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Purnell Frederick Harrington Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: [Summit record]
Date: 1973

Biographical History

Purnell Frederick Harrington (1844-1937) was an American naval officer and instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Rear Admiral Purnell Frederick Harrington was born in Dover, Delaware in June 6, 1844. Appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1861, Admiral Harrington was quickly promoted to ensign and was assigned to the USS Ticonderoga of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron in 1863. From 1864 to 1865, he served with the USS Monongahela of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, participating in operations against the defenses at the mouth of Mobile Bay and in the Battle of Mobile Bay (1864) before returning to the North Atlantic service.

After the war, Admiral Harrington was an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy (1868-1889). His teaching duties were interrupted by breaks to serve in California (1870-1873) and as executive officer of the USS Hartford (1877-1879) and Commander of the USS Juanita (1883-1885). After leaving the Naval Academy Harrington commanded the USS Yorktown (1883-1885), the USS Terror (1896-1897) and the USS Puritan (1897-1898).

In 1898 Harrington was appointed Captain of the Yard at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Subsequently he served as commandant of the New York Navy Yard (1902-1903) and the Norfolk (Virginia) Navy Yard (1903-1906). Harrington retired in 1906 but was recalled to service from 1906 to 1907 in connection with the Jamestown Expedition.

Harrington was married to the former Mia N. Ruan of St. Croix, Dutch West Indies, with whom he had four children: Helen Nelthropp, Ethel, Samuel Milby, and Frederick Littell. Admiral Harrington died on September 20, 1937.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Purnell Frederick Harrington Papers consists of corespondence from various family members mostly to his wife, Mia N. Ruan Harrington. Correspondents include their children Helen, Ethel and Samuel, and Mia's mother Henrietta and sisters Lydia and Helen. The bulk of the collection is comprised of letters from Samuel Harrington, with an emphasis on his school years (1900-1902) at Phillips Exeter Academy. Of particular interest is a letter dated October 30, 1914, written from Peking, China while Samuel was serving with the Marine Corps as part of the American Legation staff. Of the 65 letters in the collection, 17 are addressed to Purnell and 48 to Mia. Samuel is the author of 40 of the 65 letters; none are by Purnell himself.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Harrington family.
Harrington, Purnell Frederick, 1844-1937.
Harrington, Samuel M.
Ruan family.

Corporate Bodies

Phillips Exeter Academy.
United States. -- Navy -- Officers.


Admirals -- United States.
American students -- Personal accounts.

Genres and Forms




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Purnell Frederick Harrington Collection
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

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