Wendell Tripp, November 18, 2014

Title

Wendell Tripp, November 18, 2014

Subject

NYSHA
New York History
Cooperstown
Local History

Description

Dr. Wendell Tripp is the former director of publications at the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) Library in Cooperstown, New York. Dr. Tripp worked at NYSHA from 1964 until 2000. During his time there he was in charge of editing and writing different articles in a quarterly journal called New York History. During his many years at NYSHA he researched a variety of subjects, including the inception and move of the New York State Historical Association and the profound changes that the New York State Historical Association went through over both his years there and the years preceding his arrival. During his time at NYSHA, Dr. Wendell Tripp taught classes as an adjunct professor at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, also located in Cooperstown, New York.
During our interview Dr. Tripp recollects many important women who dedicated their time and effort to preserving the history of New York State, who during the mid to late 1960’s would have had the title of secretary, and have gone unappreciated by many others. As Dr. Tripp pointed out in this interview, which he had learned from side research on cinema history, oral histories can help an audience understand the interviewee more through his words and mannerisms that cannot simply come from a transcript.

Creator

Olivia Khristan

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York - College at Oneonta

Date

2015-05-13

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.8 mB
audio/mpeg
28.8 mB
audio/mpeg
2.8 mB
image/jpeg
373 kB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Coverage

1960-2014
Upstate New York

Interviewer

Olivia Khristan

Interviewee

Wendell Tripp

Location

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Cooperstown, New York

Transcription

OK=Olivia Khristan
WT=Wendell Tripp

OK:
This is Olivia Khristan interviewing Wendell Tripp at Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, New York on Tuesday, November 18 2014, for the Cooperstown Graduate Program Oral History Project which is part of the Research and Fieldwork course. How would you describe your early years working at NYSHA?
WT:
How would I describe my early years? Well, very hectic. I had been teaching three years of high school, six years at the college level, and was interested in writing, and had published an article in New York History before, so I knew about the Journal, though I did not know about the association. I would look at the journal in the library. I did not teach New York history, I taught various subjects at Hobart and Smith and in high school. I had to immediately begin learning the process of publication, that is of actually printing. In those days our articles were set in linotype, that’s hot metal. Then it could be printed by letter press, or as it was then, we did have it printed by offset. So the magazine, the articles, were set in type in Cooperstown at the then Freeman’s Journal and then published, that is printed in Deposit at an organization called Valley Offset. Later changes took place at the Freeman’s Journal and we then had the type’s set in Deposit at the currier and still printed in deposit, however the main problem was learning that entire process of laying out a journal, and I learned a great deal, but I didn’t learn it the first month. It took a number of issues, eight, twelve or so, to realize how. To do layout and design and so forth. I had no help with that. I just learned on my own. I realized that as far as design was concerned it’s perfectly legitimate to steal design ideas because you cannot copyright a design. You can copyright a title. You can’t have a magazine with a photo with a red triangle that says “Life Magazine” on it you can’t do that, but you can have a magazine with a photograph and a red rectangle on it, so I learned a lot that way.
Plus the fact that then getting book reviews, and reviewing books myself, and so on and so forth was very hectic, and it still would be. So that was it, learning that process, plus the fact that I was also assigned to write a history of the church at The Farmers’ Museum which had just been acquired in the recent past and was to be dedicated in July. So I had to go over to Cornwallville, New York, where the church came from and talk to people there and look at church records and so on and so forth. It was also more hectic because in those years the historical association used to present a program called “Seminars on American Culture” that lasted for two weeks, and there was a series in progress on the history of New York State. I was asked to teach in it that year. So I look back and I think, “Good God, hectic!”
So between February when I arrived in 1964, and September of 1964 I had produced four issues in New York History. The October issue was all done by the end of September, researched and wrote about the history of the church at the Farmers’ Museum, and had taught in seminars, and also was still living. I had a wife and family and so forth. At any rate, that in too many words, describes my arrival. It did not lessen as time went on.
The production of a magazine, when you do write some of the articles, but edit all the articles, do numbers of book reviews, we did a section called books in brief, and acquire book reviewers, that’s very time consuming. But I did have help, that is, for a long time. At the beginning, no it was just me and a part-time secretary, and I say part-time because the woman who was then the secretary, which amounted to someone who took dictation, typed letters and did proofreading and so forth, I shared her with the public relations department. That’s the only way I could put it is that it was sharing. The library was built in 1969. When we moved to the library, well, she became entirely the publication’s secretary, and through the years there were several. She retired and then there was another secretary, Deb Taylor, and after Deb left for another job there was Ann Bland, and they were all extremely helpful in fact, one of my first things I had to do was write a history of the church at The Farmers’ Museum, but I also wrote a history of New York History, of the journal. Mary Bliss, who was then the secretary, I got box after box of the NYSHA archives, which then were pretty well organized, I don’t know what they’re like now. I said I just want you to go through and find material related to the history of the magazine, which she did, that saved me a lot of time, because I was doing other things. She also found additional material and my big regret, which I regretted not long after, was that I didn’t mention her. You know, I published the article with my name as the author, but I didn’t even mention her in a footnote. Did I deliberately do that? No. I was not being selfish, I was being careless and sloppy. I should have acknowledged her help. After that I did acknowledge help of all the people who were involved. In fact, I just noticed this, in the cumulative New York History, I always put the person who helped compile it, I put myself because I did a lot of work, but they also did a lot, and I mention that.
After that I made an effort because I did come to recognize that back then in the 1960’s and certainly before that the role of women in society while extremely important, as far as the, I guess you can say, the practical, workday role of women it was somehow, I don’t know if the term is subservient, but that was true in general and it was certainly true at the New York State Historical Association. I was impressed by this because during World War II, Clifford Lord was named director, but then he was in the Navy or something like that, and the place which had been run by men, and a variety of people, Julian Boyd, Clifford Lord, and Ed Alexander and so forth, but on the staff were two women, Mary Cunningham who was responsible for the library at first when the association first moved here, and Janet McFarland who was a curator. Clifford Lord left and they had the title of temporary director, or whatever it was and so forth, but in looking through material I realized how much they had done. Janet McFarland, I don’t know if it still exists, but it was in the curatorial file, had laid out the entire plan of the Farmers’ Museum in general and building by building by building, she did it all. It was all there. Mary Cunningham was the librarian; she edited New York History, and she also was the founder of the Yorker’s Program, which was a program for high school juniors and younger people in schools throughout New York State, and at one time there were approximately three hundred Yorker Clubs in high schools throughout the state, and twenty-eight hundred, three thousand Yorkers and after I came here, I did go to a couple Yorker conventions, and it was very impressive. Well, Mary Cunningham started that program and they maintained it. And she also trained a woman named Margaret Masensick, who of course gets no credit for anything, to maintain it after she left, and Margaret did. Also the education department secretary was Vivian Olsen; Mary Cunningham had trained her, and she continued. Mary Cunningham went on to a distinguished career elsewhere, but she was a woman. Well a woman can’t do things, right? [Laughs] Not in a man’s world. But they had in fact. I was sort of amused by this, I found in the Dixon Ryan Fox correspondence in the NYSHA library a letter from Mr. Clark, Stephen Clark Sr., to Dixon Ryan Fox in which he mentioned, among other things, that we cannot expect these young women to lead this organization. The war has ended; we can’t expect these young women to lead this organization, so they began looking for, well, a man. And I thought it interesting. This doesn’t mean that Mr. Clark was callous and cruel, or that Dr. Fox was. No. It doesn’t mean that at all. That’s the way that it was at the time. But the result is that a lot of the people who did a lot in the history of the organization are not known. Well at any rate, I’m not saying I’m a saint who thought much about women’s rights, I didn’t think much about it at all. I just realized that these women were very capable. And with New York History they continued to be, and there were other people who were helpful. Marian Brophy was the manuscript librarian. She did not have a library background; she was just bright and very interested in the subject. She also helped with publications and so forth.
Now I’ve gotten off on my attention to a generalization, but whenever I think about those early years I think about these people who had the title secretary or something like this. But they were not simply stenographers, they were very effective. Some of them did go on as the cultural situation changed to hold distinguished positions in other places. Well at any rate. That’s a long winded answer to your question. Do you have any others? [Laughter]
OK:
What is a fond memory you have of working at NYSHA?
WT:
The fond memory?

OK:
A fond memory.
WT:
Well I don’t know that I have a terribly fond memory. I was always happy when a task was completed. You know because I didn’t just edit New York History, I had to do other things as well. And New York History, editing that was really a full time job. So I did not work eight hour days by any means, but I think fond memories are of completing a project, whenever it was finished. I would thank goodness. I’d just go onto the next thing. Let’s see. No, I don’t have any outstanding memories, just the completion of tasks or something of that nature.
OK:
How do you think NYSHA has changed since your early years at the institution?
WT:
It’s not only my early years that NYSHA has changed a great deal. Because of the coming of the [Cooperstown] graduate program, this was, I think, one of the two most profound changes in the association’s history. The other profound change was the move from Ticonderoga to Cooperstown. I didn’t have a fond moment, but one of the activities that I found very enjoyable was researching the history of the historical association because I did write an article about the history of New York History, the magazine. I gave talks about the history of the association, but the change has been profound because the association has changed, and this is not pejorative, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it is a fact, that the association has changed from a historical society to an art to a museum complex: Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum. The journal now is published at SUNY Oneonta, which is fine, I’m not saying these things are bad, but they are facts. And the library remains as a historical library, dealing with historic materials, but if it didn’t exist it certainly wouldn’t be created today. It is a relic in a sense. And while for the graduate program one of the requirements for the degree is a thesis, and this often involves traditional historical research where you examine sources of various kinds and you produce a 25, 30, 40 page thesis an analysis and commentary on the topic. That goes on, but what I find extremely interesting is because of the research I’ve done at various times on the history of the association, it began in late 1899. Because of the interest of a few people in, well one was the Revolutionary War, and probably more so what we would call the French and Indian War. There was a great interest in that, and when it was founded it was going to deal with the history of those counties that border on Lake Champlain, and that was their interest. Immediately they began, papers are up here in the early precedings, rather distinguished historians, but a lot of, I guess you can say amateur historians, but many professional, a lot of big names published. At that time the association had an annual meeting in various places around the state, and then, well, two I would say, of the most significant things are. In 1919 they met in New York City and one of the people involved was a man named Dixon Ryan Fox who was a professor of history at Columbia University, and he became involved. He had a profound effect in the following decade or two or two and a half [decades] on the New York State Historical Association. The other was in 1926 a rather wealthy, at the time, native of Ticonderoga, New York named Horace Moses offered to build and endow a headquarters house for the historical association, which didn’t have a headquarters. They had met in the Lake George area always, because that’s where their officers were, but their annual meeting was throughout the state. So in 1926 Horace Moses paid for construction of the house was an exact model, because they had the original plans, of the John Hancock house in Boston, which had been destroyed. He also a $100,000 endowment for the house. And in 1926 $100,000 dollars, well you could certainly multiply it by ten times it’d be a million plus endowment in today’s terms. I found that extremely interesting and also the interest of the association. Their interest in all aspects of history, and the magazine was established in 1920 with the title “The Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association” and this Dixon Ryan Fox who became involved in 1919, he then became president of the association, which is not the same as the president now. It’s like Chair of the Board and president and the person in charge of local activities was the director, but at any rate he said change it because it was too cumbersome, and he suggested New York History. But the interest of the association, because they’re located in Ticonderoga. Is this about to run out?
OK:
[No]
WT:
Is there any time limit on this [recorder]?
OK:
Not really.
WT:
I’m just relating things that I found interesting about the association and it was that their interest, a man of very great importance was on their board of trustees was a man named Fred Richards who was around when it was founded and then he was the treasurer and other things and helped out at the magazine and so forth. He was very much interested in what we call the French and Indian War and the role especially of the Black Watch. The Scottish Regiment. I forget whether it was the fiftieth of fortieth regiment, whatever it is the number doesn’t matter. It was called the Black Watch from, of course, Scotland. He wrote a history called the Black Watch at Ticonderoga because they took part when the fort was captured from the French. The Black Watch played an important part as is indicated by the number of them killed. So if you’re a soldier if you play an important part in something you’re probably killed or maimed. So that was the case.
One of the people involved was a man named Duncan Campbell from Inverawe, Scotland, and there was an article about him from I think the 1920’s in New York History which tells Duncan Campbell had a dream that someday he was going to meet his fate at someplace called Ticonderoga. He didn’t know what the hell that meant; he had never heard of Ticonderoga. But Black Watch, his regiment, was sent there and they assaulted the fort held by the French, and he was killed and buried near the fort in 1757-58 over something like that. Because of this interest, and I even jotted it down as I was looking at some stuff today. In 1920 they moved the body of Duncan Campbell of Inverness and the New York History it was then called the Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association, and there was a description here somewhere among my notes. And this is from the proceedings from 1920: and it’s May 31, 1920, “The remains of Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe were re-interred, removed from where they were buried originally near Fort Edward and there is a description of this. The line of march formed at the Gilchrest lot upon the arrival of the Memorial Day parade from Hudson Falls and was as follows. Marshall Dickinson on horseback. The guard of honor composed of sons of veterans in uniform. The piper William G. Monroe, late pipemaker of a Canadians highland regiment. The casket contained the bones of Campbell of Inverawe and shrouded in the Union Jack and Stars and Stripes, and reverently born by Dr. Sherman Williams, ex-president of New York State Historical Association, Fred McNaughton, President of the St. Andrews Society of Scots of Glens Falls, New York. Captain Lawrence C. Baker of the New York State Association and Spanish War Veterans, and Frederick B. Richards recording secretary and treasurer of New York State Historical Association. A large Scotch Flag worn by members of the St. Andrews Society, that was next in the procession. Members of the New York State Historical Association and St. Andrews Society they were marching in this procession. The two, NYSHA and St. Andrews Society, were the two societies under whose auspices the removal and re-interment was carried out. Then, it’s not finished yet, in the procession was the band of the Union bag and paper company of Ticonderoga I think, and veterans of the Civil, Spanish American, and World Wars. The March to the Jane McCray enclosure was made to the wail of the bagpipe. At the new grave the band played an appropriate selection. The Reverend C.F. Clutter of Argyle, a Scots Presbyterian, reproduced as near as possible the old Scottish burial service of the 18th century. The sons of veterans fired three volleys over the grave. The bugler sounded Taps. Captain Hiram Hyde said, “Taps has sounded. The lights are out. The soldier sleeps.” The Reverend Clutter pronounced the benediction and Duncan of Inverawe, who had been much disturbed both above and beneath the sod, was once again been committed to mother earth.” And well that, I jotted that down many years ago because it seemed to me that this, it doesn’t symbolize in a sense, but it is one aspect of the New York State Historical Association in those days. Of course then it was a profound change when it moved to Cooperstown. And that well, it was the work of two men: Dixon Ryan Fox who had been president for a number of years and Stephen Clark Sr. And you know of course Stephen Clark Sr. was a man of great means and a man. His family as I think everyone knows, the original founder and original wealth of the family was related to the Singer Sewing Machine Company, but Stephen Clark Sr. was also a very capable steward of the family means, and an investor and so on and so forth a very wise man who even if he had been born without any of those resources would have done very well in various ways. He is also known of course for his art, his private art collection, and his work at various museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He became a member of the New York State Historical Association in 1932 and Dixon Ryan Fox, who in 1934, became president of Union College over in Schenectady.
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
WT:
I was always interested in finding resources. As you know, probably, a historical society, any historical society, and any museum has one main problem: resources, monetary resources. Of course if your museum is located in a populated area and attracts a lot of people, I mean it’ll never attract as many people as the average National Football League game. Like a college there is constant press for resources, and in 1938, Dixon Ryan Fox made an appointment and went to visit Mr. Clark and said he was interested in establishing a chair of art, or art history, at Union College. Mr. Clark said, “I’m not interested in art,” which is a ridiculous statement. I mean, he said, I’m not interested in art but I’m interested in New York State Historical Association and its museum in Ticonderoga and I have thought,” and he thought of establishing a James Fenimore Cooper, maybe in Cooper Park in Cooperstown. But he thought he was interested in the New York State Historical Association. He said he knew from reading New York History, the directors pages or financial report, that they were not doing well and he said if the association was interested in, say, moving to Cooperstown, he had a building where they could have their headquarters, that is now called the Village building, 22 Main Street, and well an endowment of sorts. And that was presented. Now of course that caused great tension because Horace Moses had endowed back in 1926 and paid for building, the house and the endowment, but in 1930’s the Depression came and their investments were not doing well at all. Mr. Moses made his money as a, I forget the company, maybe Springfield Paper, as a paper manufacturer. At the time there was two of three paper mills in Ticonderoga. There is still one there and you can tell because of the smell. I’ve been there. At any rate I guess the trustees discussed this and it was not a unanimous, but they decided that they would accept Mr. Clark’s offer, and the association did [move] and this was 1939, somewhere after the 1938 meeting.
The Ticonderoga location, that was called headquarters house, and I don’t remember what they called Cooperstown at that time. Something other quarters, I just don’t remember what they called it. But it was of interest, this move, and it did cause tension. Well and then I became part of the end story of this because that house, the Hancock house in Ticonderoga, what was known as Headquarters house and it had a curator for many years, a woman named Jane Lade who was also involved at Fort Ticonderoga, but she was also the curator of headquarters house. A lot of the materials were kept there; now my involvement came willy-nilly there, as not a handmaiden, but a hand servant. When Peter Welsh was director of the [New York State] Historical Association, which would have been in the early 1970’s, and he and Mr. Clark decided that well, all of that stuff up there. It was a nuisance, having part of the association in Ticonderoga and the main part in Cooperstown and so forth. So I was directed and Sal Cilella who was a graduate of the program and had become Peter Welsh’s assistant, were sent to Ticonderoga, without any warning to them, to tell them that we were taking all of this material and it caused a big fuss and we did. We took moving vans up there and moved all the newspapers and other materials, the furniture out of headquarters house and that kind of thing. Both Sal and I felt very uneasy about this, but it was not ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die. Well Jane Lade was not very happy with us, and I had known her and we had met several times, but I didn’t blame anybody else. I only had to say “Sal and I did not make this decision” etc. But at any rate the stuff did all come down and there was a great big fuss and the stuff, all the newspaper went back, which made sense since we didn’t have any place to keep them here anyway, and the furniture I think went back. But what that did was revived interest in Headquarters house on the part of the local historians at Ticonderoga. The house was taken over by the Ticonderoga Historical Society, which still maintains it. And I did attend the rededication of Headquarters house, in I don’t know, I don’t remember the date, early 1970’s in which one of the NYSHA trustees, Richard Lawrence, who had been a trustee for a number of years. He was Elizabeth town up in that area, in Essex County, I’m not sure of the county it makes no difference. He was from Elizabeth town and he gave the major address at the dedication, or rededication of headquarters house. I remember that because the first thing he said was, speaking to the Ticonderoga Historical Society in this house, which in some sense was a house museum. He said you must remember that museums look in historical societies look out, and that is certainly true. And that is not a pejorative statement. It just means that a museum is a fixed institution and has to encourage people in various ways to come to where they are, but museums also have publications and publications do go out. But historical societies always look out to a great extent. But at any rate, as far as the history of the association that was a major part.
The other [big change] was the coming of the museum program. I don’t know if it would have come earlier, but I can’t remember his name the author of a two volume study of outdoor museum who used the NYSHA archives back in I think it was the 1980’s, and I knew him by name and he was using the archives we would occasionally talk and so forth, and one day he came in with a photocopy of a letter and it was from Stephen Clark Sr. to Dixon Ryan Fox and it said, and I don’t know what stimulated the letter, but it said “We must never have formal courses here because that would interfere with our efforts as a historical society.” And of course they also had the Fenimore house, but that was also an art museum, much smaller than it is now, but he said we do not want formal courses they would interfere with our main programs and so on and so forth. And I mentioned this, not right away, to Fred Rath who was the vice director for many years and he, in effect, took over as director when Louis Jones took charge of the museum program and he said, well that’s very interesting because Lou brought up this idea for a master’s degree program in museum studies in I guess the late 50’s or somewhere in there, and I was very interested and we would talk about it and suddenly he wouldn’t, I would bring it up and I wanted to know more about this program and Lou wouldn’t talk about it. And Mr. Clark Sr. died in 1961 and then it came up again. Could be a coincidence, I don’t know, but those are the facts I know. There’s another that meant little to me at the time.
I had my office then at Fenimore House, we always called it, and I was crowded and sometimes I would work where the table where the staff ate their lunch. I was working out there one day and that was right next to where the controller’s office was at that time. At the time the controller was Tommy Wilkman who had one assistant, and I was there at the table and I saw Tommy standing in the hall for a long time. And I realized finally what he was doing was he was listening to a meeting that was going on, or trying to listen to it, and I don’t remember the preliminary words, but he said they’re talking about this school business or something. He said New York will not like this, he meant the New York office. He said, New York has always been opposed to this kind of thing. [Unclear] When he said New York he meant Mr. Clark. At any rate this is all circumstantial. But I found that very interesting.
WT:
Also well, the move to Cooperstown I mean if it had stayed in Ticonderoga there would have been no question it would have been a much smaller organization because when they moved here it was in 1939 or 40 and then in the early 40’s and I guess [1942] was the key year I think for the creation of The Farmers’ Museum and. And as I said Janet Mc Farlane I’ve seen her work and her handwriting [on] all of the layout of the museum and the structures and commercial activities related to the structures, and other domestic things, all in Janet’s hand. So Mr. Clark’s interest, it brought about The Farmers’ Museum which was of course a basic component of the New York State Historical Association and what was then known as Fenimore House, always Fenimore House. I think it was Gib Vincent when he was director, I think he once said to me it sounds too much like this is a historic house so they changed it to Fenimore Art Museum which is certainly accurate. Just another change that has taken place. Well, all those things are interesting. Well the graduate program and the two museums and the historical society, I mean what is left of that aspect of the program all. Well there’s another aspect of this is the local economy and local interest, and in local government that has been a constant question. So many people said we have the Hall of Fame on Main Street in the middle of Cooperstown, it should be out where the gym or something like that so that these institutions of which the graduate program is a part, and I noticed on the wall off of the main office, that [Cooperstown mayor] Jeff Katz and I guess from the village board, made a proclamation regarding the graduate program, and I just a month or so ago Jeff said to me, I mean he’s the mayor, and he said to me on the street “You know the graduate program does very interesting things. The village isn’t aware of it” And I could have said “Jeff you weren’t aware of it for several years!” and no why should the village be aware of it. It is of course interesting, this program has had a profound effect on itself and on the museum field, I mean there were other small museum programs in existence before that and bigger ones since then, Old Sturbridge Village had a museum program but they fell. And I know because I talked to the director at the time Barnes Frinstneck, and he said that they had discovered after a few years that they had to make a choice. We either had to deal with this graduate program that we were conducting or with Old Sturbridge Village and he said that it was a choice. So they abandoned the program. Here it has continued I don’t remember the educational institution that Sturbridge was cooperating with, but of course the College at Oneonta has been there from the beginning, although from reading a couple documents recently one gets the impression that the idea from the program came from the State University College at Oneonta with the New York State Historical Association helping. No! Not at all. This was Lou Jones’ concept. He developed it. He initiated contact with the college, and I think that the president at the time was Royal Netzer and Netzer agreed, the point being that the New York State Historical Association cannot grant degrees, you have to have cooperation. Okay I’ve gone on and on. There’s one other aspect involved that I’ve found interesting. Nobody else will. No one else will care.
There was this question. Profound change came because Dixon Ryan Fox had a meeting in 1938 with Stephen Clark Sr. and they asked about the move or asked about a chair at Union College and that led to the move to Cooperstown, and yet there was no indication that Fox and Clark had any contact before 1938 and yet then why was Mr. Clark’s membership card in the association and I hope that the people in Fenimore House, the Fenimore Art Museum, have preserved all the membership cards. But his card indicated that he was recommended by Dixon Ryan Fox but they had never met each other before. I wrote an article about something, and I had a footnote mentioning this and I got a copy of a letter that I received soon after that. Oh yes from a woman named Isabel Kelsey, and I knew her. I never met her, but I knew she had written a book dealing with Joseph Grant, and we had reviewed in New York History and so forth, and she wrote me a letter and she said, oh yes, I had written an article of fifty years of New York History the magazine. And she wrote me “Dear Mr. Tripp I can enlighten you on some small details. I went to work for Stephen C. Clark Sr. in the fall of 1932 as a researcher. He proposed to write a life of his ancestor Ambrose Jordan a well-known lawyer and political figure and being a rather shy and reserved person he asked me never to tell,” and she began doing this, “but he asked me never to tell for whom I was working for. I promised I wouldn’t. In the summer of 1933 I asked Mr. Clark if he would permit me to spend part of my time at Columbia working for a Ph.D. in history, he agreed readily. That fall I became a student of Dr. Dixon Ryan Fox, and I soon told him about the extensive research I was doing, but of course not for whom. He asked if my employer was a member of the New York State Historical Association, I did not know. And then he remarked anybody that interested in history certainly ought to belong. He was probably thinking anybody perhaps has enough money to afford to hire researchers, but he said “certainly ought to belong and asked me to take him an application for membership. Mr. Clark read the application card and smiled. He will know who I am he said. Yes I answered, he will. Still smiling a little he signed the card, and I carried it back to Dr. Fox. The rest you know.” And then she said at the end of her letter “That was over 36 years ago, but I have never met and I don’t ever expect to meet two more wonderful persons than Clark and Fox.” And I thought that was a very nice informal statement about Clark and Fox because that’s what I said about oral history.
WT:
You don’t need the oral part of it. I mean you can take this and transcribe it if you wanted to, and that’s that, and get rid of the tapes. As I mentioned I think to you, I know I mentioned it to Will [Walker]. I relatively recently read a biography of Katherine Hepburn, I’m very interested in history of cinema, that’s why I read some stupid books about the movies but at any rate, and this was not a stupid book, it was very well done. But this was by a woman I don’t remember her first name her last name was Leaming, but that doesn’t matter. But she in doing the Hepburn biography used a variety of sources, but one was at a library, a small library out in Indiana where John ford the director, and she had a relationship with John Ford over a number of years, and Leaming went there where John Ford’s grandson had left documents relating to Ford, and also oral history tapes he had had long conversations that he had taped of his grandfather. And what Leaming says in her notes is that the tapes made a great deal of difference. She knew that Hepburn and Ford had this long relationship. It was never physical, but it was a long loving relationship, but he did not want to get a divorce because of his wife Mary Ford who was a vigorous and unpleasant person, and they had a daughter and he was afraid that he would lose the daughter. But Leaming the author of the Hepburn biography said reading the transcripts is one thing, but when you could hear Ford talking. The tone of his voice, and manner, you can see why something you did not really fully comprehend before you could see why he had such an influence on the well, on the industry but on various actors like Henry Fonda and John Wayne, and a number of others, Mitchell, Herbert Mitchell and other strong individual, and Katherine Hepburn who was extremely willful, well that’s over simple. When you heard the tapes, and heard this voice and this manner, suggesting that could make a difference. Well at any rate. Do you have any more questions?
OK:
Yeah. I actually had one last question about your involvement with Cooperstown Graduate Program at its inception, because you had arrived just about the same time to NYSHA at the beginning of the program. What were your opinions on the graduate program?
WT:
Okay first of all, I arrived here February in1964 as I’ve already noted I was extremely busy. I heard talk about a graduate program. I didn’t even think about it more than a second or two I’m sure. The first class arrived in September of 1964. Now I had attended meetings where they had begun talking about the graduate program, and I knew that well, Dr. Jones said a couple of times the graduate program is not to interfere with the ongoing programs of the New York State Historical Association. And I could only go “Ohho” [laughs] that’s a nice thought, but of course it began immediately. The first class there were some very impressive people in that first class. There were some not very impressive because of course the program was just beginning and they really had to look for people to attend, and some people were over the hill etc. But some were really very impressive. At any rate. To me I just didn’t think about it very much. I was not involved except I was asked to give talks now and then and then very soon after that I became an adjunct professor. And that meant, that was just added on and the load, with the class load was half that of the full time people, but I had another job besides. So I taught that for fourteen years, historical editing, which was also was about the use of libraries and blah blah blah, and I was certainly affected that way. And also I remember a then librarian, saying to me, he said that you people, why don’t some of the others get to do this and get that extra money. And I said “What extra money? We didn’t get extra money! We didn’t get paid. We didn’t get paid an extra stipend for teaching, it was just added as a responsibility, and therefore it did affect the programs of the New York State Historical Association. I just began working longer days for one thing, but the curator at The Farmers’ Museum, Per Guldbeck, he was relieved of all responsibly there for teaching his course, I don’t know what it was, but it involved learning how to shoot a musket and throwing boomerangs and things like that. [Unclear] full time. So it did have an effect. Maybe some staff changes in the recent past have made a difference, but I can only say that the changes have come in the recent and through the years rather profound changes. The relationship with the State University, College at Oneonta, SUNY Oneonta has changed. They have occupied, and have come to have a much more influential voice a much stronger voice in the program, it seems to me. I’m looking at it as an outside observer anyway. But also since I’ve been involved with the graduate program right from the beginning, I have on the base of documents I read I can see that as I said before I think SUNY Oneonta and the State University in Albany will take the position that they started the program. Of course we couldn’t have started without them, but it was Louis Jones. Louis C. Jones who initiated this. Now he did have the support of the man who was then president and chairman of the board, Henry Allen Moe, who without his support he could not have done this. I don’t think so at any rate. And they also had some influence in Albany. They had friends there at the museum at the state education department and more important the lieutenant governor had been on the board of trustees for the historical association for a long time. So Louis Jones who was a very capable man and an apparently easy going man. I mean he was a friend to all. He was not a stuffed shirt by any means and he was not, I suppose he was dynamic in any sense.
[START OF TRACK 3,0:00]
WT: He never acted dynamic he was very good man in all ethical senses, except in his regard to women. He shared the same opinion of, I don’t mean he looked down upon women, as we all know real things are done by men. We’ve never had a female president, yet. I mean Germany has, Great Britain has. At any rate, it was Louis Jones, just to repeat myself, and I guess that’s it. My early years at the time. I was simply so busy with publications and magazine and teaching the course I did teach and I did make friends with the [students], I guess, you can call it lasting friendships except we don’t see each other very much anymore. There are some of those early graduates who went on to distinguished positions, Barbara Frank I know became, I don’t know what the title is, but in charge of all the historical agencies in Pennsylvania. That’s a top position. There were others, Paul D’Ambrosio became the president of the New York State Historical Association, and that’s another point is that there has been a tendency for people to go directly from the graduate program to important positions in the New York State Historical Association and since this is a museum program gives emphasis to the museum aspect of the program so that I would say that today the New York State Historical Association really is only a historical society as far as the library is concerned. It is a historical library that houses great many important historical documents. Some very dramatic, others not. Routine stuff. But that’s about it. And I’m not saying that’s a tragedy by any means, it just means that this organization like all organizations and all individuals and all human entities change, and I read that even dinosaurs changed.
OK:
Well I don’t have any more questions. Thank you very much for you talking to me at your time at NYSHA and with CGP at its inception. I really appreciate you sitting down for this.

Duration

00:30:00 (Part 1)
00:30:00 (Part 2)
00:02:53 (Part 3)

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Tripp .jpg

Citation

Olivia Khristan , “Wendell Tripp, November 18, 2014,” CGP Community Stories, accessed January 23, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/211.