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Cyrus Hamlin collection

Identifier: M083

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Scope and Contents

The Cyrus Hamlin collection dates from 1798 to 1984 and measures two feet in four boxes. The collection is arranged in four series: Correspondence, Articles and Addresses, Clippings and Printed Material, and Biographical Information and Images. Additional related correspondence can be found in the Abbott Memorial Collection (M1) and the Chandler Cleaveland Family Papers. An address by Cyrus Hamlin can be found in the Peucinian Society records, 1832.

The Correspondence series (1798-1982) contains letters mostly written by Hamlin to family members. Arranged chronologically, most of the series is correspondence from Cyrus Hamlin to Clara Hamlin, his daughter. Other letters are mainly to his other children and various family members, including 28 letters (1850-1852) to Cyrus Hamlin from Harriet Martin Lovell, Hamlin's wife. Itemized listing of correspondence is available online. (List digitized from early finding aid and is incomplete).

The Articles and Addresses series (1838-1896) consists of original manuscript and typescript copies of writings by Cyrus Hamlin.

Newspaper clippings, magazine and journal articles, and photocopies from the Hamlin family scrapbook by or concerning Cyrus Hamlin can be found in the Clippings and Printed Material series (1850-1984).

The Biographical Information and Images series (1839-1892) is made up of a typescript biography of Cyrus Hamlin by Arthur Hamlin and images of Cyrus Hamlin, his family, and the Hamlin Engine (which is currently located at Bowdoin College).


  • Creation: 1798 - 1984
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1800 - 1890


Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

Cyrus Hamlin (Bowdoin 1834), was born in Waterford, Maine, on January 5, 1811, to Hannibal and Susan Faulkner Hamlin. Hamlin had little formal schooling, but was encouraged by his mother and her boarder, an aunt of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Apprenticed at age 16 to his brother-in-law, a Portland silversmith, Hamlin joined the Congregational Church there. He impressed church elders so much that they offered him $1000 toward an education to prepare for missionary work. He decided instead to work his way through Bridgton Academy and Bowdoin College (A.B. 1834, A.M. 1837), where he became a student assistant to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. While at Bowdoin, Hamlin established himself as a radical scientific and social thinker and built the first steam engine seen in Maine, which is preserved at the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Rockland, Maine. Hamlin completed his studies for the ministry at Bangor Theological Seminary (1837) and became a missionary in Turkey (1838-1860), where he worked with the Armenian minority and established a progressive school, Bebek Seminary, for Armenian boys. The school flourished, only to fold during the Crimean War. In 1860, Hamlin established Robert College in Constantinople, Turkey, in buildings that had once housed Bebek Seminary, and served as its first president from 1860 to 1877. Robert College eventually became one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the Middle East and was incorporated into Bogazici University in 1971. After a forced retirement from Robert College at age 66, Hamlin served for three years on the faculty of Bangor Theological Seminary, and then assumed the presidency of Middlebury College (1880-1885). In 1850, Henrieta Jackson, whom Hamlin had married in 1838, died of tuberculosis. Two years later, he married Harriet Martha Lovell, who died in 1857. He had a son and four daughters. Hamlin was a friend of Samuel Morse and a cousin of Hannibal Hamlin, who served as vice president of the United States. Hamlin died in Portland, Maine on August 8, 1900.


2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Correspondence, mostly letters written by Cyrus Hamlin to family members, articles and manuscripts, clippings, printed material, and biographical information about the inventor, missionary, and college president.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Judy Ballantine in 2022 and Sally Combes Leahey in 2020.

Related Materials

Abbott Memorial Collection (M1) Peleg Whitman Chandler Papers (M29)

Guide to the Cyrus Hamlin Collection
Emma Barton-Norris
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011 Repository

3000 College Station
Brunswick Maine 04011 USA
(207) 725-3288