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A. P. Wilde Papers, 1910-1924

Manuscript Collection #1221

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

Title: A. P. Wilde Papers
Creator: Wilde, Abner Pleasants
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: This collection (1910-1924) contains fifteen letters, one Christmas card, and a Panamanian calendar sent by A. P. Wilde from Empire in the Canal Zone, to relatives in Louisa County, Virginia. During this time Mr. Wilde was employed by the Isthmian Canal Commission in the Department of Examination of Accounts while the Panama Canal was being built across the Isthmus of Panama. Topics discussed are work on the Canal, the effects of drought, earthquakes, and hurricanes, difficulties of sea travel, treatment of malaria, the drawdown of clerks as the Canal is completed, and his political opinions.
Extent: 0.05 Cubic feet, 1 archival box, consisting of correspondence, a calendar, and a photograph

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

Accessions Information

September 10, 2013, 2.50 cubic feet; This collection (1910-1924) contains fifteen letters, one Christmas card, and a Panamanian calendar sent by A. P. Wilde from Empire in the Canal Zone, to relatives in Louisa County, Virginia. During this time Mr. Wilde was employed by the Isthmian Canal Commission in the Department of Examination of Accounts while the Panama Canal was being built across the Isthmus of Panama. Topics discussed are work on the Canal, the effects of drought, earthquakes, and hurricanes, difficulties of sea travel, treatment of malaria, the drawdown of clerks as the Canal is completed, and his political opinions. Gift of Martha G. Elmore.

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

A. P. Wilde Papers (#1221), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Martha G. Elmore

Processing Information

  • Processed by Allison N. Miller, September 2013.


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

Abner Pleasants Wilde, the son of James Monroe Wilde and Elizabeth Jordan Waddy, was born in Louisa County, Virginia, on Christmas Day, 1859. He received the nickname Tabb, with which he signs his letters to Eula Waller, from his brother who was unable to properly pronounce Abner as a child. He and his brother were raised by their maternal grandmother in Virgina, where he spent the first half of his life. It is revealed through the correspondence that Wilde began working (as a civilian) in the Canal Zone in 1906. His return address indicates that he was employed by the Department of Examination of Accounts for the Isthmian Canal Commission. During this time, he was also an editor and contributing writing for “Sporting Life” newspaper, which was concerned with baseball. Wilde never married and spent the remainder of his life in Panama, though he often took trips back to the United States to visit family and friends. He died in Panama on 3 August 1938, and his body was brought back to the United States for burial in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Source: Abner Pleasants Wilde, Memorial #53862519. (2010) In Find A Grave. Retrieved from: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=53862519 Elizabeth Waddy Record on Ancestry.com. Retrieved from: http://records.ancestry.com/Elizabeth_Waddy_records.ashx?pid=20479608

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

The A.P. Wilde papers are a collection of correspondence from A.P. Wilde, while living and working in the Panama Canal Zone. The bulk of the correspondence is from Wilde to Eula Spicer Waller and her son, Edmund. Waller was the wife of Wilde’s cousin, Edward Pinckney Waller, who passed away shortly before the letters commence. The first few letters primarily contain Wilde’s sympathies for the passing of his cousin and information about his own health and recovery from surgery. The letter from 18 May 1910 also includes details about the terrible rains that were prevalent and the flood damage they caused to the construction of the Canal. His letter on 3 October 1910 tells about a recent earthquake felt in the Canal Zone and the swearing in of the new Panamanian president, Pablo Arosemena. In April 1911, Wilde reports there was a fire in Colon that burned down ten blocks.

The 20 May 1912 letter is written directly to Edmund in response to a letter from the boy. He expresses how upset he was to hear of the death of Major Andrew Jackson Richardson. In the following letter dated 23 May 1912 to Waller, he writes of his frustration at the sinking of Titanic. In August and December 1912, Wilde expresses to Waller his distress and condolences over the death of Edmund.

Wilde’s letter of 12 December 1912 talks extensively of the Panama Canal as it was “nearing completion” and gives detailed notes of its progress. He also expresses his political opinions about William Howard Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. The 25 June 1914 letter provides more information about the Canal’s construction progress. He mentions the movement of housing to Balboa and the structure of the buildings, an earthquake in May that had caused damage, and the movement of locals from around the Canal Zone. Two Christmas cards, dated 1916, provide a photograph of Balboa, a Panamanian calendar, and a poem entitled “Christmas in Panama.”

The final letter in the collection, dated 23 October 1924, is from A.P. Wilde to Margaret Spicer Wade, Eula Waller’s sister. He writes about his most recent visit to the United States, his travels to visit family members, and the weather troubles his ship encountered.

Related Collections 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 1#1221.1
    • Folder a#1221.1.a
      The collection contains correspondence from A.P. Wilde to his family members, while he was living and working in the Panama Canal Zone. Letters which provide insight into the construction of the Canal are: 18 May 1910, 12 December 1912, 17 December 1913, and 24 June 1914. Two Christmas cards from 1916 also contain photos of the area.
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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. None of the original documents in this collection are digitally available online at this time.
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