Franklin D. Karns Papers, ca. 1864, 1900-1952

Manuscript Collection #759

  • Descriptive Summary
    Title: Franklin D. Karns Papers
    Creator: Karns, Franklin D.
    Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
    Language: English
    Abstract: Official transcript of a U.S. Navy Captain's Court-Martial proceedings (1927), photographs, letters, and poetry, along with two scrapbooks (1900-1950) maintained by Capt. Franklin D. Karns's wife, Mrs. Helen Wallace Chew Karns.
    Extent: 0.39 Cubic feet, 42 items, 1 container, consisting of court transcript, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, programs, and clippings
  • Description

    The Franklin D. Karns Papers contain an assortment of personal family mementos of his wife, Mrs. Helen Chew Karns, and official naval documents. Of particular interest is a copy of the official Record of Court-Martial Proceedings of Captain Franklin D. Karns on the charge of negligence in the accidental grounding of the USS Colorado on May 1, 1927. Captain Karns was in command of the USS Colorado when it struck and ran aground on Diamond Reef in the East River of New York. The full court transcript does not include the final guilty verdict, because Naval Regulations prohibited the reading of a guilty verdict until it was approved by the Secretary of the Navy, (See: “Karns-Fiedell Penalty is Approved by Wilbur.” The Washington Post 3 July 1927: R2. Print.)

    Twenty –seven photographs include both personal snapshots and professional photographs of the family in private and while on duty with the U.S. Navy. The images pertaining to Naval Life (circa 1915 to 1952) include photographs aboard the USS Colorado as it sailed from San Pedro, California, to Pago Pago, American Samoa, in 1925; as well as the crossing the Equator celebration known as Neptunus Rex. Photographs of Franklin D. Karns, Jr. taking command of the USS Okaloosa and the USS Bailey are also included. Additionally, there are oversized photographs of the USS Omaha in Havana Harbor, officers and crew on the USS Decatur in 1930, a celebratory dinner for Admiral Harry Yarnell in 1939, and the 1925 graduating class of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis (USNA) in front of Bancroft Hall. Family photographs are of Franklin D. Karns as a midshipman in 1895 and during his retirement in 1950, Mrs. Helen Wallace Chew Karns as a young woman, and of her uncle, Richard S. Chew as a Lieutenant Commander circa 1864.

    Two scrapbooks that Mrs. Helen Wallace Chew Karns kept from 1900 to her death in 1942 are included within the collection. In them she has original as well as copied poetry, newspaper clippings of social activities she was involved in, menu placards, the wedding register and gift list from her 1902 wedding, social correspondence, telegrams and love notes from her husband, and the 1903 Officers Directory of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. She also kept detailed growth records of her children and assorted mementos such as pressed flowers and a lock of hair.

  • Biographical / Historical Note

    Captain Franklin D. Karns was born November 30, 1873, in Ohio and attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis graduating in 1895. He married Helen Wallace Chew September 10, 1902, and then had two children: Franklin D. Karns, Jr. born July 10, 1903, and Helen Elizabeth Karns born October 2, 1906. As a Lieutenant, Karns worked as an instructor at the USNA from 1902-1904 until being posted at sea. He saw action during the First World War and was promoted to Captain by 1924, when he took command of the USS Colorado. Franklin Karns retired from the U.S. Navy in 1930, with the rank of Captain and resided in Coronado, California, until his death on February 23, 1952.

    Helen Wallace Chew Karns was the daughter of Leonard Covington Chew and his wife Helen C. Wallace. She was born on January 23, 1884, in Washington, D.C., and died November 1942. Her grandfather, Robert Smith Chew, was the Chief Clerk of the State Department until his death in 1873. Her uncle, Richard Smith Chew, was a USN Lieutenant Commander who saw action in the Battle of Mobile Bay.

    Franklin D. Karns, Jr. was born July 10, 1903, in Maryland, graduated from the USNA in 1925, and served as the Commanding Officer on USS Decatur, USS Okaloosa, and USS Bailey. He retired as a Captain in 1956.

    Sources: 1925 Lucky Bag, USNA Yearbook

    USNA Register of Alumni 1845-1985

    Find a Grave

  • Administrative Information
    Accessions Information

    March 10, 1998 0.39 cu. ft.; Papers of U.S. Navy officer, including court-martial proceedings (1927), photographs, letters, and poetry, along with two scrapbooks (1902-1903) maintained by Helen Wallace Chew Karns. Donor: Mr. R. S. Karns, Mr. William Schultz.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Mr. R. S. Karns
    Gift of Mr. William Schultz

    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

    Franklin D. Karns Papers (#759), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

    Processing Information

    Encoded by Apex Data Services

    Processed by Samantha Sheffield, September 8, 2015.

Preliminary Inventory

Below is material taken from a preliminary inventory and represents content from the collection that is unprocessed.

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Sensitive Materials Statement

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection, without the consent of those individuals, may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which East Carolina University assumes no responsibility.

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