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Theodore de Laguna collection

Identifier: BMC-1974-16

Scope and Contents

The Theodore de Laguna collection, dating from 1896 to 1989, contains diverse writings and annotated books by de Laguna, a professor of philosophy at Bryn Mawr College. This collection focuses mainly on de Laguna's manuscripts, off-prints, and poetry, but also contains original musical arrangements, annotated works by others, and correspondence regarding de Laguna's death in 1930.

The Theodore de Laguna collection is arranged into six series: "Series I: Writings," "Series II: Notebooks," "Series III: Correspondence," "Series IV: Music," "Series V: Annotated works by others," and "Series VI: Memorials and correspondence regarding the death of de Laguna."

"Series I: Writings" includes three subseries: "Manuscripts and drafts," "Off-prints," and "Poetry." The "Manuscripts" are arranged alphabetically and pertain to de Laguna's interests in mathematics and philosophy. These manuscripts include writings on philosophy, generally; philosophers, particularly Plato; mathematics; education and teaching; logic; ethics; and truth. Also included are several short stories written by de Laguna. "Off-prints" are arranged roughly by date from 1904 to 1934. Some of the most prevalent articles reprinted include: "On Certain Logical Paradoxes," "The Beautiful in Music," Opposition and Syllogism," "Evolutionary Method in Ethical Research," and "Utility and the Accepted Type." Articles were published in Philosophical Review, Philosophy (a University of California publication), Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Method, and Journal of Philosophy. "Poetry" contains approximately thirty poems covering a wide range of topics. Many are untitled and very few are dated. A few of the titles include, "To Miss Maud Taylor," "Sibylla," "The Sack of Syracuse," and "February in California."

“Series II: Correspondence” includes only a few letters, most of which relate to letters of recommendation for Theodore de Laguna as he was establishing himself in the field of philosophy and academia. There are also some miscellaneous letters, largely regarding housing and reprints of his articles. "Series II: Correspondence" is arranged chronologically.

"Series III: Notebooks" consists of five notebooks created by de Laguna. The first, entitled Scraps, consists of clippings of writings by de Laguna from the Occident, a University of California newspaper, for which de Laguna served as a member of the editorial staff. Many of these entries are written by "Brother Ambrose," probably a nom de plume of de Laguna. Of particular interest will be the notebooks with information on a seminar on Plato and issues regarding David Hilbert's symbolic logic (also known as mathematical logic). The final two volumes included in this series are unidentified, but include writings by de Laguna, or possibly just ideas for articles. The writings cover a broad range of topics, but seem to focus on political philosophy and education. These notebooks are arranged in alphabetical order.

“Series IV: Music" documents a secondary interest of de Laguna's. In addition to his career as a philosopher, he greatly appreciated music, as well as creating his own new music. This series includes original arrangements, children's songs, music for guitar, music written by de Laguna, and Philippino music.

"Series V: Annotated works by others" consists of several hand annotated books belonging to de Laguna. Four of the six volumes in this series relate to Plato, the other two are in Spanish and relate to his time in the Philippines and his interest in the Visayan dialect.

"Series VI: Memorials and correspondence regarding the death of de Laguna" consists of nine folders of letters written to de Laguna's wife, Grace, following his sudden and unexpected death in 1931. Also included are obituaries and information regarding memorials held in de Laguna's honor. This series provides a comprehensive view of de Laguna's impact on the Bryn Mawr community and the field of philosophy.

This collection reveals the broad intellectual life of de Laguna, an integral figure of the Bryn Mawr Philosophy Department in the early 20th Century. It also illuminates the musical and literary pursuits that enriched his vibrant academic life.


  • Creation: 1896 - 1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1896 - 1930


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

This collection is open for research.

Copyright and Rights Information

The Theodore de Laguna collection is the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Biographical / Historical

Theodore de Laguna (1876-1930) was a philosopher, author and professor of philosophy at Bryn Mawr College, serving in that capacity for 23 years. Born July 22, 1876 in Oakland, California to European immigrants Alexander de Laguna and Frederica Bergner, Theodore de Laguna was first educated at home by an older sister, then educated at the public schools of Oakland and the University of California where he received his Bachelor’s degree in 1896. While an undergraduate, de Laguna’s interests were broad and he studied literature and mathematics, wrote for the University publications and for local papers and magazines, and played chess. His interests focused on philosophy and English literature during his graduate work, and he graduated from the University of California with his Master’s degree in 1898. His education continued at Cornell University from 1900 to 1901 as a Fellow in philosophy, earning his doctoral degree in 1901. From 1902 to 1903, de Laguna served as a teacher in the Philippines, where he learned the Visayan dialect of the district. According to an account of the memorial services honoring de Laguna, “these two years’ experience among people of an alien culture, he always regarded as of the utmost value to him,” (The College News). After his return from the Philippines, de Laguna studied again at Cornell University, from 1903 to 1905, as honorary fellow and as assistant in the Sage School of Philosophy. It was here that he met his wife, Grace Mead Andrus (1878-1978), a doctoral student at Cornell University’s Sage School of Philosophy.

In 1905, the de Lagunas moved to the University of Michigan where Theodore de Laguna worked as an assistant professor of education. His tenure there lasted until 1907 when he was asked to become assistant professor of philosophy at Bryn Mawr College. In 1910, he was promoted to full professor. Grace de Laguna immediately began serving the department becoming Associate Professor in 1911. According to Bryn Mawr’s history of the philosophy department, from 1907 to 1947, “the de Lagunas led the Bryn Mawr philosophy department,” (Dostal) and founded the Fullerton Club in 1925, an association of Philadelphia area philosophers based upon a like organization at Columbia which did not admit women. The de Lagunas “were much influenced by recent Anglo-American developments in philosophy, especially by the work of Whitehead, Peirce, and Dewey, [and they] shared philosophical interests and alternately taught course in ethics, metaphysics, and the history of philosophy,” (Dostal). Theodore de Laguna served as chair of the department until his death in 1930, when Grace became chair, serving until 1942 when she retired.

Theodore de Laguna wrote Dogmatism and Evolution, which he co-authored with Grace de Laguna, in 1910; An Introduction to the Science of Ethics, in 1915; and The Factors of Social Evolution, in 1926; as well as many scholarly articles, a few of which were published posthumously. He was a composer of music for both voice and guitar.

De Laguna died on September 22, 1930. Dr. Marion Edwards Parks, President of Bryn Mawr College at the time of de Laguna’s death in 1930, stated at his memorial service, that de Laguna was “a fine and untrammeled human being interested in all human things, a friend of all social and educational reform, [and] a passionate upholder … of the independence of women, whether the women were in his own gifted family, or among the succession of his students or the industrial workers who come to campus each summer,” (The College News).

Theodore and Grace de Laguna were the parents of Frederica de Laguna (1906-2004) who graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1927 and from Columbia University with her doctorate. She was a celebrated anthropologist who, with Margaret Mead, was one of the first women elected to the National Academy of Sciences.


Dostal, Robert. History of the Department of Philosophy. Bryn Mawr College. (accessed October 11, 2010).

Unknown author. Services Held in Memory of Theodore de Leo de Laguna. The College News. November 19, 1930.


3.5 Linear Feet




Theodore de Laguna (1876-1930) was a professor of philosophy at Bryn Mawr College for 23 years and an author. The Theodore de Laguna collection, dating from 1896 to 1989, contains diverse writings and annotated books by de Laguna. This collection focuses mainly on de Laguna's manuscripts, off prints, and poetry, but also contains original musical arrangements, annotated works by others, and correspondence regarding de Laguna's death in 1930.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Frederica de Laguna.

Related Materials

Frederica de Laguna papers, 1922-1975 (1975-6)

Processing Information

The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources. This collection is minimally processed to the folder level.

Theodore de Laguna collection
Elizabeth Reilly
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

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