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T. Chalmers Furnas papers

 Collection — Box: 1-3
Identifier: MS-0190

Scope and Contents

Collection contains personal papers, original poetry and prose manuscripts, memorabilia, publications, clippings, scrapbooks, and photographs from life of T. Chalmers Furnas, father of University of Buffalo Chancellor Clifford C. Furnas and Clifton Joseph Furness. Collection mostly assembled by Sparkle M. Furnas.


  • 1894-1974
  • Majority of material found within 1894-1946


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The T. Chalmers Furnas Papers, 1894-1974 (bulk 1894-1946) are open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

T. Chalmers Furnas

Thomas Chalmers Furnas was born in Sheridan, Indiana, near Indianapolis, on April 7, 1876 into a Quaker farming family who lived and worked a 160 acres farm. His mother, Eunice Furnas, was a Quaker minister in charge of social activities of the Western Yearly Quaker Conference. His father, Joseph Furnas, was a relative of Robert Furnas, founder of the Furnas Ice Cream Company. Chalmers had three siblings: a brother Walton C. Furnas, and two sisters, Annie M. Coyner, and Calista Fellows. He graduated from Dannville Central Normal College and attended Purdue University's Short Course in Agriculture from 1895-1897 but did not receive a diploma until 1899. He was the first and only student to be granted a certificate for the two year course by President Smart. At Purdue, he met and married Clara Evana Spray on August 25, 1897.

Mr. Furnas served as florist and grounds supervisor on private estates and at the French Lick Springs Hotel in Indiana. He also taught nature study and applied horticulture and floriculture to young people. The family moved often and lived in Sheridan, Plainfield, Jeffersonville, New Albany, French Lick, on Dr. Cole's estate in Crow's Nest outside Indianapolis, and in Knightstown where Furnas worked at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's home at Knightstown, Indiana from 1923 to 1925. In 1927 he moved to Rockland County, New York where he taught in the Graham School at Hastings-on-Hudson. He then went up river to be florist and grounds supervisor at the New York State Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York where he also served on the staff of the school teaching landscape and greenhouse work. He also ran his own florist and nursery business throughout.

The Furnases purchased the Dingman farm in Columbiaville, New York where they made their home until Chalmers' death on October 29th, 1934. With the assistance of the Amesbury Society of Friends meeting he was buried in Amesbury Cemetery, Amesbury, Massachusetts near to the grave of his favorite poet, John Greenleaf Whittier.

Mr. Furnas spent much of his free time in meditation and reading and the composing of poems and sketches, which embodied his ideals of the wholeness and unity of all life. In 1929 Mr. Furnas published a series of his poems on nature in the Hudson Daily Star and other papers.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Chalmers' son, Clifton Joseph Furness [who had legally changed the spelling of the family name to the original of his English ancestors] began writing a memoir of his father's writings entitled In My Father's House to send to family members. With his father's untimely death, he added much about the funeral and his reminiscences. A shortened version appears on pages 170 to 280 of Sparkle Furnas' Furnas Family Fragments. The original manuscript is in the Clifton Joseph Furness Papers, MS 215.

Adapted from obituaries and excerpts from Furnas Family Fragments by Sparkle M. Furnas, 1975, copies located in 4/9/1091, Sparkle M. Furnas Papers, 1901-1991, Box/Folder 2.24.

Clifford Cook Furnas

Clifford C. Furnas (1900-1969), chemical engineer, metallurgist, aviator researcher, and Olympic athlete, was the University's ninth chief executive, holding the position of Chancellor from 1954 until 1962 when the University merged with the State University of New York and his title changed to President. Furnas undertook an extensive program of expansion and enrichment to meet the growing educational needs of Western New York. He was the guiding force in the merger of the private UB with the State University of New York in 1962. He served as President through 1966.

Dr. Furnas was a nationally recognized scientist, educator, administrator, and author. He studied chemical engineering at Purdue University from 1918 to 1922 and taught Engineering at Yale in the 1930s. He directed the Airplane Division of Curtiss-Wright in Buffalo, New York from 1942 to 1945 and the Cornell Aeronautical laboratory from 1946 to 1954. From 1955 to 1957, Dr. Furnas served as Assistant Secretary of Defense a the Pentagon, under the Eisenhower administration.

His personal and professional achievements included his participation in the 1920 Olympic Games, authoring an award-winning book, and working on the project to develop the United States first space satellite, Explorer I.

Dr. Furnas once said, "All of my life I have been involved alternately in research and university education. They go together and they are both necessary for human progress..."

Sparkle Moore Furnas

Sparkle Velma Moore was born March 14th, 1901 daughter of Rosa B. Brunes Moore and William Allen Moore near Zionsville, Indiana. She attended Boone County Public Schools and graduated from Zionsville High School in 1919. She attended Purdue University off and on from 1919-1924, graduating with a B.S. degree. In between she taught high school home economics and general science in Colfax, Lebanon, and Waterloo High Schools in Indiana. From 1924-25 she taught home economics, English and Latin in Whitestown High School, Indiana.

Sparkle Moore married Clifford Cook Furnas on April 12, 1925 in Happy Hollow, W. Lafayette, Indiana. The first year of their marriage they spent in Ann Arbor, Michigan where Clifford received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1926. They moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1926 where Sparkle was appointed an Assistant in Dietetics and Nutrition in the Home Economics Department at the University of Minnesota and began her work on a Master's Degree. She was promoted to Instructor in 1927, completed her degree in June, 1930, and continued to teach full-time 1930-1931.

In 1954 when Dr. Furnas was named Chancellor of the University of Buffalo, Sparkle assumed the tireless role of "first lady" at UB. She served as hostess and entertained some 50,000 persons from 1954 to 1966 when Dr. Furnas retired. Sparkle Furnas was honored many times over by various UB and local organizations including the Walter P. Cooke Award for service to the University in June 1971.

Following Dr. Furnas' death in 1969, Sparkle dedicated herself to organizing his papers, memorabilia, etc. and advocated for the University to establish the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room. She privately published an index to all of his works, eight other titles written by him, and a special memorial biography. She also research and organized the Furnas Family records and memorabilia to produce a book called Furnas Family Fragments, researched and published the Moore and Brunes family genealogies, and published a book of poetry by Clifford's father, T. Chalmers Furnas.

Sparkle Moore Furnas died in 1996.

Clifton Joseph Furness

Clifton Joseph Furness, was born in Sheridan, Indiana on April 30, 1898, the first son of T. Chalmers and Clara Spray Furnas. Originally named Furnas, he changed the spelling in 1917 to that of his English ancestors. He graduated from Mooresville High School in 1916 and Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1921. He studied piano under Nellie B. Shaffer of Indianapolis and gave his first recital at age 16. He taught piano from the age of 15 and his pupils gave recitals in the Mooresville High School Auditorium. He developed as a lecture-recitalist and served on the Chautauqua and Lyceum programs. He spent a year on the road in the Schroeder Quintette before movies overtook vaudeville. Most of his college expense was paid for by his musical efforts including teaching musical history and and keyboard harmony at Northwestern from 1919-1921.

From the midwest Clifton moved in 1922 to Columbia University in New York City where he taught for five years in the Horace Mann School for Boys, an experimental and education unit of the Teachers' College. He taught English and founded the the music department.

In 1927 Clifton moved to Boston and received a Master's degree from Harvard in 1928. He then taught at Northeastern University, the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont, Bradford Academy (1929-31), and in the Katharine Gibbs Schools in Boston and Providence (1929-1939). From 1929 to 1934 he assisted Prof. John L. Lowes of the English department of Harvard for six years overseeing research work of graduate students. His areas of expertise ranged from English, modern literature, biography and musical appreciation.

In 1930 he joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music where he taught German literature, psychology, European history, English composition and composition, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. He became supervisor of academic studies and developed a program to help war veterans overcome battle shock. He also frequently lectured at many private clubs.

Clifton's writing interests developed early as editor of his high school paper and author of a musical column in the Mooresville Times. He later edited a column for the New England Conservatory News called "Books and All That." He published Genteel Female, an anthology and "polite inquiry into the tastes, manners, morals, recipes, cosmetics, dress, education and personal secrets of the American lady" in 1931.

Clifton Furness was regarded as one of the greatest authorities on Walt Whitman. He published Walt Whitman's Workshop: A Collection of Unpublished Notebooks [Harvard University Press, 1928] and Walt Whitman's Estimate of Shakespeare [Harvard University Press, 1932]. He collaborated with Clara Barrus on Whitman and Burroughs, Comrades published in 1931 which details Whitman's friendship with the naturalist John Burroughs. He assembled a Bibliography of Walt Whitman which was accepted but not published by Houghton Mifflin Co. At the time of his death he had other works in progress including Whitman's Biography and a book on Whitman's reception in New England preliminarily called The Bull in the China Shop. Furness' manuscripts and literary material were left in Furness' will to Moreton Graves Abbott who may have had a part in seeing their way to Professor Gay Wilson Allen of New York University. Prof. Allen used some of Furness's research to write his biography of Whitman, The Solitary Singer in 1955.

Clifton was very close with his father T. Chalmers Furnas. In the 1920s and early 1930s Clifton began writing a memoir and collecting his father's writings for publication to celebrate his father's upcoming 60th birthday in 1936. His father died in 1934 before it was completed. Traumatized by his father's death, he continued to expand on the memoir, In My Father's House but died on May 26, 1936 before he could finish it. It was later edited and arranged by Sparkle M. Furnas for inclusion in her Furnas Family Fragments.

Clifton's ashes are buried between his mother and father in the Quaker Burying Ground in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Summarized from "A Brief Biography of Clifton Joseph Furness" in Furnas Family Fragments by Sparkle M. Furnas, 1975, pp. 150-151 copies located in 4/9/1091, Sparkle M. Furnas Papers, 1901-1991, Box/Folder 2.24.


2.71 Linear Feet (2 cartons, and 1 half manuscript box)


Collection contains personal papers, original poetry and prose manuscripts, memorabilia, publications, clippings, scrapbooks, and photographs of T. Chalmers Furnas, father of University of Buffalo Chancellor Clifford C. Furnas and Clifton Joseph Furness.


This collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Biographical
  2. Correspondence
  3. Manuscripts
  4. Published volumes

Acquisition Information

Collection received from Clifford and Sparkle Furnas between the 1960s and 1980s.

Provenance Note: After the death of Clifford Furnas's brother Clifton Joseph Furness in 1948 and his mother Clara Spray Furnas in 1952, Clifford came into possession of some of his brother's papers which the processor has concluded included much of their father's papers now in this collection. Clifford also received items from other family members. Following Clifford Furnas' death in 1969, his wife Sparkle dedicated herself to organizing his papers, memorabilia, etc. and advocated for the University to establish the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room. In addition to publishing several books related to her husband, Sparkle also researched and organized the Furnas Family records and memorabilia to produce a book called Furnas Family Fragments, and published a book of poetry by T. Chalmers Furnas. Many marginal notes found in this collection were made by Clifton following his father's death in 1934 or by Sparkle Furnas between 1972 and 1977 when she was compiling her published volumes.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources in the University Archives

  1. 4/9/805, Clifford C. Furnas Papers, 1900-1986 (bulk 1917-1969)
  2. 4/9/843, Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room, 1900-2010
  3. 4/9/1091, Sparkle M. Furnas Papers, 1901-1991
  4. MS 215, Clifton J. Furness Papers, 1903-1974 (bulk 1903-1955)

Processing Information

Originally processed by Archives staff circa 1999. Reprocessed by Karen Spencer, April 2011.


Finding Aid for T. Chalmers Furnas papers
Finding aid prepared by Karen Spencer.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
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