Part III: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy

Written by admin on September 13th, 2014

[This is the second of a three-part bio of Henry S. Pritchett with a focus on the impact he had on Santa Barbara. To see Part I, go to Part I: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy. For Part II, go to Part II: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy.]

Part II: Henry Reinvents Santa Barbara Medicine

As is apparent from the list of bulletins produced by the Carnegie Foundation, Pritchett did not find the ‘Teachers’ or even the education aspects of the organization’s title constrictive. He shifted Carnegie funds, with Carnegie’s permission and participation, to projects and individuals he felt would make a significant difference in American life. One of these projects was a metabolic research lab and clinic affiliated with the New York City Hospital and run by one the day’s medical masterminds, Nathaniel Bowditch Potter, a clinic which Pritchett helped fund in 1916 through the Carnegie Foundation.

Dr. Potter was born in Keeseville, N. Y., Dec. 23, 1880, the son of George Sabine and Mary Gill Powell Potter. He graduated from the College of the City of New York in 1888 and from Harvard in 1890. He earned an M.D. at the Harvard Medical School four years later. Like all the best physicians in the United States, he then studied in Paris and Vienna. Starting in 1900 he was a visiting physician to the New York City Hospital, the French Hospital and the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled Children, and professor in medicine at Columbia University.[1]

Potter married Mary Sargent, daughter of Charles Sprague Sargent, professor of arboriculture and director of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, on January 31, 1908. On July 15, 1909, the couple had a daughter.[2]

In 1916, Potter organized the Potter Clinic and Laboratory at the New York City Hospital  for the intensive study and treatment of the metabolic diseases of nephritis (kidney disease), gout and diabetes. Financing for the new clinic came from friends and family, but the largest endowment came from Henry S. Pritchett and the Carnegie Foundation. Advisors to Dr. Potter were well-known physicians, Professor Theobald Smith of Princeton University, and Drs. Donald Van Slyke, Edgard Stillman, and Alfred Kohn of the Rockefeller Institute.[3]

But Potter himself was ill with nephritis and diabetes, two of the diseases he had set out to study. By 1917, he was so ill that he believed he would have to step away from his clinic and place it in someone else’s hands. But his friend, mentor and financier, Henry Pritchett, convinced him to travel to Santa Barbara. The purpose of the trip was twofold: to restore his health, and to look at Cottage Hospital as a potential host for his clinic. Potter trusted Pritchett, but seriously doubted he would find solutions to either of his problems in a California beach town.

As it turned out, he felt much better in Santa Barbara, and there was some hope of recovery. More surprising to Potter, Cottage Hospital, with its board of millionaires, seemed a reasonable institution to align his clinic with. Pritchett assured Potter that the funding from Carnegie would follow Potter, and as Potter prepared to return to New York, Potter and Pritchett sat down with the board and they drafted an agreement that would bring the clinic to Santa Barbara.

The board was pleased and perhaps bemused, but seemed in the minutes to not fully grasp the significance of Potter or his clinic. The advent of Potter’s clinic to the hospital was assigned to board members Winsor Soule, William Norman Campbell and Miss Elizabeth Jamieson, the hospital superintendent, with “full power to consummate the arrangements.”[4]

The preparations for the clinic were not specified in the board minutes except to note that Dr. Potter was hiring staff and stocking the laboratory, but by mid-December of 1917, the clinic is ready. At the time the hospital consisted of the 50-bed structure that opened in 1913. The implication is that Potter Clinic was originally opened as a lab and office space in the 1913 building, with beds shared with the rest of the hospital.

Dr. Potter arrived in early 1918 and, though debilitated by his ailments, set to work.

Something happened in those first months of 1918. For one, the Potter Clinic was successful. By May, the clinic was running out of space and requested the use of the Dispensary building – a freestanding one-story wooden structure at the northern edge of the property where free and low-cost medical services were provided – for patient consultations. But something else was taking place. Something big.

Up to this point, other than Clarence Black acting as board president, there was not much action at the board level with the exception of Frederick Forrest Peabody’s donations of an air compressor and an ice manufacturing plant to bring the mechanical plant up to date, and the creation of the inexpensive Dispensary building in 1917. Many requests from the staff, the physicians and patients, were reviewed by the board, discussed, and not so much tabled as simply let lie.

One of these requests was for a maternity ward. Pregnant mothers were the most reluctant of patient populations to start using hospitals. Maternal deaths from complications of childbirth still remained high in most hospitals in 1918. Hospitals focused their aseptic and antiseptic practices on surgical events rather than childbirth, primarily because the number of cases was far lower. But those hospitals that were able to apply these practices to maternity wards saw a rise in all classes of patient because the most fearful and cautious patients were seen as willing to be admitted.

George Owen Knapp, c1920.

George Owen Knapp, c1920.

In May of 1918, George Owen Knapp suddenly proposes they add not just a maternity ward but a maternity wing. The board approved a one-story addition and then, the need for and reputation of Cottage both expanding almost daily, added a second story and a basement. Knapp, suddenly fired up, talked the other millionaires into sharing the cost of the building with him.

Then in August of 1918, Knapp convinced the millionaires to build another new wing, specifically to house the Potter Clinic. The Los Angeles Times reported,

“George Owen Knapp, C. K. G. Billings, Clarence A. Black and Frederick F. Peabody are donating to the Cottage Hospital at Santa Barbara, one of the most elaborate clinical buildings on the Coast, for the especial use of Dr. Nathaniel Gowditch [sic] Potter of the Carnegie Foundation, who has been sent to Santa Barbara by the foundation  to carry on medical research work. The building will be two stories, and equipped with every essential for the successful carrying on of the expert’s scientific studies. There is no stated amount placed on the cost of the building or equipment, the funds being ready to provide structure and all essentials required for the important work which Dr. Potter is carrying on. It is believed that the completion of the plans now under way will give Santa Barbara the finest clinic and medical research building on the Coast.”[5]

What appears to be missing is causation. Given Pritchett’s residence in Santa Barbara and his involvement with the Potter Clinic, it seems plausible that Pritchett and Knapp spoke in greater depth during the early months of 1918. Knapp could not have emerged from these months a more adept bearer of Pritchett’s flame than if he had attended one of Pritchett’s medical schools.

Everything after this, for the next decade plus, comes at high speed in Santa Barbara medicine.

Potter Metabolic Clinic, 1919. (Cottage Hospital 1920 Annual Report)

Potter Metabolic Clinic, 1919. (Cottage Hospital 1920 Annual Report)

Henry’s Hospital

In April, 1919, the California Medical Society held its convention in Santa Barbara. The physicians from out of town stayed at the Arlington Hotel, and the talks, which extended over three days, were given at the Arlington. The events in Santa Barbara which helped draw the convention that year were the openings of the new tuberculosis hospital on the County General site (still referred to as the Goleta Farm), and the opening of the new Potter Metabolic Clinic building at Cottage.

Dr. H. C. Moffitt of San Francisco gave the dedication speech for the Potter, stating in part, “We are reminded in the work to be done here of the similar work that is being done in the hospital of the Rockefeller Foundation, in the hospital of the Johns Hopkins University, in the Massachusetts General Hospital, in the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, in the Sprague Institute in Chicago, and in the Hooper Foundation of the University of California Medical School in San Francisco.”[6] The standard for Cottage Hospital was to be derived from the very best in the country.

Potter attended the dedication of the new building, but he was unwell. He remained in a wheelchair and spoke only a few lines of gratitude. Three months later he would be dead.

In the absence of Dr. Potter, the clinic continued, but on a limited schedule. The new wing was open only two days a week. A new director was an obvious, immediate need. Potter had hired an assistant, Dr. Hilmar O. Koefed, a promising cardiologist, who just prior to coming to Santa Barbara had published an early study on the impact of cigarette smoking among soldiers. But Koefed was a young researcher, and Pritchett, representing the primary funding source for the clinic, appointed Dr. N. W. Janney, a diabetes expert, to take over.

There is no record of whether Janney was intended solely as an interim director, or of how he performed in the role. His scientific interests were well-aligned with the mission of the clinic. In January of 1920, Janney spoke at the Portland Academy of Medicine on “Recent Advances in our Knowledge of the Thyroid Gland and its Diseases,” and “The Problem of the Metabolic Case as Exemplified by Diabetes.”[7]

The clinic slowly gained patients during 1920 and eventually it was opened daily, but it was not the medical magnet that it would have been had Potter been at the helm. By plan or through perceived need, Pritchett and the board decided to find a director who could at some level match Potter’s reputation.

Another influential individual in the history of Cottage was Dr. Franklin R. Nuzum. He came to Santa Barbara as George Owen Knapp’s personal physician, and as a patient recovering from tuberculosis. Nuzum was a graduate of Chicago University and Rush Medical College. During his residency under Dr. Rollin T. Woodyat at Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago, he had encountered a diabetes researcher who was making an impression for his determination and research capabilities, Dr. William David Sansum.

In 1920, Nuzum was appointed the first chief of staff at Cottage, and told the board soon after, “Dr. Sansum is the best qualified man in the country to step into Dr. Potter’s shoes. Providing, of course, that he is willing to accept a position in Santa Barbara.”[8]

Given that the bulk of external funding for the clinic was coming from the Carnegie Foundation, it was not wholly in the Cottage board’s authority to make this change. However, by this time, Henry Pritchett, who was essentially synonymous with the Foundation, was also serving on the Cottage board. Knapp was authorized to travel to Chicago and speak with Sansum. He traveled by train and met with Sansum in September of 1920. Sansum accepted the position with a $1,000 monthly salary and had arrived in Santa Barbara with his family in early November.

Sansum was the ideal candidate for an ideal diabetes research institute. In a paper for Modern Hospital, Sansum wrote,

“The Potter Metabolic Clinic is unique in that an ideal unit for the study of a certain unsolved group of diseases was planned and fortunate in that philanthropic friends of the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital furnished sufficient funds to carry out such idealistic plans. … The objects of the clinic are: 1. To make possible a study of a limited group of more or less closely allied diseases known as the diseases of metabolism. These diseases include diabetes, nephritis, high blood pressure, thyroid diseases, gout, obesity, and various other forms of nutritional disorders. This study is intended to be a concentrated effort to ascertain the fundamental causes of such diseases, better methods of treatment, and eventually cures. 2. To furnish a place where patients suffering from such diseases may receive careful, adequate examinations, and the best treatment known to medical science regardless of their financial circumstances. 3. To afford a center for the special training of physicians, nurses, dietitians, and laboratory workers interested in this type of work.”[9]

Metabolic diseases, and especially diabetes, was a perfect point of focus for the 1920s. In the prior two decades, huge inroads in treating the contagious diseases had been made. Contagious diseases – typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, diphtheria, influenza and tuberculosis – drove very realistic fear through the populace. But vaccines and treatments were overpowering these, one by one. As their impact on society waned, attention would turn to diabetes, and then to heart disease and cancer.

Word usage for contagious diseases compared with diabetes in American English books, 1800 - 2000. While the data is limited, it does demonstrate the shift in focus from contagious diseases to a chronic disease like diabetes. (Google Ngram)

Word usage for contagious diseases compared with diabetes in American English books, 1800 – 2000. While the data is limited, it does demonstrate the shift in focus from contagious diseases to a chronic disease like diabetes. (Google Ngram)

The work of Dr. Sansum is well-documented elsewhere. Suffice it to say in this context that Sansum became the field laboratory to Dr. Banting’s (of Toronto) more fundamental chemistry work with the extraction and purification of insulin. It would be Banting and his team who identified and isolated the extract, but Sansum who made the critical strides in purifying it, manufacturing it, and was the first to administer it to human patients. Banting’s laboratory and Sansum’s were both funded by the Carnegie Foundation – Dr. Henry S. Pritchett.

The Full Henry

With Sansum and Nuzum operating as the head of research and the chief of staff, and with Knapp fully infused with Pritchett’s vision of the scientific and educational hospital, Cottage now had a powerful model for growth and success.

The most effective changes were internal. In Knapp’s letter introducing Cottage Hospital’s 1921 Annual Report, he reported,

“It is being realized more and more that team work in various medical branches by the members of the medical profession results in more accurate work, and consequently, in greater benefit to the patient. In an endeavor to promote this team work among the attending physicians of our hospital, we have secured the services of a medical man, Dr. Franklin R. Nuzum, who was recommended by Dr. Frank Billings of Chicago, and who has had a wide experience both in general practice and in research work. His title is Chief of Staff and Medical Director. Dr. Henry S. Pritchett, President of the Carnegie Foundation and a member of our Board of Directors, assures me that this is a novel idea, and one that is probably not duplicated in any hospital in this country. His presence has already resulted in more consultations and more discussions among the members of our attending physicians concerning the diagnoses of obscure conditions, and the treatment of especially ill patients, with most excellent results.”[10]

This role that Nuzum filled was unique. In addition to the unusual practice of team consultations, he introduced concepts of measuring quality, keeping records on hospital infection rates, and involving patients in discussions of treatment alternatives. In 2014, these practices are being required and enforced both by hospitals and licensing boards, and they feel new and strange to many practitioners. They are in use because they demonstrably improve care and results.

But the role was not unprecedented. The leader in recreating the hospital as a patient-centered institution for healing rather than as laying-in residence for convalescents and for experimental treatments by private doctors, was Dr. William Osler of Johns Hopkins. One could not choose a better mentor to follow. The Chief of Staff role was also prefigured by a similar role, albeit more of a managerial than a quality position, in government-run hospitals and asylums.

Nuzum also launched the medical education program at Cottage and County hospitals, a program which continues in larger scope today.

All of these initiatives were noted or developed as important milestones for a medical institution in Pritchett’s bulletins and articles. Although he did not use the word – it would not be coined until 1935 by Arthur Tansley – Pritchett was a believer in developing a self-sustaining ecosystem. He consistently looked to high standards for education, enabling dynamic leadership of highly effective and knowledgeable individuals, and results-based assessments of success.

Knapp, Sansum, and Nuzum all arrived as dynamic and knowledgeable leaders, but none had written about or participated in a medical institution with the standards they sought to promulgate at Cottage through the 1920s. Starting in 1918, for Knapp, and in 1920 for the two physicians, these men are inspired, and the men around them are likewise inspired.

As a result, Cottage began to attract new buildings and expansion. In 1921, philanthropist Anna Blakesley Bliss, donated $50,000 to add a third wing off the central 1913 building. In 1923, George Owen and Louise Savage Knapp donated the 1923 Knapp College of Nursing. In 1926 and again in 1928, the board added three-story wings to the front of the hospital. In 1929, Dr. Elmer J. Bissell would donate an auditorium in the memory of his wife. And that same year, Max Fleischmann would donate a huge wing and Cottage’s first Emergency Department.

Aerial of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, looking north, 1931. The original 1891 building stands at the west corner.  On the corner above the hospital is the 1923 Knapp College of Nursing. (Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital collection)

Aerial of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, looking north, 1931. The original 1891 building stands at the west corner. On the corner above the hospital is the 1923 Knapp College of Nursing. (Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital collection)

Over this period, Cottage also ascended step-by-step in patient services. From a functional lobby in 1918 that was literally shunted between buildings, Cottage soon added, in the 1927 addition, a lobby worthy of the Biltmore. Today, patient menus with meals served on demand are touted at the new Cottage. In 1927, a high-end kitchen was installed with full room service, all executed by a staff clothed in impeccable white linen. Bedrooms were large and airy, with balconies, wicker or wood desks and chairs, and fireplaces. The original hospital, no longer needed for nurse’s quarters after the opening of the Knapp College of Nursing in 1923, became servant quarters. Patients, sometimes called clientele in the Minutes, came for a month or more. Some repainted their rooms to suit them upon arrival.

Cottage Waitstaff, 1932. (Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital collection)

Cottage Waitstaff, 1932. (Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital collection)

When the Santa Barbara Earthquake struck in June of 1925, Pritchett was there. His letter to Charles Keeler of San Francisco is worth recounting at length for the detailed account of the event.

“My personal experience of the earthquake was in a well built wooden house, on a good foundation, which suffered little damage from the earthquake. The first and most severe shock came about 6:45. I was occupying a sleeping porch which looked out both on the ocean and the mountains. I had just been wakened by the morning light and was deliberating whether to pull the shades and have another nap when I heard the ominous roar of the on-coming earth movement. This roar could be heard two or three seconds in advance of most of the heavier shakes, but it was loudest and most terrifying as a forerunner of the first great movement of the earth.

“The roar which preceded the first shock was that of a grinding, crushing process, not a comforting sound to hear. I had barely time to realize that a sharp earthquake was at hand, when the shaking began. The vibrations seemed to come from the north and for a half a minute or such a matter the house rocked and jumped. One felt as if he were on the back of a bucking horse, with no control of the horse. The house seemed uninjured, although. like Muir in the Yosemite, I could scarcely understand why anything remained standing.

“The members of my household made haste to clothe themselves in slippers and wrappers and to reach the garden at the back of the house before the next shake, which came in about five minutes. While not so violent as the first shock, the impression made upon one in the open was more terrifying than that in a well built house. The plainly visible motion of the wave in the ground gave a sense of utter helplessness. These waves appeared to be about twenty-five feet long and one could see them as they crossed the lawn or traveled down a hedge. Trees bent over as the wave came up and returned to an upright position after the wave had passed. The whole effect upon the face of nature was uncanny. The earth seemed to shudder in distress.

“During the first fifteen minutes there were seven of these shocks of diminishing intensity. Thereafter, during the day, 103 tremors of greater or less strength kept coming, but none comparable to those of the first fifteen minutes. On the seismograph 285 vibrations were recorded from the first day to its cessation ten weeks later.

“While the earthquake of June twenty-ninth was not reckoned by seismologists as one of the first magnitude, nevertheless Santa Barbara suffered a great disaster. The business section of the city, built upon rather deep soil, suffered most. The main street was one mass of debris from fallen buildings or from buildings that had been partially destroyed. As it was, some fourteen persons were killed. In half a minute of time a prosperous community in one of the most charming places of the world, and living in a peaceful sense of security, found itself confronted with an overwhelming disaster.”

In a city of millionaires and pundits, it was Pritchett who was asked to chair Santa Barbara’s Reconstruction Committee, responsible for leading campaigns to raise funds for rebuilding. When he resigned his post in September of 1925 to return to his work in the East, he had raised $662,178 ($9M in 2014).

Pritchett participated widely in the Santa Barbara community. He brought in $50,000 from the Carnegie Corporation to build the new central library in 1914, and, provided $66,000 from the same source to rebuild the library after the quake. And at a time when The Community Arts Association needed funding in order to get off the ground, Pritchett arranged a five-year annual grant of $25,000 starting in 1922.

Portrait of Henry S. Pritchett, 1928, by Clarence Mattei. (John Woodward collection)

Portrait of Henry S. Pritchett, 1928, by Clarence Mattei. (John Woodward collection)

Without the influence of Henry Pritchett, Santa Barbara might be a very different place. Pritchett, and the dynamic leaders he inspired in the 1920s, got Cottage onto a foundation of continuing success. But Cottage Hospital fell hard during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Where other top-notch hospitals were fueled by the large population centers where they were located, Cottage had reached a near-perfection in a town of 33,000.

By 1933, the Cottage board lacked millionaires and they found themselves sending out fundraising letters under their personal signatures. They were able to raise just $19,000. In 1934 the situation was dire. “We are faced with immediate financial problems which cannot be delayed, and have decided that a preliminary appeal be made to a small group of the hospital’s most loyal friends, asking that they join together in now subscribing $10,000 which we need to carry on the hospital, financially, until the local campaign is launched. I wish to convey to you that our Board of Directors is reluctant to make this appeal to you under any circumstances except those of extremest urgency.  Frankly, the very continuation of the hospital depends upon the response to these few letters we are writing.”[11]

The campaign that year brought in just $7,550.

White-coated room-service was gone. Over half the hospital was essentially shuttered. The nursing and medical education programs limped along, but team diagnosis and quality initiatives were dropped.

Cottage would not begin to emerge from the slump until 1956 when Rodney Lamb arrived as Hospital Administrator with a vision as potent as Pritchett’s. Only in recent years does it appear that Cottage has risen to the level of organizational maturity that Pritchett hoped to see in any institution: consistent selection of dynamic and knowledgeable leaders, a basis in best practices and scientific findings, and results-based assessments of quality and success.

The Henry

Henry Pritchett was vital and involved throughout his life. He always had ten irons in the fire and was committed and productive with each. One of his first acquaintances in Santa Barbara was Edward Payson Ripley, president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Knowing nothing of railroads, Pritchett listened well, asked probing and insightful questions, and Ripley soon asked Pritchett to join the company’s board.

Pritchett served on the railroad’s board for over 20 years, attending meetings, taking inspection journeys, and writing incisive reports and articles.

In his later years he served on the boards of the National Broadcasting Company, the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Huntington Library and Art Gallery.

In the presence of Robert de Forest, president of the Metropolitan Museum, one of Henry’s sons asked Henry, “Father, what do you know about art?” It was de Forest who replied, “We don’t need your father as an authority on art. That is in the hands of the technical staff. We do need his counsel on large matters of general policy.”[12]

Dr. Max Farrand, director of the Huntington, wrote of Pritchett, “He understood better than anyone else on the board what we were striving for and became my strongest ally and backer. He had no particular knowledge of art but he recognized the integral part that art must play in the study of culture of any time.”[13]

His friend, novelist Henry James recalled, “Whenever I happened to meet or encounter him, he was always a welcome sight as he came stepping forward with his unhurried, vigorous stride. His figure was compact, his clothes were well-cut, his beard neatly trimmed, and even in old age he looked as if his body were close-knit and hard. His steady blue eyes gave you a friendly greeting. They were observing eyes.”[14]

William M. Gilbert who served as secretary for the Carnegie Institute, worked with Pritchett behind the scenes for many years. Though CFAT was the first, there were eventually twenty-three separate Carnegie foundations and institutes. Pritchett, a close friend to both Andrew Carnegie and his widow after Carnegie passed, helmed several of them, and advised all.

Gilbert said of Pritchett, “I came to have a high regard for his knowledge and wisdom. One had a feeling in his presence that the world could not go very far astray.”


To see Part I, go to Part I: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy.

For Part II, go to Part II: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy.



[1] “Sargent Engagement,” The New York Sun, December 29, 1907.

[2] “Daughter Born to Dr. Potter,” The New York Sun, July 15, 1909.

[3] Cottage Hospital Minutes, January 19, 1918.

[4] Cottage Hospital Board Minutes, September 21, 1917.

[5] “Santa Barbara Citizens Donate Cottage Hospital to Dr. Potter,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1918.

[6] California State Journal of Medicine, Volume XVII, No. 6, June 1919.

[7] Northwest Medicine, Volume XIX, No. 12, pg 310, 1920.

[8] Tompkins, Walker, “Continuing Quest,” 1977, pg 23.

[9] Sansum, Dr. William David, The Potter Metabolic Clinic of the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Modern Hospital, Volume XVII, pg 264, 1921.

[10] Annual Report, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, 1921.

[11] Board Minutes, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, March 5, 1934.

[12] Flexner. pg. 160.

[13] Ibid, pg. 172.

[14] Ibid, pg. 193.



Part II: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy

Written by admin on September 13th, 2014

[This is the second of a three-part bio of Henry S. Pritchett with a focus on the impact he had on Santa Barbara. To see Part I, go to Part I: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy.]

Part II: Henry in the Spotlight

Managing a pension fund for professors does not sound like an attractive position when compared with president of an influential university. But this fund was a powerful lever that had been designed by Carnegie in direct dialogue with Pritchett. By the time Pritchett was done, he would have altered the role of professors in the United States, markedly raised the level of education across the country, and perhaps most surprisingly, eradicated over 100 low-standard medical colleges and pushed thousands of unqualified physicians out of practice.

Henry S. Pritchett inauguration photo, 1900. (MIT)

Henry S. Pritchett inauguration photo, 1900. (MIT)

Pritchett met Carnegie as early as 1904. Working on one of several side projects during his MIT presidency, Pritchett was assisting the cities of Philadelphia and Boston with the creation of an evening training school to improve the lives of workers, specifically to fulfill a need in industry for managers with technical work experience. The funding was in part derived from a bequest from Benjamin Franklin 100 years prior that had built up interest for that period. To bolster the fund, Pritchett approached Carnegie. After their discussion, Carnegie committed to match the Franklin funds. But both Pritchett and Carnegie were polymaths and conversationalists and the two hit it off.

Carnegie, as is recounted in hundreds of accounts, turned his considerable intellect and finances towards philanthropic ends toward the end of his career. His core concerns were in the development of Americans as a vital and effective workforce. The two great prongs of his initiatives were the creation of hundreds of public libraries and in targeted educational improvements. He launched what would become Carnegie Mellon and donated to numerous universities.

A problem near and dear to Pritchett, who dealt with it directly at MIT, was that university professors were staying in their roles essentially until their deaths. They were paid moderately, but there were no provisions for retirement. Older teachers were notoriously less current with their knowledge, less energetic, and thus less inspiring. Carnegie understood the impact of the problem and saw that he could use his means to remove this significant obstacle from the American education system.

In 1905, Carnegie worked with Pritchett and others to form the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) and made Pritchett its first president. It was launched it with a $10 million bequest that was intended to directly fund pensions for professors. Pritchett was the ideal director of the organization. Though he started in on the work of the Foundation in 1906, drafting studies and policies, Pritchett did not resign from MIT until January 1, 1908.

However, though Pritchett was a primary architect of the fund, he quickly discovered that the fund was problematic in many ways. Aside from the obvious questions of at what age, how much, and what about surviving spouses, there were many questions still more complicated and vexing. Should professors from denominational institutions receive pensions? What about public ones? Still more difficult to answer was, given the intent to improve both the perception and quality of American education, could institutions be excluded on the basis of the quality of their teaching, programs and facilities? And if so, how would one go about measuring a university’s quality? Another complaint aired in the media was that these professors did not necessarily deserve something for nothing. And no matter how Pritchett tried to cut the cake, there was not enough to go around. The $10 million bequest was not even a healthy slice.

In the meantime, fueled by press coverage, hundreds of applications from individual professors and institutions poured in. Applicants dropped names, included letters of support and reference, got friends and politicians to send letters, and just plain wheedled.

Pritchett set about creating a system for evaluating the denominational character, level of public funding, and quality of universities. In the meantime, Carnegie added $2 million to the fund, and pensions began to be doled out by 1910.

But knowing the CFAT fund would not fulfill even a quarter of the need, Pritchett set about devising a pension program that was supportable by universities and professors. It started as institution-based programs partly funded by the institution, and partly by the professors who wished to participate. The public dialogue about pensions that arose due to the creation of CFAT had justly shamed university administrators, and many institutions adopted Pritchett’s model.

A stumbling block remained, however, in establishing long-term trust in the management and stability of the funds, and by 1918, Carnegie funded Pritchett’s “baby,” the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), a fully-funded system of pensions for professors. Funding was provided by a combination of grants from the foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York — including an initial gift of $1 million — and ongoing contributions from participating institutions and individuals. TIAA/CREF as they are now known (CREF stands for College Retirement Equities Fund), is “the leading retirement provider for people who work in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.”[1]

The impact was far-reaching and immediate. Thousands of professors retired and as many thousands of younger, more current and more vital professors were hired in their stead. A revitalization of American universities occurred which fueled American technical prowess as the country entered the 1920s.

Over the next 20-odd years, the Foundation published reports on a near-annual basis. These reports were authored by experts in their fields, each carefully chosen by Pritchett, who were then allowed to complete their research and writing, and to draw their own conclusions, without interference from Pritchett. The list of reports provides a view into the scope of Pritchett’s focus.

Chronological List of Bulletins Published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching during Henry S. Pritchett’s Directorship:

  1. Papers Relating to the Admission of State Institutions to the System of Retiring Allowances of the Carnegie Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, 1907.
  2. The Financial Status of the Professor in America and in Germany, Henry S. Pritchett, 1908.
  3. Standard Forms for Financial Reports of Colleges, Universities, and Technical Schools, Henry S. Pritchett, 1910.
  4. Medical Education in the United States and Canada, Abraham Flexner, Daniel Berkeley Updike, 1910.
  5. Academic and Industrial Efficiency, Morris Llewellyn Cooke, 1910.
  6. Medical Education in Europe, Abraham Flexner; Henry S. Pritchett, 1912.
  7. Education in Vermont, Carnegie Foundation, 1914.
  8. The Common Law and the Case Method in American University Law
  9. Schools, Josef Redlich, 1914.
  10. A Comprehensive Plan of Insurance and Annuities for College Teachers, Henry S. Pritchett, 1915-16.
  11. Federal Aid for Vocational Education, Isaac Leon Kandel, 1917.
  12. Engineering Education, Charles Riborg Mann, 1918.
  13. Pensions for Public School Teachers, Clyde Bowman Furst, Isaac Leon Kandel, 1918.
  14. Justice and the Poor, Reginald Heber Smith, 1919.
  15. The Professional Preparation of Teachers for American Public Schools, William S. Learned, William C. Bagley, Charles A. McMurry, 1920.
  16. Training for the Public Profession of the Law, Alfred Zantzinger Reed, 1921.
  17. Education in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, William S. Learned, Kenneth Charles Morton Sills, 1922.
  18. Retiring Allowances for Officers and Teachers in Virginia Public Schools, Clyde Furst, Raymond L. Mattocks, Howard J. Savage, 1926.
  19. Games and Sports in British Schools and Universities, Howard J. Savage, 1927.
  20. Dental Education in the United States and Canada, William John Gies, 1927.
  21. The Quality of the Educational Process in the United States and Europe, William S. Learned, 1927.
  22. Present-Day Law Schools in the United States and Canada, Alfred Zantzinger Reed, 1928.
  23. A Retirement Plan for Colorado Public Schools, Howard J. Savage, Edmund Strong Cogswell, 1928.
  24. American College Athletics, Howard J. Savage, Harold Woodmansee Bentley, John T. McGovern, Dean Franklin Smiley, 1929.
  25. The Literature of American School and College Athletics, W. Carson Ryan, 1930.
  26. The Social Philosophy of Pensions with a Review of Existing Pension Systems for Professional Groups, Henry S. Pritchett, 1930.

In an interesting side-note, one of Pritchett’s pet projects over the years was the Mount Wilson Observatory outside of Los Angeles. In 1911, Carnegie donated funds to George Ellery Hale, who was building a 100-inch (2.5m) telescope at Mount Wilson, and donated an additional $10M to the Carnegie Institution to expedite the construction of the telescope. Carnegie, infected with Pritchett’s astronomy bug wrote, “I hope the work at Mount Wilson will be vigorously pushed, because I am so anxious to hear the expected results from it. I should like to be satisfied before I depart, that we are going to repay to the old land some part of the debt we owe them by revealing more clearly than ever to them the new heavens.” The Hooker telescope saw first light on November 2, 1917, two years before Carnegie’s death.[2]

Henry Takes on Medicine

One of the most dramatic changes Pritchett helped bring about was a sea change in medical education, and as a result, in the field of doctoring. This interest in turn, and his health, brought Pritchett to Santa Barbara where he influenced the course of local history.

The first quarter of the Twentieth Century is the Progressive Era. It was a time of immense economic growth, and a burgeoning sense of pride in American technical achievements. It was also a time when many people felt the need and right to put their oar in the water and help steer the ship. (There are always such times and such people; the Progressive Era is so named because many people actually listened to the pundits and changed their behaviors as a result.) Abraham Flexner was one of these.

His The American College, 1908, was a critical account on many aspects of American higher education, for instance stating that large lectures enabled colleges to “handle cheaply by wholesale a large body of students that would be otherwise unmanageable and thus give the lecturer time for research.” Flexner seemed the perfect expert to develop one of Pritchett’s early bulletins. His 1910 bulletin, Medical Education in the United States and Canada, became widely-distributed and highly influential and was reprinted as The Flexner Report.

The Flexner Report, 1910.

The Flexner Report, 1910.

In it, Flexner categorized the 150+ medical schools he had visited personally in preparation for the study, and divided them into preceptorships, didactic schools, and those subject to scientific discipline. In other words, schools owned and operated by one or more physicians, schools “which simply communicated a set body of doctrines of very uneven value,” and those schools which teach “the practice of medicine on observed facts of the same order and cogency as pass muster in other fields of pure and applied science.” The majority were preceptorships.

This was a period when medicine was fragmented into several competing avenues. In his introduction to the report, Pritchett wrote, “It is clear that so long as a man is to practise medicine, the public is equally concerned in his right preparation for that profession whatever he call himself, allopath, homeopath, eclectic, osteopath, or whatnot. It is equally clear that he should be grounded in the fundamental sciences upon which medicine rests whether he practises under one name or under another.”[3] Implicit in Pritchett’s view is the fact that many of these pursuits had no scientific tradition and would, in his estimation, best be eradicated.

As the report circulated, as the media picked it up, and as better medical schools across the country began to strengthen their admissions requirements, build up their research curricula and laboratory facilities, and hire European-trained physicians as professors, the impact was fast and far-reaching. Flexner had effectively parted the weeds and allowed the public to see what was important to the practice of medicine.

By 1920, less than half the number of medical schools from 1910 remained. The preceptorships had all but evaporated, and the didactic schools that remained had merged with scientific schools.

As a by-product, thousands of physicians with degrees from the schools exposed for their flawed foundations found themselves unable to make a living in the profession. By 1925, the medical profession had a standing shared only by the other sciences. The improvement in prestige, combined with the flushing out of the unqualified, created a leap in physician pay and also in the use of medical services, including hospitals.

While Flexner is sometimes attributed with being a prime cause in this sea change, it is more likely that Pritchett was the cause. Flexner’s earlier books about medicine had caused little change, and were not written in a manner that would support programmatic, specific changes. Pritchett’s model of thorough analysis in the field, objective ratings based on scientific or pragmatic measures, and deft public relations was consistent throughout the bulletins of the Carnegie Foundation. He also initiated projects with the intent to bring about immense changes, and wielded a checkbook that could get those changes started.

Later efforts that Pritchett undertook through the Foundation to clean up law schools and to take the money out of collegiate athletics had an impact, but as we can see from our vantage point of nearly 100 years later, these objectives could not find so firm a footing as the scientific discipline that lay underneath medicine.

Henry Goes West

Henry was in Santa Barbara as early as 1911, coming West, like many, for his health.[4] Eva came West first and located a bungalow for rent. Henry arrived in late October and, exhausted and ill, took to his bed until Spring. But soon enough he was up and enjoying golf and horseback riding with Eva.[5]

Pritchett was routinely tracked and quoted in newspapers around the country while he was President of MIT. Now as the head of the Carnegie Foundation, he was a media favorite. On May 5, 1912, the Los Angeles Times reported on a talk Pritchett gave in Santa Barbara.

“Severe criticism of the campaign of President Taft and Col. Roosevelt was contained in an address before a political study club tonight by Henry S. Pritchett… “The spectacle of a President and a past President of the United States touring the old commonwealth of Massachusetts at the end of a railway train, hurling personal denunciations and accusations at each other, is one to make an American ashamed,” he declared. Referring further to the recent Massachusetts campaign Mr. Pritchett said. “In my judgment no more unfortunate circumstance has come into our political contests than the recent controversy between Taft and Roosevelt and I believe I voice the feeling of every thinking American in saying that there was no provocation sufficient to justify such a course.”[6]

(His statement, “I believe I voice the feeling of every thinking American,” could be the subtitle to his biography.)

A month later, the Times reported that the Pritchett’s were in Pasadena, but had previously “been staying in Santa Barbara for several months.”[7]

Though they had no intention of returning, Santa Barbara became an annual pilgrimage for the Pritchetts. In 1913, they traveled to Baden-Baden for their holiday. What they got was endless rain and an abiding longing for the sunshine of Santa Barbara. In 1914, they returned, and in 1915, the couple purchased a home on Junipero Plaza. In 1927, the Pritchett’s built a home across the street from Bernhard Hoffmann at 2417 Garden Street.

The trips to Santa Barbara increased in length each year, but remained seasonal until 1936 when Pritchett retired completely from the Carnegie Foundation. To his close friend, Elihu Root, he wrote, “We have been enjoying heavenly weather during your period of misery. It is one of our chief pleasures of the climate, both winter and summer, to reflect on the sufferings of those less fortunately situated, particularly if they are so unfortunate as to live in New York or Chicago. I suppose the feeling is somewhat akin to that pleasurable excitation which the saints in Paradise experience when they are permitted to gaze upon the sufferings of the lost.”[8]

To Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University, he wrote, “There are few spots in the world where one can find such charm of nature, such opportunity for outdoor life and for pleasant companionship as in this old half-Spanish town.”[9]

A Santa Barbara Hospital

The early years for the Pritchetts in Santa Barbara were a time in which the Santa Barbara County Hospital and Poor Farm, St. Francis Hospital, and the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital were all in massive transitions. The County Hospital would organize and finally conduct a move from a rickety 40-year-old wooden facility at the corner of Salinas and Cacique Streets to a modern hospital at the “Goleta Farm” at San Antonio Road in 1918. St. Francis would build a new facility in 1912 and expand again twelve years later.

But it was Cottage that ultimately garnered Pritchett’s attention. In 1910, the all-woman board, well aware of the imminent St. Francis expansion and of the County’s struggles to fund and approve a new facility, sought outside (male) council. The hospital was in the original 1891 facility, and was regularly short on beds. The reasons were many and included new-found trust in the medical field based on advances in surgery, anesthesia, and disease prevention and treatment; the influx of newly minted private insurance plans for workers; and the gift of Dr. Pritchett: a means of identifying which doctors should be trusted.[10]

Money was tight, and the women of the board, feeling that business experience would be valuable, called in several (male) advisors with business and medical backgrounds. With their guidance, the board was able to fund and build a 50-bed hospital to the immediate south of the original structure, opening the doors in 1913.

The original Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (left) and the new, 1913, Cottage. (John Woodward Collection)

The original Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (left) and the new, 1913, Cottage. (John Woodward Collection)

The new hospital opened with fanfare, but was embroiled in trouble almost immediately. Operating funds remained scarce, and physicians, notably Drs. Rexwald Brown and Benjamin Bakewell, were causing problems.[11] Dr. Brown complained about the quality of the surgical suite, and gave the nurses a lecture “of a disturbing nature.” Dr. Bakewell, who had sold his share in the Quisisano Hospital to St. Francis in 1908, complained about hospital management, and then proceeded to bring large groups of 25 or more students with him on bedside visits. A group of 11 of Bakewell’s students were present at a patient’s death.[12] To complicate matters, health insurance companies, a new player in the market, were requesting pricing schedules and hospital cost accounting.

In June of 1914, Charlotte Starbuck, Cottage Hospital board president, asked new arrival to Santa Barbara, Clarence Black, CEO of Cadillac Motor Company, to review the hospital’s books and advise the board. He went over the books and sat in on a board meeting. There is no record of any input he may have offered. Two months later, Starbuck asked Black to join the board, the first male asked to serve. He declined. But in January, a new board was put forward by the nominating committee. The new board members were Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Campbell, Dr. and Mrs. B. J. Brodie, Mrs. Conant, Mrs. C. W. Dabney, Mrs. A. D. Norton, Miss Ida Palache, and Mrs. Frederic Gould. Dr. Brodie was board president.

Within the next three months the wives of the couples dropped off the board, and in 1916 the transition is nearly complete. Clarence Black is president; his friend George Owen Knapp is on the board, CEO of Union Carbide; as well as his architect, Winsor Soule; and four other men, along with four women. In the next year, Frederick Forrest Peabody, Arrow Shirt CEO, and C. K. G. Billings, People’s Light and Gas CEO, would join.

But even with all this tinder on the fire, very little forward momentum occurred. It would take Henry’s input and focus to make things happen.

To continue with Part III, go to Part III: Henry S. Smith: A Santa Barbara Legacy.


[1] Wikipedia, TIAA/CREF, (as of August 27, 2014).

[2] Simmons, Mike, “History of Mount Wilson Observatory – Building the 100-Inch Telescope,” Mount Wilson Observatory Association (MWOA), 1984.

[3] Flexner, Abraham, “Medical Education in the United States and Canada: A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching” AKA “The Flexner Report,” 1910, pg 20.

[4] Though Pritchett is listed as author on the 1898 book, “Santa Barbara and Approaches,” published by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, it is because he was director of the organization and provided content from afar.

[5] A recent article on Pritchett in The Independent has the Pritchett’s arriving in 1913. See

[6] “Methods of Roosevelt and the President Are Not Approved by President of Carnegie Foundation,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1912.

[7] “Wilson Had No Pension Right,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1912.

[8] Flexner, pg. 178.

[9] Ibid, pg. 179.

[10] The Cottage Hospital details are derived from the Cottage trustees Board Minutes unless otherwise noted.

[11] Bakewell and Brown would found the Santa Barbara Medical Clinic, now merged with Sansum Clinic, in 1921.

[12] Quisisano is Italian for “Here you heal.”


Part I: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy

Written by admin on September 13th, 2014

[This is the first of a three-part bio of Henry S. Pritchett with a focus on the impact he had on Santa Barbara.]

Part 1: Discovering Henry

by David Petry

The Henry Smith Pritchett family has a decidedly unique grave marker at the Santa Barbara Cemetery. It was designed by the noted landscape architect, Lockwood de Forest. de Forest’s other (known) marker at the cemetery is the Canfield celtic cross at the corner of the Ridge section. A traditional design, but beautifully wrought.

Pritchett Piece - 04

The Pritchett Family marker, Santa Barbara Cemetery (Author, 2014)

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Henry Pritchett’s medallion on the marker. (Author, 2014)










The Pritchett marker is something else again. Low to the earth, and shield-like, it bears resemblance to no other marker in the cemetery. It begs the question for those who come across it, Who was Henry S. Pritchett?

The question might lie fallow for a time until you find yourself in the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens looking at a sign that says you’re about to set foot on the Pritchett Trail. To one side a marker states that Eva McCallister Pritchett donated the trail in Henry’s memory in 1940. Halfway along the trail, you come upon an elegant stone bench with a quote from Henry carved in the back, “The way of truth is along the path of intellectual sincerity.”

Pritchett Piece - 17

Pritchett Trail memorial marker at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens (Author, 2014)

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Pritchett bench along the trail (Author, 2014)










Then, reading a bit about the medical history of Santa Barbara, Henry flits among the shadows. He first appeared, in my research, in 1917 as President of the Carnegie Foundation and is noted for helping Dr. Nathaniel Bowditch Potter relocate his research lab and clinic for metabolic diseases from New York – one of the epicenters for medical research at the time – to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara.

Potter was making that move for three reasons. The primary motivation was the deterioration of his own health. At 47 years of age, he was suffering from nephritis and diabetes – two focal diseases at his clinic – and he and his wife and young daughter hoped that he would heal in the temperate climes of Santa Barbara.

A secondary motivation was Cottage Hospital. The hospital was in a transition state in 1917 from a convalescent hospital designed for visitors to Santa Barbara (and which struggled to pay their bills), to a well-funded community hospital. It had promise.

The third reason was Henry S. Pritchett. More than almost any other individual in U.S. history, Pritchett had transformed the practice of medicine from one populated by charlatans and quacks to one conducted by well-trained experts. And he accomplished this seismic transformation in less than a decade.

For these reasons and more, Potter made the move. Within ten years, Cottage would be on par in its accommodations, practices, education, and quality of treatment with the top medical facilities in the nation.

It was difficult to locate a motivating force behind this sudden transformation, but the timing was evident: it occurred in the early months of 1918. Historians have pointed to Santa Barbara’s healing climate; to Dr. Potter, George Owen Knapp, Dr. William David Sansum, and even Max Fleischmann. For a time I thought it had a great deal to do with Dr. Franklin Nuzum.

All of these individuals played obvious and key roles. Meanwhile, Henry S. Pritchett seemed peripheral. But this is because, like a larger gear in a clockworks, the better part of his influence and experience was outside of my localized view, and while the larger gears engage less often, they have greater influence. When this larger gear is exposed, a strong argument emerges that Henry S. Pritchett was the individual who supplied the vision (and many of the components) for Santa Barbara’s astronomical medical ascension.

This essay seeks to identify Henry Smith Pritchett’s primary influences on Santa Barbara. To do so, I have provided a biographical sketch of Pritchett. To argue for the impact he had in Santa Barbara, it helps to see the impact he had in the nation, and the self-effacing manner in which he worked. There has been a dearth of information about Pritchett in Santa Barbara, and on the web in general. This essay is a small start to rectifying that.

Family Influences

The Pritchett family was Welsh in origin. Originally the name was Apritchard – son of Richard – and was likely converted to Pritchett after the fourteenth century French wars when many Anglo and Welsh names were changed as a result of prolonged contact with the French.[1]

Pritchett’s sole biography states that Henry’s grandfather, also Henry, was the first Pritchett in the United States. However, several generations of Henry’s Pritchett ancestors owned land and slaves in the area around Dinwiddie, Virginia starting at least as early as 1700.[2]

Henry Pritchett, the grandfather, married Martha M. Waller in 1822. Their first son was our Henry’s father, Carr Waller Pritchett, born in Virginia in 1823. By 1835, with the population of Virginia increasing, Henry the elder and three other Pritchett families pulled up stakes and headed some 900 miles due west to Wentzville, Missouri, some 40 miles west of St. Louis. Missouri had been a state at this point for just two years.

Henry bought farmland and built a cabin for the family, cleared the land and began growing tobacco. The family had several slaves with them, but Carr and his siblings also helped with the farming. Carr was also sent to study with various Baptist and Methodist deacons in the area. At 20 years of age, Carr attended Dr. Fielding’s, a small college at St. Charles, and two years later when Dr. Fielding passed away, Carr opened his own college in Glasgow, Missouri. Located over 120 miles west of Wentzville, the college was called Pleasant Hill Academy, and it flourished.

But, Carr was ambivalent about teaching as a career, and in 1847 he entered the Methodist ministry. The ministry did less for him than teaching, and he left to teach once again in 1849, this time in Danville, Missouri midway between Glasgow and Wentzville, where he met his future bride, Elizabeth Susan Bettie Smith. They were married that same year.

In 1851, Carr became professor of mathematics at Central College in Fayette, Missouri, on the way, once again to Glasgow, and in 1856, he purchased a farm two miles outside town. By now they had three daughters, and on April 16, 1857, had their first son, Henry Smith Pritchett.

Carr Walling Pritchett lived and worked, primarily, along the road between St. Louis and Kansas City starting in 1835. He died in Independence in 1910. (Google maps, 2014)

Carr Walling Pritchett lived and worked, primarily, along the road between St. Louis and Kansas City starting in 1835. He died in Independence in 1910. (Google maps, 2014)

But Carr remained unsettled. In October of 1858 he left Elizabeth, a few slaves, and four small children between the ages of seven and 18 months, and attended Harvard University. A fellow townsman and friend of Pritchett saw great potential in Carr and loaned him money to take this great leap. Once at Harvard, his interests and studies quickly shifted from mathematics to astronomy. He worked closely with a young professor, Asaph Hall, who would be a propitious acquaintance for both Carr and Henry.

17 Carr W Pritchett Sr

Carr Walling Pritchett, 1823 – 1910. (Maria Mitchell Observatory)

Carr returned home a year later with a bachelor’s of science degree and continued on at Central College. Two more sons were born during this period. But soon the unrest that would erupt as the Civil War rose in Missouri, and while the majority of Pritchetts and Smiths (Elizabeth’s family) were squarely Confederate, Carr and Elizabeth, regardless of the slaves they owned, were Unionists. An armed search of their home by Confederate soldiers in June of 1864 prompted Carr to flee. While the family remained on the farm, Carr made his way to Washington, D.C. where he found a post through Asaph Hall on the United States Sanitary Commission.

Carr would remain in his post for a year beyond the end of the war. He acted as one of the ministers who greeted President Johnson at the White House at his swearing in on April 15, 1865, the day after the assassination of Lincoln. On the 19th, Carr took part in the procession that escorted Lincoln’s coffin from the White House during the funeral.

Carr returned home in 1866, and with the funding of benefactress Berenice Morrison of Glasgow, Missouri, he opened the Pritchett School Institute. [3] The grand feature of the institute was “one of the finest object glasses ever made by the famous telescope makers, Alvah Clark & Sons.” Carr and Elizabeth would have one more daughter, their seventh child, and Carr would finally settle down. He directed the institute until 1873, and remained as professor of mathematics and astronomy until 1905. He would die in Independence, Missouri in 1910.

The original Morrison Observatory, c1885 (Columbia Missouri Amatuer Astronomers)

The original Morrison Observatory, c1885 (Columbia Missouri Amatuer Astronomers)

Young Henry

As one can imagine, with his father disappearing when Henry was 18 months of age, then again when he was seven as the onslaught of the Civil War descended, Henry grew up quickly. By the time he was eight, he was carrying messages between Union camps on horseback. Many young children eight to nine years of age were used for this dangerous task because they could come and go unimpeded by across battle lines. As a result, Henry saw more of the war than most civilians and perhaps many soldiers, and “unimpeded” did not mean he was not harassed at times.

Henry S. Pritchett following the Civil War, c1866. (Flexner, 1943)

Henry S. Pritchett following the Civil War, c1866. (Flexner, 1943)


When he was ten, with his father back at home and teaching, Henry attended Pritchett School Institute until he received a Bachelors of Arts in 1875. One special area of study, due to his father’s interests and the presence of the Clark & Sons telescope, was astronomy. Another student at the institute was Isa Williams, Henry’s cousin, who stayed with the Pritchett family while she attended.

In 1875, upon graduation, Henry traveled to Washington D. C., to study with his father’s old friend, Asaph Hall, now with the Naval Observatory. Here Pritchett quickly stood out among his peers. Astronomer Simon Newcomb requested Pritchett’s help in computing his “monumental” tables of the moon, “the most difficult of heavenly bodies to keep track of.” Henry was soon made assistant astronomer at the observatory.

In 1880, he was appointed astronomer at the Morrison Observatory in Glasgow, the one at Pritchett School Institute, and the next year at age 24 received a post at Washington University of St. Louis as assistant professor of mathematics and astronomy.[4] On January 19 of this same year he married cousin and former classmate Ida Williams; they would have their first child, Harry, in December.

The $6,000, 17-foot long, 12-inch aperture Alvah Clark & Sons transit telescope. (John Whisenhunt, 2014)

The $6,000, 17-foot long, 12-inch aperture Alvah Clark & Sons transit telescope. (John Whisenhunt, 2014)

Like his father, Henry pursued interests that took him away from his family. His son less than a year old, Henry obtained a leave of absence to assist Edwin Smith of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in observing the transit of Venus. This event, Venus crossing between the earth and the sun, offered an opportunity to measure the solar parallax and the distance between the earth and the sun. The transits occur in a pattern that generally repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart. The earliest observed transit was 1639, and since occurred in 1761 and 1769, 1874 and 1882, and in 2004 and 2012.

The party traveled to New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and California to take measurements, and due to Edwin Smith’s taking ill with an eye infection, Pritchett not only made most of the relevant measurements, but acted as the principal astronomer on the project.

On his return, he was promoted to Professor of Astronomy and made director of the Washington University Observatory. He remained with the university for 16 years until 1897. Notable events from this period included his creation and maintenance of the first accurate time services for the rail systems that radiated out of St. Louis, correction of the longitude of Mexico City by more than a mile, and the birth of three more children, Edwin in 1884, Leonard in 1886, and Ida in Williams 1891.

Unfortunately, Pritchett’s wife Ida would die ten days after the birth of Ida his daughter. Distraught, Henry arranged for the newborn Ida to be cared for by her maternal aunt at Fayette, and brought his younger sister, Sarah Byrd Pritchett, to care for his sons and keep house in Glasgow.

Also notable during this period, and life-altering for Pritchett and all the other young men (and a few women) who availed themselves of the opportunity, Pritchett took leave in 1894 to travel to Munich to acquire a doctorate. He took his two older sons, Harry and Edwin, with him, then ages 13 and 10. Here, not only did Pritchett once again stand out amongst his peers, earning a doctorate in an unheard of period of just 18 months, but Pritchett experienced the vast difference that stood between American and European university systems.

His thesis, “Ueber die verfinsterungen der saturntrabanten” (About the Eclipses of Saturn), was accepted on May 7, 1895 and he was awarded the doctorate.[5]

Henry on the Rise

In 1897, two years after his return to Glasgow, Missouri, Pritchett received a bolt from the blue. Lyman J. Gage, Secretary of the Treasury, summoned Pritchett to Washington, D.C. without explaining why. On arriving, Lyman offered the 40-year-old Pritchett the post of Superintendent of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.

This organization, the oldest and most respected U.S. government scientific bureau, was responsible for all official charts, maps, boundaries, and weights and measures; all those aspects of geographic and economic trade that establish the underlying trust and value in the law.

Pritchett, after meeting with Lyman and then with President William McKinley, received assurances that there would be no political incursions into his role with the survey. He accepted the position and took office on December 1, 1897. That very day, he was, as Superintendent, to appear before a Congressional Committee. Committee members grilled Pritchett, and he had to pass on several answers. One member of the committee finally said, “You seem to know very little about questions under your jurisdiction. How long have you been Superintendent of the Coast Survey?” Pritchett took out his watch and answered, “Four hours and some minutes.”[6]

During his brief tenure at the Survey, it fell to Pritchett’s agency to provide President McKinley and the U.S. Navy with regularly updated maps of developments in the Spanish-American War. It was Pritchett who initiated this service. He stopped by to ask McKinley if he might need updated maps, and found McKinley reading dispatches from Admiral Dewey while he referred to a map torn from a school geography book. During the three-month crisis, the Survey produced over 26,000 charts for the war effort. In the course of his meetings with McKinley, they became close friends.

Pritchett also instigated the formation of the Bureau of Standards as an entity separate from the Survey. This was a persistent demand from the scientific community that had arisen at least 80 years prior. The bureau needed to stand on its own to obtain the respect, funding, and legislative leverage that was needed during an era of unprecedented industrial expansion. Pritchett, never one to care about retaining bureaucratic control for its own sake, made it happen. He did something similar with the Division of Magnetics, pushing it from a national to an international role where it could operate with greater independence and influence.

In 1900, Pritchett was invited to give the commencement address at Worcester Polytechnic in Massachusetts. He must have impressed. A few weeks later, Pritchett received an invitation to serve as the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the interim between invite and acceptance, Pritchett married Eva McCallister of San Francisco. Eva was 13 years Henry’s junior, and the pairing was by all accounts a successful one. They remained close, highly social, and politically effective until Henry’s death in 1939.

Henry S. Pritchett inauguration photo, 1900. (MIT)

Henry S. Pritchett inauguration photo, 1900. (MIT)

Pritchett became the fifth president of MIT. In existence since 1865, the school had bumped along in relation to the qualities and interests of its previous presidents. A student recalled of Pritchett’s arrival:

“When I entered the Institute in 1898, there was a sense of chill. General [Francis A.] Walker [the once-removed prior President] had died only a few months earlier, and Professor Crafts, who was acting as president, while an eminent chemist, was not a man to have much hold on the students. The Institute was in a large city and the majority of the students [there were less than 500 in 1900, ed.], commuted from their houses or from the homes of friends and relatives near Boston. … There was no college life. There were student activities of a sort, but these were tolerated rather than encouraged…”[7]

In the same account, the student recalled, “The warm interest that Dr. Pritchett took in his students not only as a body but as individuals, soon began to be felt.” Pritchett supported the sale of beer on college premises (to avoid having students experience alcohol in off-campus environments), initiated and supported student organizations, launched a physical education program, and sought to provide student housing. He created the Graduate School of Engineering at MIT, and attempted to merge the institute with Harvard.

A merger with Harvard, Pritchett believed, would bring together two disparate education models – the cerebral and theoretic university style of Harvard, and the technical and mechanical of MIT – with an end to produce students versed in both.

Zoologist at MIT, Dr. Robert Payne Bigelow put in words what admissions and graduation statistics show. “President Pritchett’s administration was a turning point in the history of the Institute. … His primary interest throughout was in the welfare of the students, intellectual, social, and physical.”[8] Pritchett effectively supplied an institutional foundation to MIT, a set of structures and programs that stood separate from the personality of its presidents. The enrollment leapt under Pritchett, and climbed without interruption until 1969 when admissions at universities across the nation were impacted by Viet Nam War protests and a disaffection with the ends of higher education.[9]

By the time Pritchett began his role at MIT, he had already published several scientific books and pamphlets including Micrometer Measures of the Diameter of Mars (1880), Ephemeris of the satellites of Mars for the opposition of 1881, (1881), The Red Spot on Jupiter (1882), A formula for predicting the population of the United States (1891), and the popular (for its intended audience) A Hand List for the Student of Astronomy (1885).

While serving at MIT, Pritchett was increasingly influential in the national dialogue on education. He gave addresses, wrote articles in national magazines such as Technology Review and the Atlantic Monthly, and attended key conferences.[10] Across the country, due to the dialogue Pritchett and only a handful of others pursued, universities invested in adding technical training, research laboratories, and physical education programs, while technical institutes added cultural and theoretical studies. He turned down several offers to serve as president for other universities including the prestigious University of Virginia. But in 1907, Pritchett was approached by a friend, Andrew Carnegie, with a unique proposition: to become the director of a private fund designed to provide university and college professors in the United States with pensions.

Only Henry S. Pritchett could make a role as manager of a pension fund one of the most influential roles in university education in the country.

Continue on to Part II: Henry Smith Pritchett: A Santa Barbara Legacy.



[1] Much of the material for Pritchett’s early years is founded on Henry S. Pritchett, A Biography, by Abraham Flexner, Columbia University Press, 1943.

[2] Genealogical information from official documents in and from

[3] Bernice Morrison, daughter of William M. Morrison and Sara Catherine “Kate” Swinney (a famous paddle wheeler “Kate Swinney” was named after her), was orphaned at an early age and raised by her maternal grandparents, Captain William Daniel Swinney and Lucy Ann Jones. The Swinneys owned a tobacco plantation in Glasgow, Missouri.

[4] The Morrison Observatory is located in Fayette, Missouri, today, on the campus of Central Methodist College. The Clark telescope is still with the observatory.

[5] “Ueber die verfinsterungen der saturntrabanten,” Henry S. Pritchett, Munich, Akademische Buchruckerei von F. Straub, 1895.

[6] Flexner, pg. 52.

[7] Flexner, pg. 69.

[8] Flexner, pg. 73.


[10] For example, “The Service of Science to the University,” The Technology Review, Volume IV, No. 4, October 1904; and “Shall the University Become a Business Corporation?,” Atlantic Monthly, September 1905.


Santa Barbara Cemetery 15th Annual Halloween Walking Tours

Written by admin on September 2nd, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 10 am to 12:30 pm    &

Sunday, October 26, 1 pm to 3:30 pm



Meet at the Santa Barbara Cemetery Chapel,

901 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara


10 minutes early to park and pay




Hat, camera, water, questions.


David Petry is the author of The Best Last Place: A History of the Santa Barbara Cemetery. After 10 years of research and over 1,000 cemeteries visited, Petry takes you through Santa Barbara history, the evolution of cemeteries in Santa Barbara and in the United States, and visits the interesting and strange at the Santa Barbara Cemetery, founded 1867.

The Santa Barbara Cemetery is final resting place of many of Santa Barbara’s founders – Sparks, Stearns, Hollister, Brinkerhoff, Barber; screen stars – Fess Parker, Jr., Ronald Colman, Virginia Cherrill, Laurence Harvey; as well as artists, writers, architects, physicians, industry leaders, and sports icons. We’ll visit the chapel with its world-famous murals, the oldest section of the cemetery with burials going back to 1832, the Veteran’s section, the Chinese section, the Bravados Motorcycle Club, the pyramid, the Clark Estate (we’ll get a good look at it over the wall anyway), and spend a couple hours on the most beautiful cemetery west of the Mississippi.


Not needed.

Contact for questions:

805 689 3423


Colma On My Mind

Written by admin on February 15th, 2014

I find myself a cemeterian. I am other things, of course, but I am also this.

Like an aficionado of, say, bridges, I see a terrain that most people do not. A bridge aficionado will have some awareness of the bridges that lie ahead of them when they travel, and further, will have a list of great or exemplary bridges they have visited or hope to visit. People they travel with might know of the Golden Gate or the Brooklyn Bridge but may be completely unaware of the sweeping span of the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia, or the funky old, covered Green River Bridge in Guilford, Vermont.

Olivet Cemetery

Olivet Cemetery

My avocation in cemeteries started when I wrote a history of the Santa Barbara Cemetery. This effort started in 1996 and ended with publication of that history in 2006. During that period, when I traveled for work or vacation, I began visiting cemeteries. I wanted to understand them in the way a bridge aficionado understands bridges – as types, as evolutionary stages, as exemplars of cultures and practices, as institutions.

I also read, of course. I read about regions and about trends, and always the same handful of cemeteries cropped up as IMPORTANT. Like bridges, many people will be aware of these, though likely fewer people have inadvertently crossed them. These cemeteries include the famous graveyards of New Orleans, the great Mount Auburn Cemetery west of Boston, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood, the old cemeteries of New England such as Cape Cod, and now possibly the most famous of all, Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

I opted out of pursuing the famous and important, though. Mainly, I could not take time away from family and work and go vacation in cemeteries. There was, however, a strategic side to my thinking. Visiting cemeteries that do not figure as historical in the literature would force me to see them with my own eyes. I could not rely on other’s interpretations; I had to understand the historians interpretations and make my own.

Unlike bridges, however, which are singular in time, evolution, and design, cemeteries are more like people or towns or old pets. Each cemetery did start at some point. The people burying their dead in them had a set of practices. There was some means of managing these sites, from a laissez faire dig-it-yourself to an overarching corporate control. Then you add time and trends, the influence of a manager or sextant, salt it with locale, and pepper it with varying levels of respect.

It matters little, but I could tell you, just by walking the grounds of most cemeteries, when they were founded, who the original ‘stock’ in the area was – German, Irish, Spanish, etc. – when transitions took place and what those transitions were. I could often tell how the management of the cemetery had changed over time. I could even estimate with some level of accuracy the total number of burials, the number of unmarked graves, and the level of record-keeping at the cemetery. It’s not a trick I pull out at parties.

Buckets of Buckets

Any aficionado has their list of the important bridges, buildings, birds, peaks, etc. they must visit. My practice kept me from ever having such a list. While I was researching and writing the book, I worked in the software industry. I traveled to the places where the customers were. While I was in these places, I went to the cemeteries. I visited Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, Milwaukee, upstate New York, Minnesota, Texas. I traveled to Amsterdam, Melbourne, Shanghai. More recently, working on telescope installations, I traveled to South Africa, Chile, and other parts of Australia and Texas. I also visited cemeteries where I vacationed, to Indiana, New Mexico, Mexico, Hawaii, and so forth.

Then, through a confluence of various factors, I found myself visiting the important cemeteries. I went to Forest Lawn, Mount Auburn, Boston and Cape Cod, Mountain View and Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, the great Père Lachaise (and my even more favorite the Montmarte). Then came a chance to visit Colma.

Colma is the single greatest accumulation of cemeteries in one place in the United States that I know of. There are at least seventeen and more likely twenty cemeteries. (Cemeteries tend to split and merge and change names or expand across multiple sites. It’s a bit like counting animal cells as they divide, albeit cemeteries do divide very slowly.) There are over 1.5M burials in Colma. With the diversity of the cemeteries – Catholic, Japanese, Serbian, and so forth – Colma ranks as the Disney World of cemeteries.

Becoming Colma

The area was named Colma sometime in the late 1800s. It was essentially a thickening on the road south of San Francisco. There was a church, a post office (1869), and a cluster of farms and residences. A Colma sports arena held sway from 1907 through 1915 or so as an important boxing venue.

Cemeteries began to come to Colma of their own accord. While Colma’s population was small, San Francisco, ten miles to the north, was the largest in the state. Pressure to cease cemetery operations in the city, and even to move cemeteries out, began mounting by the 1880s. Land in the city was too expensive to be relegated to burials. The area around Colma was considered ideal because it sat down the well-maintained Mission Street from the city, and streetcars and the Southern Pacific rail line ran to it or through it.

The first cemetery in Colma, Holy Cross, was established in 1887 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The diocese moved nearly 40,000 graves from San Francisco to the new burial ground. Two years later, two Jewish cemeteries, Home of Peace and Hills of Eternity joined forces and created a cemetery, moving some 13,000 graves. Salem Cemetery arrived in 1891 with 696 graves. Cypress Lawn, the largest non-denominational cemetery in the city, moved in 1892, bringing 35,000 graves. In 1896, Mount Olivet (now Olivet Cemetery) opened, and in 1899, the Italian Cemetery moved with  over 8,000 graves.

Then, on March 26, 1900, the City of San Francisco, passed Bill #54 & Ordinance #25 outlawing any new cemeteries within city limits. This was, like most cemetery-related practices, a long-standing norm on the East Coast where new cemetery designations had been outlawed within major cities by 1825. On the East Coast, the concern was the spread of disease. San Francisco’s legislative body was primarily concerned about property value.

In quick succession during 1901, the Serbian Cemetery, the Eternal Home Cemetery, and the Japanese Cemetery all moved to Colma. In 1903 Greenlawn Perpetual Care Park (later renamed an Endowment Care park in the 1950s when perpetual was deemed a difficult legal framework) arrived, and in 1904, Woodlawn set up shop next door. In 1907, Sunset View Cemetery arrived.

There were now 13 cemeteries in Colma, varying in size from a couple acres to spreads of hundreds of acres.

In 1912, the City of San Francisco voted to have all remaining graveyards within city limits removed. Cemeteries in the midst of moving were struggling to find family members willing to pay for the moves. According to one site,, many moved bodies were interred in mass graves where there were no relatives to pay the roughly $10.00 removal charge. Feet were dragging and the new ordinance did not have the desired effect.

Two years later, on January 14, 1914, the city passed Ordinance #2597, essentially an eviction notice to all cemeteries, stating they must remove all remaining bodies and monuments as a “public nuisance and a menace and detriment to the health and welfare of city dwellers.” The eviction notice, backfired however. It caused the remaining cemeteries and several families to put up a stout resistance. Not until November 1937 were the legal battles resolved and the remaining bodies ordered to be removed.

The last four additions to the Colma cemeteries roster were Greek Orthodox Cemetery (1935), Pet’s Rest Cemetery (1947), Hoy Sun Cemetery (1988), and Golden Hills Memorial Park (1994).

In 1924, the little town (2.2 square miles of mostly cemeteries), incorporated as Lawndale. The town fathers were unaware or unconcerned that a town called Lawndale was already established south of Los Angeles. They left the post office named Colma and thus avoided problems, as mail arrived addressed to Colma, California. As soon as home delivery was considered, however, the two Lawndales found themselves sorting each other’s mail. The town was re-incorporated as Colma in December, 1941.

What’s Colma in Chinese?

I visited Colma on a cold, dreary February day. I arrived before light and left only after the onset of male-pattern exhaustion around four in the afternoon. I missed several cemeteries, including sadly, Pet’s Rest and the old Salem Cemetery. The one’s I visited were nevertheless truly fascinating. My photos will guide you through most of the cemeteries. I just want to share a few notes of what was most interesting to me.

[Note: Click on the arrows to advance the images.]

First, the Chinese influence in these cemeteries is huge. At least six cemeteries have extensive new burial areas filled with the distinctive black or brown granite upright stones. Most of these cemeteries also provided funerary burners. These are free-standing brick or masonry structures, typically with a steel door and tin exhaust stack. They are used to burn spiritual tributes, specifically cardboard facsimiles of money, clothing, possessions, homes which the deceased can then use in the afterlife.

Americans, no matter where they come from (other than China apparently), are increasingly turning to cremation and disposition outside of cemeteries. To see vital new areas of graves and to see cemeteries creating entire new areas to attract these burials was surprising. It is the Chinese market that is driving the expansion of cemetery property in Colma.

Cypress Lawn, with three large sites in Colma, is developing their most recent site with several unique styles of grave offerings. Many of these use low hedges or walls to cordon off a plot, echoing to how graves were once separated in the 1800s and 1900s. There is a large fountain near the entrance with semi-enclosed wall of niches, and two granite parapets out over their man-made lake with perhaps 50 to 100 memorial plaque locations.

Across the valley, Woodlawn has installed two scattering gardens with extensive plantings, stepping stones, benches and many small granite memorial plaques. Access is not easy; impossible for anyone in a wheelchair, or using a walker or crutches.

Also catering to the Chinese (and other populations) is Colma’s casino, Lucky Chances. Opened in 1998 after a significant dissent in the town, Lucky Chances is a 60-table cardroom with over 650 employees. After a few hands of Texas Hold’em, you can play Pai Gow. The business is one of Colma’s few tax staples and is meant to keep the living side of the town alive and well.

What Memorial Park Faze?

If cemetery history can surface a faze, it was memorial parks. Hubert Eaton reopened Forest Lawn Cemetery as Forest Lawn Memorial Park in 1917 and set off a nationwide transformation of the cemetery industry. He introduced the policy and practice of flat markers (and an absence of raised markers) in acres of grass, and organized the cemetery as a profitable business.

[Note: Click on the arrows to advance the images.]

His success was immediate and notable. While the popular culture made fun of his new model of burial, cemeteries across the country saw the numbers. Eaton’s success was surprising and astronomical. Many cemeteries simply changed their name to capitalize on the phenomenon. In Colma, Woodlawn and Greenlawn, both launched in the era of lawn park cemeteries, added Memorial Park to their names. Some cemeteries in places outside Colma went further and set down policies that required flat markers. Other cemeteries set aside new sections as flat-marker-only sections.

What is universally apparent in Colma is that, with the exception of a few name changes, and a smattering of flat markers, sometimes gathered into relatively small sections, the memorial park wave passed right over Colma.

My Favorites

Cemeteries develop from open land to used-up graves, then sections and then entire cemeteries. The character of a cemetery is so unique. You can see some images from some cemeteries and not be able to tell which cemetery they come from. In Colma, this is less often the case. The ethnic burial grounds have largely retained their base populations.

Then there is the plan.

Each cemetery has a plan of use. In some cases the plan is quite simple. Rows, or the rows are varied by type of grave, or have policies and sometimes basic development applied, or are broken up with larger plots. Cemeteries with the luxury of space spread it over the rows and plots, allowing in light, grasses, flowers and trees.

Thus, entering each cemetery you have a qualitative experience of space or density, and of the breadth of expression. In general, the Serbian and Jewish cemeteries were fairly dense and largely uniform in their expression – size, color, and treatment of markers. The Chinese markers also show a uniformity that is broken only by what appears to be a recent drive to display wealth with larger, more uniquely designed stones. Holy Cross is an airy haven with grassy avenues among the grave and mausoleums.

My favorites turned out to be the Italian Cemetery and the Japanese Cemetery. The Japanese have a reputation of finely wrought, and sometimes quite bold, artwork. This is apparent in the Japanese Cemetery. Massive stones, sometimes with sweeping, deep-cut carved characters, surround the entry circle. Alternately, some of these huge stones carry ordered rows of small, intimately cut characters. Walking deeper in – this is perhaps the smallest of all the cemeteries in Colma – the stones show a surprising level of uniqueness and artistry. Other cultures begin to seem derivative in the face of this wealth.

The Italian Cemetery is a display of the derivative, but of one felt and expressed deeply, making the apparent mimic a compelling, dark, solo voice. The Italian Cemetery is composed of sections and rows, each with similar memorials. There are tightly spaced, nearly identical mausoleums, raised sarcophagi trued to each other to the micrometer, and rows of lichen-masked angels. The effect overall is of a full expression. The effect at the detailed level is of that as well. In between, the replication of stones becomes a field for seeing. I spent the better part of two hours in the Italian Cemetery. Beautiful.


The Silent Highway: King City and San Lucas Cemeteries

Written by admin on February 14th, 2014

I met Joe in King City. He’s the caretaker at the King City Cemetery. “I’ve been here eight years.” He took me to the beautiful Lizz marker that they recently reconstructed. “It was just piled up over there,” he said. In the 1980s, he explained, “Someone came through and just knocked every one of these markers over.” Most markers are missing a top knob or ball. A threaded bar pokes up, empty.

[Note: The images below are in 'sliders.' Click to advance the images.]

Yes, he likes the work, except for the mowing. “You should really talk to the manager. He’s been here twenty-three years.”

“You’ll see one half of the cemetery has crosses…” Joe let’s that hang out there. We’re standing among graves with crosses. I look across the road at the markers with willows, gates, or just plain text. “Catholics,” he explains, “and Protestants.” I’m not so sure about that. I’ve known many Protestants to grace a grave with a cross.

“These two,” he shrugs, “I pressure-washed them. They were covered in moss or lichen. I don’t know if I should have.” He’s looking to me for an answer because I’ve told him I’m a cemetery historian – mainly so he wouldn’t kick me out because its after hours and he clearly wanted to lock the gate. I said, “If the family were here and alive, they’d do the same thing.” I believe they would. Or should.

As I was leaving, Joe asked, “Which way are you heading?” I said, “South.” “Well, you have to stop by San Lucas. They have a really nice little strange cemetery.”

The Road to San Lucas

Joe gave me directions which were correct, but I didn’t follow them properly. He said, “You get off, turn left under the freeway, and you’ll see it there up on the right.” I didn’t see it there up on the right. I’d pictured a gate along the road, and I flew on by and went under the railroad tracks.

The short version of this is that I found Mario closing the gate on his driveway deep in the town of San Lucas and asked him. He spoke no English, and I have but poquito when it comes to Espanol. He got in my car and and we drove back the way I’d come. Mario is from Guatemala, and his lived in San Lucas two years. The restaurant was closed before he arrived. The public library was closed more recently. There is a school, and no other businesses.

Mario showed me the cemetery. It sits a hundred yards off the road, on a spur road. I drove him back home and then hurried back, watching the sun tilt into the evening haze.

San Lucas was a figment of the railroad, founded when the railroad reached it in 1886. King City, ten miles to the north, arrived the same year for the same reason. King City was originally Hog Town because a lot of pigs were raised in the area. The eponymous Charles King acquired the San Lorenzo land grant in 1884 and grew wheat. Both King City and San Lucas started post offices in 1887, becoming official.

Without the history to fill in the gaps, one can make some assumptions. King City, sitting down astride the river, and with a wider swath of flat lands nearby, could support growth more easily that San Lucas. San Lucas sits on a bluff well back from the river and the hills slip down behind the town limiting the farming potential. But these are assumptions. San Lucas has held tight for 125 years with hardly a business. King City, roughly the halfway mark between San Francisco and Los Angeles, successfully drains off the highway traffic into Burger Kings and Chevron Stations.

The San Lucas Cemetery is a wonderful little world. It is as quaint and soulful as the San Ramon Cemetery out along Foxen Canyon Road in Santa Barbara County. And is smaller, quieter, and more expressive.


October 2013 Cemetery Pieces on Noozhawk

Written by admin on October 26th, 2013

Three articles on the Santa Barbara Cemetery published by Noozhawk, with a little awesome branding…


authentic petry


Despite Time and Place, Santa Barbara Cemetery Has Little-Known Civil War Link

Santa Barbara Cemetery was founded in July 1867 and opened in 1868. That date carries meaning for both the cemetery and Santa Barbara.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, America entered a period of mourning. The mourning was not just for the 500,000 dead, but was more acutely, and more simply, for the sake of mourning itself. In part, the United States had so little past compared to Europe, and to counter that fact, we took ourselves very seriously. To be fair, Europe, and especially England, were deeply imbued with Victorian seriousness themselves, and so maybe we were just copying.

2013 Resignation

Nevertheless, American journals topped up with articles on what was proper, tasteful, meaningful and righteous. And death did not escape this attention. The procedures and meaning of death were rapidly and deeply transformed. Between 1865 and 1900 the number of individual graves (as opposed to family plots) exploded, embalming was introduced and became popular, funeral parlors sprang up, sprawling but well-tended cemeteries on the outskirts took the place of small five-acre rectangles near town, and along with this sea change came highly formalized rites of mourning… Read the rest on Noozhawk.


Santa Barbara Cemetery Ever-Shifting Amid Culture Trends, Ground Realities

“People are moving,” explained Randy Thwing, manager of the Santa Barbara Cemetery overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “The kids move on and no one feels like a particular place is home.”

Cemeteries are, for the most part, figments of our past. They are from a time when a family name anchored not only a plot at the cemetery, but generations in the community. The patchwork of plots at a cemetery were once reflected in a patchwork of businesses, residences and lives. But such families are now rare. On average, Americans move between cities or towns 12 times in our lives. Our links to towns and therefore cemeteries are becoming all but vapor.

Open since 1868, and founded in 1867, the Santa Barbara Cemetery at 901 Channel Drive is 146 years old this year. I wrote a history of the cemetery, The Best Last Place: The History of the Santa Barbara Cemetery, which was published in 2006, and have given as many as 10 tours a year there since 1997. It’s time for an update… Read the rest on Noozhawk.


Empty Graves and Eternal Space at the Santa Barbara Cemetery

We think of cemeteries filling up. But like most things we think, we find we are — in unexpected and odd ways — wrong.

Santa Barbara Cemetery, founded in 1867, opened its (not very pearly) gates in 1868. The only plots you could purchase were 25-foot-by-25-foot family plots. Each plot was bordered on all four sides by a pathway or a road. The appearance on paper was striking. The cemetery was regimented, complete, stable.


First plot map of the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Order on linen did not make order on the ground.

On the earth, pathways and roads never materialized. What took shape were the slow proliferation of cared-for plots. Families such as the John Peck Sternses or the Pierces erected a family stone and then laid down six-inch by eight-inch by 10-foot sandstone curbs around their plots. The stone borders were set at the corners and plot midpoints with raised stone posts, typically about two-feet tall, tapering gently, sometimes to a simply formed stone ball at the top. Between the posts, a foot or so off the ground, a two-inch steel rod was run, creating a barrier to entry… Read the rest on Noozhawk.

Information about recent or upcoming tours.


2013 Santa Barbara Cemetery All Hallows Walking Tours

Written by admin on September 24th, 2013

Two tours:

Saturday, October 26, 10 am to 12:30 pm


Sunday, October 27, 1 pm – 3:30 pm



Meet at the Santa Barbara Cemetery Chapel,

901 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara


10 minutes early to park and pay




Hat, camera, water, questions.


David Petry is the author of The Best Last Place: A History of the Santa Barbara Cemetery. After 10 years of research and over 1,000 cemeteries visited, Petry takes you through Santa Barbara history, the evolution of cemeteries in Santa Barbara and in the United States, and visits the interesting and strange at the Santa Barbara Cemetery, founded 1867.

The tour starts in the world-famous cemetery chapel (architects George Washington Smith and Lutah Maria Riggs, murals (world-famous all by themselves), Alfredo Ramos Martinez), You then walk through the mausoleum and then out on the grounds. The tour traverses the oldest section (Montecito), the Veteran’s section, the Chinese burial area, the Santa Barbara founders area, and stops by a few of the cemetery’s screen stars. You get the story of the pyramid, the Ronald and Nancy Reagan (almost) burial site, and of the most expensive private mausoleum west of the Mississippi. You’ll stop for a gaze across the wall at the Huguette Clark Estate (soon to be a cultural center/museum) and glimpse the manse of Beanie Baby mogul Ty Warner. You’ll walk about a mile over grassy ground.


Not needed.

Contact for questions:

805 689 3423



March 18 Talk on Puritan Ice at Lompoc Valley Historical Society

Written by admin on March 11th, 2013

This Monday, March 18, 2013, the Lompoc Valley Historical Society is sponsoring a talk by David Petry about the Puritan Ice Companies. Puritan Ice, based in Santa Barbara, was founded in 1922 specifically to develop the produce business of the Guadalupe and Lompoc valleys.  By 1930, Puritan had ice manufacturing sites in Santa Barbara, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Atascadero, and through a buy-out of Ord Ice, Oxnard and Ventura. In 1942 they expanded to Blythe, California.

The company helped create the primary economic resources of the regions they entered, and they found themselves at pivotal points of American and California history. This fascinating company recalls a time not long gone and reveals an infrastructure still powerfully important to this country’s wealth and well-being.

Mr. Petry’s recent book, The Puritan Ice Companies: The Ice Empire of California’s Central Coast will be available for purchase for a reduced rate of $15.

The event starts at 6 p.m. Attendance is $20. Dinner will be served.  Please RSVP to the Society at 805-735-4626

Location is the New Life Christian Church, 816 North C Street, Lompoc.

View some images from Puritan’s Lompoc years.

Puritan Ice Companies cover


Puritan Santa Barbara – Amazing New Images from 1922

Written by admin on December 18th, 2012

John Woodward unearthed some images taken by Etta Faulding at the 1922 opening of the Puritan Ice plant in Santa Barbara. John has given us permission to display them here.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, exterior with delivery trucks, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, exterior with delivery trucks, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Drivers in two of the old REO Speedwagon delivery vans. Puritan, like many ice companies at the time, distributed ice cream, because the ice plant was the best place to store the inventory. Puritan distributed Hughes Ice Cream. Probably (but not certainly) TP Dalzell (left) and Leon Phillips on the loading dock. Unknown individual behind them. The construction materials in the foreground are likely indicative of a recently completed ice conveyor and platform. The trailer behind one of the delivery vehicles… Not sure, but possibly used to transport larger quantities of ice to citrus packing houses.

Puritan Ice house 002

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, exterior with PFE rail cars, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

This is a pretty cool image. Pacific Fruit Express, founded in 1906, built 6600 cars in their first year. The foreground car, numbered 4404, may have been an early PFE car. This Etta Faulding image also shows the original icing platform (later on, rail spurs would line up on both sides of the platform) and the ‘ice rats,’ ready to ice the cars.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, opening day crowd, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, opening day crowd, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Recognize anyone? There are 53 men in the image. The man in white, to the mid-far right, probably worked for Puritan. Though this was at the height of Prohibition, many individuals appear to be cradling beverages with the reverence due a fine rum or whiskey. I’ll admit: no idea why the hatches on the foreground PFE car are so much thicker than the others. Many of the men appear to be looking west along the tracks, perhaps watching a train approach or depart.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, opening day celebration, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, opening day celebration, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

This is Santa Barbara 1922. Civic boosterism, Fords, suits, a couple nice hats, and beautiful white ice.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, ice blocks on icing platform, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, ice blocks on icing platform, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

The white ice was for the rail cars. Domestic ice was clear. Santa Barbara produced both.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, interior, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Puritan Ice Santa Barbara, interior, 1922, photo by Etta Faulding. John Woodward collection.

Inside the Santa Barbara ice plant. Compressors ran on the far side. Ice was created in brine tanks beneath the oak plank flooring. Note the hinges in the planks to access the ice cans. Towards the rear of the plant, you can see an ice rat pulling three ice cans from the brine tank using an overhead crane. Another ice rat looks on from the machinery floor.

And one more:

Puritan Ice promoted the William Howard-directed “The Thundering Herd” film by Paramount based on the Zane Grey novel in mid-1925.

Photo by Etta Faulding (most likely) 1925. John Woodward collection.

Photo by Etta Faulding (most likely) 1925. John Woodward collection.

See more images of Puritan Ice in Santa Barbara.

Return to the Puritan Ice homepage.