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George D. Pratt (AC 1893) Papers

Identifier: MA.00231

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of incoming correspondence dating chiefly from George D. Pratt's undergraduate years and some years after. Correspondents include Amherst College physician and professor of physical education and hygiene Edward "Old Doc" Hitchcock (regarding Mr. Pratt's donation of the college infirmary, circa 1896-1898), Helen "Nellie" Sherman (his future wife), his mother Mary Helen (nee Richardson), his sister Helen (who married Ernest Dane in 1903), and his brothers Harry (i.e. Harold, AC 1900), John (AC 1896), Bert (i.e., Herbert, AC 1895), and Fred (AC 1887), writing from college. The collection also includes a small leather booklet given to Pratt by his father for Christmas in 1882, intended as a ledger for his personal finances, and one volume of Pratt's diary at the time of a family trip out West in 1886. One family photographic portrait and an oversize photograph album showing family mountain vacations and other travels, as well as Harvard ROTC military training exercises in the summer of 1918, are included as well. Finally, there is a single issue of the magazine Survey Graphic, February 1923, featuring an article on Helen Sherman Pratt.


  • Creation: 1880-1935
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1885-1897


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the George D. Pratt Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items are restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the George D. Pratt Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

George Dupont Pratt (1869 August 6-1935 January 20), industrialist and conservationist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Charles Pratt and Mary Helen Richardson. His father, a prominent philanthropist, officer, and director of the Standard Oil firm, founded the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. George Pratt graduated with an A.B. from Amherst College, where he excelled as an athlete, in 1893. In 1895 he entered the employ of the Long Island Railroad Company as a shop hand and over the next five years rose to the position of assistant to the president and supervisor of the company's ferries. In 1897 Pratt married Helen Deming Sherman, daughter of Brooklyn Cotton merchant John Taylor Sherman. They had five children, one of whom died young. After 1900 Pratt served as treasurer of the Chelsea Fiber Mills and treasurer and vice president of the Charles Pratt and Co. financial firm, which managed his father's estate. Pratt's passion for athletics was carried into his activities with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). He probably first became active in his student days at Amherst, and he served many years as chairman of the physical department of its International Committee. He was prominent in the formation of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in 1910, serving as treasurer of that organization's executive board until 1934.

As a lover of the outdoors, Pratt made his work in the field of conservation a priority. As New York state conservation commissioner from 1915 to 1921, he launched a comprehensive program to prevent wanton destruction of timber, fish, and game. His efforts resulted in a $7.5 million appropriation, secured after a state referendum in 1916, to add some 400,000 acres of land in the Adirondeck and Catskill mountain regions to the state's forest reserves. Pratt oversaw the construction of over fifty steel lookout towers to help guard against forest fires, and during his administration the annual fire loss was reduced to less than $5,000 (by 1921). To further encourage public use, he built camping cabins and published bulletins indicating canoe routes, hiking trails, and roads for motorists. Under his leadership the commission restocked lakes and streams throughout the state, started fish and game clubs in areas where existing game laws had been violated, and initiated the cultivation of oysters. Believing that visual representation was more effective than mere words, Pratt produced and distributed motion pictures of the commission's activities, including a demonstration of fire-fighting techniques. His development and enlargement of Saratoga Springs as a year-round public resort is particularly notable.

In 1924, a year after his wife's death, Pratt was elected president of the American Forestry Association and was reelected annually until failing health forced his retirement ten years later. During his administration, that organization increased its membership and broadened its sphere of activity and influence, particularly in education and legislative lobbying. At his own expense Pratt provided several hundred association medals to be awarded annually to children throughout the United States in recognition of outstanding conservation work. His offer to donate $100,000 for an endowment fund, provided the membership could raise an equal amount, met with an overwhelming response. By the time Pratt retired, the fund had reached $265,000.

After three years as a widower, Pratt met Vera Hale, daughter of William Amherst Hale, a banker of Sherbrooke, in the Canadian province of Quebec. The couple was married at her hometown in 1926; they had no children.

Pratt served as a trustee of his alma mater, Amherst College. He was also a vice president and trustee of Pratt Institute, founder of the Society of Medalists, and a member of the New York Zoological Society, Alpha Delta Phi, the Camp Fire Club of America, and the Boone & Crockett Club as well as the University, Century, Recess (New York), and Piping Rock yacht clubs. A discriminating patron of the arts and an enthusiastic hunter, Pratt presented several trophies and souvenirs from his travels in the Orient to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, both of which he also served as a trustee. In his will, he stipulated that 5 percent of his estate would be divided among various educational and charitable institutions.

During his later years, Pratt had two country homes, one in New Brunswick and the other in Glen Cove, Long Island, in addition to his Park Avenue townhouse in downtown Manhattan. In increasingly poor health during his last months, Pratt died at "Killenworth," his estate in Glen Cove. He was interred in the family mausoleum in Brooklyn.

[Source: H. Allen Anderson. "Pratt, George Dupont";; American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000. Access Date: Fri Nov 04 2011 11:52:52 GMT-0400]


6.5 Linear feet (5 records storage boxes, 2 archives boxes, 1 oversize flat box)

Language of Materials



George D. Pratt was an industrialist, conservationist, and trustee and benefactor of Amherst College. These papers consist chiefly of incoming correspondence, mostly during his undergraduate years and after, as well as a photograph album of family travels and vacations, a diary from 1886 and a small amount of other material.


This collection is organized into two series:

  1. Series 1: Correspondence, 1880-1837
  2. Series 2: Photographs and Other Materials, 1880-1925

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ms. Deming Pratt Holleran, 2011 [#2011.062]. Motion picture film and photographic negatives were gift of Evelyne H. Ryan, 2019 [#2019-072].

Related Materials

Alumni Biographical Files -- 1893 -- Pratt, George D.

Processing Information

Processed 2011 Nov by Peter A. Nelson, Archivist. Revised in 2016 by Rosemary Frehe (AC 2017). Motion picture film and photographic negatives added to the collection in 2023 by Mariah Leavitt.

Peter A. Nelson, Archivist; Rosemary Frehe (AC 2017).
2012, 2016
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2016; Rosemary Frehe (AC 2017): Correspondence foldered, organized and listed

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299