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Albert Bigelow Papers


Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Albert S. Bigelow (1906- ) an artist, architect, former Navy commander, and Quaker, was captain of the Golden Rule, a thirty foot ketch which he attempted to sail into the Eniwetok Proving Grounds, the U.S. nuclear test site in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific. Bigelow and his crew sailed from San Pedro, California, in February 1958. At the time of Golden Rule's departure, it was legal to sail into the test site zone. While the small boat was under sail to Hawaii, however, the Atomic Energy Commission issued a regulation making it a crime for a U.S. citizen to sail into the Eniwetok Proving Grounds. In Hawaii, Bigelow and his crew were summoned to court. At this hearing, the U.S. government was granted a temporary injunction: if Golden Rule tried to sail to the testing site, the action would be considered in criminal contempt of court. Twice, on May 1 and again on June 4, Golden Rule tried to sail from the Honolulu harbor, but both times it was stopped soon after departure. Bigelow was arrested ten minutes before the second attempt; his crewmates, James Peck, George Willoughby, William R. Huntington, and Orion W. Sherwood, were arrested later the same day while under sail, and all were sentenced to sixty days in the Honolulu jail. The trip was sponsored by the Committee for Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, the antecedent organization of the Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA). The yacht Phoenix, skippered by Earle and Barbara Leonard Reynolds, made the journey to the Eniwetok Proving Grounds later that same year, resulting in the arrest and trial of Earle Reynolds. His conviction was finally overturned in l961.

Albert Bigelow also took part in other peace demonstrations and civil rights actions described in his papers. He and his wife Sylvia resided in Cos Cob, Connecticut.

The papers of Albert Bigelow include correspondence (1956-1961), writings by Bigelow about his participation in various acts of civil disobedience, manuscripts of his book Voyage of the Golden Rule (Doubleday, 1959), original sketches made aboard Golden Rule and in prison, newsclippings, publicity releases, and the logbook from Golden Rule and Phoenix. Golden Rule's barometer is also in this collection.

Bigelow describes both the voyage itself and his reasons for making it in the book named above and in a shorter 19-page narrative titled "Golden Rule." Personal statements by both Bigelow and crewmate William Huntington also describe their reasons for making the trip aboard the Golden Rule. There is a description by Bigelow of conditions in the Honolulu jail where he and his crew were incarcerated for sixty days. There is publicity by the sponsoring organization, the Committee for Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons (which soon became the Committee for Non-Violent Action,) as well as by other peace organizations. While most of Bigelow's papers are about his attempt to sail the Golden Rule into the Eniwetok test site waters in1958, there is also material about other peace and civil rights efforts in which he took part: the Mercury Project Vigil in Nevada in 1957, the trip to Geneva by the crews of the Golden Rule and the Phoenix in late 1958, the Alabama Freedom Rides in 1961, and the production of "Which Way the Wind," a DocuDrama sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee in 1959.

Since this was a small collection and was well organized by Bigelow when he gave it to SCPC, it needed little rearrangement. Materials were put into chronological order and newsclippings were copied onto acid-free paper. An additional accession was given by George Willoughby in 1992. It included mostly correspondence to Bigelow and the crew of the Golden Rule from supporters. Correspondence from this accession addressed to George Willoughby and/or Lillian Willoughby may be found in DG 236.

Note: The collection was mostly reprocessed and refoldered in May 2016.

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these papers.

Gift of Albert Bigelow and George Willoughby, 1970 [acc. 70A-101], 1992 [acc. 92A-067]; John L. De Forest, 1997 [acc. 97A-041]

For the catalog record for this collection and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog.

Processed by Martha P. Shane (April 1988); revised by Wendy E. Chmielewski (July 1992); updated by Anne Yoder, Archivist, May 2016.

Barometer and two flags of the Golden Rule removed to the Memorabilia Collection Oversized material removed to Oversize Items Collection Photographs and slides removed to the Photograph Collection 16 mm. film removed to the Audiovisual Collection -- Sketches by Bigelow of the Golden Rule and Honolulu jail removed to the Subject File: Art in War and Peace

Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research without restrictions.

Copyright to the resources created by Albert Bigelow has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Copyright to all other materials is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Use Restrictions


Collection Inventory

Biographical information.
Box DG 076: 1
Memorabilia: Barometer from the "Golden Rule" voyage, circa 1950s.
Box MEM DG076: 1
Participation in Mercury Project Vigil, Nevada, 1957 (August).
Box DG 076: 1
Reference material.
Box DG 076: 3
Removal forms.
Box DG 076: 1
Speaking engagements.
Box DG 076: 1

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