Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Frederick Gilbert Bourne Collection, 1901-1918

Finding aid created by
Anne Tomlanovich, June 2002; Clements Staff, May 2007; and Meg Hixon, November 2011

Summary Information
Title: Frederick Gilbert Bourne collection
Creator: Bourne family and Strassburger family
Inclusive dates: 1901-1918
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
The Frederick Gilbert Bourne collection is made up of correspondence, photographs, printed items, and ephemera related to Bourne, president of the Singer Manufacturing Company and commodore of the New York Yacht Club, and to his son-in-law, Ralph Strassburger, who served as consul general to Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia in 1913.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1995, 2007. M-3177, M-4573.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Frederick Gilbert Bourne Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Photographs
  • Series III: Printed Items and Ephemera
  • Series IV: Media

The correspondence series is arranged by author and recipient.


Frederick Gilbert Bourne was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 20, 1851, to Reverend George Washington Bourne and his wife, Harriet Gilbert Bourne. He attended public school in New York and began working for the Atlantic Submarine Wrecking Company in 1865. Later, while working at the Mercantile Library of New York, he befriended Alfred Corning Clark, then president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Clark later offered Bourne a job, which he accepted, and he rose within the company, eventually becoming president in 1889. The Bournes maintained estates at Oakdale on Long Island and on Dark Island, New York, and frequently vacationed on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Frederick G. Bourne became commodore of the New York Yacht Club in 1903. He and his wife, Emma Sparks Keeler, had several children. Frederick Gilbert Bourne died on March 9, 1919.

Ralph Beaver Strassburger was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on March 26, 1883, to Jacob Andrew Strassburger and his wife, Mary Jane Beaver. He had two siblings, Elizabeth and Perry. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1901, where he was a member of the football team. After his graduation, he served onboard the USS West Virginia and other ships. In 1909, he left the navy and worked for the manufacturing company of Babcock & Wilcox. He later held several diplomatic positions, including Consul General and Secretary of Legation to Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia (appointed by President William H. Taft in 1913), and as a secretary in the United States Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. He joined the Navy League following the outbreak of World War I and he entered the U. S. Naval Intelligence Division when the United States formally joined the war.

In his later life, Strassburger maintained an interest in thoroughbred racing and kept a stable at Normandy Farm, his home in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania. He also owned and published the Norristown Herald. He married May Bourne (1881-1975), Frank Gilbert Bourne's daughter, and had one son, Johann Andreas Peter Strassburger (b. 1916). Ralph Beaver Strassburger died in 1959.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Frederick Gilbert Bourne collection is made up of 73 letters, 11 telegrams, 9 photographs, 1 photograph album, 17 invitations and pieces of ephemera, and 22 printed items related to Bourne and to his son-in-law, Ralph Strassburger.

The Correspondence series (84 items) comprises the bulk of the collection, and is arranged by author and recipient. Bourne composed 45 letters to his daughter May and her husband, Ralph Beaver Strassburger, offering financial advice and sharing news of his social and leisure activities near his Long Island home and during his vacations on Jekyll Island, Georgia. These vacations often included hunting trips and yachting excursions. Several letters composed in 1912 and 1913 reflect Strassburger's time as a diplomat in Eastern Europe, with content respecting his father-in-law's efforts to secure him a reassignment following a local cholera outbreak. Bourne commented on the 1912 presidential election and controversial office appointments made by the outgoing Taft administration.

Incoming correspondence to Frederick Gilbert Bourne documents the social lives of his wealthy friends and family members in the early 20th century. Additional correspondence includes personal letters addressed to Ralph and May Strassburger and to Mrs. Emma Bourne from various acquaintances. The telegrams (11) contain messages between members of the Bourne family, most related to travel arrangements.

The Photographs series includes 9 individual photographs and one photograph album. Nine silver gelatin prints and real photo postcards depict Frederick Gilbert Bourne; "The Towers" on Dark Island, New York; and Indian Neck Hall, Bourne's estate in Oakdale, Long Island, New York (including 1 panoramic photo). The photo album, ca. 1904-1914, contains over 100 images of yachts and automobiles, as well as scenes from Jekyll Island, Georgia, and the leisure activities of wealthy Americans (including sailing races).

The Printed Items and Ephemera series includes 6 visiting/calling cards, a menu, 10 invitations, 7 picture postcards, 13 newspaper and magazine clippings, a magazine, and a book. The calling cards and invitations pertain to the activities of Frederick and Emma Bourne; the postcards depict the Bourne's estates and other buildings; and the clippings, magazine, and book concern Frederick Bourne (including yachting articles from The Rider and Driver and The Illustrated Sporting News). One of the calling cards is personally addressed to Bourne by J. Pierpont Morgan. The book is Henry H. Klein's Dynastic America and Those Who Own It (1921). The series also contains a reproduction of a document commending Bourne's lengthy service with the Singer Manufacturing Company (March 7, 1906) and a composite image of Frederick Bourne working in various occupations.

The Media series is comprised of 6 compact discs containing digital images of the Frederick G. Bourne family, the Jekyll Island Club, and Airy Hall Plantation, the South Carolina plantation owned by Robert George Elbert, another of Bourne's sons-in-law. The series also includes a VHS tape with filmed views of Bourne's estates and of Ralph Strassburger's home, transferred from a 28 millimeter reel from 1918.

Subject Terms

    • Europe--Description and travel.
    • Europe, Eastern--Foreign relations--United States.
    • Jekyll Island Club (Jekyll Island, Ga.)
    • Leisure--United States.
    • Long Island (N.Y.)
    • Luxury.
    • New York Yacht Club.
    • Oakdale (N.Y.)
    • United States--Foreign relations--Europe, Eastern.
    • United States--Politics and government--1909-1913.
    • United States--Social life and customs--1865-1918.
    • Yachting.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Bourne, Frederick G., 1851-1919.
    • Dark Island (N.Y.)
    • Long Island (N.Y.)
    • Oakdale (N.Y.)
    • Jekyll Island.
    • Vacations.
    • Yachts.
    • Bourne, Frederick G., 1851-1919.
    • Strassburger, May Bourne.
    • Strassburger, Ralph Beaver, 1883-1959.
    Genre Terms:
    • Books.
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Compact discs.
    • Invitations.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Menus.
    • Panoramas.
    • Photograph albums.
    • Photographic postcards.
    • Photographs.
    • Picture postcards.
    • Telegrams.
    • VHS (TM)
    • Visiting cards.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
    Letters to Frederick Gilbert Bourne,  1901-1915
    Box   1 Folders   2-4
    Letters to May Bourne Strassburger from Frederick Gilbert Bourne,  1908-1918
    Box   1 Folders   5-6
    Letters to Ralph Strassburger from Frederick Gilbert Bourne,  1913-1918
    Box   1 Folder   7
    Letters to May and Ralph Strassburger from Frederick Gilbert Bourne,  November 1912-December 1912
    Box   1 Folder   8
    Letters to May and Ralph Strassburger,  1912-1913
    Box   1 Folder   9
    Letters to Mrs. Frederick Bourne and May (Bourne) Strassburger,  1905-1915, and  undated
    Box   1 Folder   10
    Telegrams,  1913-1914
    Photographs [series]
    Box   1 Folder   11
    Individual photographs    [Note: One item is housed in Oversize Manuscripts.]
    Volume   1  
    Photograph album, ca.  1904-1914    [Note: Item is housed in the Graphics Division]
    Printed Items and Ephemera [series]
    Box   1 Folders   12-13
    Invitations, cards, and menu
    Box   1 Folder   14
    Picture postcards
    Box   1 Folder   15
    Newspaper and magazine clippings    [Note: 4 items are housed in Oversize Manuscripts]
    Box   1 Folder   16
    Business America: The Magazine of Fair Play,  May 1914
    Volume   2  
    Henry H. Klein, Dynastic America and Those Who Own It. New York: H. H. Klein,  1921    [Note: Item is housed in the Book Division]
    Box   1  
    Media [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    The photograph album is located in the Graphics Division (A.2.1904.1).

    The book is housed in the Book Division: Klein, Henry H. Dynastic America and Those Who Own It. New York: H.H. Klein, 1921.

    Related Materials

    The Proceedings of Inter-County Historical Meeting at Hatboro, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, contain a contribution by Jacob Andrew Strassburger, Ralph Strassburger's father.


    "Commodore Bourne Dies." New York Times. 10 March 1919.

    The Historical Register. Ed. Edwin C. Hill. New York: 1920. 86-88.

    DeWolfe, Barbara "Gilded Leisure." The Quarto 17 (William L. Clements Library (Spring 2002): 5-7.

    Strassburger, Ralph Beaver. The Strassburger Family and Allied Families of Pennsylvania, Being the Ancestry of Jacob Andrew Strassburger, Esquire of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania: 1922.