J Hugh Pruett photographs 1900s-1950s
Historic Photograph Collections
J. Hugh Pruett photographs, 1900s-1950s.
Collection number: PH195
Extent: .75 linear ft. (42 containers)
J. Hugh Pruett (1865-1955) was an educator and an amateur astronomer who passionately tracked Northwest meteors. He operated the Evergreen Observatory in his home in Eugene, taught astronomy classes through the University of Oregon Extension for thirty years, served as Pacific Coast director for the American Meteor Society, and wrote articles for astronomy journals. The collection documents his work as a public educator of astronomy.
Preferred citation: [Identification of item], J. Hugh Pruett photographs, PH195-[item number], Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
Image shown: Evergreen Observatory assistants for 1944 at the 10-inch Mellish reflector: Jane Hall, Roy C. Andrews, Irma Perkins, Elizabeth Heinreich, Edith Onthank, Helen Kirkpatrick, Ruth Coulter, and Edna Draper. J. Hugh Pruett collection, PH195-XXX, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
James Hugh Pruett was born June 20, 1886 in Weston, Oregon to William H. Pruett (1844-1902) and Barbara Harpole Pruett (1845-1920), pioneers who emigrated from Missouri in 1848. Pruett's father was a teacher and a Baptist minister who frequently contributed religious pieces to newspapers. The family had five children but only Hugh and one sister, Della, survived childhood. Pruett graduated from Linfield College in 1911 and began teaching high school at Newberg and then McMinnville. Pruett married Hope Sully (1885-1950) in McMinnville. He served as principal of Forest Grove High School about 1916, and worked as a science instructor at Walla Walla College. During World War I he served as a sergeant in the 309th field signal battalion. He pursued graduate work at the University of Chicago and the University of Oregon.
J. Hugh Pruett joined the University of Oregon faculty in 1920, teaching astronomy in the Extension Division past his retirement in 1950. In 1930 Pruett and his wife, Hope, built an observatory at their home on Longview Street in Eugene. Much of Evergreen Observatory's time was used by University of Oregon astronomy classes, but private citizens and groups were also invited on occasion. In addition to providing observation, the facility included a library of over 200 volumes and a collection of lantern slides. Equipment included a 4-inch refractor built by Raymond Berry Kennedy of Washington State University; a 3-inch Heller & Brightly, a 4-inch Bausch & Lomb, a 10-inch Mellish reflector, a 2-inch Mellish refractor, and a 4-inch Mogey refractor. Photographer and UO instructor Roy C. Andrews also taught classes. Pruett worked to establish a formal University of Oregon observatory, donating his cabin on the McKenzie River to provide financial incentive.
As Pacific Coast Director of the American Meteor Society J. Hugh Pruett tracked meteors in the western U.S. and Canada, and collected statements from eyewitnesses. Writing for the Pruett Astronomical Syndicate he furnished Western newspapers and radio stations with weekly astronomical articles to educate the American public about the skies; the Spokane Press called him "Astronomer for his Majesty The American Citizen.\" Among his many articles for the general public were illustrated investigations of the 1933 "Twilight Meteor\" over Portland and the 1935 "Eugene Meteor,\" and an essay about the purported "Port Orford meteor,\" a 10-ton meteorite allegedly found in 1856 on Bald Mountain by John Evans. Pruett's definition of "blue moon\" as the second full moon appearing in a month was published in 1946 in Sky & Telescope and, although based on an apparent misunderstanding, confirmed that usage for the term. He was also quoted in reference to Velikovsky's controversial Worlds in Collision, and to evidence related to UFOs.
Pruett was cited by the Oregon Academy of Science in 1951 for outstanding work. He was also affiliated with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, The California Academy of Science, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Pruett was a regular contributor to Sky & Telescope magazine, and wrote 127 astronomical articles for an encyclopedia published by Colliers. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Linfield College in 1946
Hugh Pruett was eulogized by the Eugene Register-Guard as the "Friendly Astronomer.\" He was a member of the Baptists Church and the Foreign Legion. He created and managed the Eugene-Springfield "Halloween Cross\" program, which used markers to protect the homes of elderly and ill people from Halloween pranks. J. Hugh Pruett died Sept. 25, 1955 in Eugene.
The collection consists of a photograph album, loose prints, and negatives. The album has family images, snapshots and Christmas photos from friends and prominent Eugeneans including Don Hunter, John & Alberta Caswell, Ethel Odell, the Onthanks; and astronomers and backyard observatories. The negatives and loose prints document the activities of Evergreen Observatory and illustrate Pruett's writings and lectures.
The Pruett papers, Manuscript collection Ax 091, consist of four boxes and include correspondence related to Pruett's astronomical observations and to the development of astronomy at the University of Oregon. The complete register of visitors to the Evergreen Observatory is preserved. Manuscripts, clippings, and scrapbooks document his prolific radio essays, speeches, and newspaper articles. There are also clippings of his father's newspaper writings and participation in the Baptist church.
Publication rights: Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish images must be submitted to the Photographs Curator of Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Access restrictions: None.
Provenance: Bequest of J. Hugh Pruett in 1955.
Processed by: Normandy S. Helmer
Date Completed: November 2006