Winterton Curtis redux

I’ve had a lifelong obsession with an old zoologist at my alma mater, Winterton C. Curtis (1875-1966), who happens to have been my first real landlord: my parents rented rooms in his home soon after my birth, while my Dad was finishing his veterinary degree at Mizzou.

I remember him visiting our family in the years just prior to his death. He pulled dollars from my ear.

Later I’d learn of his historical importance, as one of the expert witnesses not allowed to testify at the infamous 1925 trial of John Scopes in Dayton TN.

Well, during our recent visit to Columbia, MO, Older Daughter and I rode by the place with my old roomie RD (still a Columbia resident).

And that’s what got me hunting for the little offprint of the memoir Dr. Curtis published in the Columbia Missourian in 1957, that belonged to my Dad. Found it yesterday. And, found it again this morning online: “A Damned-Yankee Professor in Little Dixie.” (The house is pictured on p.37.)

And check out the last page, where he talks about how the former university president “admitted publicly” that faculty positions were rotated among “the various Protestant denominations…” What a different world it was, not so long ago.

I’m just intrigued by the single degree of separation between myself and someone who was born in 1875, who began his university teaching career at my old school in 1901, who was in Tennessee literally alongside H.L. Mencken  in 1925, and who used to entertain a little boy who would one day move to Tennessee to philosophize about things like the Scopes Trial.
Somewhere in a box I have my dad’s personal correspondence with Dr. C.  I’ll look for it today.
I’ve also discovered that the Missouri State Historical Society has the Curtis archives, which I’m now eager to inspect and find a way to work into my James fiction project.
I love picking up pieces of the past and aiming them at the future. Stay tuned.
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3 Responses to “Winterton Curtis redux”

  1. A. LaVere Williams Says:

    I too am intrigued by the works of Dr. Curtis. My great grandmother worked for him as his maid. When she married my great aunt became his maid and served him until his death. Upn her death I found several poems, books and memoirs he had given to my aunt. I enjoy reading them from time to time. It is so interesting to see the pictures of Columbia during that time.

  2. Karen Dera Says:

    Hi,
    I just stumbled upon this little paper book called A Damned-Yankee Professor in Little Dixie. It was interesting, so I looked up Winterton C Curtis and found out who he was. I decided I would sell it on the Internet and I was researching on how much I could sell if for, I found your blog. maybe you are interested in purchasing it. I live in California and sell books on E-Bay. If so, I will let you know what the going price for it is, as soon as I found out. It is inscribed to a Dr. and Mrs.C. L. Hamm? I can’t quite make out the Last name, but starts with an Ha… Then Says Complement of Winterton C. Curtis. First time I heard of him, so it was interesting to look him up and find out who he was…. I’m a bit of a treasure hunter of sorts. This seams like a little treasure of history…

    • LaVere Williams Says:

      Hello,
      Yes he is a great part of history. I too have this book and have enjoyed reading it. Good luck. I would try the archives at University of MO. if I were you they may be interested,

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