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Robert Fulton, SJ, President's Office records

Collection BC-1986-020B: Robert Fulton, SJ, President's Office records


  • Creation: 1866-1895, undated

Scope and Contents

The Robert Fulton, SJ, President’s Office Records contain correspondence, manuscript material, notes, programs, and ephemera documenting the life and work of Robert Fulton, SJ. Of note are materials related to Fulton’s establishment of the Young Men’s Catholic Association, Fulton’s retirement reception (including the ode composed for him and read by John Boyle O’Reilly), and a notebook kept by Anna Ward (née Anna Hazard Barber), documenting a retreat led by Fulton in 1866. One frequent correspondent was Grace Bristed, née Grace Sedgwick, wife of Charles Astor Bristed, the grandson of J.J. Astor. Louise Imogen Guiney, another correspondent, was a poet, essayist, and scholar who was born in Roxbury. The collection also contains a book plate award for "Eduardo Lamb" written in Latin, a transcript of Fulton's eulogy for John Boyle O'Reilly, notes from Father Francis Barnum about Fulton's involvement in the temporary ownership of a summer home near Fairhaven, and Fulton's death announcement.


Language of Materials

Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with some Latin.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Robert Fulton was born on June 28, 1826, in Alexandria, Virginia. When he was quite young, his father died and the family was left in poverty. Fulton’s mother supported herself and her young son by teaching and running a boarding house. Beginning around 1838, Fulton worked as a page in the United States Senate, which enabled him to contribute to the family income and begin saving for his own education. The position ended when Fulton turned 16, leaving him in need of employment. After several false starts, including an attempt at studying medicine independently, Fulton decided on a career at West Point. In preparation he enrolled at Georgetown College. While at Georgetown, Fulton discerned his vocation to the priesthood. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in Frederick, Maryland on August 31, 1843. On the same day, his mother also entered the consecrated religious life at the Convent of the Visitation, Georgetown.

In the following years, Fulton alternated between his own studies and teaching. He was ordained on July 25, 1857, and came to Boston in March of 1861. He settled in Boston in 1863.

Fulton’s official tenure at Boston College began with its opening in 1864. After serving as an instructor and the college’s first prefect, he became the third president of Boston College (1870-1880). Fulton is remembered as the president under whom BC had its first graduating class. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College (later of Boston) and the expansion of the college.

Fulton was well-liked and respected by his own Jesuit community and the college community, as well as the broader community of Boston. At a retirement banquet given for Fulton by the YMCA in 1880, Governor John D. Long and Mayor Frederick O. Prince each spoke in his honor. Also present was Fulton’s friend and editor of the Pilot, John Boyle O’Reilly, who composed and read a tribute poem entitled “The Empty Niche.”

Fulton returned to the position of president for three additional years in 1888, serving until 1891. He died four years later in 1895.


Dunigan, David R. A History of Boston College. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Co., 1947.


2.75 Linear Feet (3 containers)


The Robert Fulton, SJ, President’s Office Records contain correspondence, manuscript material, notes, programs, and ephemera documenting the life and work of Robert Fulton, SJ, twice president of Boston College.


The papers are arranged into two series: I. Correspondence; II. Event materials. Both series are arranged in chronological order. Correspondence contains Fulton’s incoming and outgoing correspondence, primarily his letters to Grace Bristed and Anna Ward. Series II. Event materials contains programs, clippings, articles, and other materials related to Fulton’s work at Boston College, his 1880 retirement, and administrative affairs of Boston College.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time. James Woods, SJ, donated the Building Fund Fair ticket in 2002. Brendan Connolly, SJ, was the source of the letter from Fulton to Mr. Devver. E. A. Sullivan, SJ, donated the book plate award of merit. Charles F. Donovan, SJ, donated the photocopied letters from Fulton to Louise Imogen Guiney. Paul Nelligan donated Fulton's letters to Anna Ward and her retreat notebook in October 2000.

Related Materials

President's Office Records, University Archives, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

John Boyle O'Reilly Papers, MS.2004.093, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Young Men's Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC.2001.074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Physical Description

The Louise Imogen Guiney correspondence is made up of photocopies from Holy Cross College. It is not possible to know when or by whom the copies were made, although the photocopies are listed as accession BC.1994.152, accessioned in 1994 November. Please contact Holy Cross College archives regarding their reproduction and use policies.

Robert J. Fulton, SJ, President’s Office Records
1866-1895, undated
unknown; revised by AnneMarie Anderson, March 2010; revised by Stephanie Bennett
May 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States