Professor Jim Cabinet Card by Prescott & White, Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1870s

Lot of 2 items related to James "Professor Jim" Williams. Cabinet card portrait of "Professor Jim." Prescott & White: Hartford, Connecticut, n.d., circa 1870s. Imprint on recto. Subject sits with his arm resting on the fringed arm of a chair, wearing a suit jacket and watch chain.

[With:] The Trinity Tablet. Volume XI. January-December 1878. Hartford, Connecticut: 1878. 8vo (190 x 262 mm). Bound copy of The Trinity Tablet. (Occasional spotting.) Quarter brown morocco gilt, spine in 5 compartments with 4 raised bands gilt (front board detached, rubbing to extremities). Includes the lengthy obituary for James "Professor Jim" Williams in the Saturday, June 8, 1878, Vol. XI No. VII issue (p.81). The author remarks: "It was hoped that he would live to brighten with his presence." The affectionate obituary includes fond remembrances: "On Class-Day, he walked arm-in-arm with the President of the class, occupied a seat of honor, and, in acknowledgment of the usual presentation to him, made a speech which attracted at least as much attention as any other exercise of the day."

James Williams (1790-1878) was a longtime custodian at Trinity College, fondly known as “Professor Jim.” Born into slavery to Revolutionary War Colonel John F. Robert, he was witness to Robert’s friendship with Aaron Burr, and it was to Robert’s estate that Burr fled to after his duel with Alexander Hamilton, an account not recorded elsewhere but mentioned in Charles Hayden Proctor's contemporary biography of Williams. At 20, Williams escaped and served in the American Navy and on commercial vessels during the War of 1812. After several years at sea, he settled in Connecticut and became a household servant to Bishop Brownell, founder of Trinity College. He would serve in various capacities at the College, rising to Chief Janitor. His biographer and a descendant of Colonel Robert, C.H. Proctor, noted, Williams “was affectionately remembered as an uneducated but intelligent Negro janitor who became a college institution, 'a prominent personage at Class-Day celebrations', and a speaker to graduating seniors.” A lounge was named in his honor in March 1999.


Card with toning, surface soil, and spotting (mostly to mount), wear to edges of image and mount, including paper loss along image edges. Penciled collection/identification number/code on verso.

Front board detached of the Trinity Tablet

Estimate: $600 - $800
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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