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Rail Splinters

A Tribute to Dr. Edmund B. Sullivan (1928-2015)

December 28, 2019

The Railsplitter lost a long-time friend and supporter with the passing of Edmund Bertrand Sullivan (“Ed”) on July 5th after a brief battle with lung cancer.  He is survived by his second wife, Frances, and many family members.

Ed was born in Salem, Massachusetts and lived for many years in Suffield, Connecticut before re-marrying after the death of his first wife, Marie, and settling in Centerville, Massachusetts (Cape Cod). He had dual American and Irish citizenship. He had three college degrees and held numerous teaching positions, serving on the boards or as an advisor to numerous library and historical associations. He is most remembered as the Director/Curator of the Museum of American Political Life at the University of Hartford. The museum housed the legendary J. Doyle DeWitt Collection which served as the focal point for many exhibits and scholarly research. Unfortunately, the museum board had alternate priorities and the collection was eventually withdrawn from public view, placed in storage and now languishes… its fate uncertain.

Ed was a collector, as well as a scholar. He had a special affinity for Irish-American politicians, such as James Michael Curley and George Francis Train. He especially liked  items associated with the political left and radicalism. Two of the projects left undone at the time of his death were books on political folk art and the paraphernalia associated with political parades of the 19th century. His legacy can be felt through the many books he did publish throughout his full career, including: Collecting Political Americana, Images of American Radicalism, Campaigning with James Michael Curley, American Political Ribbons and Ribbon Badges 1825-1981 (with Roger A. Fischer) and the updated revision of the DeWitt book (American Political Badges and Medalets 1879-1892). 

Ed wrote the first feature article for The Railsplitter in 1995 and was there as a guest lecturer for our 2009 exhibit “Abraham Lincoln in New York”. The subject of his talk, appropriately, was “Collecting Lincoln”. It was always a pleasure to see him at any collector show and discuss our mutual interest. He may be gone, but the memories and the scholarship remain.