It has been said that there are educators who dream, and there are educators who do. Boltwood's life shows him to be of the latter classification.
For instance, it came to his notice that the study of spelling was being sadly neglected in many otherwise excellent high and preparatory schools. Investigating, he found that there was an out and out indifference on the part of many instructors to the importance of spelling. But there was also the lack of a manual of spelling which should contain not only the simple but even the more unusual and technical words to be met in modern occupations. Where others might have written an article lamenting the problem, Boltwood instead wrote a spelling manual which quickly came to be used in high schools and academies all across the country.
Boltwood not only was a scholar, speaking five foreign languages and having written textbooks on spelling, grammar and history, he also enjoyed sports. In college, he was a long-distance runner and often took walks of up to 20 miles. He played baseball and football until he was 45, and had a lifelong fondness for hunting and fishing.
Students of his said that Professor Boltwood used to mingle freely with them in their play, taking all the chances of the game just like any boy. They said he was very kind to anyone needing help of any kind, and many a pupil is under lasting obligation to him, not only for the general inspiration of his teaching, but also for judicious advice and help.
It was said of Boltwood that in his general management of the school he was a leader rather than a driver. He attended very thoroughly to what was especially his own work, and he expected others to do likewise with theirs.”
It has been estimated that during his lifetime, Boltwood instructed some 6,000 students. Of those, nearly 1,000 went on to 40 different colleges and became doctors, lawyers, financiers, missionaries, businessmen and educators.
The 1900 US Census showed the Boltwood family living at 1218 Benson (now Elmwood) Avenue in Evanston just up the street from the high school:
|1218 Benson (now Elmwood) Evanston|
The Census shows sixty-nine year old Henry, Helen, also sixty-nine and an "adopted daughter" twenty-three year old Gertrude Boltwood. Henry's occupation was listed as "Principal High School", Helen had no occupation listed and Gertrude's was "Stenographer." Helen said that she had given birth to one child, who was not living in 1900. (Their son Charles had died in 1884).
On July 31, 1905, Henry and Helen Boltwood celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Here is an announcement of the happy event from the Chicago Daily Tribune of August 2, 1905:
January 23, 1906 was a Tuesday. After the school day was over, Professor Boltwood told his family that he would be spending several hours at the Evanston Club, of which he was a member, and walked to the building, about one half mile away. On the way he met several friends with whom he talked, seeming to be in a cheerful mood and saying he was enjoying good health.
After arriving at the Club, he started a game of pool with his friend Professor W.H. Cutler. Boltwood was an avid pool player and for years it was his usual afternoon recreation. Having just made a shot, he turned from the table, staggered, and collapsed into the arms of Prof. Cutler. Cutler and J.F. Ward carried Boltwood to a couch and sent for a doctor, but by the time the doctor arrived, Henry Boltwood had already expired. He was 75 years old.
Professor Boltwood was said to have been in good health, although his doctor had warned him that an affection of his heart could cause a collapse. He had only missed one day in the last decade in his attendance at the school. The cause of death was "Mitral Insufficiency." Here is his death certificate:
The body, it was decided, would lie in state from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, January 25, in the assembly hall where he had often led services. Twelve high school boys were grouped about the coffin as a guard of honor— classes had been suspended for the week. Hundreds trooped through the hall that Thursday. The faculty arrived in a body for the services and moved to a special section. Hymns were sung, a "prominent school athlete" breaking into sobs during "Nearer My God To Thee." The Rev. J. F. Loba of the Congregational Church spoke of Boltwood's "high personal integrity" and concentration of "all powers on teaching." Then, in the "yellowish light of the late winter afternoon," Henry Leonidas Boltwood was buried in Rosehill Cemetery just after the five o'clock sunset.
|Henry Leonidas Boltwood|