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Frank Palmer Speare papers

Identifier: M001

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Frank Palmer Speare (FPS) were given to the NU Archives and Special Collections Department by FPS's granddaughter Katherine Calvert in May 1986. At that time, the collection contained both FPS's personal papers and the records of the Office of the President (1917-1940). In December 1994, the FPS papers were separated into two collection, the Frank Palmer Speare Papers (M 1), and Office of the President (1917-1940), Records, 1896-1951 (A 1).

The collection comprises approximately 1 cubic foot of material, the bulk of which dates from 1911 to 1948. The collection is arranged alphabetically and consists of autobiographical notes, correspondence, financial records, photographs, music, and writings.

Autobiographical Notes (Box 1, folders 2-5) describe in detail FPS's life experiences from early childhood, and include his professional life. The collection also includes genealogical materials (Box 2, folder 24), including FPS's family tree, collected or written between 1931 and 1954.

The biographical materials consist of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and citations from reference books (Box 1, folder 6 and Box 4, folder 45). Of special interest are clippings from New Hampshire newspapers of cartoons that poke fun at FPS and his wife (Box 2, folder 38).

The collection contains numerous examples of FPS's writings, including short stories, essays, and poems, as well as jokes and rhymes (Box 2, folders 36-38; Box 3, folders 39-42; Box 4, folder 52). Also included is a collection of music scores and lyrics written by FPS (Box 3, folder 43 and Box 4, folders 53-60).

The book "The Educational Octopus" by Gleason Archer (Box 1, folder 1), founder of Suffolk Law School, contains interesting references to FPS's role in higher education and his efforts, as NU President, to prevent Archer and his brother from opening Suffolk Law School. FPS has written a few notes on the pages of the book.

Subjects covered in Correspondence (Box 1, folders 11-14 and Box 4, folder 46) include family legal matters; recommendations; congratulations on his marriage to KS; his daughter's progress in school; his honorary LL.D. degree from Harvard University; invitations to dinner; thank you notes; and Christmas greetings. Also included in Correspondence is a "letter" FPS wrote to his dying horse and a lock of the horse's mane (Box 1, folder 13).

The collection contains information about the clubs FPS belonged to, including the Bald Head Club, the Lake Winnipesaukee Yacht Club, and the Massachusetts Schoolmasters' Club (Box 1, folders 8-10).

The collection also includes Katherine Speare's papers. The materials include information on her efforts to legally change her name from Katie May to Katherine (Box 2, folder 30), and class notes (Box 2, folders 31-32).

Materials relating to Marjorie Speare-Yerxa (Box 2, folders 33-34) include school reports, invitations, letters from FPS, and "Oyster Cookery," a book co-authored by her and published in 1984.

The collection also includes photographs of FPS, his daughter Marjorie, and Merrymount Beach, New Hampshire (Box 2, folder 29). There are also photographs of the Chandler Secretarial School (1941: Box 4, Folder 76), the Speare residence Wingate' (1934: Box 4, Folder 80), and a photo album of Merrymount (1903: Box 5) included in the collection.


  • Creation: 1878-1984


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

Frank Palmer Speare [FPS] (1869-1954), the first president of Northeastern University, was a leading figure in the field of education. He laid the foundation and charted the direction for the development of NU. During the 43 years that he devoted to NU, the institution developed from a small school to one of the nation's largest private universities.

FPS was born in Dorchester on March 31, 1869. His father, Charles Speare, built, owned, and operated steamships, and was one of Boston's prominent citizens during the 1860s. His mother, Jeanette Palmer, came from a distinguished Maine family. She was educated in private schools, and admired for being a great entertainer, a skilled musician, a dancer, and an equestrienne.

As a child, FPS lived for several years in Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania with his mother and uncle, while his father was restoring his business after the Civil War. Once back in Massachusetts, FPS attended the Chauncy Hall School in Boston, and Sandwich High School in Sandwich, Mass. After graduating from Bridgewater State Teachers' College (Bridgewater, Mass.) in 1889, FPS served for several years as principal of Avon High School (Avon, Mass.), as a teacher at Berkeley School in Boston, as director of the evening program in the city of Medford, Mass., and as an English teacher at the Boston YMCA. In the summer of 1896, during the period in which he taught at Berkeley School, FPS was a tutor at the Summer Camp Idlewild for Boys at Lake Winnipesauke, New Hampshire.

From 1894 to 1896, FPS was enrolled at Harvard University, taking courses in education. FPS was awarded the honorary degree of Master of Humanics by Springfield College in 1912, and later received honorary LL.D. degrees from NU (1931), the University of New Hampshire (1934), and Harvard University (1941).

1897, FPS married May Cushing Whiting, who died in 1912. He married Katherine Vinton in 1914, and their daughter Marjorie was born in 1919.

FPS served as the Educational Director of the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA from 1896 to 1916. In 1916 the Institute was formally incorporated as Northeastern College. FPS was elected as the first president, and was inaugurated in March, 1917. He retired in 1940, and upon his retirement, was appointed President Emeritus of NU. FPS also served as a trustee and member of the NU Corporation.

From 1918 to 1947, FPS was President of the Board of Trustees and principal stock-holder of the Chandler Secretarial School in Boston, a private professional training school for women established in 1883.

FPS was a member of the Massachusetts Schoolmasters' Club, the Harvard Teachers' Association, the University Club, the Boston City Club, Trinity Church, St. John's Lodge of Masons in Boston, and the Church of Christian Science. He was also a founding member of the Lakes Region Music Festival Association (Wolfeboro, New Hampshire).

FPS was a book lover with a special fondness for biography, stories of the sea, and travel. For the amusement of his friends, he wrote short stories. FPS also wrote several autobiographical accounts and articles on the history of NU, and composed and wrote the lyrics to a number of songs, including the "NU March."

FPS was an active and admired public speaker. His speaking engagements took him from Maine to Florida and as far west as Chicago and Detroit, and enabled him to acquaint a multitude of people with NU.

After a long illness, FPS died on May 29, 1954 at the age of 85.


1.30 cubic feet (5 containers)


Frank Palmer Speare (FPS), the first president of Northeastern University (NU), was a leading figure in the field of education. During his 43 years at NU, the institution developed from a small school to one of the nation's largest private universities. FPS was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on March 31, 1869. He graduated from Bridgewater State Teachers' College in 1889. From 1896 to 1916 he served as the Educational Director of the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA. In 1916 the Institute was formally incorporated as Northeastern College, and FPS was inaugurated as the first president in March 1917. He retired in 1940 and was appointed President Emeritus of NU. FPS also served as a trustee and member of the NU Corporation. FPS died on May 29, 1954.


The collection consists of autobiographical notes, biographical and genealogical information, correspondence, financial records, photographs, music, Speare's writings, and materials relating to his wife, Katherine Speare, and daughter, Marjorie Speare-Yerxa.

System of Arrangement:

The collection is arranged in one alphabetical sequence.

Physical Location

73/1, FF1/D1


  • Bouseman, John W. "The Pulled-Away College: A Study of the Separation of Colleges from the YMCA." Ph.D. diss. University of Chicago, 1970.
  • Churchill, Everett A. "History of Northeastern University 1896-1927." Paper, prepared for the Boston YMCA, [1927].
  • Marston, Everett C. "Origin and Development of Northeastern University 1898-1960." Boston: Northeastern University,1961.
  • The New York Times, Sunday, May 30, 1954. Obituary.(M 1. Box 1, folder 6.)
  • Speare, Frank Palmer. "Autobiographical Notes." Frank Palmer Speare Papers. (M 1). Northeastern University Libraries Archives and Special Collection Department. Box 1, folders 2-5.
  • White, Trentwell M. "University Where Study and the Job Meet." National Magazine, vol. LVIII, Sept. 1929. (M 1. Box 1, folder 6.)
  • "Who Was Who in America, with World Notables." Vol. V. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1973.(M 1. Box 1, folder 6.)
Finding aid for the Frank Palmer Speare Papers
Finding aid prepared by Ilona Kirilova and Patricia Mulderry
April 1995
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US