NORMAN BEECHER AND NANCY BARTRAM BEECHER CORRESPONDENCE,
Vault A45, Beecher, Unit 1
EXTENT: ca. 740 items (1 record carton)
ORGANIZATION AND ARRANGEMENT: Five series: I. Norman Beecher’s correspondence with friends and family, Feb. 22, 1941-Oct. 7, 1944; II. Correspondence, primarily letters from Norman Beecher to his parents, during military service in Europe, Oct. 8, 1944-June 23, 1946; III. Norman Beecher’s letters to his parents, July 23, 1946-April 26, 1949; IV. Norman Beecher’s and Nancy Bartram Beecher’s letters to the Beecher and Bartram families from Turkey, July 30, 1949-June 20, 1952; V. M.I.T.-related correspondence and newsletters sent to Norman Beecher, July 4, 1943-April 13, 1946.
BIOGRAPHY: Norman Beecher was born in Clearwater, Florida, on March 20, 1923, the first child of Miriam Woolley Beecher and Norman Buckingham Beecher. His sisters Ann and Barbara were born in 1926 and 1927, respectively. He attended school in Clearwater through the tenth grade, then completed high school at the Asheville School, a private boarding school in North Carolina, where the family summered. He entered M.I.T in 1940. During his sophomore year he enrolled in advanced R.O.T.C., and in his junior year he received basic training at Fort Devens, Massachusetts and the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. In February, 1944 he began Officer Candidate School at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. When not in training, he attended M.I.T. In the spring of 1944, he received his Bachelor of Science from M.I.T and graduated from Officer Candidate School as a second lieutenant. During these years he wrote many introspective letters about religion, relationships, his personal development, and life goals. In the fall of 1944, he shipped out with the 136th Ordnance Battalion of the 14th Armored Division to Marseilles, France. He served as Automotive Officer in "B" Company, 136th Ordnance Battalion, which was part of the 14th Armored Division, as this division advanced through France and Germany. For a short period he had special assignments as a liaison officer. He was discharged at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on June 18, 1946, and returned to M.I.T to attend graduate school in chemical engineering. He completed his M.S. degree and married Nancy Bartram in June, 1948. Nancy Elizabeth Bartram was born on May 24, 1927 in Nitro, West Virginia to Thomas Walsh Bartram and Mildred Shelling Bartram. She grew up there with her older brother Thomas and frequently spent summers in northwestern Connecticut. She graduated from Northfield in 1944 and in 1948 from Wellesley College, where she was a student government leader. After their marriage, the couple served as teachers at Roberts College in Istanbul from 1949 through the spring of 1952. During this period, they wrote detailed letters to their families recording their impressions and experiences in the Near East as well as describing travels in Europe. They returned to the U.S. in August, 1952, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Norman Beecher pursued doctoral studies and served as an assistant professor. They moved to Concord, Massachusetts in 1955, raised four children, and were very active in community affairs. Norman Beecher pursued a successful engineering career. Nancy Beecher was appointed chairman of the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission in 1970 for a five-year term. The family enjoyed summer homes in New Hampshire and Maine and travelled extensively.
SCOPE AND CONTENT: Correspondence dating from Feb. 1, 1941 to June 20, 1952 between Norman Beecher and his family and friends during his M.I.T. undergraduate years, from Norman Beecher to his parents during his World War II and M.I.T. graduate school years, and from Norman Beecher and Nancy Bartram Beecher to their families during their years as teachers in Turkey. Also included are some correspondence and newsletters from M.I.T. and enclosures with the Turkey letters (primarily newspaper clippings and reports).
SOURCE OF ACQUISITION: Presented in two batches by Norman Beecher (Jan. 8, 2004 and June 4, 2004).
ASSOCIATED MATERIALS: Beecher, Norman. Fortunate Journey: Our Lives, Our Families, Our Forbears, 1993.
NOTES/COMMENTS: Accessioned (AMC 098 and 106), Jan. 13, 2004 and June 7, 2004.
PROCESSED BY : JHG; finding aid completed Sept. 16, 2004.
Series 1: Norman Beecher’s correspondence with friends and family, Feb. 22, 1941-Oct. 7, 1944:
Folder 1. Feb. 22, 1941-May 22, 1942:
Fifteen letters from Norman Beecher at M.I.T. to his family. Topics include fraternity initiation, discussion of military service options, reaction to news of Pearl Harbor, air raids, social life.
Folder 2. June 3, 1942-Feb. 14, 1943:
Eighteen letters from Norman Beecher to his family and from his family and friends to him. Norman Beecher discusses a summer job in Arlington, N.J., the social dilemma of being a teetotaler and conservative, and the return to M.I.T. in the fall. Letters from his mother describe Pigeon Cove, Cape Ann, Mass. in early summer and changes in Clearwater, Fla. due to the military presence.
Folder 3. March 7, 1943-June 9, 1943:
Thirty-five letters from Norman Beecher to his parents and from family and friends to him. He turns to his parents as confidantes, discussing his "inferiority complex" in the social arena, issues in finding a girlfriend, and frustrations with the narrowing influence of a technical education. He describes his induction into basic training at Fort Devens, Mass. His mother provides thoughtful advice and writes of her faith in Christian Science and her work for the Red Cross. His fraternity brother "J.M." writes about his training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, and the Signal Photomail Company in Fort Myer, Va., and friend "Cinna" writes about social life at Mount Holyoke. His sister Barbara shares family news.
Folder 4. June 19, 1943-July 27, 1943:
Forty letters from Norman Beecher to his parents and from family and friends to him. He writes about entering training in Ordnance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Family friend Twanet Evans discusses volunteer work at the Red Cross and offers advice on poise and manners, Pomona Davidson ("Pony") describes work at Mass. General Hospital, friend Bob describes his military training, and his grandmother writes of daily life in Woodbury, N.J.
Folder 5. July 29, 1943-Sept. 30, 1943:
Forty-eight letters from Norman Beecher at Ordnance School, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. to his parents and from family and friends to him, and one military memorandum. He describes training, his schedule, equipment, bivouac, barracks, and rations, and includes sketches of fellows in his barracks. He discusses his acceptance to Officer Candidate School and the inhibitions of army life. A memorandum from the War Department concerns sending R.O.T.C. students back to college. His parents describe domestic life in Biltmore, N.C. and offer personal advice and counsel. His grandmother writes about work at the canteen for the blood donor center. Pomona Davidson describes her work as a nurse at Mass. General Hospital, Patricia Horn writes of cultural life in N.Y.C., sister Ann writes from Concord Academy and Biltmore, N.C., and Twanet Evans discusses Officer Candidate School in the context of his role as an aristocrat in society. Friends write of their military training: Dave at North Camp Hood, Texas, Al at the U.S. Naval Reserve, Cornell University, and Jud in naval training at M.I.T.
Folder 6. Oct. 1, 1943-Dec. 31, 1943:
Fifty-four letters from Norman Beecher to his family, and from family and friends to him. He describes his return to M.I.T. in the fall, development of his philosophy of purpose in life, how to achieve goals, religion, rejection of Christian Science, military training at M.I.T., and trip to Tuckerman Ravine, N.H. His mother provides advice and reading suggestions. There are letters from Patricia Horn and Twanet Evans and peers at Cornell, Smith, LeHigh describing college life and R.O.T.C. programs.
Folder 7. Jan. 2, 1944-Feb. 27, 1944:
Thirty-two letters from Norman Beecher to his family, and from family and friends to him. Topics include ski trip to Franconia, N.H. and moral dilemmas. He expresses enthusiasm for the viewpoints of M.I.T. Professor Morris, based on the concepts that men are not equal (some races are superior), resources are limited, and Europe and the world must federalize. His mother discusses conservatism, war progress, and the black market. His father offers encouragement and details about finances. Letters from friends describing experiences at LeHigh, Wellesley, Smith, and military bases are included. Bettes describes the transition from college to working life.
Folder 8. March 1, 1944-May 31, 1944:
Seventy letters from Norman Beecher at Officer Candidate School at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. and M.I.T. to his family, and from family and friends to him. He describes the officer’s code, schedule, chemical warfare training, rations, and bivouac. He discusses his desire to be more flashy and adventuresome despite his rootedness in being good and steady. He returns to and graduates from M.I.T. His parents describe domestic life, volunteer work at the Red Cross, and "petty misfortunes and upsets" on the home front. Bettes describes work in a lab at Hercules Power Company where she is not allowed in the Engineers Club (men only). Letters from friends at Cornell, Smith, Wellesley (Patricia Peare), flight school in Cottonwood, Az. (Andy), and field artillery training (Jim) reflect the experience of finishing school and anticipate war action.
Folder 9. June 2, 1944-Oct. 7, 1944:
Seventy-one letters, primarily from Norman Beecher to his parents and to him from his mother, and several from family and friends to him. He describes course work and training to become a second lieutenant, duties as an auto maintenance officer, and fellow officers and enlisted men. He discusses his female friends’ personalities, his sisters’ relationship issues, his decision to give Pat Peare his fraternity pin, his personality issues including the need to develop a sense of humor, and his discontent with the middle class. Topics in his mother’s letters include issues with her daughters, counsel about relationships and dealing with Army life, and homefront difficulties of rationing, red tape, etc. Pat Peare writes about summer work at fuel rationing and selling war bonds. A letter from friend Jim describes service in New Caledonia and Fiji, surviving attacks by the Japanese.
Series II: Correspondence, primarily letters from Norman Beecher to his parents, during military service in Europe, Oct. 8, 1944-June 23, 1946:
Folder 10. October 8, 1944-Dec. 30, 1944:
Twenty-six letters describing transport to Europe with the 14th Armored Division in "B" Company of their Ordnance Battalion, free time activities and sightseeing in France, being billeted with French and German families, living in a pup tent, liason work as a part-time assignment, a peasant woman stealing wood, Christmas festivities. Also includes a war note from Frazier Siple to Mrs. Beecher and a letter from John Holden to Mrs. Beecher describing wartime Christmas in Belgium.
Folder 11. Jan. 7, 1945-March 30, 1945:
Twelve letters and one enclosure, a description of the Battle of Hatten by Captain John Carter, Feb., 1945. Norman Beecher describes the elderly couple he stays with in Alsace and their pro-Hitler attitude, his work maintaining an ordnance collection point (support work at the front), the Siegfried Line, and liberating of forced labor camps (foreigners imprisoned by Germans). He asks for a book of card tricks so he can share in the self-entertainment of his French hosts, and expresses his disappointment with the lack of intellectual content in letters from Pat Peare. In a letter to his sister Barbara, he discusses the French attitude toward Negroes.
Folder 12. April 23, 1945-July 29, 1945:
Twelve letters describe the advance into Germany. Topics include billeting in German homes, keeping the civilians in line, Dachau, physical crushing of Germany, German people, combat soldiers’ "fraternization" with German women and low moral standards, installation in an aluminum plant waiting for the war to end, visit to Czechoslovakia and observations about the Czech people, camping in cavalry post at Landshut, Germany to begin permanent occupation. He philosophizes about a method to stop future wars: divide the resources of the world according to peoples best fitted to use them, then limit the world population via sterilization.
Folder 13. Aug. 14, 1945-Nov. 16, 1945:
Fourteen letters, two telegrams, and one War Dept. circular on the regulations on discharge for military personnel engaged in scientific research. Norman Beecher describes the occupation of Germany, the duping of the German people by Hilter, the attitude toward Jews, the relationship of the S.S. and the German people, his typical day as an ordnance office, and how officers get emergency furloughs, and hence, discharges.
Folder 14. Jan. 13, 1946-June 23, 1946:
Sixteen letters, covering the following topics: trip to London, Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Lancaster, and Edinburgh, application for discharge on the grounds that he would be more valuable as a civilian in a scientific field, daily routine, promotion to company commander, rationale for slaughter at Lidice, Czechoslovakia, problems of occupation (thievery, rape, dishonesty, corruption, black market, loss of discipline in the Army), transfer to new outfit as shop officer, mission to Nuremburg and description of trial. He includes a letter written to him from a German family and discusses German attitudes.
Series III: Norman Beecher’s letters to his parents, July 23, 1946-April 26, 1949:
Folder 15. July 23, 1946-Jan. 21, 1947:
Thirteen letters, twelve from Norman Beecher at Pigeon Cove, Mass., and M.I.T. graduate school to parents, and one from fellow M.I.T. student Lee discussing housing plans and friends. Norman Beecher analyzes relationship with Nancy Bartram, seeks advice and comfort about perceived obstacles to marrying her, and failure to improve himself and find direction. He mentions suicides at M.I.T. and Harvard as "sad commentary on our times" and refusal of an M.I.T. professor to do weapons research.
Folder 16. April 1, 1947-April 26, 1949:
Eighteen letters from Norman Beecher to his parents, covering the following topics: practice school at Hercules Powder Company, Parlin, N.J., a steel mill in Buffalo, N.Y., and a paper mill in Benson, Maine, application to Harvard Business School, trip to Toronto, discontent with materialistic narrowing of ideas at M.I.T., engagement to Nancy Bartram, teaching at Institute for Foreign Students at Wellesley College, vacations at Twin Lakes, Canaan, Ct., foreman job at Dewey and Almy, wedding plans, options for buying an automobile, decision to teach at Roberts College in Instanbul.
Series IV: Norman Beecher’s and Nancy Bartram Beecher’s letters to the Beecher and Bartram families from Turkey, July 30, 1949-June 20, 1952:
Folder 17. July 30, 1949-Dec. 31, 1949:
Twenty-nine letters describe trip to Istanbul and settling into teaching at Roberts College. They describe travel by ship (Khedive Ismail) from New York, including daily activity schedules, fellow passengers, trip around Gibraltar, and cities along the way to Istanbul. They become active in the community and social life and visit the local sites. They take a trip to Isnik, Saray, and Eyub, and describe mosques, the suppression of Turkish women, Cumhuriyet Bayrem (holiday of the republic), Turkish music, Islam, Christmas preparations and celebrations, and customs bureaucracy.
Folder 18. Jan. 1, 1950-April 21, 1950:
Twenty letters describing a ski trip to Uludagh, Turkish baths, bazaars, a Turkish wedding ball ("dun"), Turkish gift ideas for the family, description of organization and staff of Roberts College, income tax details, arrival of naval fleet, school trip on the Midway (aircraft-carrier), Patriarchate Easter service, trip to Denizli, Ismir (Smyrna), Pergamum, Sardes, Priene, and Hierapolis.
Folder 19. May 1, 1950-Aug. 22, 1950:
Thirty-five letters are primarily focused on a two-month trip through Europe, including travel on the ship Barletta to Venice, sightseeing and biking in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia, a heated discussion with a German family about the German involvement in the two world wars, and a description of Swedish housing system of cooperative home ownership. Other topics are election day in Turkey and a Turkish wedding ceremony ("nikah").
Folder 20. Sept. 2, 1950-Dec. 29, 1950:
Twenty-nine letters begin with the return trip from Copenhagen to Innsbruck and Venice and the boat trip back to Istanbul. They describe their apartment, social life and activities, Kurban Bayram (sacrifice holiday), census day, a friend’s trip to Persia, Nancy Beecher starting a Girl Scout troop, Thanksgiving trip to Belgrad Forest, prevalence of jaundice, benefit dance for Iron Curtain refugees, Christmas pageant preparations and Christmas festivities.
Folder 21. Jan. 1, 1951-May 26, 195l:
Thirty-three letters cover the following topics: social groups on campus, New Year’s in a Greek home, dinner parties, and stories about individuals that shed light on Turkish history. They describe a trip to Iskenderun, Aleppo, Izmir (Smyrna), Antalya, Marsis, and Antakya, including details on dress, sites, bazaars, transportation, and village life. Other subjects include a school trip to the cruiser Newport News, discipline problems with boys at school, history club activities, a trip with students on the steamer Cumhuriyet to Zonguldak (coal mining center), thence by train and bus to Karabuk (steel center), Ankara, and Kirikkale, the Turkish attitude toward U.S. military troops, discussion of MacArthur and the Korean War, British-American relations, May Day celebration, and Turkish law regarding debt collection and tenants’ rights.
Folder 22. June 3, 1951-Sept. 4, 1951:
Twenty-one letters discuss the need for westernization of Turkish attitudes and the failure to achieve this due to the opportunistic American presence, the importance of global education, a camping trip to Lake Abant with Turkish Boy Scouts, British-American relations, a trip to Yalova and a visit to a small farm, American Board of Foreign Missions conference at Scutari, and a European trip including Switzerland, France, and England.
Folder 23. Sept. 10, 1951-Dec. 29, 1951:
Twenty-six letters start with the arrival back home to start the new semester and a recounting of impressions of England and its people. They continue with a dinner party for the college staff, comments on the conversion of Turks to the American viewpoint, local sightseeing with Norman’s sister Barbara and her friend Margaret, Hisar Women’s League activities, hosting Turkish guests and discussion of their extreme generational differences, trip to Poloneskoy (ethnically Polish village) and discrimination against Poles, school problems with distrustful and demanding parents, arrival of 8000 U.S. naval forces in Istanbul, Oriental rugs, Christmas preparations and celebrations.
Folder 24. Jan. 10, 1952-June 20, 1952:
Thirty-two letters begin with a discussion of travel plans and advice for the Bartrams’ European trip. They tell about a New Year’s trip to Edirne, Turkey and share news of Nancy Beecher’s pregnancy and Norman Beecher’s plan to enter the doctoral program at M.I.T. A description of a trip to Lebanon and Syria includes a discussion of Arab anti-Americanism. Other letters concern a Greek orthodox wedding, the YMCA and Girl Scout activities, purchasing of Oriental rugs and a car, and Norman Beecher’s trip to Antalys, Bursa, Kutahya, and Afyon, including a road trip through the mountains and visits to bazaars and Isparta, home of the Turkish rug industry. They conclude with packing and departure plans.
Folder 25. Feb. 3, 1950-March 31, 1952:
Series V. M.I.T.-related correspondence and newsletters sent to Norman Beecher, July 4, 1943-April 13, 1946:
Folder 26. July 4, 1943-April 13, 1946:
Two newsletters (The Annex, Phi Delta fraternity newsletter) and seven letters (from Ernst A. Hauser, Associate Professor, and Walter G. Whitman, Head of Department of Chemical Engineering).
Mounted 9th October 2004. rcwh.
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