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George Leland Dyer Papers, 1783-1930 (bulk 1862-1930 )

Manuscript Collection #340

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: George Leland Dyer Papers
Creator: Dyer, George Leland, 1849-1914
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1783 - 1930, [bulk 1862 - 1930]) consisting of correspondence, diaries, photographs, photograph albums, literary manuscripts, newspapers and newspaper clipping, a book of poetry, genealogical notes, etc., documenting the life of Commodore George L. Dyer, whose naval career spanned the years 1870 to 1908, and his family. He served in various stations, with particular emphasis on the West Indies, the Asiatic Station, Cuba, Madrid (as naval attache), and Guam (as governor).
Extent: 5.78 Cubic feet, 2400 items, consisting of correspondence, diaries, photographs and photograph albums, literary manuscripts, newspapers and newspaper clippings, a book of poetry, and miscellany.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

July 1, 1977, ca. 100 items; Papers (1863-1924), including correspondence, photographs, a diary, and poetry.

August 30, 1977, ca. 2,300 items; Papers (1864-1908), consisting of correspondence, diaries, photographs, and miscellaneous. Bulk of material consists of letters from Commodore Dyer to his family. Donor: Mrs. Janice E. Sellers, Kinston, N.C.

June 20, 2006, (unprocessed addition 1), 24 items, 0.25 cubic feet; Papers (2005) relating to Commander George Leland Dyer, U.S. Navy, 1849-1914, and Cartographer Hendree Paine Simpson, U.S. Navy, 1872-1950; their cruises aboard the Patrol Yacht USS YANKTON, 1899-1906; their U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office and Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel records; Dyer family census records, Washington, DC, 1870, and Washington, MI, 1880; Dyer family genealogical research files from Ancestry. com; and a typescript manuscript entitled Uncovering a Philatelic Cover Connection - Commander George Leland Dyer, 1849-1914; Cartographer Hendree Paine Simpson, 1872-1950, . . . , by Oren Kaplan [2005]. Photocopies and Printed materials. See preliminary inventory attached. Note: Donor requests researchers to send him any additional Dyer family information. Donor: Oren Kaplan.

December 13, 2012, (unprocessed addition 2), 1 item, 0.10 cubic feet; Addition is the official document signed by Pres. William McKinley appointing Dyer as a lieutenant-commander in the U.S. Navy on November 23, 1898. Donor: Purchased from Brad Shafran, Shafran Collectibles, Inc., East Meadow, New York.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

George Leland Dyer Papers (#340), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Mrs. Janice E. Sellers
  • Purchased from Brad Shafran, Shafran Collectibles, Inc.

Processing Information

  • Processed by M. York, October 1983

  • Encoded by Apex Data Services

Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

George Leland Dyer (Aug. 26, 1849-Apr. 2, 1914), son of George Washington and Mary Kelley Dyer, was born and reared in Calais, Maine. Appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1866, he was graduated with honors in 1870. He was made an ensign in July, 1871. Dyer was promoted through grades to the rank of captain in Sept., 1905, and commodore in 1908, when he retired. He served aboard various sail and steam vessels and performed a variety of administrative duties. In 1875 Dyer married Susan Hart Palmer (Sept. 22, 1853-1921), one of five children of Oliver Hazzard and Susan Augusta Hart Palmer of New York. They had three children: George Palmer (b. Feb. 7, 1876), Susan Hart [Daisy] (b. Dec. 20, 1879), and Dorothy (b. May 7, 1886). Commodore and Mrs. Dyer retired to their home, The Anchorage, at Winter Park, Florida, in 1908, where they lived until they died. For further information concerning the family, see genealogical notes in folder #340.25.c.

The following chronology summarizes the career of Commodore Dyer:

1870-1873 USS PLYMOUTH , European Station, Africa, West Indies
1871 Promoted to rank of ensign
1873-1874 USS MINNESOTA and USS FROLIC , North Atlantic Station
1873 Promoted to rank of master
1875-1877 USS FROLIC , South Atlantic Station
1877-1880 Instructor of Mathematics, U.S. Naval Academy
1879- Promoted to rank of lieutenant
1881-1882 USS DESPATCH , Gulf of Samana, West Indies
1883-1888 Assistant to hydrographer, U.S. Hydrographic Office
1888-1889 Hydrographer, U.S. Hydrographic Office
1890-1893 Flag-Lieutenant, Pacific Station, USS CHARLESTON , USS SAN FRANCISCO , USS THETIS , USS MOHICAN
1893-1895 Head, Department of Modern Languages, U.S. Naval Academy
1896-1897 USS VESUVIUS , Jacksonville, Florida
1897-1898 Naval Attaché, Madrid
1898 Commander, USS STRANGER
1898-1901 Commander, USS YANKTON , Cuba
1901-1902 In charge of ships and head, Department of Modern Languages, U.S. Naval Academy
1902-1903 Commander, USS RAINBOW , Asiatic Station
1903-1904 Commander, USS ALBANY , Asiatic Station
1904-1905 Governor of Guam
1905 Promoted to rank of captain
1906-1908 Commandant, Navy Yard, Charleston, S.C.; Navy Station, Port Royal, S.C.; and 6th Naval District
1908 Promoted to rank of commodore; retired

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The George Leland Dyer Papers constitute an unusually rich primary source reflecting varied aspects of the U.S. Navy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition, the papers chronicle in great detail the personal affairs and relationships of members of the Dyer and Palmer families. The bulk of the collection consists of the voluminous correspondence of George Dyer to his wife during his frequent absences from home, although letters of Susan Dyer, George Washington Dyer, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Hazzard Palmer, and other members of the family comprise a significant portion of the papers. Such additional material as diaries, photographs, and literary manuscripts complement the correspondence pertaining to the Navy and to the activities of family members.


Correspondence and other material pertaining to Dyer's naval career provide an interesting, lucid picture of life in the U.S. Navy during a time when it slowly evolved from a state of pre-Civil War backwardness into a "New Navy" force of international significance.

Dyer's letters to his wife and children, often lengthy journals written over periods of many days, reveal his keen intellect, character, and views on naval affairs. They document his constant frustration with life in the Navy and his frequent desire to find another profession. Themes reflected throughout the letters include such problems as low pay, paucity of promotions, routine or petty nature of work, lengthy absences from home, slowness of mail service, backwardness of ships and naval policy, desertions, alcohol abuse and other problems with crew, infestations of vermin, and incompetence of various officers, including some of Dyer's superiors. Dyer also discusses new naval developments, including the use of steam power and electricity. Other topics frequently discussed are mechanical aspects of ships, Dyer's reading interests, storms, navigation, such routine maintenance as cleaning and painting, relationships of officers and men, life in the mess, leisure activities, such frequent social events at ports as dinners and balls, and church services. Dyer also comments on the role of the Navy as a manifestation of America's growth as an imperial power.

The collection contains significant documentation concerning most of Dyer's cruises and administrative assignments. In the descriptions below, references are made to notable topics pertaining to specific duties. The researcher should remember that the above-mentioned subjects are constant themes throughout the papers.

USS PLYMOUTH , European Station, 1870-1873

During this period Dyer visited such cities as Villefrache, Lisbon, Southampton, Gravesend, Hamburg, Frankfort, and Soden. Correspondence pertains to a sailor's attack of delirium tremens after shore leave in France (Mar. 16, 1872); a race among (June 2, 1872) and maneuvers of ships in the European Squadron (May 31, July, 1872); a visit to the squadron of the Price and Princess of Wales (Aug., 1872); General William T. Sherman's visit with Queen Victoria and his opinion of her (Aug., 1872); Dyer's leisure activities in Soden, Germany (Sept. 22, 29, 1872); and houses near the depot in Frankfort (Sept. 29, 1872).

USS FROLIC , South Atlantic Station, 1875-1877

From a base in Montevideo, Uruguay, the FROLIC traveled extensively along the East Coast of South America. Letters of George and Susan, who lived in Montevideo during this period, comment extensively on many aspects of life in the area. Of particular interest are materials reflecting the FROLIC' s voyage from the United States to South America. George's letter of November 21, 1875, describes the voyage and stops at Bermuda, Barbados, and Maranham, Brazil, as well as a ceremony at Rio de Janeiro on the occasion of the birthday of the emperor of Brazil. George Dyer's diary kept during the trip contains descriptions and photographs of Bermuda, Barbados, and Maranham, as well as references to life aboard the FROLIC. Letters throughout the period pertain to Susan's domestic and social activities in Montevideo.

Additional correspondence pertains to houses, people, and street scenes in Montevideo (Jan. 16, 1876); instability, corruption, and sloth of the government and people of Uruguay (Mar. 8, 1876); aspects of the government and people of Uruguay (Mar. 8, 1876); aspects of Maldonado, Uruguay, including its bay, Gorrite Island, a cemetery in disarray, and corruption of local officials (Apr. 1, 1876); a peaceful revolution in Uruguay (Apr., 1876); aspects of Buenos Aires and naval officials' meeting with Argentine President Nicholás Avellaneda during a violent anti-government demonstration (July 7, Aug. 26, 1876); the squalid nature of Colonia, Uruguay, and English sheep ranchers there (Aug. 26, 1876); a ball in Buenos Aires (Feb. 16, 1877); the appearance of Pernambuco, Brazil (Sept. 17, 1877); and native women at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, who loaded coal for the FROLIC (Oct. 11, 1877). Dyer's diary contains additional entries (Mar., Sept., 1877) pertaining to aspects of the cruise.

Instructor of Mathematics, U.S. Naval Academy, 1877-1880

During much of this period Dyer served aboard the USS CONSTELLATION , a sail-powered training vessel. His letters (July, 1878-Sept., 1879) discuss shipboard life, leisure activities, and other aspects of cruises along the East Coast. Also of interest are Dyer's descriptions of the shotgun cottages at Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts (Aug. 8, 1877).


Dyer served aboard this venerable ship on its last official cruise, during which time it served as a mobile school for training apprentices. His letters (Sept., 1880-Aug., 1881) describe the ship, officers, crew, stringent regulations, problems on board ship, and aspects of the training, which took place along the East Coast. Also of interest are references to lack of maintenance at Fortress Monroe, Virginia (Oct. 16, 1880); poor conditions aboard other ships in the squadron (Oct. 24, 1880); and the bad performance of Captain Oscar F. Stanton and his replacement (Apr. 26; May 1, 2, 1881; June 19, 1881).

USS DESPATCH , 1881-1882

From December, 1881, until July, 1882, Dyer served aboard this vessel in the Gulf of Samana, Dominican Republic, where the crew was involved in survey work. His letters describe the survey work and comment extensively on the squalid condition of the natives, landscape, climate, and animal life in the vicinity of Santa Barbara, San Juan, and Savana la Mar. Of particular interest are Dyer's descriptions of a cock fight at Santa Barbara (Jan. 1, 1882), a local judge and area governor (Feb. 6, 1882), and a pony ride through the countryside (Feb. 6, 1882).

U.S. Hydrographic Office, 1883-1889

Although little correspondence exists for this period, a single file (1888-1889) contains letters complimenting Dyer's work as hydrographer and newspaper clippings concerning the Hydrographic Office and Dyer's tenure there.

Flag-Lieutenant, Pacific Station, 1890-1893

From the shipyard at Mare Island, California, Dyer served aboard flagships of the Pacific Station under the command of Rear Admiral George Brown. Most of the material for these years reflects varied activities aboard the USS CHARLESTON (Jan., 1890-Feb., 1891) and USS SAN FRANCISCO (Apr., 1891-Aug., 1892). Dyer's letters constitute a very descriptive record of physical aspects and operations of these ships, as well as social activities of officers at Mare Island, California, and various ports, including San Francisco and Honolulu. The letters contain frequent discussions of Rear Admiral Brown and the CHARLESTON' s Captain George Collier Remey. Dyer had responsibility for organizing the band for these flagships; many of his letters pertain to activities and problems of the musicians.

The USS CHARLESTON was the first steel ship completed at the shipyard at Mare Island. Dyer's letters of Feb.-May, 1890, pertain to social activities and official duty at Mare Island and San Francisco as the CHARLESTON was prepared for service. Of interest during this period are discussions of the shipyard and its surroundings (Feb. 9, 18, 1890); a hotel at Monterey, California, and the area around Monterey, including Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz (Mar. 3-5, 1890); festivities surrounding the ship's departure from Mare Island and San Francisco (Apr. 10, 1890); and a "Loyal Legion banquet" in San Francisco presided over by Gen. Nelson Appleton Miles (May 4, 1890).

In May, 1890, the CHARLESTON departed for Honolulu because of anticipated civil unrest in Hawaii. Correspondence from May, 1890, until February, 1891, chronicles the activities of the ship there, the political rumblings, the appearance of Honolulu and environs, and the lifestyles and estates of wealthy Americans who lived there. Also of interest are Dyer's derogatory descriptions of natives, "half-whites," and revolutionaries. Of particular importance are descriptions of the CHARLESTON' s surprisingly slow speed (May 23, 1890); the decadence and questionable social activities of Hawaiian King Kalakana (May 30, Oct. 3, Nov. 16, 1890); banker Charles Reed Bishop and his family(June 9, Oct. 3, 1890); U.S. Minister Resident John Leavitt Stevens, and his family (June 9, July 6, 1890); German capitalist Claus Spreckels (June 29, 1890); the bad policies and conservatism of Rear Admiral Francis Munroe Ramsay (July 6, 16, 1890); laziness and immorality of missionaries (July 6, 1890); the CHARLESTON' s enthusiastic reception by the people of Seattle during a brief visit (Sept. 1, 1890); Hawaiian Minister to the U.S. Henry Alpheus Pierce Carter and his family (Oct. 3, 1890); and a sugar plantation at Waimanalo (Oct. 26, 1890; Feb. 11, 1891). Copies of the Wave (July, 1890), published aboard the CHARLESTON , further document the ship's activities at Honolulu. A newspaper clipping pertains to the funeral of King Kalakana.

By April, 1891, Dyer was aboard the USS SAN FRANCISCO , which was sent to Chile during the revolution there. Considerable correspondence (Apr.-Nov., 1891) pertains to the Navy's involvement in the area, especially the chase and capture of the Chilean revolutionaries' ship ITATA , which had smuggled arms out of the United States, and attempts to intercept its companion vessel, the ESMERALDA. Dyer comments extensively on actions of the Balmaceda government and Chilean junta; movements of U.S. ships along the South American coast; cities, landscape, and people in Chile and Peru; negotiations with revolutionaries concerning the ITATA affair; U.S. naval policy during the conflict; and actions of various officers, including Admirals Brown and McCaun and the CHARLESTON' s Captain Remey. Of particular importance are letters (July-Oct., 1891) that describe American negotiations with Chilean revolutionaries, the victory of the junta over Balmaceda's forces, and Chilean exiles aboard the SAN FRANCISCO. Also of interest are Dyer's comments concerning a religious procession in Serena (July 19, 1891); U.S. Ambassador to Chile Patrick Egan (Sept. 8, Oct. 7, 1891); a funeral for a naval officer at Callas, Peru (Oct. 22, 1891); and the illegitimacy of the Chilean revolutionaries' claims.

The SAN FRANCISCO returned to Honolulu after the conclusion of hostilities in Chile. Letters for the period May-August, 1892, reflect many of the themes common in earlier letters: political unrest; area estates; and social activities of naval officers and elites in Honolulu. Of particular interest are references to Admiral Brown; a racetrack and horse races (June 8, 1892); the status of education for Hawaiian natives and the need for vocational instruction (June 22, 1892), and the character of Queen Liliuokalani (Aug. 18, 1892).

USS VESUVIUS , 1896-1897

The VESUVIUS , an experimental craft designed for high speed and the capacity to fire large shells a mile, was stationed at Jacksonville, Florida, during this period. Under the command of Captain John Elliott Pillsbury, the ship policed the immediate area in an effort to intercept the DAUNTLESS and other filibusters that were involved in smuggling arms to revolutionaries in Cuba. Dyer's letters (Jan., 1896; Jan.-June, 1897) discuss mechanical problems and other aspects of the VESUVIUS and its crew, repeated missions in search of filibusters, and the crisis in Cuba. Also of interest are his discussions of the USS MASSACHUSETTS (Oct., 1896); maneuvers during a simulated coastal blockade at Charleston, S.C. (Feb. 1897); the run-down appearance of South Carolina Military Academy [the Citadel] (Feb. 14, 1897); countryside in the vicinity of Mayport, Florida, and the construction of jetties there (Mar. 12, Apr. 10, 1897); and the opulent "cottage" of a wealthy resident of Mayport (May 11, 1897).

Naval Attaché, Madrid, 1897-1898

In 1897 President William McKinley dispatched General Stewart Lyndon Woodford to Spain in an effort to mediate a peaceful settlement between Spain and Cuban revolutionaries, thereby avoiding war between Spain and the United States. Dyer served as naval attaché and, along with a Captain Bliss, the army attaché, provided significant assistance to Woodford during the negotiations. Correspondence of Dyer prior to the collapse of Woodford's efforts (July, 1897-Apr., 1898) discusses General Woodford, negotiations with the Spanish government, and the role of Dyer and Bliss in formulating American positions; the climate of opinion in Spain concerning Cuba and the United States; and Dyer's views about jingoism in Congress and the philosophy of the Spanish people. Also of interest are his descriptions of London and a dinner at the residence of U.S. Ambassador John Hay (Aug. 8, 1897); travel from London to Paris (Aug. 15, 1897); aspects of Paris, including hotel accommodations, the subway, and a cinema (Aug., 1897); jingoistic views of U.S. Ambassador to France, Horace Porter (Aug. 18, 1897); train travel in Spain (Sept. 2, 14, 1897); the intellect, political views, and accomplishments of former U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Hannis Taylor (Sept., 1897); the social life and customs of Spanish people (Sept. 6-7, 1897); and the efforts of New York Sun publisher Henry Mackay Laffan to acquire news from Spain (Apr. 15, 17, 1898).

A diary kept by Dyer's daughter, Susan Hart (Daisy) in Paris and Spain during her father's tenure as attaché(Jan.-Feb., 1898) includes descriptions of the American legation; the family of Gen. Woodford and his incompetence; the political climate in Spain; and Daisy's views on the prospect of war and the attitudes of the Spanish people.

Commander, USS STRANGER , 1898

As commander of this gunboat during the Spanish-American War, Dyer participated in the naval blockade at Havana. Correspondence (May-Sept., 1898) pertains to the STRANGER's trip to Cuba and participation in the blockade. Dyer describes Beaufort, N.C. (May 20, 1898), troops and ships at Tampa Bay and Lakeland (June 4, 1898), and aspects of the ship, including its crew.

Commander, USS YANKTON , 1898-1901

In the fall of 1898 Dyer was assigned command of the USS YANKTON which was engaged in patrol duty and survey work on the coast of Cuba. The YANKTON anchored at such points as Santiago and Guantanamo prior to June, 1899, then was based at Nipe Bay (June, 1899-Apr., 1901). Dyer's letters discuss the survey work and aspects of the ship, including machinery, routine duties, and activities of the crew; his observations concerning the squalid conditions in which Cubans lived and measures that should be taken to improve standards of living; and efforts of U.S. officials to govern and clean up the island. Many of the letters deal with American foreign policy in general and reflect Dyer's patronizing attitude concerning the natives of Cuba and the Philippine Islands.

Considerable correspondence (June, 1899-Apr., 1901) discusses the countryside in the vicinity of Nipe Bay and the towns of Banes and Gibara. Of particular interest are Dyer's descriptions of the United Fruit Company's work at Banes, its efforts to put in operation a new sugar mill, and difficulties the company had with area laborers and landowners as it expanded its operations.

The letters also pertain to the appearance of Morro Castle (Jan. 29, 1899); the competence of General Leonard Wood and Wood's views concerning the role of the United States in Cuba (Mar. 11, 12, Apr. 20, May 16, June 9, 1899); Gen. Joseph Wheeler's undeserved fame for his actions at the battle of San Juan Hill (Mar. 11, 1899); the squalid condition of El Canez (Mar. 12, 1899); a Catholic worship service in Santiago on Palm Sunday (Mar. 26, 1899); a bungalow in Daiquiri (Apr. 18, 1899); a controversy surrounding Winfield Scott Schley (June 15, 18, 1899); Beaufort, S.C., and the naval station there (Nov. 10, 1899); foreign businessmen in Jamaica (Dec. 25, 28, 1899); the work and beliefs of "Progressive Friends Society" missionaries at Gibara (Jan. 28, 1901); Dyer's criticism of Rear Admiral George Collier Remey (Mar. 25, 1901); and his objection to naval officers' desire to commission portraits of Admirals George Dewey and William Thomas Sampson for the U.S. Naval Academy (Apr. 22, 1901).

Commander, USS RAINBOW , Asiatic Station, 1902-1903

Most of Dyer's letters (Jan.-Sept., 1903) pertain to his sea voyage from San Francisco to Hong Kong aboard the steamer COPTIC and life aboard the RAINBOW in Japan and the Philippine Islands. Dyer describes passengers, crew, facilities, and Chinese servants on the COPTIC (Jan., 1903); new and old houses and other aspects of Honolulu(Jan. 10, 11, 1903); Osaka, Nagasaki, and Yokohama, Japan (Jan. 25, 28; June, 1903); a Chinese New Year celebration in Shanghai (Jan. 31, 1903); and hotel accommodations, clothing prices, and other aspects of Hong Kong (Feb. 2, 4, 1903). Also of interest are Dyer's references to the Philippine Islands: Cavite and the living conditions of Filipinos there (Mar. 26, Apr. 1, 9, 1903); people and housing in the countryside between Cavite and Malabon (Apr. 24, 1903); and Manila, the U.S. military base there, and Filipinos in the area (May 5, 12, 1903).

Governor of Guam, 1904-1905

A variety of materials documents the tenure of Dyer as governor of Guam. Of particular interest are typed copies of letters written by Susan Hart Palmer Dyer to a relative in the United States (June, 1904-Nov., 1905). Mrs. Dyer discusses the governor's palace and grounds; the habits, customs, and living conditions of the native Chamorros; social and cultural activities of the Dyers and visitors to the island; improvements in education for the natives; and Mrs. Dyer's work towards the establishment of a hospital for women and children. A lengthy letter (Apr. 1905) records Mrs. Dyer's activities during a trip to the southern Philippine Islands.

Two photograph albums (1904-1905?) contain photographs of mixed sizes taken at Guam and the Philippine Islands. Among the photographs of Guam are views of Agana; the governor's plaza, palace, and grounds; Susana Hospital; a cable station; schoolchildren at Inarajan and Merizo; Sumay natives and their church and sawmill; a Good Friday procession at Agat; the Dyer family and acquaintances engaged in various activities; and numerous natives, structures, animals, ships, vehicles, and expanses of countryside and coastline.

Photographs of such places in the Philippines as Capamba, Zamboanga, Manila, and Iloilo probably were taken during Mrs. Dyer's trip there in April, 1905 (PA-340/2). Included also is a photograph of the USS ALBANY.

A file of legal papers and correspondence (1907) pertains to the endowment and operation of Susana Hospital.


The George Leland Dyer Papers contain considerable material reflecting the family relationships, social life, travels, education, interests, clothing, and domestic affairs of the Dyer and Palmer families. In short, the papers give considerable insight into the nature of lifestyles and customs of social elites during the late Victorian period.

The letters exchanged by George and Susan Dyer reveal the nature of their relationship. The couple met in Europe in 1870. The letters of the period 1871-1875 reveal the nature of their courtship. After their marriage on March 31, 1875, the Dyers corresponded frequently. Brief letters and lengthy "journals" (1875-1903), written during the frequent periods when the Dyers were separated by George's naval duties, thoroughly document their devotion to each other, varied aspects of their relationship, and the pain caused by George's absences. The diary Dyer kept aboard the FROLIC (1875-1877) provides further insight into the nature of their married life.

Also of importance are repeated references to the Dyers' methods of "raising" their three children (George Palmer, born Feb. 7, 1876; Susan Hart [Daisy], born Dec. 20, 1879; and Dorothy, born May 7, 1886). The letters frequently discuss the children's health, education and training for careers, and leisure activities. Mrs. Dyer's pivotal role in her children's development is clearly revealed.

Additional material sheds light on the Dyers' children and their relationship to their parents. Two diaries kept by Daisy Dyer (July 10, 1897-June 2, 1898) primarily reflect her activities with her mother and sister during their trip to Europe to join George Dyer while he served as naval attaché in Madrid. The diaries discuss Daisy's art training at the Art Students League in New York City and her instructor, James Carroll Beckwith (Aug. 24, 1897); the voyage to Europe aboard the steamer SOUTHWARK (Nov. 3-17, 1897); sites in Antwerp (Nov. 17-20, 1897); the American Art Club, Academie Julian, art museums, and other aspects of Paris (Nov., 1897-Jan. 1898); and San Sebastian and Madrid (Jan.-Feb., 1898).

A diary of Dorothy Dyer (1906-1913) contains very brief entries pertaining to her travels and other activities.

Additional correspondence reflects the nature of the relationship between the Dyers and their children. Letters of George Dyer discuss a trip with his son to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and to George, Jr.'s fraternity at Cornell University (Sept., 1893), as well as his activities with his son and other members of the Cornell University crew team (June-July, 1894). Correspondence of Daisy Dyer to her parents (1913-1914) chronicles her activities in New Haven, Connecticut. She describes a church-related "settlement" house designed to provide musical and other cultural opportunities for underprivileged youth; a speech by suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst (Nov. 16, 1913); and other church-related and cultural affairs in New Haven. Letters of Dorothy Dyer to her parents after her marriage to naval officer Burton A. Strait (1913-1915) briefly discuss their travels and social activities in Shanghai, Hankow, and other parts of China.

The travels, domestic life, social activities, and civic work of Susan Hart Palmer Dyer are reflected in her letters to her husband and other members of the family (1875-1905), written at such places as Montevideo, Newport, Nantucket, Annapolis, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Washington. Of particular interest are the letters she wrote while living in Washington (Jan.-May, 1890). They describe her social engagements with prominent residents; church-related activities; and participation in the Cobweb Club, apparently a women's literary organization. Discussed are an appearance by Susan B. Anthony (Mar. 3, 1890); Mrs. Dyer's meeting with Secretary of War Redfield Proctor and President Benjamin Harrison as a representative of the auxiliary of the Army and Navy (Mar. 14, 1890); a lecture presented by Clara Barton (Mar., 14, 1890); and a "row" in the U.S. House of Representatives between William Dallas Bynum and Thomas McKee Bayne (May 18, 1890). Additional correspondence describes social life in Nantucket (July, 1890) and a visit to the studio of artist George Whiting Flagg (July 12); social activities and events in San Francisco (Apr.-May, 1891), including the launching of the USS CITY OF PUEBLO (Apr. 29, 1891); and a performance of the play Divine Sara at the opera house (Apr. 29, 1891). A letter of Susan (Daisy) Dyer (1921?) summarizes the qualities and activities of her mother throughout her life.

The correspondence of Dyer and his wife sheds light also on their business and financial affairs- notably the difficulty of living comfortably on Dyer's income. Of particular interest are regular references to Dyer's absentee management of their orange grove and home, The Anchorage, at Winter Park, Florida, which were purchased in August, 1882. Several photographs contain views of structures at The Anchorage.

Significant correspondence and other material pertain to activities and relationships of other members of the Dyer and Palmer families.

Letters (1863-1872) of George Washington Dyer discuss family matters and offer his son fatherly advice about education, careers, and deportment. During and shortly after the Civil War, George W. Dyer served as a paymaster in the Washington, D.C., area. His letters (1863-1867) discuss the war in Virginia and describe his work as a paymaster in the field and in the office of the paymaster general. He also discusses Camp Stoneman near Alexandria (Nov. 4, 1863); wounded members of the 6th Regiment of Maine troops in Washington (Nov. 11, 1863); the battle of Rappahannock Bridge and Kelly's Ford, especially the service of the 5th and 6th regiments of Maine troops (Nov. 17, 1863); Christmas Day in the camp of the 16th Regiment of Pennsylvania cavalry near Bealeton Station (Jan. 1, 1864); wounded men in hospitals in Washington, Annapolis, and Fredericksburg (May 19, 30, 1864); roads, bridges, and the countryside outside Washington (Oct. 24, 1864); Dyer's analysis of the capture of Fort Fisher, N.C. (Feb. 6, 1865); and a review of troops along Pennsylvania Avenue (May 25, 1865).

Additional correspondence of George W. Dyer pertains to aspects of Washington: the law profession and his work as a patent attorney (July 15, 1865; Dec. 22, 1869; Feb. 24, 1872); a flood in the city (Oct. 12, 15, 1866); a new sawmill in the "old brickyard" (Nov. 9, 1866); land speculation in the northwest part of the city (July 23, 1867); a lecture on the philosophy of the science of inductive reasoning by Joseph Henry (Mar. 31, 1868); and excitement concerning the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson (May 12, 1868).

Letters of the Palmer family provide insight into the lifestyles and relationships of wealthy New Yorkers: Oliver H. Palmer, secretary-treasurer of Western Union Telegraph Co. and a member of the law department of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York; his wife, Susan; and children, Susan, Anne, Alice, and Oliver.

Letters of Mr. Palmer to Susan (1868-1883) reflect his close relationship with her and discuss family travels and expenditures, his work in New York, politics, and the expense of supporting his family.

Mrs. Palmer and her children made several lengthy European trips (1870-1883), where the children received instruction in languages and other disciplines. They visited or lived in such cities as Florence, Lucerne, Geneva, Stuttgart, Weisbaden, Berlin, Soden, Amsterdam, as well as various localities in France and Britain. Mrs. Palmer's letters to Susan discuss the nature of their travels, her views on religion, and advice about caring for Susan's children. Letters of Annie Palmer to Susan supplement Mrs. Palmer's accounts of life in various localities in Europe. Of particular interest are descriptions of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius (Feb. 11, 1871); church services and churches in London, Chester, and Litchfield, England (May 16, 1874); a Mardi Gras celebration in Rome (Feb. 26, 1875); food, dancing, and costumes at a ball in Stuttgart (Feb. 20, 1876); and the resort of Etretat in Normandy, France (Aug. 19, 1878).

Also reflecting the nature of Mrs. Palmer's relationship with Susan are letters (May, 1890), discussing Mrs. Palmer's old age and the burden of caring for her.

Scattered letters of Anne Palmer after her marriage to Nelson Fell (Feb., 1891-1895) briefly describe her family's farming interests and activities in Narcoossee, Florida.

Additional correspondence (1907-1909) pertains to the courtship of Burton A. Strait and Dorothy Dyer during Strait's service aboard the USS KEARSARGE. Occasional references among these letters pertain to the ship and life aboard it.

Dyer and Palmer correspondence illuminates a variety of additional subjects. Many letters discuss politics. Of interest are references to support of the Republican ticket in the presidential election of 1876, fear of a Tilden victory, and the aftermath of the election (July 21, Oct. 1, Nov. 7, 20, 1876); Republican Party politics during the Hayes administration (Apr. 15, 1877); and Ulysses S. Grant's incompetence and greed for power (Oct. 14, 1880).

A few items pertain to celebrations. Correspondents describe the Centennial in Philadelphia (June 25, July 3, 1876) and Fourth of July holidays in Calais, Maine, during George Dyer's childhood and in the Navy (July 7, 1872; June 30, 1891). Included in a folder of miscellany is a program for a Fourth of July celebration at Honolulu (1890).

Many letters contain references to women. Of particular interest are an amusing example of women frightened by a mouse (Feb., 1863); O.H. Palmer's view of the role of wives of career men (Mar. 18, 1877); and the effect of bicycles on women (Mar. 4, 1899).

Additional topics discussed in the correspondence include damage done by a disastrous fire in Calais, Maine (Sept. 13, 1870); the Fish House Club in Germantown, Pennsylvania (Jan. 3, 1881); a proposal to build a hotel in Winter Park, Florida (June 3, 1883); and confusion caused by the dialect of a Negro boatman in Norfolk, Virginia (May 10, 1897).

Literary manuscripts and publications supplement other material. Two albums of Daisy Dyer contain examples of her unpublished and published poetry (1906-1915). A file of poetry includes verse by George Dyer, Susan Hart Palmer Dyer, and Daisy Dyer, as well as an example of verse in Negro dialect. Also of interest are school essays by George Dyer, Dorothy Dyer Strait's "automatic" writings concerning the family (1919), Susan Hart Palmer Dyer's song, "Sweethearts and Wives" (1900); a speech concerning turn-of-the-century Russia (1918); undated short stories; and a volume containing two plays written by Daisy Dyer.

Additional files include correspondence and genealogical charts concerning the history of the Palmer and Dyer families (1910-1911); scattered papers of Burton A. Strait (undated) and Dorothy Dyer's second husband, Marion A. Eason (1917-1930); copies of The South "C" Daily Breeze (June 5-Aug. 30, 1920), published aboard USS SOUTH CAROLINA during the Naval Academy's midshipmen's cruise, during which Eason served as an instructor; miscellaneous Naval Academy publications (1895-1924) pertaining to courses, entrance requirements, and student activities; post cards of such locations as Rio de Janeiro, Calais, and Aunay and La Baule, France; family-related newspaper clippings; and photographs of family members, unidentified persons, and unidentified scenes in China, France, and elsewhere.

The collection includes George L. Dyer's copy of The Seasons: A Poem , by James Thomson (London, 1783).

Subject Headings Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

  • Box 26#0340.26
    • Folder a#0340.26.a
      Dyer Family Genealogical Research
    • Folder b#0340.26.b
      Dyer Family, Washinton, D. C., Census Records (Photocopies), 1870-1880
    • Folder c#0340.26.c
      Personnel records of George Leland Dyer and Hendree Paine Simpson from the National Archives
    • Folder d#0340.26.d
      Patrol Yacht USS YANKTON crew records from U. S. Military and Naval Federal Census, 1900; ships' deck logs information, 1900
    • Folder e#0340.26.e
      Patrol Yacht USS YANKTON historical and photographic material from online resources. Photocopies, 1849 - 1984, 1872 - 1950, 1899
    • Folder f#0340.26.f
      Uncovering a Philatelic Cover Connection from Gibara, Cuba to Tuskegee, Alabama through Washington, D. C. and the U. S. Navy Hydrographic Office, 1899

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. To see what's been digitized in this collection, please click on the "View Digitized Objects" link, or look for hyperlinks in the container list
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