The Cabinet

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Record 1 of 1

  • Howard Millar Chapin Papers
  • Chapin, Howard Millar, 1887-1940
Call Number:
  • MSS 344
Record Level:
  • Collection
Physical Description:
  • 2 ft.
  • 3 AB, HB, OB
Inclusive Dates:
  • 1903-1938
Bulk Dates:
  • 1903-1938
Cataloged By:
  • Rick Stattler,
    • Jennifer Galpern, January 1997
  • Librarian, Providence, R.I.

  • Drafts and research notes for some of Chapin's many published historical works.

Historical Note:
  • Howard Millar Chapin was born in Providence on 11 May 1887 to Dr. Charles Value Chapin & Anna Augusta Balch. He graduated from Brown University in 1908, then operated his own jewelry supply company and served as the assistant business manager of the Providence Evening News, before attaining his post as Librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society on September 14, 1912. Howard served as librarian from 1912 until his death in 1940. He was also a prolific author on a wide variety of subjects; his particular area of expertise was colonial American history. Howard married on 10 Apr 1912, Hope Caroline Brown. Hope was born 20 Jan 1885, the daughter of former Governor D. Russell Brown (28 Mar 1848 - 28 Feb 1919) & Isabelle Barrows (1845 - 1907). Daniel Russell Brown was born in Bolton, Connecticut, United States, on March 28, 1848. He was son of Arba Harrison Brown and Harriet M. Dart. He went to public schools and worked his way up to head salesman at a hardware store in Hartford, then moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he became partner in a mill supply store. He was president & treasurer of the Brown Brother Company. Brown was a Presidential Elector for Rhode Island in 1888. He was a member of the Providence City Council for four years before he ran for governor. He won the first election by popular vote, was then reelected by the General Assembly the next year, when no candidate reached the required majority, and won the popular vote again in his third gubernatorial election. He held the governor's office from May 31, 1892 to May 29, 1895. In his last term, he played a key role in the adoption of a constitutional amendment that permitted election by a plurality rather than a majority vote. He was suggested as vice presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention of 1896, having the support of New England, but was not selected. He was an active member of the Freemasons. In 1891 he became a member of the Rhode Island Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. D. Russell & Isabel Barrows were married October 14, 1874, they had three children, Milton Barrows Brown, Isabel Russell Brown (later Brunschwig), and Hope Caroline Brown (later Chapin). Howard & Hope were honeymooning on the British ocean liner RMS Carpathia in April 1912, when this vessel took on the survivors of the RMS Titanic. They had no children. Hope died 22 Oct 1938. Obituary, 24 Oct 1938 Providence Journal: "Mrs. Hope Brown Chapin. Daughter of Former Governor Dead In Her 54th Year. Mrs. Hope Brown Chapin, of 93 Brown Street, daughter of the late D. Russell Brown, former Governor of Rhode Island and wife of Howard M. Chapin, librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society, was found dead in her automobile in old Buttonwoods yesterday afternoon. She was in her 54th year. Born on Jan. 20, 1885, Mrs. Chapin attended the Mary C. Wheeler School, in this city, and the Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington, D.C. Prominent in social organizations and social work, she had been an officer of the Colonial Dames and the English Speaking Union. She was a member of the board of the Animal Rescue League. She married Mr. Chapin, the son of Dr. and Mrs. Charles V. Chapin, in 1912. Dr. Chapin is Superintendent of Health Emeritus of Providence. Mrs. Chapin had been in bad health for some time. The medical examiner's report said death was self-inflicted. The funeral will be private." Howard died young as well, just two years later. Providence Journal, 20 Sept 1940: "Howard Chapin. All too soon - he was only fifty-three - he has left us. Providence born, of Rhode Island earth earthy, it is safe to say that no man had left a richer heritage in the field of our native history. The most we know of Roger Williams came from the hand of Mr. Chapin. Conceded to be his masterpiece in his 'Documentary History of Rhode Island'. Howard Chapin, Brown man, most thorough scholar, was the rare person one went to as a true authority in his field; a man who knew men, books and cities. Widely travelled (no part of the world was alien to him) he was equally at home in Academe. No dry-as-dust keeper of books, none of the fifty volumes he gave to the world smells of the lamp. College Hill will miss Howard Chapin now that the autumn leaves are drifting down upon the flagstone walks he so loved. He made books vivid. He made friends everlasting; it will be long before his place is filled."
Scope and Content:
  • The large majority of Chapin's research notes can be presumed to be lost. Background information on only a small portion of his voluminous published output can be found here. Probably the most important part of this collection is a reference file to soldiers in the colonial wars. In 1918, Chapin published A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in the Old French and Indian War 1755-1762 (E199.C46). This was followed in 1920 by A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in King George's War 1740-1748 (E198.C48). Both books remain the definitive reference works on their subjects, and were recently republished as Rhode Island In the Colonial Wars by Genealogical Publishing in 1994. Neither book cited sources, except for noting that they were "compiled from the original manuscripts in the Rhode Island Historical Society and the State Archives. A duplicate list on cards with references to the individual manuscripts is on file at the Rhode Island Historical Society." These valuable card files were miscatalogued and lost for many years, but have recently been discovered. Other interesting Chapin papers that have survived include drafts and correspondence re his 1930 Gazetteer of the State of Rhode Island; a list of early published writings by Rhode Islanders; and a scrapbook of Chapin's published work before 1920.
Accession Number:
  • 1941.15.1-
  • The accession book for 1941 lists a donation of "Miscellaneous Papers of H.M. Chapin in", which may account for many of these papers. However, as Chapin compiled many of these notes in an official capacity for the R.I.H.S., it is likely that some of them were cataloged immediately without any formal accessioning process. The administrative records generated by Chapin as Librarian can still be found in the official R.I.H.S. Archives.
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