Arthur Stanwood Pier

Though he wrote in many genres -- science fiction, social novels, histories of St. Paul's School and Harvard University, etc. -- Arthur Stanwood Pier is today best remembered as the author of a sequence of turn-of-the-century boarding school stories, the St. Timothy's series.

I am creating this page for those who might run across one of Arthur Stanwood Pier's books and want to know more about him, but also in hopes that other readers and collectors of Pier's works might get in touch with me to supply information not available to me when the page was composed. In other words, I'm hoping that this page might serve as an Arthur Stanwood Pier "research depository" to which all those interested in Pier's work might contribute.

Arthur Stanwood Pier. (Photo courtesy of St. Paul's School.)

Arthur Stanwood Pier was born in Pittsburgh on April 21, 1874. His father, William Stanwood Pier, was a prominent Pittsburgh lawyer. His mother was Alice Moore Pier. Arthur's father tutored him at home until he was 13 years old. The young Pier seems to have been an extraordinary student. His parents placed him in St. Paul's School (Concord, N.H.) in 1887. He entered in the Third Form, and from then until his graduation in 1890 stood at the top of his class in English, Classics, and History. At St. Paul's he was a Ferguson Scholar and frequent contributor to the literary magazine, of which he became editor in his last year. As a Fifth Former, he won the school prize in English Composition.

Arthur Stanwood Pier graduated from St. Paul's in 1890, but, being only 16 years old at the time and judged too young for immediate entry to college, spent an additional postgraduate year at the school. He entered Harvard in 1891.

William Stanwood Pier died during Arthur's sophomore year at Harvard. Arthur Stanwood Pier's David Ives: A Story of St. Timothy's gives a thinly-disguised autobiographical account of his father's death, from which it may be seen how heavy a blow it was not only to his son but to the Pier family. Though he went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard in 1895, Arthur's thoughts were clearly preoccupied with the plight of his mother, sister, and two young brothers. During the interim, the sister contributed to the support of the family by giving music lessons. In 1896, having graduated and earned a position on the editorial staff of The Youth's Companion, Arthur -- like the hero of his story David Ives -- moved his family to Cambridge. He then set about earning his living, and their support, by his writing.

Pier's first book, an underrated novel of Cambridge life in the "aesthetic" 1890s, was The Pedagogues (1899), which took as its setting the Harvard Summer School. The Boys of St. Timothy's, the first of his boarding school stories, followed five years later. St. Timothy's, a lightly fictionalized version of St. Paul's School, would be the setting of eleven more Arthur Stanwood Pier books, among them several classics of the turn-of-the-century school story genre.

 

"Tackled a runner in the open field and got a wrenched ankle." From David Ives: A Story of St. Timothy's

 

In 1908, Arthur Stanwood Pier was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. From 1916 to 1921 he taught English composition at Harvard, and during this same period researched and wrote a "popular" history of the university, The Story of Harvard (1918).  In 1918 he became editor of the Harvard Graduates' Magazine -- today's Harvard Magazine -- in which position he continued until 1930.

In 1909, Pier married Elise R. Hall of Boston, with whom he would have two children. They were a close couple -- a sense of what their marriage meant to each other can be gotten from Pier's novel The Women We Marry -- and Elise's death in 1922 came as a personal tragedy. Pier found himself suddenly a grieving widower, 48 years old, with two children to raise alone. The declining circulation of The Youth's Companion during the 1920s further deprived him of a reliable source of income, and in 1925 he ended his long connection with that magazine.

In 1930, Arthur Stanwood Pier returned to St. Paul's as a master and member of the English department, a position he would hold for 14 years. He was a popular teacher, stimulating to the best students and encouraging to the slow, always concerned to impart a sense of moral values along with the rudiments of English composition. The Arthur Stanwood Pier remembered by his students resembled, in short, the most sympathetic masters portrayed in his St. Timothy's stories -- which, given the popularity of the books among boys at the school, may be seen as hardly accidental. In 1934, Scribner's published Pier's History of St. Paul's School, an affectionate and attractively written account of the school's founding and traditions. When he retired from teaching in 1944, he moved back to Boston and resumed his career as a full-time writer. In the end, the number of titles that had proceeded from his pen was thirty two. He died on August 14,  1966, at the age of 92.

I am going to list the known descendants of Arthur Stanwood Pier at his death in 1966, and I very much hope that anyone with knowledge of the family -- and, especially, any family member who might be aware of the location of unpublished Arthur Stanwood Pier materials -- will get in touch with me. His two children were Arthur S. Pier, Jr. M.D., and a daughter, Mrs. William M. Hunt, 2nd. At his death his brothers Roy and Winthrop survived him, as did his sister, Mrs. Florence Griffith.

If you have either biographical information about Arthur Stanwood Pier or corrections or additions to the provisional bibliography given below, I would be very grateful for a card sent to my Princeton post office box.


Arthur Stanwood Pier: A Provisional Bibliography

The Pedagogues: a Story of the Harvard Summer School (1899)

The Sentimentalists, a novel (1901)

The Triumph (1903)

Boys of St. Timothy's (1904)

The Ancient Grudge (1905)

Harding of St. Timothy's (1906)

The Young in Heart (1907)

The New Boy: a Story of St. Timothy's (1908)

The Crashaw Brothers (1910)

The Jester of St. Timothy's (1911)

The Story of Harvard. Illustrations by Vernon Howe Bailey (1913)

Grannis of the Fifth: a Story of St. Timothy's (1914)

The Women We Marry (1914)

Jerry. Illustrations by Christine Tucke Curtiss (1917)

The Plattsburgers. Illustrations by Norman Rockwell (1917)

The Son Decides: the Story of a Young German-American (1918)

Dormitory Days: More Stories of St. Timothy's (1919)

The Hilltop Troop (1919)

David Ives: a Story of St. Timothy's. Illustrations by Franklin Wood (1922)

Confident Morning, a novel (1925)

Friends and Rivals: a Story of St. Timothy's. Frontispiece by Frank M. Rines (1925)

The Coach (1928)

The Captain. Illustrations by Frederic A. Anderson (1929)

The Rigor of the Game: Stories of Harvard Athletics. Illustrations by Charles Lassell (1929)

The Boy from the West: a Story of St. Timothy's. Illustrations by Kleber Hall (1930)

The Cheer Leader (1930). Illustrations by Frederic Anderson.

The Champion (1931). Illustrations by Frederic Anderson.

Years Ago. With drawings by Gardiner Pier (1932)

St. Paul's School, 1855-1934 (1934)

God's Secret (1935)

The Young Man from Mount Vernon, a novel (1940)

American Apostles to the Philippines (1950)

Forbes: Telephone Pioneer (1953)


I am grateful to David Levesque of the Ohrstrom Library at St. Paul's School for his aid in locating biographical and bibliographical material on Arthur Stanwood Pier.