Thetford Historical Society



Inventory Contents

Biographical Sketch
Scope and Content
Folder Inventory

2 MS Boxes M 17

Given by Margaret Sperry
Processed by M. H. Wiencke, April 10, 2001

Biographical Sketch

Armstrong Sperry was born in New Haven CT, Nov. 7, 1897. His great grandfather Sereno Armstrong, and his grandfather, were sea captains, and their memory encouraged in Sperry a fascination with seafaring. He attended the Stamford Preparatory School and the Yale Art School, served in the Navy in World War I, and then went to New York City to work at the Art Students' League under George Bellows and Luis Mora, and also spent time studying in Paris. He was able to travel to the South Seas, according to his transcribed letters, in 1920-1921, and, according to his recorded speeches and photographs, also in 1925. He worked at commercial illustration for eight or ten years after that, and in 1933 began to write his first book.

As a child Sperry read Melville, Stevenson, London, and especially F. O'Brien's White Shadows in the South Seas, a book which gave him the desire to travel in the Pacific. His experiences of life in Bora Bora inspired his writing, particularly his best known book, Call It Courage, based on a native tale of several hundred years ago. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1941. Sperry's first book, One Day with Manu, 1933, began as a collection of forty or fifty illustrations, with captions, and grew slowly into a story. It was followed by books on Sumatra and Eskimo life, and then by All Sail Set, 1935, a history of the clipper ship Flying Cloud.

Sperry and his wife Margaret, a physician, moved to Hanover from New Canaan CT in 1942, and later to Thetford, where they had spent summers since 1937 in a house in Thetford Center. They had two children, Susan and John. Both the senior Sperrys were active in town affairs, especially in the Thetford Center Community Association, for which he designed the sign which became the logo for the Association. He died on April 26, 1976.

He wrote some twenty-five books for children, including, besides the above--mentioned, also:
Storm Canvas, which won the NY Herald Tribune Medal;
Rain Forest, winner of the Boys Club of America Medal in 1950;
One Day with Tuktu, an Eskimo Boy, One Day with Jambi in Sumatra, Wagons Westward, Little Eagle, Voyages of the Columbia, River of the West, The South Pacific, All About the North and South Poles, Thunder Country, Black Falcon, Story of the South Seas, All About the Jungle, Mafatu Stout Heart, The Voyages of Christopher Columbus, South of Cape Horn, Lost Lagoon, A Pacific Adventure, Bamboo, The Grass Tree, Frozen Fire, Great River, Wide Land: The Rio Grande Through History, Pacific Islands Speaking, Secret on the Congo, The Codfish Musket, The Story of Hiawatha.

He illustrated also a number of books by other authors, notably Stars to Steer By, by H. Follett

[NOTE from Margo: He wrote 29 books and illustrated 41 others.]

Scope and Content

The collection consists mainly of material relating to Sperry's successful career as an author. There are folders of fan letters from children, chiefly from the 1970's. There are photographs of Sperry and his family at different stages, and items relating to the Newbery award and the Boys Clubs of America award, including the actual Newbery Medal. And there are typed transcripts of Sperry's entertaining letters to his family, in 1920 and 1921, describing his first trip to the South Seas.

Box and Folder Inventory

Box 1
Notebook 1. 1920-1921

AS's letters, in typewritten transcription, to family members, describing his travels to the South Seas in 1920 and 1921, beginning with departure on Oct. 20, 1920. [NOTE from Margo: These copies were typed and arranged by J. Hunter.]

Folder 1. Photos. largely unlabeled

A group of labeled photos clipped to a letter from E. Emory, dated 1975:

Folder 2. Items related to Newbery Medal. 1941

Folder 3. 1941

Box 2
Folder 1

Folder 2 correspondence relating to Newbery award. 1941

Letters of congratulation and arrangements:

Folder 3 1924-1970's Letters re books; fan letters unless otherwise stated

Folder 4. Children's fan letters. early 1970's

Folder 5. Children's fan letters. early 1970's

Folder 6. Further fan letters from children. 1975-1976

Folder 7. Reference book used by AS

Envelope, 1941-1948. Items relating to book awardsArmstrong Sperry's Newbery Medal

This page last updated Sunday, 05/02/21, by Margo Burns,
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