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Bradley Palmer - Some Myths

Page history last edited by abrandenburg@mvlc.org 6 years, 8 months ago

Some Myths Regarding Bradley Webster Palmer

By Neal L. Trubowitz, Ph.D.
Seasonal Park Interpreter, Bradley Palmer State Park
September 19, 2017

Noted attorney Bradley Webster Palmer donated the Topsfield and Hamilton portions of his Willow Dale Estate to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1944, forming Bradley Palmer State Park.  Topsfield lore has many tales of Palmer.  In 2016 I sourced some stories.  I found myths and mistakes, and offer corrections.

His baptism record dates his birth: June 28, 1866.  Harvard University Archives document his death:  November 9, 1946.

Palmer did not represent President Woodrow Wilson at the Peace Conference for World War I, and did not help draft the Treaty of Versailles, or the separate U.S. Treaty with Germany.  The commissioners Wilson appointed were diplomats, politicians and professors, not lawyers.  Palmer was in Paris as support legal staff, not as a principal negotiator or author.

On June 25, 1919 a photograph of The American Commission to Negotiate Peace Delegation was taken at the Hotel Crillon, Paris.  Over 70 military and civilian men are in the photograph.  Sitting in front are the five principals of the delegation including President Wilson.  Palmer may be in the photograph, but the standing men are not identified.  Congress did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, and Palmer was not among those who negotiated the separate Treaty of Berlin ratified by Congress on November 11, 1921; Palmer was busy as a corporate lawyer.

Palmer was the primary attorney and a member of the Board of Directors for what is now the United Fruit Company, which he aggregated from several import companies starting in 1899.  Creation of the United Fruit Company made Palmer wealthy and attracted many other corporate clients.

Palmer was not a principal lawyer for Sinclair Oil Corporation during the Teapot Dome Scandal (1921-1922).  It was the biggest U.S. government scandal before Watergate.  The Secretary of the Interior went to prison for taking bribes from oil companies to lease U.S. Naval Oil Reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming.  Palmer is not in 1924 photographs of Harry Ford Sinclair’s Congressional appearance, which show Sinclair; J. W. Simpson, Vice-President of Sinclair Oil; Sinclair’s personal attorney J. W. Zevely; and attorney Martin W. Littleton.   

Palmer entertained often at Willow Dale, but some notables were not his guests, such as President William Howard Taft and His Royal Highness Edward Albert, the Prince of Wales.


References / Further Reading


Alley, Frederick J. (1931).  Myopia Races and Riders 1879-1930: being an account of the various races under the auspices of the Myopia Hunt Club.  Hamilton, MA: Myopia Hunt Club.  Read online at Hathi Trust.


American Commission to Negotiate Peace.  Retrieved September 15, 2016 from: https://wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=American_Commission_to_Negotiate_Peace
Bennett, Leslie E. (1999.)

One Lesson From History:  Appointment of Special Counsel and the Investigation of the Teapot Dome Scandal.  Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.  Retrieved October 4, 2016 from: academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/Johnson/teapotdome.htm.

Bevery Historical Society (2016).  The Taft Summer White House.  Retrieved September 25, 2016 from: www.bevhistsoc.tripod.com/the story.htm [No longer available at this address]

Dow, G. F. (1940). History of Topsfield Massachusetts. Topsfield, Mass.: Topsfield Historical Society. Reprinted 1982. View Library Catalog record ; read online at the Internet Archive.

Ellis Loring Dresel.  Retrieved September 28, 2016 from:  www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Ellis%20Loring%20Dresel&uid=1575.

Foley, Sister Mary Eileen (Good Shepherd Sisters) (n.d.).  Bradley Palmer-The Man and His Mansion.  Typed Manuscript on file at Bradley Palmer State Park.  This manuscript dates to 1972 or later as that was the latest year mentioned in the text.  Sister Foley’s manuscript lacks references; it is the source of many unsubstantiated Palmer stories, including the error of giving his year of death as 1948 at age 84.

Garland, Joseph E. (1998). The North Shore:  A Social History of Summers Among the Noteworthy, Fashionable, Rich, Eccentric and Ordinary of Boston’s Gold Coast, 1823 -1929.  Beverly, MA: Commonwealth Editions.


Harvard University Archives (2010).  Biographical information:  Bradley W. Palmer and Charles K. Cummings.  Email to Sean Fisher, Archivist, Department of Conservation and Recreation.  January 19, 10:11am.

Palmer, Bradley Webster (1907).  The American Banana Company.  Boston, MA: George H. Ellis Co.

Topsfield Historical Society (2013).  Bradley Palmer and Willowdale.  Local Lore, The Topsfield Historical  Society Newsletter.  Issue 100.

United States, Army Signal Corps (1919).  The American Commission to Negotiate Peace Delegation.  Photograph taken at the Hotel Crillon, Paris, June 25, 1919.  Signal Corps Photograph 159289.  The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Photography Collection, Image ID 117203. The New York Public Library, New York, NY.
United States, Library of Congress (2016).  Harry F. Sinclair, Multimillionaire Oil Magnate and his Counsel at the Teapot Dome Hearing, March 21st [1924].  Call Number:  LC-H234-A-8017.   Washington, D.C.: Harris and Ewing Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.  Retrieved October 4, 2016 from: http:www.loc.gov/pictures/item/hec2013014057.

Williamson, R. H., Clergyman (1867).  Bradley Webster Palmer, Baptised May 3, 1867.  In St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Baptisms, pp. 46-47.  Wilkes-Barre, PA.


Additional Links

Bradley Palmer State Park


Willowdale Estate



Topsfield Times: A Community and Local History Resource


Alley, Frederick J. (1931).  Myopia Races and Riders 1879-1930:  being an account of the various

 races under the auspices of the Myopia Hunt Club.  Myopia Hunt Club, Hamilton, MA.

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