From These Roots
Published:January 01, 1952
Men do not gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles.” Thus, did Dick Penrose preface a typewritten manuscript entitled Early Life and Ancestral Sketch of Boies Penrose, which he dictated May 6, less than three months before his death in Philadelphia, July 31, 1931. Boies and Dick were two of the seven sons of Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose and his wife, Sarah Hannah Boies, and what was written of Boies might with equal truth be applied to Dick.: “Probably no man in public life ever felt more strongly than did Senator Penrose that his accomplishments should be based on his own efforts and that his fame should not depend on his ancestry. At the same time, he naturally took pride in what had been done by those from whom he was descended, though he never mentioned the matter without saying that ‘a man should stand on his own feet or fall by the wayside.’ No one ever carried out this conception of man’s duty more completely and successfully than Boies Penrose. The writer, however, feels that it is only proper to introduce here a brief sketch of his family in Colonial days and subsequent times.
“He was descended from some of the oldest and best Colonial families of Pennsylvania, New England, and Maryland; his ancestors were men highly esteemed and honored in the times and communities in which they lived. The first member of the Penrose family to come to America was Bartholomew Penrose, who came to Philadelphia about 1700 and engaged with William Penn, William Penn, Jr., James Logan, and William Trent in shipbuilding and in operating lines of vessels to Jamaica and other places.
Figures & Tables
Life and Letters of R. A. F. Penrose, Jr.
When, in the summer of 1931, Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose Jr., died in Philadelphia, he left his personally acquired fortune, amounting to approximately ten million dollars, to be divided equally between The Geological Society of America and the American Philosophical Society. As a memorial to its benefactor and as a picture of a period in the history of American geological science, this volume has been prepared by The Geological Society of America. Beginning with notebooks, diaries, and letters in the possession of the Society, and adding thereunto material slowly accumulated from his family, his friends, his associates, and acquaintances, the story of his life has been pieced together. For members of Penrose’s profession, the geologists, this account of his life should have particular interest, for it presents a picture of a period which is gone forever, a picture of conditions under which the early investigators in geology and the mineral industry labored and brought forth the principles and methods of later days, methods more scientific, perhaps, but, nevertheless, methods founded upon the efforts of those pioneers. If one is inclined to smile at the picture of the young man of the 1880’s sitting on a bluff above a Texas river, confronted with the problem of making a survey without knowing how to go about it, let him ask himself what he would have done, similarly unequipped and in hitherto unknown territory. Let the geologist of today, with his carefully prepared field equipment, ask himself just how well he would like to look forward to “living off the country”, as Penrose did in the early days in Arkansas. It speaks volumes for the stamina of any man to be able to confront uncomfortable conditions with the nonchalance which Penrose displayed. And how much more to his credit this is, when a man is endowed by birth, position, and economic security so that he need never have left the comforts of urban living in Philadelphia.