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Pynchon Family Papers

Identifier: Pynchon Family Papers

Scope and Contents

The Pynchon Family papers consist of materials dated from 1840 to 1904 which were created by or for Thomas Ruggles Pynchon and William H.C. Pynchon. The materials mainly include personal correspondence, genealogical notes, pamphlets, and undergraduate essays. Correspondents include Sophia Pynchon, Henry T. Parker, John Williams (Trinity class of 1835), Mrs. E. M. Avery, James J. Goodwin, and Frances Clark. A certificate is signed by Ainsworth R. Spofford.


  • Creation: March 22, 1840-February 8, 1904

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the John M.K. Davis Reading Room of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College Library, Hartford, Connecticut. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws when using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with the duplication policy of the Watkinson Library.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information (e.g. social security numbers) in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Biographical / Historical

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1823, Thomas Ruggles Pynchon was the son of William Henry Ruggles Pynchon and Mary Murdoch. He was schooled at Boston Latin School, after which he entered Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut) in 1837.

Graduating from Trinity College in 1841, Pynchon tutored students in Classics and lectured on Chemistry until 1847. In 1848, he became a deacon, and then priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1849. Between 1849 and 1854, he served as rector of Episcopal churches in Stockbridge and Lenox, both located in western Massachusetts. In October 1854, Pynchon took a teaching position at Trinity College as the inaugural Scovill Professorship of Chemistry, named after the Scovill brothers. He served as de-facto Librarian of Trinity College from 1857 to 1882.

Given the fruitful interplay of science and religion in the mid-nineteenth century, Pynchon's move was likely not a dramatic career change. While teaching chemistry and natural sciences at Trinity, he took one of America's first sabbatical leaves, which allowed him the time to study at Paris and Cambridge, England. According to the Hartford Courant of February 1856, Pynchon studied with "the most eminent teachers of Geology and Mineralogy in the world." In part to study geology, he toured southern France, Italy, and Sicily, a trip that may have included a nighttime climb of Mt. Etna. He brought some chemical equipment back with him to Hartford from France, leading to a major remodel of the Chemistry Laboratory at Trinity College.

During much of the American Civil War, Pynchon served as Acting Chaplain of the college. He led the scheduled daily prayers in the morning and evening, as well as offering the Sunday service. He also served as chaplain of the college's student Missionary Society. He obtained a Doctorate in Divinity from St. Stephen's College. In June 1867, he took public offense at the election of Abner Jackson as President of Trinity College, a snub which Jackson recorded in his personal diary.

After Abner Jackson died unexpectedly during plans for the construction of a new campus on Summit Street, Pynchon was himself elected President of the college in November 1874. Encouraging a policy of incremental building of the Burges architectural plan, he helped to break ground at the new Summit Campus on July 1, 1875. Still, President Pynchon faced the uneviable challenge of guiding the construction of the new campus buildings along Summit Street, as well as overseeing the last few semesters of classes taught at the "Old Campus" in downtown Hartford. Known as by some of the students as "Old Pynch", Pynchon appears not to have been a favorite among students. Members of several classes took to setting large bonfires, while other students called meetings and took votes to express their opinions contrary to the administration's views. He held out hope that the troublemakers on campus were largely composed of students who had started classes at the old campus and would soon graduate. He was made the Chair of Moral Philosophy in 1877.

But it was relationships between Pynchon, the faculty, and the alumni that would ultimately lead him to end his term. In October 1882, he resigned from the Presidency of Trinity, amid demands from some quarters that he resign. Yet, Pynchon stayed on at Trinity as Professor of Moral Philosophy, a post he kept until 1902. Beginning in 1888, he also held the Brownell Professorship. In 1902, his title switched to Professor Emeritus.

On October 6, 1904, Thomas Ruggles Pynchon died in New Haven, Connecticut.

Born in Plainfield, Connecticut, on April 16, 1867, William H.C. Pynchon studied at Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, before matriculating at Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut) in 1887. At his graduation from Trinity in 1890, he was "second in class standing and valedictorian," according to Carrie M. Pynchon's account, dated May 20, 1910. He then received an M.A. from Harvard University. Returning to Trinity College in the 1890s to teach geology, Pynchon left in to move to Oyster Bay, New York, where he was a surveyor and civil engineer. He died on January 2, 1910. He was the nephew of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Trinity College Class of 1841.


8 Folder(s) (1 archival box ) ; 10 inches x 15 inches x 3 inches

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into two series, which represent two groupings of materials (one related to Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, the other related to William H.C. Pynchon).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Judith Pynchon donated materials related to Thomas Ruggles Pynchon and William H.C. Pynchon on December 21, 2000.

Related Materials

Additional Thomas Ruggles Pynchon materials are located in the Early Presidents' Papers, Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford, CT.

"Pynchon, Rev. Thomas Ruggles," Deceased Alumni File, and "Pynchon, T.R., Rev., D.D., LL.D.," Deceased Alumni Photofile, Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford, CT.

There is a large Bronze Bust of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon in the Trinity College Archives at the Watkinson Library.

During his lifetime, Thomas R. Pynchon authored several published works, including:

Introduction to chemical physics, designed for the use of academies, high schools, and colleges (1877). (Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Trinitiana Y P99ic)

Bishop Butler, a religious philosopher for all time : a sketch of his life with an examination of the Analogy (1889). (Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Trinitiana, Y P99, among other locations).


Weaver, Glenn. The History of Trinity College: Volume One (Hartford: Trinity College Press, 1967).

Processing Information

This collection has been fairly thoroughly processed, to the folder level. Items were arranged by format and rehoused in acid-free folders. Some metal fasteners were replaced by plastic clips.


Guide to the Pynchon Family Papers
Trinity College Archivist Eric C. Stoykovich
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Trinity College Archives Repository

Watkinson Library
300 Summit St.
Hartford CT 06106 USA