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Guide to the Alexander Family Papers, 1818-1956
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biographical Sketch
  • Scope and Content
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Alexander Family Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1818-1956
    Collection Number: BANC MSS P-N 105 FILM
    Creator: Alexander Family
    Extent: Number of microfilm reels: 6
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Include papers of William P. Alexander, pioneer missionary to the Sandwich Islands (letters and journals); letters written by his wife, Mary Ann (McKinney) Alexander; and papers of their son William DeWitt Alexander, including letters from Hiram Bingham, James Dwight Dana, George Davidson, Nathaniel Bright Emerson, Chester S. Lyman, Susan Lincoln Tolman Mills, William E. Safford, Cyrus Thomas, etc.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], Alexander Family Papers, BANC MSS P-N 105 FILM, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Biographical Sketch

    Both William Patterson Alexander (1805-1884) and Dwight Baldwin (1798-1886) were pioneer missionaries to the Sandwich Islands. In December, 1830, Dr. Baldwin, having just completed his medical studies at Harvard, married Charlotte Fowler and set sail with three other bridal, missionary couples aboard a whaler from New Bedford, Massachusetts (The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had recently decreed that only missionaries accompanied by their wives should be sent out.). In November 1831, William P. Alexander and his bride of less than a month, Mary Ann McKinney, also sailed from New Bedford on a whaler, in company with eight other missionary couples. In each case bride and bridegroom were practically strangers to each other, for neither couple had even met each other until a few weeks before embarking together, not only on a long and perilous journey, but upon a life-long association in strange and savage lands far from family and friends. However, both of the marriages turned out to be singularly happy, and the families, united by their mutual labors and also by marriages of their children, unusually close-knit and harmonious.
    Dr. Baldwin was chiefly associated with Lahaina on the island of Maui; William P. Alexander with Waioli (Kauai), Wailuku and Lahainaluna (also on Maui) and with the Marquessas, to which he went several times. Both couples spent the rest of their lives in the Islands and contributed much to the growth and culture of the communities in which they lived and worked.
    The eldest Alexander son, William De Witt, and eldest Baldwin daughter, Abigail Charlotte (both born in 1833) were married in 1860. Both young people had been sent to the States for schooling. William De Witt Alexander graduated from Yale in 1855, and after various teaching positions in the East and Middle West, returned to become Professor of Greek, and later President, of the famous Punahu School, Honolulu. Abigail Baldwin had attended Mt. Holyoke Seminary, much favored by the daughters of the Islands' missionary families. Yale and Williams College were favorites for many of the Island youths, particularly Baldwin and Alexander sons. Both families have been closely associated with the Punahu School; children of several generations have been pupils and a number have returned to teach there.
    Yet another marriage linked the Baldwin and Alexander families -Emily Alexander married Henry Perrine Baldwin in 1870. The sons and daughters of both families, at least in the earliest generation, tended to marry within the fold of the missionary families. Most remained in the Islands but some came to the States, particularly to California. Some became teachers and clergymen; others associated with the raising of cane and pineapples or with the banking and mercantile life of the Islands, while still others entered political life.
    William De Witt Alexander (1833-1913), in addition to his pedigogical career, was largely responsible for the Coast and Geodetic surveys of the Islands and was appointed Surveyor General of the Republic. He is also noted for his publications on the linguistics and history of the Hawaiian Islands. Yale granted him an honorary degree in 1903. He had previously served as one of the Islands' Commissioners to the United States to work out problems of annexation.
    James McKinney Alexander (1835-1911) graduated from Williams College and for some time managed the family lands in the Islands. Although he had a long and successful pastorate in East Oakland, California, he retained a scientific and practical interest in agriculture.
    These papers of the Alexander and Baldwin families are only part of the family archive assembled by Miss Mary Charlotte (daughter of William De Witt and Abigail) Alexander for the biographies she published of her pioneer grandfathers and for the history of Punahu School which she prepared with Charlotte Peabody Dodge. Most of the whole collection is now in the safe-keeping of The Hawaiian Mission Children's Society (more popularly known as The Cousins' Society) in Honolulu. Not only are the details of family life recorded -the trials and hardships of the missionary pioneers, the experiences of the children in pursuit of their education, their life in various Island communities (including the administration of Punahu School) -but interesting glimpses of the political life of the Islands are revealed. Unfortunately, although there are later letters to Miss Alexander from her brother, Arthur Chambers Alexander, there are none for the period covering World Wars I and II.

    Scope and Content

    Correspondence and Papers of William Patterson Alexander (1805-1884) and Dwight Baldwin (1798-1886), pioneer missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands, and of their descendants. A few early Alexander family letters, 1818-1849, included. Much of the correspondence is that of William DeWitt Alexander (1833-1913) and of his wife, Abigail Charlotte (Baldwin) Alexander.

    Scope and Content

    From the estate of Mary Charlotte Alexander and lent for filming, 1961-1963, by DeWitt Alexander.
    Originals now in the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society Library, Honolulu.