sumner never saw the finished project, which did not appear until seventeen years after his death.

Soon after his retirement in 1909, Sumner's health broke down completely. He died on 10 April 1910.

From the guide to the William Graham Sumner papers, 1863-1946, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn American Social Science Association Records, 1863-1906, 1865-1887 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Sunderland, Jabez Thomas, 1842-1936. Jabez Thomas Sunderland papers, 1868-1936. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Concord Free Trade Club (Concord, Mass.). Concord Free Trade Club records, 1881-1895 (bulk 1884-1888). Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Foote, Samuel Edmond, 1787-1858. Sumner-Rockwell collection, 1854-1925. New Haven Colony Historical Society Library
creatorOf Sumner, William Graham, 1840-1910. William Graham Sumner papers, 1863-1946 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Whitney, William Dwight, 1827-1894. William Dwight Whitney family papers, 1778-1951 (inclusive), 1814-1912 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Knight, Edward Hussey, 1877-1974. Edward Hussey Knight papers, 1896-1943 (inclusive), 1896-1899 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Whitney, William Dwight, 1827-1894. William Dwight Whitney family papers, 1778-1951 (inclusive), 1814-1912 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Cummings, T. J. T.J. Cummings letter, 1876 Nov. 24. Louisiana State University, LSU Libraries
referencedIn Keller, Albert Galloway, 1874-1956. Albert Galloway Keller papers, 1888-1956 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Weir, John Ferguson, 1841-1926. John Ferguson Weir papers, 1838-1957 (inclusive), 1861-1928 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Irving Fisher papers, 1861-1976, 1894-1947 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Sumner, William Graham, 1840-1910. William Graham Sumner papers, 1863-1946 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Albert Galloway Keller papers, 1888-1956 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company contracts, 1831-1979 (inclusive) 1880-1940 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Letters from various correspondents, American period, 1876-1937. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Fisher, Irving, 1867-1947. Irving Fisher papers, 1861-1976 (inclusive), 1894-1947 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Lovejoy, Esther Pohl, 1870-1967. Esther Pohl Lovejoy Collection, 1849-1994. Oregon Health & Science University Library, OHSU Library
referencedIn Arthur Twining Hadley, president of Yale University, records, 1899-1921 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Sumner, William Graham, 1840-1910. Correspondence to Henry Charles Lea, 1898-1903. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Garrison family papers, 1801-1948 (inclusive), 1840-1907 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Jabez Thomas Sunderland Papers, 1868-1936 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Sumner, William Graham, 1840-1910. Letter : New Haven, Conn., to Moncure D. Conway, 1893 Apr. 28. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Farnam family. Farnam family papers, 1721-2002 (inclusive), 1850-1937 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Farnam family papers, 1721-1941 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Dana family papers, 1805-1961 (bulk 1833-1894). Library of Congress
referencedIn Maurice Rea Davie Papers, 1914-1975 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence and records, 1832-1944. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Dana family. Dana family papers, 1764-1967 (inclusive), 1805-1961 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Fields, James Thomas, 1817-1881. Letters, [ca. 1863-1878], Boston. Brown University, John Hay Library
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Anson Phelps Stokes family papers, 1761-1960, 1892-1958 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn American Social Science Association. American Social Science Association records, 1863-1906 (inclusive), 1865-1887 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf William Graham Sumner papers, 1863-1946 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn William Dwight Whitney family papers, 1778-1951, 1814-1912 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Whitney, William C. (William Collins), 1841-1904. [Papers relating to William Graham Sumner in the Whitney collection] [microform]. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Dana family. Dana family papers, 1764-1967 (inclusive), 1805-1961 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Sumner, William Graham, 1840-1910. Letter : New Haven, Conn., to Moncure D. Conway, [18]93 Apr. 28. University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Godkin, Edwin Lawrence, 1832-1902. Rockwell family papers, 1813-1927. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Thwaites, Reuben Gold, 1853-1913. Papers, 1843-1960. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
referencedIn Stokes, Anson Phelps, 1874-1958. Anson Phelps Stokes family papers, 1761-1960 (inclusive), 1892-1958 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Dana family papers, 1805-1961 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Davie, Maurice Rea, 1893-. Maurice Rea Davie papers, 1914-1975 (inclusive). Yale University Library
Role Title Holding Repository
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associatedWith Mansfield, Howard, 1849-1938. person
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associatedWith Massachusetts Tariff Reform League. corporateBody
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associatedWith New England Anti-Imperialist League. corporateBody
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associatedWith New England Free Trade League. corporateBody
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associatedWith Norton, John Pease. person
associatedWith Noyes, Alexander Dana, 1862- person
associatedWith O'Brien, Sophie Raffalovich. person
associatedWith Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918 person
associatedWith Paine, Thomas, 1737-1809. person
associatedWith Parsons, Herbert, 1869-1925. person
associatedWith Peres, Israel Hyman. person
associatedWith Phillips, Andrew W. (Andrew Wheeler), 1844-1915. person
associatedWith Porter, John Addison, 1856-1900. person
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associatedWith Potter, Henry Codman, 1834-1908. person
associatedWith Prentice, Samuel Oscar, 1850-1924. person
associatedWith Reform Club (London, England) corporateBody
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associatedWith Rockwell, Alfred Perkins, 1834-1903. person
associatedWith Romeike, Henry, 1855-1903. person
associatedWith Rylance, Joseph Hine, 1826-1907. person
associatedWith Schwab, John Christopher, 1865-1916. person
associatedWith Seymour, Storrs Ozias, 1836- person
associatedWith Seymour, Thomas D. (Thomas Day), 1848-1907. person
associatedWith Shearman, Thomas Gaskell, 1834-1900. person
associatedWith Spencer, Herbert, 1820-1903. person
associatedWith St. John, Samuel Benedict, 1845-1909. person
associatedWith Stokes, Anson Phelps, 1874-1958. person
associatedWith Sumner, Alice. person
associatedWith Sumner, Eliot. person
associatedWith Sumner, Esther. person
associatedWith Sumner, Graham. person
associatedWith Sumner, Henry. person
associatedWith Sumner, Jeannie Whittmore Elliott. person
associatedWith Sumner, Joseph. person
associatedWith Sumner, Kate E. person
associatedWith Sumner, Thomas. person
associatedWith Sunderland, Jabez Thomas, 1842-1936. person
associatedWith Syle, Louis du Pont, 1857-1903. person
associatedWith Thwaites, Reuben Gold, 1853-1913. person
associatedWith Tilden, Samuel J. (Samuel Jones), 1814-1886. person
associatedWith United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. corporateBody
associatedWith Veblen, Thorstein, 1857-1929. person
associatedWith Veditz, Charles William Augustus, 1872- person
associatedWith Walker, Francis Amasa, 1840-1897. person
associatedWith Washburn, E. A. (Edward Abiel), 1819-1881. person
associatedWith Wayland, Francis, 1826-1904. person
associatedWith Weir, John Ferguson, 1841-1926. person
associatedWith Wells, David Ames, 1828-1898. person
associatedWith Wheelock, William Almy, 1825-1905. person
associatedWith White, Horace, 1834-1916. person
associatedWith Whitney, Henry Mitchell, 1843-1911. person
associatedWith Whitney, James Lyman, 1835-1910. person
associatedWith Whitney, William C. (William Collins), 1841-1904. person
associatedWith Whitney, William Dwight, 1827-1894. person
associatedWith Wright, Henry Parks, 1839-1918. person
associatedWith Yale University corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Corporation. corporateBody
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associatedWith Yale University. Dept. of Social Sciences. corporateBody
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associatedWith Yale University. President's Office. corporateBody
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Tennessee
Connecticut
Southern States
Connecticut
United States
Indiana
Southern States
Tennessee
United States
France
Europe
Louisiana
Europe
Indiana
Iowa
Iowa
France
Louisiana
Subject
Tariff--United States
Social sciences
Currency question
witchcraft
Marriage
Sociology
Economics
Demonology
Democracy
Free trade and protection
Students
Prohibition
Industry--Organization
Gold standard
Reconstruction
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
Money
Education
Women
Occupation
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Person

Birth 1840-10-30

Death 1910-04-12

Americans

English

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