The World of Mrs. Perkins

Union College panorama, circa 1900
Union College Schaffer Library, Special Collections Picture File

This website is an historic guide to Union College as it stood at the turn of the twentieth century.  It is based upon information and stories gleaned from the recent donation to the College of a treasure trove of over 700 letters written between 1895 and 1904 by Anne Dunbar Potts Perkins, beloved campus resident, creator of Mrs. Perkins’ Garden, and wife of Maurice Perkins (Union College Professor of Chemistry, 1865-1901).

All of the letters were written to family members while Mrs. Perkins was not only living in the center of the Union College campus (in what is now Hale House), but also deeply involved in its intellectual and social life.  They reveal Mrs. Perkins to have been a vivid writer and woman who actively pursued her own work while recording her lively interest in national as well as local and family affairs.  Mrs. Perkins’ letters are also an incomparably rich source of information about College and student life during the period; they help recover the perspective of the many women who lived on campus at a time when the College officially only admitted young men.

Mrs. Perkins Garden, circa 1900
Union College Schaffer Library,
Special Collections Picture File

Use the links on the left to explore an interactive map of the campus as Mrs. Perkins knew it, background information about Union during the time her letters were written, biographies of selected individuals and families important to Mrs. Perkins, a list of the plants she cultivated in her garden, and self-guided walking tour information.  Photographs, postcards and other material from Schaffer Library’s Special Collections are also provided throughout the site to illustrate the places and individuals mentioned prominently in Mrs. Perkins’ letters.

Schaffer Library Digital Projects, Union College, Schenectady, NY, 2011