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Ashmead Courtenay Carson Papers

This collection of two hundred thirty items documents the life of Ashmead Courtenay Carson (1876-1941) as a student at the University of South Carolina, 1894-1898, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree, and later as a professor and dean of physics, 1902-1941. From 1898 to 1901 Carson worked the family plantation, Homefield, near Dalzell in Sumter County and taught in a county school there. To further his education, he attended summer school at the University of Chicago and Cornell University, 1906-1908. Carson received his master's degree from the University of South Carolina in 1910. On 24 November 1904, he married Agnes McCallum of Sumter, and they became the parents of three children--Agnes, Mary Elizabeth, and Ashmead Courtenay, Jr.

Carson was active not only in the field of education, but also as an inventor. Correspondence with patent lawyers and mechanical drawings evidence his love of tinkering--an engine, split plug attachment, apparatus to drill holes in car brake bands with shoes in place, cigarette packaging pull-tab, and automatic reversible safety switch. Carson received patents for an improvement in typewriter attachments, expansion plugs for lamp sockets, and glare shields for automobiles. A Declaration of Interference was filed for an automobile deflector and ventilator in 1924. Letters from Remington and Underwood typewriter companies in 1917 are polite but not very encouraging regarding Carson's design for a typewriter attachment improvement.

Carson corresponded regularly with his mother, Kezia Dukes Carson (d. 1926), his sisters, Grace Carson, who lived with her mother, and Daisy Carson Hodges, a resident of Washington, D.C., and his brother, William Dukes "Bub" Carson. Grace remained at Homefield after their mother died and managed the farm. She raised turkeys and in 1924 sold 684 pounds of turkey to the city of Sumter for $237.60. Attached to Grace's letter of 14 January 1924 is a 1921 photograph of Eliza, a farm worker, and the turkeys.

Carson was active in his profession and in the Columbia community. One of the organizers of the Southern Section of American Physical Society, Carson was listed in American Men in Science and was a member of the South Carolina Academy of Science, serving as its president, 1936-1937. Growing up with a religious mother, Carson became active in the Shandon Presbyterian Church and served as deacon there. He also maintained memberships in the Columbia Rotary Club, the Kosmos Club, and Phi Beta Kappa. Many of these organizations sent copies of tributes of respect to Agnes after Carson's death.

Of note in this collection are forty-five letters of sympathy from family, friends, and former students to Agnes and the children after Carson's death on 14 January 1941. University of South Carolina Professor Emeritus Patterson Wardlaw wrote--"mingled with the grief will be the sweet recollection of my friend's lovable personality--his stern uprightness, his generous kindness, his unselfish self-sacrifice, the priceless gift of his friendship" (20 January 1941). Several months later, on 25 Ocotber 1941, the nurse who had been at Carson's bedside wrote Agnes with the story of his last few minutes. There is also a diary, "Sequence of happenings in Dad's illness," which documents events from July 1940 when Carson's heart problems began until his death. A resolution by the University of South Carolina faculty describes the many interests and accomplishments of Carson (10 February 1941).

Among letters of interest are one from William Ashmead Courtenay of Charleston to his namesake in 1889 regarding year books sent to Carson's father. William Terry Mitchell, a former student, wrote two letters in 1919. Mitchell was a flying cadet at Park Field, Tenn., and sent Carson a detailed sketch and descriptions of the planes and training system. An undated letter written by Mitchell from Black Mountain, N.C., talks about the Biltmore estate, which impressed him with its "every modern luxury," and W.T.'s brother Broadus--"Broadus is on the Evening Journal in Richmond. He is neither cool [referring to the weather] or a millionaire." Broadus Mitchell later became a noted historian. An earlier letter from Ann Ball, 5 May 1917, alerted Carson about Biltmore land just placed on the market by Mrs. Vanderbilt. Ball encouraged Carson to invest--"Property bought now on this road is a gold mine because we already have an auto-bus-line on schedule hours to Asheville and later when we have an electric car line."

Also present are personal papers of Carson's father, James M. Carson (1832-1888), a Sumter County farmer, who sold cotton and fertilizer through Pelzer, Rodgers & Co. in Charleston and also through J. Ryttenberg & Sons in Sumter.

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