The following tribute to Professor James L. Crouthamel was read at a meeting of the Hobart and William Smith faculty on April 7, 2003. With unanimous approval of the faculty, the Presiding Officer of the faculty has sent the tribute to Professor Crouthamel’s widow and other members of the Crouthamel family.
On March 9, 2003, Professor of History Emeritus James L. Crouthamel passed away at his home in Saginaw, Michigan. A native of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, Professor Crouthamel graduated with honors from Franklin and Marshall College in 1952 and received his Ph.D. in American history from the University of Rochester in 1958. After teaching briefly at Illinois College and then at Pennsylvania State University, Professor Crouthamel arrived at Hobart and William Smith in 1960 to begin a 36-year career that was marked by exemplary teaching, scholarship, and community service. His retirement from the Colleges in 1996 was greeted by numerous letters of congratulation and appreciation from colleagues, friends, and former students. One of those students remarked at the time that successfully completing an honor’s project under Professor Crouthamel’s direction was one of the proudest achievements of his life.
A specialist in the history of 19th-century America, Professor Crouthamel taught a series of courses at the Colleges that attracted large numbers of students from a wide variety of academic disciplines. The most famous of those courses were History 218, “The Press in America,” and History 306, “The Civil War and Reconstruction,” both of which usually had to be taught in the largest classroom available to meet heavy student demand. Throughout his career Professor Crouthamel also was an active participant in the Colleges’ General Curriculum Program in which he ranged far outside his research area to teach or help teach a series of first-year, second-year, and senior capstone courses. One colleague who taught with Professor Crouthamel in several of those General Curriculum courses remarked that “being in the classroom with Jim was both a joy and an education.”
Nor did Professor Crouthamel limit his teaching to U.S. subjects or to the 19th century. A long-standing interest in Latin America led Professor Crouthamel to take up the study of Portuguese, to become a staff member of Cornell University’s interdisciplinary Brazil Project in Pernambuco, and to co-lead an off-campus program to Mexico in 1979. In 1990 he also directed a very successful term abroad program in southeastern England, where he and his students used the city of Canterbury and the University of Kent as bases from which to explore various topics in Anglo-American history and relations.
A disciplined and accomplished scholar, Professor Crouthamel was the author of two important books on the history of American journalism, the first an award winning biography of the New York editor and publisher James Watson Webb and the second on James Gordon Bennett, the New York Herald, and the rise of the popular press in the United States during the 19th century. Professor Crouthamel also was co-editor of a charming volume of Civil War letters, published more than 10 major articles in journals such as “Journalism Quarterly,” “New York History,” “Pennsylvania History,” and the “Journal of Negro History,” and wrote numerous book reviews for “The Journal of American History,” “The Hispanic American Historical Review,” “The Journal of Economic History,” “Civil War History,” and other publications.
The excellence of Professor Crouthamel’s scholarship was noted and acknowledged by his peers. He participated in a series of seminars organized by the New York State Historical Association, served on the Board of Trustees of that same organization, was on the Board of Editors of the journal “New York History” for nearly thirty years, was a member of a major committee of the Organization of American Historians for more than two decades, and was selected to attend three National Endowment for the Humanities Seminars on 19th-century American history held at Emory, Harvard, and Tufts universities in 1979, 1983, and 1987 respectively.
During his tenure at Hobart and William Smith, Professor Crouthamel contributed his energies and talents to the community by, among many other things, chairing the history department, serving on countless departmental, program, and college-wide committees, being an energetic member and officer of the Colleges’ Phi Beta Kappa chapter, and participating enthusiastically in the Honor’s Program. He also will be remembered for his long-standing role as faculty parliamentarian, in which capacity he skillfully and often humorously rescued his colleagues from bureaucratic and procedural quagmires. He was a man of few words, but those words were thoughtful, carefully chosen, and thus commanded serious attention and respect.
Professor Crouthamel’s close friends and colleagues also will remember him for other reasons. An early riser, he arrived at Henry House every weekday morning by 7:30 and promptly made the day’s first pot of coffee for the History Department. He then remained on campus until mid- or late afternoon, when he returned home to his apartment on South Main Street to read selections from his large and constantly expanding private library. Colleagues in History and many other fields soon learned that there was very little in his subject or in theirs that he had not read and absorbed.
Those in the community who did not know him well perhaps will be surprised to learn that Professor Crouthamel also was an avid sports fan, cheering on the Colleges’ athletic teams from the sidelines, remaining steadfastly loyal to his boyhood heroes, the Philadelphia Phillies, and hosting a memorable “Final Two Party” on the night of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. That party usually began with Professor Crouthamel’s signature dry martinis and some carefully prepared hors d’oeuvres. It ended several hours later with coffee and generous portions of one of his superb dessert concoctions. In addition to his many other talents, he was an accomplished pastry chef. One member of the Geneva community still remembers Professor Crouthamel arriving at a dinner party one December many years ago with a bag of freshly baked Christmas cookies that were, she insists, as good as any she has ever eaten.
In conclusion, one of Professor Crouthamel’s closest friends on the faculty has written that “Jim was a very private person, who generously gave assistance to his colleagues but only rarely requested it for himself.” Indeed, he was a loyal and trusted friend to many in the Hobart and William Smith community, and the faculty of the Colleges would like to take this opportunity to express its sincere condolences for their loss to Professor Crouthamel’s widow, Marion Remer, to his sons Tim, Andrew, and Justin, to his mother Mrs. Olive Crouthamel, and to the other members of the Crouthamel family. We are privileged to have known him.