01/17/2013 02:06 PM
BATON ROUGE – Shipping log books dating back to 1850; diaries from pre- and post-Civil
War America; newspaper clippings; and personal items such as photographs, eye glasses,
a pocket watch and engraved silverware are just a few of the treasures LSU Department
of Geography and Anthropology faculty have discovered in a recent gift to the university
– a sea chest belonging to the Lord family.
The sea chest last belonged to the late Evelyn Lord Pruitt, long-time friend, donor
to the LSU Department of Geography and Anthropology and sponsor of the LSU Coastal
Studies Institute. The chest’s original owner was likely Pruitt’s grandfather, William
A. Lord, who commanded ships that sailed to China, India, Europe and around Cape Horn.
The sea chest was recently sent to Boyd Professor Emeritus H. Jesse Walker in the
Department of Geography and Anthropology.
“Evelyn had told me many times that she got her love for the sea from listening to
her grandfather’s stories,” Walker said. “He obviously left the chest to his granddaughters
… she had it as a keepsake of her grandfather.”
Pruitt died in 2000, and the chest had been stored by family friends since then. Walker
received the chest from those friends last Thursday, and he along with other faculty,
including Doris Z. Stone Professor of Latin American Studies Heather McKillop, Boyd
Professor Harry Roberts and Program Specialist Nedda Taylor unveiled its contents
the next day.
Walker and other faculty members will begin working to catalog and research the contents,
which cover the 1850s through the mid-1900s. The diaries and shipping logs have already
begun to provide insight and context to life during that period. In just thumbing
through the texts, faculty have found entries discussing the guano trade in Peru and
even a mention of Napoleon.
The ship’s logs include those from the vessel the Emily Farnum, which has a unique
tie to LSU. On Oct. 3, 1862, the Emily Farnum, captained by Nathan Parker Simes, was
captured and released by the Confederate Raider the Alabama. The Alabama’s captain
was Raphael Semmes, who following the Civil War became a professor of philosophy and
literature at LSU, and the street running in front of the LSU Student Union is now
named after Semmes. The Emily Farnum became one of the only American ships boarded
by Semmes to not be destroyed.
Walker said the next steps will be to bring in students to help catalog the contents
and find someone to help transcribe the texts. Historians and other professors will
be brought in to analyze the contents and eventually the chest and its treasures could
be put on display in an exhibit.
Pruitt was a longtime friend of LSU, and she contributed more than $900,000 to the
university to be used “to educate women in the field of geography.” Thanks to her
contributions to the university, the Evelyn L. Pruitt Lecture Series was established
and, thus far, 10 women scholars have been brought to LSU to lecture and confer with
Pruitt received a bachelor’s degree in 1940 and a master’s degree in 1943 from the
University of California-Los Angeles, before joining the U.S. Navy as a geographer.
As chief administrator of the Geography Branch of the Office of Naval Research, she
supported the development of the Coastal Studies Institute at LSU. She also was a
as co-author, with LSU Boyd Professors Fred Kniffen and Richard Russell, of a revised
edition of their textbook in geography, “Culture Worlds.”
Pruitt’s interest in and enthusiasm for geography, coastal science and professional
women geographers were recognized by the receipt of the Association of American Geographers’
Citation for Meritorious Contributions to Geography, service as the first president
of the Coastal Society and receipt of the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Society
of Woman Geographers, among other honors.
In 1983, LSU conferred the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Pruitt in recognition
of her contributions to “research in coastal environments”; for “promoting the field
of remote sensing,” a term she coined; and for “helping LSU gain national and international
prominence in geography.
Pruitt passed away on Jan. 19, 2000, in Arlington, Va.
Since its inception in the late 1920s, the LSU Department of Geography and Anthropology
has been one of the world’s premier centers for teaching and research in select subfields
of geography and anthropology. It is housed in the Howe-Russell-Kniffen Geoscience
Complex in the heart of LSU.
Located at the gateway between the Mississippi Valley and Latin America, the department
offers a wide array of field and regional expertise in each of these regions. Current
faculty and students conduct field research in the Mississippi Valley and American
South, Central America, the Caribbean, and Ecuador, as well as China, Japan, Korea,
and Europe. As a bidisciplinary department of geography and anthropology, the LSU
Department of Geography and Anthropology offers eight degree programs. For more information,
The LSU Department of Geography and Anthropology is located in the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences. For more on the college, visit http://hss.lsu.edu/.
Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2013