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Romanzo Adams Biographical Sketch

Romanzo Adams Family

Dr. Romanzo Colfax Adams, his wife, Nellie May Cronk Adams, with their daughter Katherine Adams. Used with permission of Ms. Lisa Butler, great-grandniece of Nellie Cronk and Romanzo Adams.

Romanzo Adams was born in Clinton Township, Vernon County, Wisconsin on 22 March 1868. Vernon County lies just south of La Crosse city and county, on the east bank of the Mississippi River opposite the boundary between Iowa and Minnesota. Romanzo Adams attended Iowa State Normal School1 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, graduating in 1892. He received a bachelor's degree (PhB) in 1897, followed by a masters degree (PhM) in 1898, both from the University of Michigan. He received a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1904. Adams filled the gaps in his attendance at normal school and the universities with his developing career of teaching. Following his normal training, Adams became teacher and principal at the public school in Ireton, Iowa, for two years. Following his education at the University of Michigan, Adams taught economics and sociology at Western College2, in Toledo, Iowa for two years. From 1900 to 1902, we do not know with certainty what he did, but probably began his studies at the University of Chicago during this time. On 16 September 1902, Romanzo Adams married Nellie May Cronk, a recent graduate from Western College. Beginning in the fall of 1902, Romanzo Adams joined the faculty of the University of Nevada. From 1911, he was chair of the department of economics and sociology at Nevada. While living in Reno, Romanzo and Nellie became the parents of Katherine, their only child, who was born 22 October 1904.

In 1920, Romanzo Adams became professor of sociology at the same time the College of Hawaii became the University of Hawaii. In time, others joined him. Dr. Park from the University of Chicago spent a summer at the University of Hawaii; Dr. Andrew Lind came to Hawaii (1927) after completing most of the work on his doctorate at Chicago. Dr. Bernhard Hoermann and Dr. Kiyoshi Ikeda, to mention only two, began their careers in sociology as undergraduates at UH, then attended the University of Chicago prior to returning to the University of Hawaii to join the Department of Sociology. Dr. Adams began early in his career to involve his students in exploring the sociological lode star which was Hawaii. The impetus of what became the Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory came from Dr. Adams. From the mid 1920s, the faculty were collecting student studies and creating research files of news clippings concerning Hawaii's social milieu. In 1934, Dr. Adams retired from full time teaching and directing the department and Laboratory.

Shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Adams wrote his two brothers living in Westby, Wisconsin. In the letter, he talks about people who have come to Honolulu from the Adams' home area: the son of a person who attended Western the same time his brother did; and the grandson of an old dentist in the county seat of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Gathering from Romanzo's words to his brothers, it appears that he was older than they. Of particular interest are Dr. Adams' comments about the likelihood of an attack upon Honolulu. Within a year of writing this letter, Dr. Adams died in Honolulu on 8 September 1942.

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4


1Frequently, normal school training into the second decade of the twentieth century was equivalent to our high schools.

2Western College was founded by the Evangelical United Brethren in 1856 in Toledo, Iowa. It seems that the same denomination started Leander Clark College in the same town the following year. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Edition, s.v. "Iowa" under the section Education lists the private schools in the state. If the list is correct and not a typographical error, the existence of the two schools suggests a split within the governing body of the school leading to the founding of a second school. Both schools apparently survived until the publishing of this edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1911. The 1968 edition makes no mention of either college.

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