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Sidney Brooks (AC 1841) Papers

Identifier: MA.00329

Scope and Contents

This collection contains thirty-three letters and draft letters written by Sidney Brooks and two received by him, dated 1835 to 1864, nearly 100 prose drafts and essays, and a detailed ledger of expenses for his years at Amherst, 1837 to 1841. Correspondents include his father Obed Brooks, his brothers Henry Cobb Brooks and Obed Brooks, Jr., his sisters Sarah Godfrey Brooks, Harriett Newell, and Tamesin Brooks, and his wife Susan.

Correspondence with his family touches on several topics of interest in the early life of the College, including Fourth of July celebrations, cane traditions, and the aforementioned speaking exercises. Two later letters sent to Brooks by Amherst College students Samuel F. Miller (AC 1848) and J. M. Manning (AC 1851) in 1846 and 1848, respectively, suggest some ongoing involvement with the College after graduation. A series of letters written to his wife Susan and his sisters in 1864 chronicle Brooks' visit to a military hospital with the Christian Commission and his encounters with Abraham Lincoln.

The prose writing includes texts for orations and debates, and coursework from throughout Brooks' undergraduate years. The earliest pieces were written for a lecture to the Porter Rhetorical Society of the Theological Seminary at Andover, and are dated 1834 and 1835. Most pieces are drafts of speeches given at the weekly speaking exercises for students, which Brooks describes in his letter to his brother Obed of November 29, 1837. Essays may also have been composed for meetings of the Athenian Society; Brooks' essay recounting a meeting of that Society is light-hearted, and has the air of a short story.

Coursework subjects include astronomy, rhetoric, classics and theology. Many of the rhetoric pieces are based on Newman's A practical system of rhetoric, one of the sophomore textbooks. The coursework also includes two translations: from Hebrew, chapter 27 of Genesis, and from Greek, book 1, lines 180-200 of Homer's Odyssey.

Brooks’ account ledger provides a detailed financial record of his expenses for tuition, room and board, books, social activities, and personal expenses during his four years at Amherst College. Items of interest include his membership in several student societies and their associated fees, as well as costs of necessities, like wood for heat, textbooks, and travel costs across Massachusetts.


  • Creation: 1834-1864


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the papers for research use. Particularly fragile items are restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the 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

Sidney Brooks was born in Harwich on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1813 to Obed Brooks and Sally Weekes. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover before attending Amherst College from 1837 to 1841. After graduating at the age of 28, Brooks taught at Chatham Academy for three years. He founded Pine Grove Seminary, a classical and nautical secondary school, in Harwich in 1844 and served as its principal for 20 years. In 1859, he married Susan S. Whittaker of Cornish, New Hampshire. During the Civil War, Brooks visited battlefields and military hospitals as a delegate of the United States Christian Commission, a group providing supplies and religious services to Union soldiers. From 1866 to 1872, he taught for the Massachusetts Nautical School, part of the State Reform School, aboard the ship George M Barnard. In 1869, the Pine Grove building was sold to the town of Harwich and later became Harwich High School. It is now the site of the Brooks Academy Museum and Harwich Historical Society. In 1872, Brooks became the US Deputy Shipping Commissioner in Boston, where he died in 1887.


0.5 Linear feet (1 archives box)

Language of Materials



Sidney Brooks of Harwich, Mass. attended Phillips Academy in Andover before attending Amherst College from 1837 to 1841. His papers include thirty-five letters, a ledger of his expenses, and writings from his school days.


The collection is arranged into three series:

  1. Series 1: Correspondence, 1835-1864
  2. Series 2: Writing, 1834, 1837, undated
  3. Series 3: Finances, 1837-1841

Series 1 and 2 are further arranged by sub-series. Series 1 is split into Outgoing and Incoming Correspondence, and Series 2 is divided into Essays and Coursework.

Related Materials

Amherst College Clubs and Societies Collection. Sidney Brooks was secretary for the Anti-Slavery Society. See the 1837-1841 minute book (Box 1, Folder 20) in Series 1: Miscellaneous Organizations. Sidney Brooks was also a member of the Athenian Society. See Series 7: Athenian Society I for more about the activities and life of the organization.

Processing Information

Processed 2016 November by Leah Early; assessment and Series 2 rearrangement in 2017 August by Jennifer Bolmarcich. 2018 February: addition of material separated in error circa 1992, and copy-editing of the Scope and Content note.


Leah Early, and Jennifer Bolmarcich, Bicentennial Archivist
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition 2016. Revised 2018 after collection rearrangement.

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