Chapter 49: Following Clues

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September 10, 2016
University of Maryland Research Carrel
College Park, Maryland

If Emmett didn’t go back to WFS for the second half of the sophomore term (1901), what did he do? Knowing Emmett’s father, I doubt he  lounged around on the porch swing or his father’s hammock smoking cigars, contemplating his navel or whatever.

West Florida Seminary eventually became Florida State University, so I reached out to the Florida State University archive with questions.

First, did the West Florida Seminary have yearbooks or college catalogs going back as far as 1899-1901, so I could track him?

According to Burton Altman and Sandra Varry, professional archivists and researchers at Florida State University’s Special Collections Archive, they have both. Good news: The old catalogs were being scanned at the time I made the information request!

I started with the available yearbooks — and luckily —  WFS launched its very first yearbook, The Argo, while Emmett was enrolled.

Screenshot of the item online from the Florida State University Archives

Sure enough, there’s Emmett:

Platonic Debating Society, 1900-1901. Emmett is in the back row, in bowtie, fifth from left. Source: FSU archives

Also in the archive was a copy of the program where Emmett was in a debating contest.

 

Emmett participated in a debate for West Florida Seminary. This program is dated June 3, 1900.

Unfortunately, Emmett didn’t win; Francis Winthrop did. And, it seems that Emmett wasn’t very good at college debate — yet — according to the 1900-1901 yearbook:

We get a clue also that he may have been struggling in school. According to the WFS catalog for 1900-1901:

A screenshot from the 1899-1900 catalog of WFS. Note that Emmett is classified both as a third-year high school student AND a college freshman. Source: FSU Archives.

According to the archivists, some students were admitted provisionally (i.e., if they still hadn’t graduated high school). They had to maintain a certain grade point average and demonstrate other academic potential, such as active participation in literary or debate clubs. A dual classification meant more was expected academically, since these students were fulfilling two different curricula.

The 1900-1901 catalog shows this:

Screen shot of the 1900-1901 catalog, once again showing Emmett with a double classification. The catalog itself was issued in 1901, but may have been printed early that year, or in late 1900, when Emmett was still a student. Source: FSU archives.

In the next edition of The Argo (1901-1902), he’s neither photographed with his classmates, nor listed in the junior class.

From The Argo, 1901-1902, a list of the junior class members. Source: FSU Archives

From The Argo, 1901-1902; Photo of the junior class. Emmett’s not here. Source: FSU archive.

So, I retuned to scanning newspaper databases. Lo and behold, I found this, from The Chipley Banner, February 23, 1901:

Emmett is studying law with local attorney D.J. Jones.

We can confirm he didn’t return to WFS, and it was likely bassed on a combination of things: Frank’s alcoholism and hospitalization’s impact on the family; Emmett’s grades were likely average and not outstanding; but more so that he wanted law school, and as expeditiously as possible. He wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do any old job while he was starting in a new direction — he’d need to be groomed by clerking for a solid attorney. That makes sense.

But the clerkship with Jones didn’t last very long.

 

 

 

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