Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island: An Alumnus of Mowry & Goff's

Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island: An Alumnus of Mowry & Goff's

English and Classical School, undated.
The former English and Classical School, 63 Snow Street, circa 1890. (providenceri.com).

A banker's education.
by John Williams Haley

This article comes from The Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island, Vol. IV, pages 253-257, published by the Providence Institution for Savings, 1944. Transcribed by Christopher Martin.

THE Providence Institution for Savings, or, as it is more popularly known, "The Old Stone Bank," has chosen a successor to the late Wilson G. Wing who served as the president of this mutual savings bank from 1922 until his death on February 3, 1944. Mr. Arthur Livingston Kelley is now President of the "Old Stone Bank," having assumed the duties of that office on March 20, 1944. Against the background of his experience, his attainments, and the esteem in which he is held by all who know him in the State of Rhode Island, Mr. Kelley becomes a most worthy successor to Mr. Wing and to all who have held the office since the first president of this savings institution was elected in 1819.

Born in Providence in 1888, Mr. Kelley's life-long interests and activities have been largely confined within the borders of his native state. Proudly, as do many others among our leading citizens, he lists "Mowry & Goff's" as the first stepping stone of his education, followed by attendance at Hope High School, graduation from St. George's School in Newport, and the receiving of a degree from Williams College with the class of 1910. Now the father of four children and several grandchildren, he entered the service of his country in the First World War as a Private, later receiving his commission as a Second Lieutenant serving overseas with the 116th Engineers, American Expeditionary Forces. Numbered among the many industrial enterprises with which he has served in high executive capacities are the Rhode Island Textile Company, Lloyd Manufacturing Company, and the United States Finishing Company. But, Mr. Kelley's abilities and energies have not been devoted entirely to private interests, for like many of our active industrial, commercial and educational leaders, he has found the time to lend his support and leadership to worthy causes, designed for the public benefit. Sometimes as a directing head, at other times a willing worker, the name of A. Livingston Kelley has rarely been missing when there have been funds to raise, a charitable or social service agency to support. General Chairman of the Providence Community Fund Drive in 1935, he has long served as the Treasurer of one of the important agencies aided by the Fund—the Providence Lying-In Hospital. He was also Treasurer of St. Mary's Home for Children, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of State Colleges in Rhode Island, Treasurer of his preparatory school Alma Mater, St. George's in Newport, and other institutions and community endeavors receive the benefit of his business experience, financial acumen, his public spirit and enthusiasm.

English High School, circa 1900.
The English High School, built 1878, corner of Summer and Pond Streets, Providence. (Circa 1900 postcard).

Thus, it is evident that Mr. Kelley is particularly well qualified for the high office of trust which he has accepted. He undertakes the duties of that office with the full confidence and well wishes of all who know him, and he will merit the esteem, in like measure, of all who will now come to know him.

Mr. Kelley was a "Mowry & Goffer" like many another now prominent Rhode Island banker, preacher, lawyer, doctor, merchant and manufacturer, but it may be that many of the present generation know little or nothing about the significance of the "tintinnabulation of the tinkling, tinkling bells," the "Deanery," E. Tudorus Grossus, Frederickus Arnoldus, and other nostalgic references, oft quoted in these parts. So, it might be well to record something of the first steppingstone in the educational career of the "Old Stone Bank's" new president. Through the kindly assistance of the well-known Providence attorney, Mr. Fred A. Otis, Secretary and Treasurer of the Alumni Association of the English and Classical School, more popularly and affectionately known as Mowry & Goff's, the following brief outline has been prepared for the benefit of those who did not happen to live during the days of what someone has termed the brightest spot in Rhode Island's history of education.

Some of our best private preparatory schools, especially in the South, were established immediately following the close of the Civil War. Many of these institutions, particularly the military academies below the Mason-Dixon line, were founded by Confederate officers who turned to teaching for want of a means of livelihood during the dark days of what has been termed the Reconstruction Period. Whereas many once comfortably-situated, land-owning Southerners were forced to turn to education after the war, certain public school teachers and principals in the North, before the war ended, were forced to abandon their profession for more lucrative fields. One of these in Providence was William A. Mowry, who was serving as principal of the Boys' English High School following a period of service with the Union Army. Just as firemen, police officers, teachers and others found it difficult to make both ends meet under wartime conditions and turned to shipbuilding, tool-making and such trades, Mr. Mowry, back in 1864, found it impossible to get along, as we say, on what the city paid him for heading its high school. He looked around for something else, something he had dreamed of for long, a private school for boys. Backed by several influential citizens and promised the cooperation of John J. Ladd, principal of the Boys' Classical High School, a plan was perfected, and a public announcement made. On February 22, 1864, Washington's birthday, the English and Classical School received its first applicants in what was long a famous landmark, the Lyceum Building, on the present site of the Providence National Bank. The school opened its doors to about fifty applicants. During the summer Mr. Ladd retired to become paymaster in the Army, so Mr. Mowry induced his friend, Charles B. Goff, principal of the Fall River High School, to join him and thus began an association which was destined to make Rhode Island history.

Eighty-seven students registered for the Fall term, and by the next July, larger quarters were leased to accommodate nearly 200 "Mowry & Goffers" as they came to be known. About this time Howard M. Rice, principal of the Woonsocket High School, joined the group of successful educators, and there he remained for the rest of his life. The faculty expanded rapidly, attracting many distinguished teachers, while the student body comprised more and more of the prominent young hopefuls, some of whom wore the old school tie because it was high time for serious preparation for what lay ahead in institutions of higher learning, while others found themselves struggling with Vergil, sines and cosines and the etiquette of a gentleman, simply because it was the correct thing to do in Providence. But Mowry & Goff's was not peculiar in this respect.

 Classical High School, circa 1900.
The original Classical High School, built 1897, Pond Street, Providence. (Circa 1900 postcard, Providence Public Library).

Richard W. Smith, who became a partner in the school enterprise at the retirement of Mr. Mowry, came into the picture in 1871, two years after the school moved into much more commodious quarters in the Fletcher building at the corner of Westminster and Eddy Streets. These accommodations served until 1875 when the school at Mowry & Goff's acquired its own building, still standing at 63 Snow Street, once occupied by Billing's Toy Store. The public library occupied the first floor and the school the two upper floors. The second floor was given over to recitation rooms and a chapel, while the drill hall took most of the top floor. Probably most of the living alumni date their recollections of dear old school days at Mowry & Goff's back to the Snow Street location, a landmark if there ever was one during a quarter century of Providence history. To complete the history of the institution—the failure of Mr. Smith's health, the death of Mr. Goff in 1898, and the steady improvement of the local high schools, finally led to the dissolution of the project. The University Grammar School founded in 1764, on College Hill, was merged with Mowry & Goff's under the direction of Mr. Rice, and, in 1904, another merger with the Friend's School, now Moses Brown School, brought to a close the brilliant career of a school whose influence had so much to do with the advancement of educational practices throughout the State. We all know many of the graduates, many of them have become our leaders of today, and although the school is no more, and has been gone for long, memories thereof do not grow dimmer with the passing of years and of decades.

Reunions of Mowry & Goffers abound with happy recollections of days spent under Mrs. Harriet A. Dean, whose Preparatory Department was affectionately dubbed "The Deanery"; of that grand old lady, Mrs. Harriet M. Miller, the elocution teacher and the favorite line of hers about "the tintinnabulation of the tinkling, tinkling bells"; Miss Isabel C. French, the ambidextrous teacher of arithmetic and geography, who could write equally well with either hand; the late Walter J. Towne; the late Clarence H. Manchester, beloved principal of Technical High, who gave the names of all the boys a Latin twist; and so on. Not forgetting the military side of the school, that was most important, especially on Fridays, when the parents and, of course, the young ladies were invited to witness dress parade. The military organization was one of the school's most popular features. It helped maintain discipline and gave color to all school activities. The occasional street parades will never be forgotten by the participants. Real Springfield rifles lined the racks in the drill hall and all pupils, regardless of size, took part in regular drills several times a week. Outstanding among the instructors, none will ever forget General Charles R. Dennis whose insistence on military precision was rigorous, to say the least. In later years the uniform equipment was brought up to army regulations and a high standard of close order precision followed which brought generous applause whenever a public drill was held in Infantry or Music Hall. This school was one of the first to introduce gymnastic training and a session in the gym was part of the daily routine. Pupils of Mowry & Goff's enjoyed the great benefits of individual instruction. Mr. Mowry contended that ten scholars to a teacher was enough and the number never exceeded fifteen. Thus it was possible to really understand the pupils and give to each the help that would accomplish the most for him. Here, also, we have the secret of the affection which the scholars developed for their masters, who were always on the most intimate terms with the boys. Teachers were selected for their special fitness and numberless innovations in teaching practice, now in common use, originated in Mowry & Goff's classrooms. We would like to touch up on some of the sidelights of life at this interesting school, such as the surreptitious visits to Handy's Museum on Mondays and Thursdays; the forbidden delicacies smuggled in from Remington & Sessions' and Rausch's Bakery, etc.; and upon the time when Arthurus Livingston Kelley, as he was probably called by Professor Manchester, came to drill with a real, regulation Army poncho manufactured in his father's mill, but such pleasant and amusing memories are reserved for those who cherish intimate associations with Mowry & Goff's. As far as the past is concerned, the school made history by producing men who have made and will make Rhode Island history.

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John Williams Haley (1897-1963), former vice president of the Narragansett Brewing Company, was best known for his weekly radio program, "The Rhode Island Historian," which ran from 1927 to about 1953 on WJAR. Several hundred of his radio scripts were published in pamphlet form by the Providence Institute for Savings ("The Old Stone Bank"), and many were later reprinted in the four-volume Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island.

Editor's Notes

Wilson G. Wing: Born in Chili, circa 1882. The 1940 census lists his wife, Marjory, two children, and five servants in the household at 36 Orchard Avenue, Providence.

Arthur Livingston Kelley: June 14, 1888-December 7, 1958. Buried in PV003, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence.

Mowry & Goff's: From King's Pocket Book of Providence by Moses King (1882):

MOWRY AND GOFF'S ENGLISH AND CLASSICAL SCHOOL has attained a rank second to no similar institution in this country. In 1864 Wm. A. Mowry, who for five years had been at the head of the English and scientific department of the Providence High School, and a teacher there for a period previous, projected an English and classical school, the underlying principle of which was "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and the object of which was to give to boys a thorough moral and intellectual education, with due attention to their physical needs—in short, thoroughly to fit young men for business, for scientific schools, or for college. He opened the school in February, 1864, in the Lyceum Building, with 53 scholars. In September of the same year he associated with himself his present partner, Chas. B. Goff, a college mate and friend, then, and, for half a dozen years previous, the principal of the Fall River High School. The motto of Mowry and Goff was, Deo doctrinaeque; and, under this, the school has experienced nothing but uninterrupted prosperity. In 1865, the accommodation becoming too small, two full stories were obtained in the Narragansett Block. Five years later additional room became a necessity; and the school was moved to Fletcher Building, where it remained till the completion, in 1875, of the present building, which Mowry and Goff themselves erected expressly for school use. It is one of the best constructed and most serviceable structures of its kind to be seen in the city. The two large upper floors, 91 x 94 feet each, are utilized for the school, while the lower floor is occupied by the Providence Public Library. It is situated on Snow St., extending through to Moulton St., bet. Westminster and Washington Sts. It is thoroughly fitted out with all appliances and apparatus necessary to make it wholesome and useful. It was formally dedicated April 22, 1875, with interesting exercises, which were published in the school's report for that year. The catalogue for 1882 shows 14 instructors and 263 scholars. The school has had 2,000 pupils, and has already 250 graduates, many of whom are prosperous men, in various professional and business pursuits.

Rhode Island Textile Company: "Manufacturers of rigid and elastic narrow fabrics for intimate apparel, medical, industrial and automotive applications, from polyester, nylon, rayon, acrylic, monofilament, polypropylene, spandex and blends. Also, custom logo printing services." Founded 1913 in Pawucket. Moved to new quarters in Cumberland in 2016. As of 2020 appears to be operating under the name Phenix Engineered Textiles, based in North Carolina.

Lloyd Manufacturing Company: Was located at 130 Franklin Street, Warren.

United States Finishing Company: Formed in 1899 by a merger of Norwich Bleaching, Dyeing and Printing of Norwich, Connecticut; Dunnell Manufacturing of Pawtucket; and Reid and Barry of Passaic, New Jersey. As of 1922 the company had plants in Pawtucket and Providence, as well as in Connecticut and New Jersey. The Pawtucket plant was closed in 1935.

Fred A. Otis: April 4, 1881-January 15, 1959. Buried in PV003, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence.

Lyceum Building: Located at 94-98 Westminster Street, the Franklin Lyceum Building was built in 1856 and took its name from a debating society that took up residence two years later. In 1926, soon after the building was purchased by the Providence National Bank, it was demolished to facilitate the widening of the street. The bank completed a new headquarters on the spot in 1930.

Charles B. Goff: March 4, 1834-December 1, 1898. Buried in PV003, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence.

63 Snow Street: See above under Mowry & Goff's; was "situated on Snow St., extending through to Moulton St., bet. Westminster and Washington Sts." This block in 2013 includes the Rhode Island State Archives, part of Roger Williams University, and a parking lot.

Billing's Toy Store:

Billing's Toys and Music, circa 1925.
Billing's Toys and Music, 46 Snow Street (in the Mowry and Goff Building), Providence, circa 1925. (Providence Public Library).

Harriet M. Miller: c1858-June 16, 1920. Buried in NS007, Union Cemetery, North Smithfield.

Isabel C. French: 1858-1943. Buried in PW005, Oak Grove Cemetery, Pawtucket.

Charles R. Dennis: March 3, 1829-December 2, 1905. Civil War vet. Buried in PV003, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence.

Remington & Sessions': A grocery store on Westminster Street.

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