Robert James Needham Collection
Drew Archival Library
Title: Robert James Needham Collection
Dates: 1861-1953 (Bulk: 1861-1872)
Accession/Call Numbers: DAL.MS.043
Repository: Drew Archival Library
Quantity: 1 box
Access Restrictions: The Robert James Needham Collection is open to researchers. There are no restricted materials in the collection
Preferred form of citation: DAL.MS.043, The Robert James Needham Collection in the Drew Archival Library.
Finding Aid Prepared By: Dylan Kornberg, February 2011
Scope and Content:
Approximately half of this collection consists of photographs of Robert James Needham, his family, and his co-workers. The rest of the collection consists mostly of official work and personal documents, as well as a few letters, detailing the life and (especially) the work of Robert James Needham, who was a telegraph operator, and his family.
Robert James Needham was born on 11 April, 1838 in Liverpool, England. In 1851 at the age of thirteen he began working as a telegraph operator for the Electric Telegraph Company there, starting a profession that he would follow for the rest of his life. From 1851 until approximately 1895 he worked as a telegraph operator and superintendent in Liverpool, London, Egypt, Tripoli, Malta, New York, Germany, and Duxbury where he eventually settled. He moved there in 1869 to work at the French-Atlantic Cable station, where he eventually became a superintendent in 1889. Shortly before the move from Europe, he married his sweetheart Sarah Welch, with whom he had six children: Ruby, Frank, Edith, Harry (who drowned in a boating accident), Hubert, and Robert George. He died on 30 August, 1927.
Series I: Photographs
Series II: Work Documents
Series III: Personal Documents
Series IV: Newspaper Articles
Series I: Photographs (c. 1868-1928)
Item1: Eight young men, one of whom is Robert James Needham, presumably taken in Egypt, Christmas 1868.
Item 2: Unaddressed postcard with picture of Needham house. Date unknown.
Item 3: Unknown man driving horse and buggy. Date unknown.
Item 4: Group photo of children and presumably teachers taken at Powder Point Academy. Date unknown.
Item5: Leo(?) Needham somewhere in Duxbury. Date unknown.
Item 6: Several children possibly at Powder Point Academy. Date Unknown.
Item 7: Unaddressed postcard with picture of St. George Street. Date Unknown.
Item 8: Hubert Needham, 1928.
Item 1: Robert James Needham with “Uncle Charlie” in automobile. Date Unknown.
Item 2: Western Union Staff photo at Duxbury, c. 1869 (Robert James Needham seated in the first row, second from the right).
Item 3: Henry Needham, on reverse reads, “Drowned in harbor. Mast of Captain Cushman’s vessel hit him in the head and he drowned. They burned the boat.” Date unknown.
Item 4: Robert James Needham, name written on reverse. Date unknown.
Item 5: Robert James Needham, portrait taken by Wallinger Studio, Chicago. Date unknown.
Series II: Work Documents (1861-1872)
Item 1: Letter by the secretary of the Red Sea and India Telegraph Company confirming Robert James Needham worked for said company for two years, 5 February, 1861.
Item 2: Articles of Agreement for Robert James Needham to work as a clerk for the Persian Gulf Telegraph Company in India, 15 January, 1866.
Item 3: Letter from Robert James Needham to Superintendent R.F. Brown Esq., requesting to work for the planned Anglo-American telegraph, detailing some of his prior work experience, 24 May, 1872.
Series III: Personal Documents (1894-1900)
Item 1: Invitation for Robert James Needham to join the Old Time Telegraphers and Historical Association, 7 December, 1894.
Item 2: Letter accompanying application for Old Time Telegraphers and Historical Association from Ed Cockey to Robert James Needham, 5 June, 1895.
Item 3: Application for Robert James Needham to join Old Time Telegraphers and Historical Association, 7 June, 1895.
Item 4: Invitation to Partridge Academy Graduation Ceremony, 1900.
Item 5: Diploma from Partridge Academy for Edith Mary Needham, 22 June, 1900.
Series IV: Newspaper Articles (1953)
Item 1: Article from Patriot Ledger, “Cable Superintendent’s Diary: Robert Needham Immigrated by Way of Duxbury Beach,” 27 November, 1953.