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John H. Foster papers


Held at: Westtown School Archives [Contact Us]975 Westtown Road, West Chester, PA, 19382

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Westtown School Archives. 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

John Henry Foster was born on July 1, 1926, the son of Henry Cope Foster and Thyra Jane Myers Foster of West Warwick, RI. John entered Westtown School, a prominent Quaker boarding school in Chester County, PA, as boy #7052 in September of 1941. While a student he served on the Work Program Committee, the Dance Committee, and as treasurer of the senior class. He helped found the "Bofsto" (boys' food store), and ran his own barbering business. Foster served the track team as a manager and later as varsity captain. He was the circulation manager of the Brown and White, and was elected to the Triangle Honor Society in his senior year. He was honored for having the highest academic average among the boys during his junior year.

After Westtown, Foster received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Cornell and served on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, teaching Agricultural Economics. He was also active with his class, especially in the 45th, 50th and 55th ( bicentennial year) reunions.

This collection includes materials gathered by John Henry Foster during his three student years at Westtown School, 1941-1944, and later as an active alumnus of the Class of 1944. The collection includes the contents of his notebooks from all three years, with papers for chemistry, several history courses, English, German and Latin, religion, biology, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, plus blue examination booklets, exam papers, and note cards for research papers. The collection also includes play programs, student handbooks, invitations to dances, Brown & White correspondence relating to Foster's service as subscription manager, commencement items, and papers relating to his service with the Work Program Committee. Other items are from his competition in the Penn Relays, and from his barber business at Westtown, including his electric hair clippers, aprons and towels, combs, his barber certification, and a narrative written by Foster about his barbering work.

The papers also include a large collection of photostats of Foster's letters from Westtown to his parents (originals deposited at Swarthmore), and much official correspondence between Headmaster James Walker and the Fosters, notably including a letter from Walker and D. Robert Yarnall regarding the anticipated admission of Westtown's first African American student.

A small selection of textile items includes the suit Foster wore to his Westtown graduation, his wedding and the Westtown Class of 1944's 50th Reunion, a pocket handkerchief, cloth labels for clothing, a varsity letter, and two items belonging to Hannah Sharpless, daughter of Joshua Sharpless, early Superintendant of the school who was an ancestor. Finally, the collection includes a box of K.O.B.'s ("Kindness of Bearer" private and specially folded messages) from 1944 (closed until the year 2035) and Foster's Alumni Prize Book, The Teller of Tales, awarded to him for Highest Boys' Scholarship for school year 1942-43.

An inventory of the collection is as follows: Folder 1 Chemistry experiments Folder 2 Physics, solid geometry and trigonometry Folder 3 Renaissance history Folder 4 English, German and Latin Folder 5 Religion Folder 6 English and German, including research paper, "Rural England in the Sixteenth Century" Folder 7 British literature Folder 8 Biology and algebra Folder 9 Modern history Folder 10 U.S. history notes Folder 11 Bluebook exams: English and mathematics Folder 12 Bluebook exams: German, religion and history Folder 13 Westtown Bible course. New Testament Folder 14 Note cards for an English history research paper. Assignment book Folder 15 "My Penance" a narrative Notes on ancient history with cut-out plates of photographs of Rome and Caesar Folder 16 Several tests, loose in the box received from donor. History and English, n.d. and 1943 Folder 17 Miscellaneous communications from school to home. Notices on Regional Scholarships, tuition, incidental fees, insurance, opening of school, dates for Christmas vacation, summer work camp, measles epidemic, student employment, correspondence from James Walker, Parents' Council business, correspondence re. John Foster's work as a barber and a Class of 1994 newsletter Folder 18 Play programs, 1941-1944 Folder 19 Brown & White items Folder 20 Dance items, Class Tree Planting invitation, lunch ticket, meal ticket to Foreign Policy Association of Philadelphia luncheon, Student Handbooks, 1941-1944, Invitation to Brown & White banquet of 1944, from Acc. 2005.02, Evening Programs, 1942-43, Senior Class Song, "Winter Sports at Westtown" (printed pamphlet), Bofsto "Certificate of Interest," Red Cross first aid items, work Program items, Commencement 1944 items, Catalogue 1941-42, receipt for class dues, "Westtown Song," and Cum Laude Banquet invitation for 2/12/1943 Folder 21 Lett from D. Robert Yarnall and James F. Walker to "Friends of Westtown School" re. admission of Negro students to Westtown School Folder 22 Penn Relay Items, 1943, 1944 Folder 23 Letters from Westtown to parents by John Foster, 1941 (Photostat copies; originals in Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore) Folder 24 Letters (Photostats) from Westtown to parents by John Foster, 1942 (Some n.d. included as found in original order given by donor) Folder 25 Letter (Photostats) from John Foster at Westtown, home to parents, 1943 Folder 26 Letters from James F Walker at Westtown to parents of John Foster, 1944 Folder 27 Assorted items, "How I became what I am" (1944) A.A. Certificate for Varsity Track, spring 1943, Dining Room seating chart/invitations (6) Folder 28 Bicentennial programs and mailings; newsletters and maps. Address list for classmates. Parade nametag Folder 29 Class Reunion & Alumni Association mailings, 1970s-1980s, 35th to 45th reunions Folder 30 Coeducation Boarding at Westtown, Prof. Herbert London, NYU (correspondence Folder 31 Narrative about this business and material from Class of 1944 re. 50th Reunion including J.F.'s nametag, correspondence, program and maps, placed in Box 1 with other papers Folder 32 (Bundle) Unsorted academic papers Folder 33 (Box) KOBs from 1944. CLOSED UNTIL 2035.

This collection is arranged largely as received, with contents of loose-leaf notebooks removed into folders and stored together in one box. Papers from different lots are numbered by accession number and stored in separate folders in that box. Artifacts from the collection, such as Fosters' electric hair clippers and textile items are stored separately.

A more complete finding aid to this collection is available on-site.

Gift of John Foster estate, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2009.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Westtown School Archives directly for more information.

Westtown School Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by staff of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories using data provided by the Westtown School Archives
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Contact Westtown School Archives for information about accessing this collection. A box of "Kindness of Bearer" private and specially folded messages from 1944 is closed until the year 2035.

Collection Inventory

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