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William Wistar Comfort presidential papers

Identifier: HCB-001-005


  • Creation: 1918-1940



William Wistar Comfort (1874-1955), son of Howard and Susan Foulke Wistar Comfort, was born in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and raised a Quaker, attending Meeting as a youth at the Meeting at Coulter and Greene Streets in Germantown . He graduated from Haverford College in 1894 and received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1902. His thesis was titled: “The Development of the Character Types in the French Chansons de Geste.” In 1902, he married Mary Lawton Fales. He returned to his alma mater (Haverford) to teach from 1897-1898, also 1902-1909, took many trips abroad and taught Romance Languages at Cornell University, 1909-1917. In 1917 he returned to Haverford to serve as its president until 1940. He often lectured on Quaker topics at the college. Comfort was an elder, later minister in the Society of Friends. He was Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting from 1934-1953, president of Friends Historical Association from 1941-53, member of the Board at Lingnan University, China. In 1937, he traveled to France at the request of the American Friends Service Committee to lecture on Quaker topics. William Wistar Comfort was the author of a number of books primarily on Quaker topics, written both in French and English, including William Penn and our Liberties, Quakers in the Modern World, Arthurian Romances, French Romantic Plays, Just Among Friends: the Quaker Way of Life, Stephen Grellet, 1773-1855, and The Quest of the Holy Grail. But his interests ranged into other fields, and, for example, he wrote extensively on the poet William Cowper, as well as Quaker stories for children.

See also paper by George Conyne written for History 361 at HC in 1977 on the “Commencement Address of William Wistar Comfort, Delivered 8 June 1940” for more.

(Information from the Dictionary of Quaker Biography, Comfort Families of America… / by Cecelia C. and Roland B. Botting. Brookings, SD 1971. BX 7721 C73 B75 and internal evidence)


0.42 linear ft. (1 box)

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William Wistar Comfort presidential papers
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