Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/November 1892/Correspondence

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Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: On my return after a protracted absence, my attention was called to an article by President D. S. Jordan on Penikese in the April number of The Popular Science Monthly. Mr. Jordan is mistaken[1] as to the causes which brought about the close of the Anderson School at Penikese. If he had taken the trouble to look up the history of the relations of the second director of the school with Mr. Anderson's representatives, he would have found a very simple solution of the matter.

The fund given to Prof. Agassiz by Mr. Anderson was spent in the equipment of the school and in paying for its running expenses during the first year. At the end of the first year it became apparent to all concerned that Penikese was not a locality suited for a marine laboratory. This had been anticipated by some of Prof. Agassiz's friends, who urged him not to accept the gift of the island of Penikese as a permanent home for a summer school.

The second year was carried on by the trustees in the hope of obtaining from Mr. Anderson the permission to remove the school to Wood's Hole, and with the further understanding with Mr. Anderson's representative that Mr. Anderson would be responsible for the expenses of the school during its second term. Neither of these expectations were realized, and one of the trustees was compelled to meet the expenditures, which amounted to a large sum, and are still a charge upon the school. The attendance during the second year was larger than during the first year, and the applications for the third year were beyond the capacity of the school to meet. The second director did not feel inclined to carry on the school at a locality which he had condemned as unfit for the work, and which was handicapped by its isolated position, involving, in addition to the expenses of a favorable locality, extraordinary expenditures in the way of transportation amounting to more than the ordinary expenses of the school. Nor did the second director feel called upon to meet this wasteful expenditure for the sake of carrying on an enterprise which ought not to have been located where it was, and could not be carried on successfully as long as it remained in its original site.

Having thus failed to obtain Mr. Anderson's consent to the removal of the buildings to Wood's Hole, and finding, in response to an appeal from the trustees, that no educational institution in the country cared sufficiently for the scheme to co-operate with them, the trustees represented the case to the Legislature of Massachusetts, and were authorized to convey all right and title to the island, and to the buildings erected upon it for the use of the school, back to Mr. Anderson.
Alexander Agassiz.

Cambridge, Mass., September 4, 1802.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: A letter from Mr. Joseph Story Fay, addressed to "Prof. Edward F. Fernald, Centre College, Pa.," was received by Prof. H. T. Fernald, State College, Centre County, Pa., and by him was sent to me—for whom its remarkably accurate writer intended it. In his letter Mr. Fay takes exception to the allusion to "Wood's Holl," in my article on Changes in Chemical and Geographical Words in the September Monthly, as "the meaningless corruption of Wood's Hole effected by finical summer visitors." As to who effected the change, my authority was the United States Board on Geographic Names, which says in its first report (1891), "The name, which was originally Wood's Hole, was changed several years ago by the summer residents of the place to Wood's Holl." But Mr. Fay says there were no summer visitors there when the change was made, and, as he has lived in the town over forty years, doubtless he knows.

Mr. Fay also incloses a pamphlet giving the theory on which the change was based, but I regret to say that it consists mainly of "may be's" and "why not's." On this point the Century Dictionary has the following, under hole:

"In 1875 the name Wood's Hole was changed to Wood's Holl, in conformity with the (unfounded) supposition that hole in such local names is a corruption of a Norse word holl, meaning 'hill,' introduced by the Norsemen in the tenth century, and preserved from that remote period by the American Indians."

This quotation follows the above: "This [flag] was to be raised at a good anchoring-place called Five-Fathom Hole.,—Ellis, Voyage to Hudson's Bay (1748), p. 149.

The village of Woods Holl takes its name from the adjacent strait. Any one who remembers the "swimming-hole" of his boyhood will see no need of explaining the word hole as applied to a body of water by means of the Norwegian word for the neighboring hill.

Very truly yours,

Frederik A. Fernald.

New York, September 20, 1892.

  1. The yacht given to the school was presented by Mr. C. W. Galloupe, and not by Mr. Anderson, as is stated in the article quoted above. Mr. Galloupe generously allowed its sale, to meet a part ot the debts of the school.