Special Collections Department
William Polk Cummins Papers
Manuscript Collection Number: 352
Accessioned: Purchased, August 1993.
Extent: .5 linear ft.
Content: Ledgers, journals, receipt books, yearbooks.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: October 1997, by Arthur Siegel.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
Cummins was quite well-connected, and was an active member of his community. Indeed, in the words of the Wilmington Evening Journal, he was a "prominent Northern Kent Citizen." He married Sarah Esther Williams (1855-1900), daughter of the Delaware state senator James Williams, who was also president of Parvis & Williams. Cummins himself held a place on the Delaware State Central Committee, and for six years served as Director of the National Bank at Smyrna. He traveled frequently on business -- to Wilmington, Philadelphia, or Maryland -- and maintained a wide range of personal contacts. In addition, he was treasurer and choirmaster of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Smyrna.
In 1893 his health began to fail, and in that year he and his wife moved from Glenfern to Smyrna as a result. He had been suffering from kidney problems and heart disease, which prevented him from engaging in the level of activity he had once been used to, and on March 17, 1895 he died in his home.
Sources:The Wilmington Evening Journal, March 18, 1895 (p.1)
The Middletown Transcript, March 23, 1895 (p.3)
Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of Delaware, J.M. McCarter and B.F. Jackson, eds. Wilmington, Delaware: Aldine Publishing and Engraving Co., 1882.
Note: Historical and biographical material also found in the collection.
Scope and Contents Note
The collection consists of .5 linear feet of material and spans the years 1877-1900. It is divided into two series: the first contains account ledgers, diaries, and receipt books that record the business of Glenfern farm from 1877-1900; and the second contains two Princeton yearbooks (one from 1885, the other from 1895) and a personal journal from 1884. The business records extend essentially to 1894, the year before Cummins' death, and the few items after this date concern his wife's financial affairs. The yearbooks are of interest because they provide substantial biographical information on the Princeton alumni of 1875: where they live, what their occupations are, and what they have done in the subsequent years. For interested researchers, this can provide a wealth of personal and statistical data -- from aiding in genealogical searches to determining the primary professions of college graduates in the late nineteenth century. Also of interest is his personal journal for 1884, which provides potentially valuable climatological data for Smyrna, and tracks the level and nature of his activities around Delaware and the region.
Business Records, 1877-1900 Includes ledgers and cash books from the management of Glenfern farm. Also included are two account books of Esther Cummins in her running of the estate after her husband's death. F1 1877 Ledger (180pp.) F2 1878 Ledger (224pp.) F3 1880-1882 Ledger (297pp.) Includes a list of hired hands, wages, their terms of employment and records of lost work time, as well as lists of renters. F4 1882-1886 Ledger (321pp.) Includes a list of hired hands, wages, their terms of employment and records of lost work time. F5 1882-1891 "Fruit Book" (224pp.) Provides a record of orders for fruit shipped from Glenfern farm. The customers reside as far afield as Boston. F6 1885-1891 Ledger (224pp.) F7 1891 Diary The "Excelsior Diary," published by William F. Murphy's Sons in Philadelphia, is bound in leather. The published diary contains a calendar, monthly astronomical calculations, interest tables, and other important basic information. Inside are hand-written notes of business activities, as well as the names and addresses of various individuals. These insertions are written in pencil and mostly scratched out, and it is uncertain in what context these individuals are to be placed. F8 1893 Cash Book (56pp.) F9 1893 Diary "Standard Diary No. 255" is printed on the front of the leather binding, and it is a yearly publication for the manufacturing trade. It contains a calendar, astronomical data, as well as other useful information. F10 1894 Diary "Standard Diary No. 91," also leather-bound, provides a record of monthly bills to be paid and the amounts. There are also personal notes towards the end of the journal, such as a three-page account of the state of his health from May to September 1894, and notes regarding his personal garden. F11 Receipt Books, 1899-1900 (4 items) Concern the finances of Esther Cummins: one in account with George Lees for food supplies and the other in account with William B. Megear. Found interleaved within these books are two seemingly unrelated bills: one is to Mrs Rebecca Bailey from G.W. Turner, the proprietor of a general store in Smyrna, for goods purchased in March and April, 1900; and the other also to Mrs. Bailey in April 1900, but from ice cream manufacturer George M. Stevenson. F12 Advertisement, August 1877 (1 item) A notice of reminder from William F. Murphy's Sons for renewal of account. It is a small, printed clipping. Personal Records Included are three items: two yearbooks from Princeton College (one from 1885, marking the decennial of Cummin's graduating class, and the other from 1895, marking its vigintennial), and a personal journal from 1884. F13 1884 Diary An "Excelsior Diary," this is bound in green hard-cover and is published with basic information such as a calendar, astronomical tables, and weights and measures. Written in ink, Cummins provides brief narrative accounts of the weather and his activities for each day of the year. At the back is reckoning of some of his accounts. F14 Princeton Decennial (78 pp.) From 1885, it was published by Dr. Thomas W. Harvey who was apparently class representative. Included are biographical updates for all members of the 1875 graduating class, sent in by the graduates themselves, and Cummins provides about three-quarters of a page of information about what he had been doing since graduation. F15 Princeton Vigintennial (112 pp.) From 1895, this provides another 10-year update on 1875 graduates, again published by Dr. Thomas W. Harvey. In this edition there is a necrology in the back, and William Cummins is listed here because of his death earlier in the year. In addition, pictures have been provided by those who took the interest in sending one with their biography. Cummins' picture is provided, as well as a page-long eulogy.
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