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Sprague Family Papers

Identifier: MA.00248

Scope and Contents

The Sprague Family Papers consist of 11.25 linear feet of material documenting the lives and activities of Atherton Hall Sprague (AC 1920), Marion Whittemore Sprague, and Rosemary Sprague. Much of the material, including photographs, journal entries, correspondence, and poetry, touches upon their relationship to the Amherst community, including other faculty families, and to social organizations such as the Tuesday Club.

Marion and Rosemary both wrote diaries and travel journals, and sometimes shared a journal. Writings from both are included in the collection. Both were members of Amherst's long-running Tuesday Club, a women's literary society. Members of the Tuesday Club choose a topic to focus on for the year, and individual members write papers on the topic, which they present at Tuesday teas at members' houses.

In addition, Rosemary wrote poetry, plays, novels, and short stories. She registered copyright for some of these works, but apparently none were published. These are included in the collection in draft and finished form. The correspondence series includes critiques of her writing by friends of hers, including James I. Merrill and David Jackson.

The three family members called each other by pet names, with Rosemary often referred to as "Bunting" by her father, Atherton referred to as "Lim" by friends and family and signing letters to Rosemary as "Horse" or "H," and Marion signing letters "T.L." or "W." The family had stuffed animals and dolls that traveled with them, including Charles, Tubbins, Mr. Plumpy, Julia, and Benjy. They were lifelong dog owners. Some letters, journal entries, and other writings were written either to the dogs and stuffed animals or in the "voices" of the same. In particular, letters from Marion to Rosemary are often addressed to Charles.

Atherton, Marion, and Rosemary were longtime friends of poet James I. Merrill (AC 1947) and his partner, David Jackson. Marion and Rosemary apparently met Merrill through their involvement with Kirby Theater when he was a student at Amherst College. The collection includes letters addressed to Marion and Rosemary from Merrill, Jackson, Merrill's mother, Hellen Ingram Merrill Plummer, and Merrill's step-sister, Beatrice "Betty" Plummer Potts. In addition, the collection includes several photographs of Rosemary with Merrill and Jackson.

Rosemary Sprague attended high school at the Northampton School for Girls, which formally merged with the Williston Academy in 1971 to become the Williston Northampton School. The collection includes photographs of Rosemary with Northampton School classmates, as well as school memorabilia and promotional material for the school.

Also included are a large number of photographs, including portraits of Atherton, Marion, and Rosemary throughout their lifetimes, family snapshots, and disbound photo albums.

The Sprague family lived in at least two faculty houses, 227 South Pleasant Street, and 100 College Street (since torn down), both in Amherst. 227 South Pleasant Street, also called the Fisher House, was also Calvin Coolidge's home during his freshman and sophomore years at Amherst. In a letter to Marion Sprague, James Merrill called 227 South Pleasant Street his "first home away from home." Many photographs of both properties can be found in the collection.

Rosemary was also apparently a hockey fan. The collection includes publicity photographs for Springfield, Mass. hockey teams, as well as correspondence from hockey players and hockey leagues.

The collection also includes genealogical material for the Sprague and Whittemore families, including family trees, research about family members conducted by several different parties, and the typed memoir of one of Atherton Hall Sprague's grandmothers, from 1906.


  • Creation: 1890-2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1920-2005


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Sprague Family Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items are restricted for preservation purposes. This collection is housed in off-site storage and requires advance notice before use. Please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Sprague Family 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

Atherton Hall Sprague (AC 1920) (1897-1986) was born in Amherst, and served in the U.S. Army during World War I before receiving a Bachelor's degree from Amherst College in 1920. He later received a Master's in 1923 and a Ph.D. in 1941, both from Princeton University. He served as a professor of mathematics at Amherst College from 1920 until his retirement in 1966, and authored three mathematics textbooks: Essentials of plane trigonometry and analytic geometry (1934); Essentials of plane and spherical trigonometry (1942); and Calculus (1952). He also coached the Amherst College tennis team. Following his retirement, he served as a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke and Hollins Colleges. After his retirement, he and his wife Marion moved to Penobscot, ME, where he lived until his death.

Marion Whittemore Sprague (1900-1990), better known as Mary Ann, was born and raised in Newport, New Hampshire, and graduated from Smith College in 1922. She was involved in Amherst social and literary life, including the Ladies of Amherst College organization and the Tuesday Club. She was a frequent contributor to the Smith Alumnae Quarterly. She and her daughter Rosemary were both involved with Amherst College's Kirby Theater, where Marion may have helped with making costumes. She and her husband, Atherton, moved to Maine after his retirement from Amherst College, and she passed away at a nursing home in Penobscot, ME, in 1990.

Rosemary Sprague (1926-2005) was the only child of Atherton Hall Sprague and Mary Ann Whittemore Sprague. Like her mother, she was a graduate of Smith College (1949). She worked for a time at the Mead Art Museum. She contracted tuberculosis as a young woman and spent a year, from 1951-1952, at the Trudeau Sanatorium in Saranac Lake, NY. Later in the 1950s she lived in Boston and worked in a laboratory. She graduated from Western New England College of Law in 1969, was admitted to the bar in 1970, and practiced law in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts until her retirement in 1981. She wrote several unpublished novels and plays. She traveled extensively, including yearly research trips to Oxford, England, where she apparently studied hieroglyphics at Oxford's Bodleian Library.


11.25 Linear feet (7 record storage boxes, 2 archives boxes, 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials



The Sprague Family Papers include the papers of Rosemary Sprague, an Amherst-area attorney; her father, Atherton Hall Sprague (AC 1920), an Amherst College professor of mathematics; and her mother, Marion Whittemore Sprague. The collection includes correspondence, diaries and travel journals, unpublished poetry, plays, and novels, Sprague family genealogical material, and photographs. Notable among the correspondence are letters that Rosemary Sprague received from her friend, the poet James Merrill.


This collection is organized into six series:

  1. Series 1: Correspondence [1904-2005]
  2. Series 2: Rosemary Sprague's Writings [1936-2004]
  3. Series 3: Atherton Hall Sprague's Writings [1941-1942]
  4. Series 4: Marion Whittemore Sprague's Writings [circa 1930-1966]
  5. Series 5: Subject Files [1897-2004]
  6. Series 6: Photographs [circa 1890-2005]

Genre / Form



Claire Lobdell, Merrill Project Archivist
Language of description
Script of description

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