Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Thomas A. Curtis Collection

LibraryGeorge J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives


Thomas A. Curtis ("Diogenes") Collection, 1849-1989, n.d.


0.25 linear feet.

Catalog Number:M239

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Agency History / Biographical Note:
Thomas A. Curtis arrived in Brunswick in the summer of 1840 with a small puppet show. Soon after his arrival he began cleaning and mending clothes for the townspeople and Bowdoin students, then did menial jobs on campus such as carrying wood, building fires in early morning to warm the classrooms, and running errands. Perhaps because he carried a lantern from dorm to dorm or because he was mildly cynical, Curtis was named "Diogenes" by the students. Curtis lived in a small shack which he built himself; he was known for wearing a silk hat, having a strong liking for whiskey, and being an avid reader. Not only did he occasionally recite verse, he also composed a poem, "Morning, Spring Term, 1864" which was published in the January 29, 1864 Brunswick Telegraph. Of special note was his large collection of books, some of which he purchased by assessing Bowdoin freshmen twenty-five cents. In return for the students' payment, Curtis was to leave his library to the College. In the 1901 "Tales of Bowdoin" by Minot and Snow, Henry L. Chapman (Bowdoin 1866) reports that after Curtis' death in 1868, no kin could be found and Curtis' books were transferred to the Bowdoin College Library with the label, "From the Library of Thomas A. Curtis"

Scope and Content:
This collection includes two albums, kept by Thomas Curtis, that contain Bowdoin students' remembrances of Curtis (including one from Oliver Otis Howard, Bowdoin 1850), as well as student autographs and records of student subscriptions to Curtis' library. Newspaper clippings, including Curtis' obituary/biography, and photocopies of images of Curtis and his home are also in the collection.

Cite as: Thomas A. Curtis ("Diogenes") Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library

Access Restrictions: None.

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
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