Skip to main content

Herbert Alonzo Howe Family Papers

Identifier: M010


Herbert A. Howe (1858-1926) was Professor of Astronomy and Applied Mathematics, Director of Chamberlin Observatory, Dean of College of Arts and Sciences, and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado. He was instrumental in building the University of Denver's Chamberlin Observatory (1890) named after Humphrey B. Chamberlin. Howe oversaw the installation of the Observatory's Saegmuller telescope with its 20-inch Clark refractor. Howe's notebooks contain astronomical observations made at the campus observatory from 1897 to 1925 including Halley's Comet in 1910. His papers also contain correspondence, scrapbooks, as well as blueprints related to the building of the observatory.


  • 1856-2002


Digital Repository

Herbert Alonzo Howe Family Papers

Biographical / Historical

Herbert Alonzo Howe was born November 22, 1858 in Brockport, New York, the son of Alonzo J. Howe and Julia M. Osgood. Herbert A. Howe graduated from the University of Chicago at the age of 16 and received his master's degree from the University of Cincinnati. While at the University of Cincinnati, he was an assistant in the Cincinnati Observatory. He also held a Doctor of Science Degree from Boston and LL.Ds from two other schools. Herbert Howe married Fannie Shattuck in 1884 and the couple had four sons. Fannie was the daughter of Joseph Shattuck, Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Denver, Denver. Colorado.

Herbert Alonzo Howe came to the University of Denver in 1880 with Chancellor David H. Moore. In 1888, Humphrey Barker Chamberlin offered to finance the building of an observatory for the University. During the next six years, Howe oversaw the building of the Chamberlin Observatory. He picked the location that was far from the smoke and lights of the City of Denver. Chamberlin was financially ruined in the panic of 1893 before the telescope was purchased. Howe made design changes to the telescope to lower the price to $3,000 and then personally borrowed the $3,000 needed even though his salary was only $2,000 a year. Howe went to the manufacturer George Saegmuller in Washington, D.C. to learn how to install the telescope and then took a three week train ride to bring the telescope to the University. Howe oversaw the installation of the telescope and the opening of the Chamberlin Observatory in 1894.

Herbert Howe was at the University of Denver for 46 years. During those years he earned a reputation as an internationally known astronomer and mathematician. He held numerous positions at the University, including Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Director of the Chamberlin Observatory. He was Professor of Astronomy and Applied Mathematics before there was an observatory. Without his dedication, the Chamberlin Observatory could not have been built. Herbert Howe died in 1926.


8.75 Linear Feet (16 boxes)

Scope and Contents

The Herbert Alonzo Howe Family Papers contain personal and professional correspondence, a scrapbook, drafts of published articles, mathematics lesson plans, newspaper clippings and diaries. The collection contains blueprints and drawings related to the building of the Chamberlin Observatory at the University of Denver, including the installation of the Saegmuller 20-inch telescope with a Clark lens. Observation notebooks contain astronomical observations made at the Chamberlin Observatory from 1897 through 1925, including Halley's Comet in 1910. The collection also contains contributions from Herbert Julian Howe, H.A. Howe's grandson. This includes drafts of a book he was writing about his grandfather, letters with Dr. Robert Stencel, articles about H.A. Howe, and reseach material.


This collection is arranged into eight series:; 1. Correspondence, 1875-1941.; 2. Chamberlin Observatory Materials, 1888-1925.; 3. Diaries, 1876-1926.; 4. Diary Transcriptions and Howe History, 1913-2002.; 5. Class Record and Lesson Books, 1856-1925.; 6. Expense Books and Daily Calendars, 1879-1926.; 7. Observation Books: Notes and Reference Materials, 1881-1955.; 8. Scrapbooks, 1881-1900.; __Three blueprints of the Chamberlain Observatory, Saegmuller 20-inch telescope and the Clark lens have been transferred to the University of Denver Building Plans Collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transfer from Chamberlin Observatory by Edgar Everhart, 1977. Gift of Dr. Robert Shattuck, 1982 and 1992. Gift of Herbert Julian Howe, 1998 to 2002.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

Photographs providing information pertaining to the Chamberlin Observatory can be found in the University Archives and Photograph collection. Also, Howe has a VIP Biographical File.


An index and detailed listing of Howe's correspondence is also available, located in the Howe Paper Guide Files in the Archives Reading Room.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428