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Farnum, Walter W. Papers 

Dates: 1907-1965

Collection Number: COLL/202

Finding aid (Word)

Biographical Note

Walter W. Farnum's association with the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island, began in 1904. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in chemistry, he was employed by the S.D. Warren paper company. From June until November 1904, Farnum worked at their Portland, Maine, plant. In November of that year, he transferred to the Torpedo Station in Newport.

The position of Chemist had been established at the Torpedo Station by an Act of Congress in the 1870s. After three days of written examinations, Farnum was named to the position in 1906, replacing Chemist Kniffer. As the station's Chemist, he conducted tests on the relative power of wet guncotton, then in use as the explosive charge for torpedoes and mines, and the new explosive TNT. In 1908, he made a tour of east coast powder magazines, testing their stores of smokeless powder in preparation for the Great White Fleet's around-the-world cruise. Farnum was transferred to the Naval Powder Factory at Newport in 1912, where he would work through 1928, when this collection ends.

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the papers of Walter W. Farnum. There are three series. In Series I, Correspondence, are copies of Farnum's orders and endorsements for his 1908 inspection tour. Also included are travel orders for a later trip to New York for a hearing on the classification of smokeless powder and guncotton for transportation. This series also contains letters of introduction written by A. Felix DuPont and Commander Francis Cogswell for Farnum during a trip to Europe in 1928. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Series II, Newport, contains a brief history of the Newport Torpedo Station and Powder Factory written by Farnum in 1965 and the booklet "The Naval Torpedo Station Newport, Rhode Island, 1658-1920" published in 1920.

The last series, Photographs, contains photos of Walter Farnum and Commander Jewett Orth. Also included is a photograph of a 1908 test of the explosive power of TNT and wet guncotton conducted from USS Michigan off Newport.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Papers of Walter W. Farnum, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.

Subject Headings (LCSH)

United States. Navy--History--Sources.
Chemists--United States.
Navy-yards and naval stations--Rhode Island--Newport.
United States Naval Torpedo Station (Newport, R.I.)
DuPont de Nemours (E.I.) and Company.


Published: Tue Aug 03 14:34:40 EDT 2021