7,1994 Sunday News Journal
Clinton Albert Weslager, a prominent Historian known for his
writings about Delaware and American Indians, has died.
who was 85, died of a pulmonary embolism Friday in Christiana
In a writing
career that spanned 50 years, C.A. Weslager, as he was known
to his readers, wrote at least 15 major books and hundreds of
pamphlets and articles on history and archeology, especially
on local topics. Many of his books are now sought by collectors.
The late News
Journal columnist, Bill Frank, wrote in 1987, "Prolific may
be one way to describe the ability of Dr. Clinton Albert Weslager...one
of Delaware's most noted historians. Even that term, however,
fails to tell the whole truth about this amazing man. I think
his greatest contribution was in chronicling the early colonization
of Delaware and interaction between colonists and the Native
Americans," said Delaware history expert Carol E. Hoffecker,
a University of Delaware professor. "It is remarkable that a
person whose career was really in the business world developed
such a level of expertise in both history and archaeology so
that his work was regarded as of the quality of a professional
person in either field."
Raised in Pittsburgh,
Mr. Weslager earned a bachelor's degree in education from the
University of Pittsburgh in 1933. About 1937, he joined the
DuPont Co. in sales and moved to Richardson Park. He edited
the firm's employee magazine, was national sales manager of
the Automatic Chemical Specialities division, and was a fabrics
and finishes marketing manager.
from the firm in 1968, he taught Delaware history at Wesley
College and the University of Delaware before joining the history
faculty of Brandywine College north of Wilmington, which eventually
became a branch of Widener University. When he retired in 1983,
he was named professor emeritus. He also was a consultant with
Reader's Digest, Temple University Press and the Smithsonian
In the late
1930s, he began working with University of Pennsylvania anthropologist
Frank G. Speck, an expert on the Nanticokes, an American Indian
tribe based in Sussex County. After helping Speck with research,
Mr. Weslager wrote his first book, "Delaware's Forgotten Folk,"
published by University of Pennsylvania press in 1943, "Delaware's
Buried Past," now a classic, followed the next year. He wrote
the chapter on American Indians for the 1947, two-volume "Delaware:
A History of the First State," considered the state's first
scholarly history. "Delaware's Forgotten River" (1947) and "Brandywine
Springs" (1949), recently reissued, followed.
include: "Red Men on the Brandywine" (1953), "The English on
the Delaware" (1967), "The Log Cabin in America" (1969), "The
Stamp Act Congress" (1976), "The Nanticoke Indians Past and
Present" (1983), "The Swedes and Dutch at New Castle" (1987),
and "A Man and His Ship: Peter Minuet and the Kalmar Nyckel"
(1989). In a U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Justice William Brennan
cited his 1972 "The Delaware Indians: A History (1972)."
books and when they were published:
Forgotten Folk, 1943
Buried Past 1944
Forgotten River, 1947
in Delaware (with A.R. Dunlap), 1950
Red Men on
the Brandywine, 1953
of Delaware, 1957
Traders and Settlers In ft Delaware Valley, 1961
Snuff Fortune , 1965
on the Delaware 1610-1682,1967
The Log Cabin
In America, 1969
Indians, A History, 1972
of the Indians, 1973
Indian Westward Migration, 1978
Indians, Past and Present, 1983
and Dutch In New Casfle, 1987
on the Delaware, 1988
A Man and His
"To me he was
unquestionably the most beloved writer of Delaware history.
Even people who never met him loved his writing," said John
P. Reid, a Stanton book dealer who publishes a newsletter on
Delaware book collecting, Saturday. "Even in his 80s, he still
was enthusiastic about writing. He worked on a couple of articles
for me and was just all bubbly and enthusiastic about what he
"He was always
working on something," said his daughter, Ann W. Tatnall of
Woodstown, N.J., on Saturday. "The last time I saw him, about
three weeks ago, he showed me some research he was doing on
old one-room schools in and around Millcroft."
newsletter he was also working on an article on an organization
that promoted Delaware history in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1993, Wesley
College made him an honorary doctor of literature and, in 1985,
Widener University, which earlier cited his teaching excellence,
awarded him an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He also
received the medal of distinction from the University of Delaware,
a trustees award from the Historical Society of Delaware, and
a historical medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
He is listed in "Who's Who in the World," and "Dictionary of
For his work
on behalf of American Indian rights, he was elected an honorary
member of the Nanticoke Tribe of Sussex County and the Nanticoke-Lenape
Tribe of Bridgeton, N.J.
He was president
of the Archaeological Society of Delaware and Eastern States
Archaeological Federation and a charter member of Historic Red
Clay Valley. In the 1950s, he was president of Richardson Park
Board of School Trustees. For many years he attended Hockessin
United Methodist Church.
In the 1950s,
he and his wife moved to Old Public Road in Hockessin. Last
August, the couple moved to Millcroft. He is survived by his
wife of 60 years, Ruth Hurst Weslager; his daughter; two sons,
Clinton, Jr. of Elkton, Md., and Thomas H. of Salem, Wis.; a
brother, Fred C. of Pittsburgh; seven grandchildren and three
A service will
be at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Hockessin United Methodist Church, 7250
Lancaster Pike. Burial will be private. Instead of flowers,
the family suggests contributions to Hockessin Public Library.