stranger display – highlighted

Since 1814, The Athenaeum has been visited by politicians, diplomats, scientists, and literary figures. Our guest book was traditionally called the Record of Strangers: each non-member, or "Stranger" was usually signed in by an Athenaeum member. Here are some well-known Strangers who visited us over the years. To see who may have signed in on today's date, click here.

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A [Alexis] de Tocqueville
(signed in by Roberts Vaux)

Tuesday February 7, 1832
Philosophical Hall
104 South Fifth Street, Independence Square, First Floor

Arts & Literature
Politics, Diplomacy & Law

Occupation: Historian and Political Philosopher
Residence: France

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Volume 3 

Alexis de Tocqueville, July 29, 1805 - April 16, 1859

Alexis de Tocqueville was an aristocrat, diplomat, political philosopher, and historian, known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes, 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). Tocqueville's visits to the Athenaeum occurred during his trip to the United States, from May 1831 to February 1832. The trip was undertaken at the behest of the French government, with the purpose of inspecting American prisons and producing a report, an 1833 copy of which is held by the Athenaeum. The report also contributed to his writing in Democracy in America. The Record of Strangers indicates that Tocqueville visited multiple times with "M de Beaumont", or Gustave de Beaumont, his friend and editor.


Portrait courtesy of Wikimedia Commons — SourceSourceSource


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G [Gustave] de Beaumont
(signed in by Roberts Vaux)

Tuesday February 7, 1832
Philosophical Hall
104 South Fifth Street, Independence Square, First Floor

Politics, Diplomacy & Law
Arts & Literature

Occupation: Magistrate and Author
Residence: France

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Volume 3 

Gustave de Beaumont, February 6, 1802 - February 22, 1866

Gustave de Beaumont was a French statesman and prison reformer. Beaumont, with Alexis de Tocqueville, for whom he also acted as editor, was commissioned by the French government to inspect and produce a report on American prisons. The two traveled the United States between May 1831 and February 1832 in service of this goal, during which time they visited the Athenaeum multiple times. The Athenaeum holds an 1833 edition of the report they produced, titled On the Penitentiary System in the United States, and Its Application in France. Beaumont was also an author in his own right, perhaps best known for his work Marie or, Slavery in the United States (1835), an abolitionist novel focusing on racial prejudice against both indigenous and black populations in the United States.


Portrait courtesy of Wikimedia Commons — SourceSource


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Professor Carl [Karl] Follen
(signed in by Peter S. Du Ponceau)

Monday February 7, 1825
Philosophical Hall
104 South Fifth Street, Independence Square, First Floor

Education & Scholarship
Religious

Occupation: Educator and Minister
Residence: Basel [Switzerland]

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Volume 2 

Charles (Karl) Follen, September 6, 1796 – January 13, 1840

Charles Follen was a German-born educator, minister, and abolitionist. As a young man in Germany, he studied law and became involved in revolutionary politics that forced him to flee the country, fearing government retaliation. Once in the United States, Follen was introduced to powerful and influential figures of the time, eventually securing a job as the first professor of German at Harvard University. He held the position for ten years, before losing his position for his outspoken abolitionist views and clashes with Harvard administration. Follen spent his remaining days as a Unitarian minister, though he experienced difficulties there as well, also due to his abolitionist views. Follen published multiple philosophical and scientific works, and was also credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to New England, and with establishing the first college gymnasium in the United States, at Harvard. The Record of Strangers indicates that Follen visited the Athenaeum multiple times, including this occasion with fellow Harvard professor and friend Karl Beck.


Portrait courtesy of Smithsonian Open Access — SourceSourceSourceSource


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Professor Carl [Karl] Beck
(signed in by Peter S. [Stephen] Du Ponceau)

Monday February 7, 1825
Philosophical Hall
104 South Fifth Street, Independence Square, First Floor

Education & Scholarship

Occupation: Scholar and Educator
Residence: Basel [Switzerland]

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Volume 2 

Karl Beck, August 19, 1798 — March 19, 1866

Karl Beck was a German-born scholar and educator. Political conditions forced him to flee to France where he met Charles Follen, whose paths up to and following that point were similar and remained intertwined. The two left France for America, arriving in 1824. Beck established the first public school gymnasium in the United States in 1825 in Massachusetts, where he was a teacher. In 1832, he accepted a professorship in Latin at Harvard, where Follen also taught. Beck authored multiple influential works and textbooks on Greek and Latin, and helped shape Harvard's curriculum. Outside of teaching, like Follen, he devoted himself to abolitionist causes. The Record of Strangers indicates that Beck and Follen visited the Athenaeum together on this occasion.


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