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November 29, 2011

The Fritz Sage Darrow Papers in the Special Collections Research Center

In 1930, the Case Library, a private Cleveland, Ohio library affiliated with Western Reserve University (WRU) purchased the library of Fritz Sage Darrow. The library contained Darrow’s personal papers and his professional papers which included drafts, supporting documentation and rare books collected in his extensive research into the life and work of Francis Mercurius van Helmont, a 17th century alchemist, cabbalist and physician. James Holly Hanford, WRU professor of English and childhood friend of Darrow, took a keen interest in the disposition of the Darrow library, creating a six-page overview of the material around the time that the collection was acquired.

Hanford’s view was understandably trained on the Helmontia found in the collection and in preserving the final draft of Darrow’s Bibliography of Francis Mercurius van Helmont, but scholars have also shown interest in Darrow’s personal papers, particularly as they reflect his involvement in the International Theosophical Society and one of its earliest and most charismatic leaders, Katherine Tingley.

Darrow (1882-1929) was born in Rochester, New York in 1882 to Charles E. and Isabel Sage Darrow. He graduated from Harvard University (A.B., 1903, A.M., 1904, PhD, 1906) and earned many scholastic honors there including Harvard College Scholar (1902), John Harvard Scholar (1903), and Charles Eliot Norton Fellow. He was a Member of the American School of Classical Studies, Athens, Greece (1903-1904A)

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Frontispiece with portraits of father and son as part of the elaborate engraving. From: Ortus Medicinae by Jean Baptiste van Helmont and edited by [his son] Francis Mercurius van Helmont. 1648. This volume was originally part of the library of Fritz Sage Darrow.

Darrow served as instructor of Classical Archeology in the Harvard Summer School (1906), Adjunct Professor of Greek at Dickenson College (1906-1907) and Professor of Greek at Drury College (1907-1910). He sought to write the definitive life of van Helmont, though for several reasons (primarily the war in Europe, family crises, and professional setbacks) he abandoned his years of scholarly effort in this area around 1915.

Also a prominent Theosophist, Darrow was the author of many works about that philosophy. He lived with his wife and children for a time at the International Theosophical Headquarters in Point Loma, California. After divorcing from his wife in 1919, Darrow returned to Rochester where he remarried and became director of the Rochester Business Institute. He died in 1929

Today, the bound volumes from the Darrow library are part of the Special Collections book collection, but are not described by their provenance except for the Case Library bookplate inside each cover.

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The Fritz Sage Darrow Papers, dating from the years 1897-1920, consist of Darrow’s research regarding van Helmont, including most of the supporting documentation and a final draft of his Bibliography of Francis Mercurius van Helmont, many of his articles on Theosophy, as well as clippings and correspondence concerning his resignation from Drury College and his divorce.

We invite you to consult the finding aid for the Fritz Sage Darrow Papers for more information about Darrow and his work.

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