Knapp, Frederick Bradford

Frederick Bradford Knapp Collection (1857-1952)

Scope and Content:

 The Collection includes fifty-six diaries belonging to Frederick Bradford Knapp (1857-1932) that span the years 1875-1932.  Knapp began keeping a diary the year he graduated from high school and continued, with some exceptions, until the year of his death.  In addition, the Collection contains several pieces of memorabilia, a notebook of obituaries, a memorial book, drawings, and two albums of pictures and photographs.

Frederick Bradford Knapp’s diaries provide brief notes on daily events, seldom with commentary.  There are gaps in coverage for most of the years, those for 1889 to 1897 being especially sketchy in content.  However, on May 8, 1889 he made some extended remarks on Cuba; on Jan. 28, 1890 he commented on the peace treaty with Spain; and on Nov. 3, 1914 he remarked on the national political scene.  The volumes are rich with references to local people and places, although without much explanatory text.  The entries provide a record of how he made his living, cared for his family and participated in community life.  They also reflect his strongly held social attitudes towards the goals of American society.

Biographical Information:

Frederick Bradford Knapp (1857-1932) was born in Walpole, NH,  the son of Rev. Frederick Newman Knapp and Lucia Bradford.  He was the great-grandson of Duxbury’s Capt. Gershom Bradford (the Gershom Bradford House, 937 Tremont Street, is owned by the Duxbury Rural and Historical  Society).   As a child during the Civil War he lived in Washington, DC while his father was an administrator for the U.S. Sanitary Commission.  After the war ended, the Knapp family moved to Plymouth, MA where Frederick Newman Knapp ran a successful school for boys.  In 1879 he received a bachelor of science degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and immediately began working for Clarke, Reeves & Co, a bridge building company of Phoenixville, PA.  The following year, he left to work for C.B.&Q. Railway, building railroads in Iowa.  In 1882 he moved back to Massachusetts as a superintendent of Buildings and Grounds for Harvard, and in 1884 added a second job, teaching drawing and surveying at MIT.

In 1884 Knapp married Fanny.  The couple had four children: Frederick Claudius Knapp (1888-1909), but called Eric by his family; Lucia (b. 1889); Elizabeth (b. 1894) and Frances (b. 1895).

In 1886 he opened the Powder Point School for Boys, purchasing the Ezra “King Caesar” Weston estate in Duxbury for the school’s location.  The Knapp family moved into the main house (King Caesar House currently owned by the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society) at 120 King Caesar Road.  In 1909, after his son, Eric, died of brain fever, Knapp sold the school to brothers John and Philip Moulton.  Knapp retained the Forestry School, renaming it the Eric Forestry School, until 1912.

At the age of 58, in 1915, Knapp was all but retired although he continued to pursue real estate interests and purchased a “touring car” with which he conducted a livery service.  In 1918 he began teaching freshman math at Harvard as a wartime substitute.

Knapp was involved in may Duxbury organizations including the Republican Executive Committee, the Duxbury Library, the Massachusetts Forestry Association, the Public Safety Commission and the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society.

Knapp died in Duxbury in 1932.


Series List:

Series I     Frederick Bradford Knapp Diaries (1875-1932)

Series II    Notes, Letters and Ephemera from the Diaries of FNK (1875-1932)

Series III   Lucia Knapp Royal Diaries (1941-1952)

Series IV    Photographs and Albums

Series V      Ephemera

Series VI    Correspondence

BOX 1   & 2      Series I

Frederick Bradford Knapp Diaries (1875-1889; 1891-1905; 1910-1932)

1 1875 Finished high school, entered MIT.
2 1876 Started second year at MIT; went to Philadelphia with military unit to celebrate Centennial.
3 1877 MIT classes and exams; social calls; sailing; church; letters written; daily weather report.
4 1878 MIT studies; social activities; weather; first vote; cast for Talbot for Governor.
5 1879 Graduated from MIT with first honors; his senior thesis written on designing a suspension bridge; started work as a draughtsman for bridge builders Clarke, Reeves & Co. in Phoenixville, PA
6 1880 Became active in Methodist Lyceum; accepted job offer from CB & Q Railway in May and moved to Burlington, Iowa to start laying track.
7 1881 Wrote account of current trial in which railroad won a favorable judgment in its suit to condemn land for track; worked out of Dayton, OH and Ironton.
8 1882 Worked on railroad construction in Ohio during Jan. and Feb.; accepted position as superintendent of building and grounds at Harvard; began work in April.
9 1883 On Nov. 12 noted that he heard Matthew Arnold read, was disappointed because he expected a lecture.
10 1884 Added teaching surveying and drawing at MIT to his Harvard duties; courted Mrs. Fanny Powers whom he married on Aug. 28; moved to Arlington.
11 1885 Moved from Arlington to Cambridge in Aug.; continued work at Harvard and MIT.
12 1886 Decided to start a school like his father’s and began looking for a suitable house; on Aug. 31 recorded his move from Cambridge to house on Powder Point in Duxbury.
13 1887 No entries
14 1888 On June 25 became the father of a son, Frederick Claudius Knapp; examined 31 prospective students for school, admitted 25; only one entry after June 28.
15 1889 Boarding house memoranda: list of linen, tableware, other supplies; noted that summer boarders were using entire cottage as bedrooms.
16 1891 On Feb. 14 wrote “Mr. Soule began framing house today” – the only entry for the year.
17 1892 On Jan. 4 listed names of societies to which he belonged; on Dec. 12 listed weights of his family – no other entries for year.
18 1893 In entry for Feb. 6 noted he had hired Wendell Phillips to build a new house; drew up lists of students’ weights – no other entries for the year.
19 1894 On June 14 became a father of a third child and second daughter, Elizabeth – only for other entries for the year.
20 1895 On April 21 wrote he had agreed to pay his mother $5 per annum for 10 years when she decided to close the Plymouth school, with proviso that either he or she may re-start it at any time; on June 24 described efforts to help Samson Soule out of his financial difficulties.
21 1896 December 8 noted Frances’ birthday, very few other entries.
22 1897 April 18 reported fire in woods after church service, about 700 acres burned; April 20 he bought land on Abrams Hill for development on smaller scale with cheaper houses than Pt. End.  Few other entries.
23 1898 Feb. 2 recorded his election to Executive Committee of Republican Club; May 8-12 long commentary on war with Spain over Cuba reflecting FBK’s mild support for Cubans over Spaniards; Sept. 17-25 entry listed people he thought unfriendly to him with probable reasons.
24 1899 Jan. 1 entry referred to six continuous years of hard times and their effect on private schools; on Jan. 28 commented on possible peace treaty with Spain; on May 2 discussed provisions for dealing with forest fires; May 10 entry about money standards; Oct. 21 entry called himself an anti-imperialist in regard to the Phillippines.
25 1900 Dec. 26 started a trip south
26 1901 Reported 2 boys at school had scarlet fever, with threat of small pox on the way.
27 1902 Concerned over son’s slow recovery from circumcision and Lucia’s operation for appendicitis. Few other entries.
28 1903 No entries.
29 1904 Commented on problems with students and poor performance of one of his teachers; Jan. 2 reported school has 41 students, the most ever with tuition of $400-$550; Dec. 20 reported 47 boys, a new high.
30 1905 Feb. 8 raised salary of a teacher wishing to resign to $1,400 per year; Mar. 21 referred to the problem of keeping servants – few other entries for year.
31 1910 Jan. 1 entry stated son had died of brain fever on Jun. 17, 1909, and that he sold his Powder Point School to B.P. Moulton and his brother the following Nov. retaining only the forestry component as the Eric Forestry School; Sept. 17 entry recorded his decision not to open forestry school but to accompany Biltmore Forestry School to Germany; Sept. 20 saw Frances off to boarding school in Northampton, MA; Sept. 25 packed Lucia’s desk for Radcliffe; Dec. 19 landed in NYC on return from Germany.
32 1911 Jan. 9 noted his resignation from Library Board; Feb. 12 his resignation as forest warden and fire chief.
33 1912 Noted that Lucia was now in her second year at Radcliffe; Elizabeth a student of Jenny Chandler; Frances attending the Burnham School in Northampton preparing for Smith; FBK busy with Forestry School in Plymouth, NH; Aug. 24 entry announced his decision to give up school.
34 1913 Feb. 9 considered options for future but re-opening the Eric Forestry School not to be included.  Many blank pages.
35 1914 Noted that preparing to leave his house for the summer had replaced activities relating to his school; mentioned gypsy moth problem; resigned as member and officer of the Massachusetts Forestry Assoc; Nov. 3 recorded dropping out of the Republican party because he disapproved of the behavior of the Republicans, Democrats and Progressives in the 1911 election, although he might had voted Progressive if T. Roosevelt had stayed out.
36 1915 Mar. 8 wrote “Definitely  settled that we have retired”; decided to buy a touring car to offer livery service; noted that Lucia was in landscape school in Urbana, IL; Frances at Smith; Elizabeth working at camp during the summer and at Standish Manor School in Halifax, MA in the fall; Nov. 2 “voted straight Republican.”
37 1916 Feb. 5 wrote he accepted position of Forest Warden after for years away from it; offered post of Moth Superintendent but declined because he did not thing moths could be controlled by mechanical means; June 8 gave reason for leaving the DRHS.
38 1917 Jan. 18 considered selling house because it had become too expensive and because Duxbury was changing into wealthier, more fashionable resort-like community, with Yacht Club leading the way; Feb. 19 noted jump in prices of sugar and other items due to speculation; May 16 received letter rejecting his offer to join the Naval Reserve; references to war.
39 1918 Mar. 25 entry recorded his resignation at Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, new chair is Mrs. Paul Peterson; Aug 27 accepted invitation to teach freshman mat at Harvard as a war substitute; Nov. 11 glad war is over but fears social troubles to come.
40 1919 Jan. 27 – Feb. 17 long entry on his teaching experience at Harvard.
41 1920 Weather reports; household matters; ailments; worked occasionally as a surveyor.
42 1921 Same as above.
43 1922 Weather reports; domestic concerns; reports of fire-fighting projects and building projects with Fred Merry.
44 1923 Continued the same pattern as above.
45 1924 More of the same.
46 1925 Feb. 28 recorded earthquake; family activities; housekeeping matters; repairs, etc.; built lighthouse at end of Powder Point; served as secretary of Forest Wardens of the South Shore.
47 1926 Weather reports; family matters; care of house and other real estate.
48 1927 Continued as above; long section on King Caesar wharf in Memoranda section.
49 1928 Weather reports; domestic matters; notes on Plymouth Forestry Commission meetings.
50 1929 Continued as above; noted “dead” real estate market.
51 1930 April 25 sister, Sarah Perkins Knapp had died in Walpole, NH in the old Knapp house; Dec. 29 daughter Frances married Carl Gustave Werner, lawyer of Cincinnati.
52 1931 Weather reports; domestic concerns; care of real property.
53 1932 Feb. and March entries record his temperature, respiration, other medical information; last entry on March. 30.

BOX   3          Series II           Notes, Letters and Ephemera from FBK Diaries (1875-1932)

 Folder 1 (1875)

  1. Calligraphy samples
  2. Dance card
  3. Letter to mother, Feb. 5, 1878
  4. Time/temperature charts

 Folder 2 (1876)

  1. Arithmetic scribbles
  2. Calling cards
  3. Clipping on New England kitchen
  4. Dance cards
  5. Homework
  6. Letter from J.F.F. Brewster, Aug. 10, 1876

Folder 3 (1878)  Letter to mother, Feb. 5, 1878

Folder 4 (1882)  Clippings: “The Field of Politics” and an editorial “The Reformers Circle”, Boston Daily Advertiser, Sept. 11, 1882.

Folder 5 (1883)   3 pages of expenses

Folder 6 (1884)

  1. Letter from Fanny Powers
  2. Photograph of Fanny Powers

Folder 7 (1885)

  1. Household accounts
  2. Note from FBK to George A. Sawyer, Sept. 1894

Folder 8 (1886)  Calling cards (2)

Folder 9 (1887)  Household accounts

Folder 10 (1889)  Dental chart

Folder 11 (1897)  Pamphlet, “The Lord will provide”

Folder 12 (1900)  Pre-operation instructions

Folder 13 (1910)

  1. Address of Otto Hasse
  2. Stamps from the Netherlands (8)
  3. Ticket stub for grandstand chair

Folder 14 (1911)  Warranty for fountain pen

Folder 15 (1916)  Picture of a tree

Folder 16 (1932)

  1. 3 Datebook sheets dated 1/1/21 to 1/16/32
  2. Prescription for nasal cream from N. K. Noyes, MD

Folder 17  Obituaries of Frederick B. Knapp compiled by Elizabeth Knapp

Folder 18  (1932)  F. B. Knapp Memorial, 29 pp.

BOX 3      Series IV          Photographs and Albums

  1. Photograph album, black, of Powder Point School for Boys, c. 1900
  2. Mr. Patten, carte de visite
  3. Unknown man, carte de visite
  4. Mrs. Baxter, carte de visite
  5. Mr. Baxter, carte de visite
  6. Mrs. Dall, carte de visite
  7. William Dall, carte de visite
  8. Bellows house, Walpole, NH, 1948
  9. Boulder dedicated to Frederick Bradford Knapp, 1934
  10. Drawings of the Knapp House, Bradford House and Bellows House all in Walpole, NH
  11. Two albums of photographs of the Knapp House, Walpole, NH
  12. Article on Walpole, NH from Yankee Magazine

BOX 3     Series V           Ephemera

Folder 1           Eric Forestry School, c. 1910

Folder 2           Mr. Knapp’s School for Boys in Plymouth, c. 1900

Folder 3           Powder Point School for Boys, c. 1900

Folder 4           Copy of Powderhorn, 1911

Folder 5           Newspaper clippings, 1960’s

Folder 6           Notes on King Caesar House, n.d.

BOX 3            Series VI          Correspondence

  1. L. B. Reed to Miss Knapp, May 4, 1952
  2. Elizabeth Knapp to Penny Dumke, June 11, 1952
  3. Christmas card from Rosemary, n.d.

5 thoughts on “Knapp, Frederick Bradford

  1. Hello,

    Great information here about a New England personality. I have just posted a real photo postcard of the Knapp House in Walpole, New hampshire, which may interest you. I so, you can find it under the store name “Icnicpostcard”. Best wishes,

    Stephen F

  2. I have the book, Shakespears Works, which is autographed by members of the class of 1888 and given to Joseph Kingan. Does anybody have more information about this teacher?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s