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MS024: Arthur C. Comins Collection of Gompei Kuwada Correspondence

 Collection
Identifier: MS024

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence arranged chronologically from 1892 to 1949. There are no letters from 1942 through 1946 when Japan was at war with the United States. Almost all the letters were written by Gompei Kuwada, but there are a few notes from his wife, Katsuko, and there are a few letters by Arthur Comins (generally copies of letters Comins sent to Kuwada), and a few to or by other people throughout the collection. At the end are letters sent to Arthur Comins by other people, almost all Japanese men. Quite a few times, Kuwada sent friends and associates to the Comins with letters of introduction, and the Comins entertained them. The collection also contains photographs, many postcards, and other items, including brochures, newspaper articles and pages with four-leaf clovers. Some pages contain sketches done by Kuwada.

Gompei’s letters to Arthur pertain to both business and personal matters. Gompei recounted to Arthur many of his business ventures, and ask for Arthur’s help in making contacts in the U.S. and arranging for shipments of materials to Japan. Probably because they were both involved in the textile business, there was correspondence from and to Mr. Knowles of Crompton and Knowles, and apparently he had a personal relationship with him. Although almost all the correspondence is from Gompei, he often referred to Arthur’s textile business, the difficulties it was facing, and the economic conditions of both the U.S. and Japan.

Many of Gompei’s letters in the 1930s until the U.S.’s entry into the Second World War in December 1941 (when apparently it became impossible to correspond any longer) discuss Japan’s war with China and later its alliance with Germany. Gompei believed that Japan was justified in its actions, and tried in his correspondence to explain Japan’s position and was distressed that America and much of Europe seemed to sympathize with China.

After Arthur’s death in December 1936, Gompei corresponded with Arthur’s wife, Margaret (also affectionately known as “Pudge” in some letters). Once they were able to correspond again after World War II, the Kuwadas asked Margaret to send seeds for planting, and other items. Gompei described privations they suffered during the American occupation of Japan.

Most of the letters from Gompei, after the first few years, have noted (usually small slips of yellow paper) attached to them, with the major points of the letters. These notes were apparently made by Arthur, and are kept with the letters.

Dates

  • 1892 - 1948

Conditions Governing Use

Access: Permission from Archivist required.

Copyright: The donors have transferred any copyright held in these materials to Worcester Polytechnic Institute for the WPI Archives & Special Collections.

Biographical / Historical

Gompei Kuwada and Arthur Comins were friends and classmates at WPI, graduating in 1893. They were charter members of the Tech Co-operative Society, which became a chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1894. The Class of 1893 introduces the Goat as WPI’s mascot. Members of the class acquired a goat, and Gompei Kuwada was appointed as the keeper of the goat. In an article in the WPI journal, Arthur Comins wrote that Kuwada was chosen as the official mascot-keeper “because he had already injected into class life a few original ideas as to mascots, and had shown quite some latent engineering ability in the loading, transportation, and placating of a usually rampant goat. Moreover, he possessed the only initials in the class that would fit the words Goat-Keeper.” (see The Journal of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Vol. 31, no. 9, July 1928)

After graduation, Kuwada returned to his home country of Japan, and Comins remained in Worcester. They corresponded regularly after that time until Arthur Comins’ death in December, 1936. After that, Kuwada corresponded with Comins’ wife Margaret, through 1948, except during World War II.

Gompei Kuwada was born October 7, 1870 in Tokyo, Japan. In 1884 he accompanied his uncle on a visit to the United States, and they saw Benjamin S. Lyman in Northampton, Massachusetts. Mr. Kuwada (the uncle), a mining engineer, had assisted Mr. Lyman in surveying Japanese coal and oil fields. Gompei was enrolled in the Clarke School in Northampton, and later graduated from Northampton High School. At WPI he enrolled in the course in Mechanical Engineering, graduating in 1893. He received the honorary degree of doctor of engineering from WPI in 1928.

When he returned to Japan after graduation, he worked as a mechanical engineer for the Imperial Military Arsenal in Osaka, later moving to Kobe to manage the machine shops at the Kawasaki Dockyard Company. He married Eho Mataki of Osaka; she died in May 1908 after an illness, and he then married her sister, Katsuko in November 1908.

In 1910 Kotaro Shimomura, WPI Class of 1888, asked Kuwada to take charge of the mechanical engineering operation of the Osaka Gas Company; in 1916 he began doing construction work for the Japan Dye Stuff Manufacturing Company, which had been established by Shimomura.

During World War I, Japan was unable to obtain textile machine parts from outside the country, Kuwada began a company to manufacture these parts, Nihon Spindle Seizosho, in Osaka in 1918. The spindle company became very successful in the next 20 years, with clients in other parts of the world as well as Japan. Arthur Comins helped Gompei obtain steel from the U.S. Gompei also continued in a leadership position with, and later as an advisor to, Osaka Gas for many years. He also worked in the manufacture of airplanes during the 1930s.

Gompei and Katsuko did not have children, but Gompei took on much responsibility for care of relatives’ children at various times throughout his life. He and his wife adopted his sister’s son Suenori, and in 1926 Suenori came to Worcester and enrolled at WPI with the Class of 1930. He contracted tuberculosis during his sophomore year and was treated at a private sanitarium in Lunenberg. Although Arthur Comins, his guardian, and the Kuwadas, hoped he would improve, he died there May 2, 1929.

Gompei traveled to the United States several times, and attended several WPI reunions. He died September 13, 1949 in Japan.

Arthur Comins was born August 30, 1971 in Leicester, Massachusetts. He prepared for WPI at Worcester Classical High School, and at WPI was enrolled in the course in Mechanical Engineering. His obituary in the WPI Journal, describes him as “one of the most delightful gentlemen whom the Institute ever graduated, and one of its most loyal sons…” At WPI he served as class vice-president and president, and was editor-in-chief of the W P I (school newspaper) and the Aftermath (yearbook). After graduation from WPI, Comins studies at Harvard for a year, then joined his father and brother in Comins & Co., woolen manufacturers, in Rochdale, MA. Later he became president of the J.D. Clark Co., a woolen mill also in Rochdale.

In 1899, Arthur Comins married Margaret Lake. They had two children, John and Betty.

Arthur Comins died in Worcester December 14, 1936.

[Note: Much of the material for these brief biographires was taken from The Journal of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Vol. 39, No. 3, Jan. 1936, p.13; Vol. 40, No. 3, Jan. 1937; Vol. 53, No. 3, Jan, 1950.]

Extent

2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to the WPI Archives & Special Collections by the Comins family.
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for uncoded script

Repository Details

Part of the WPI Manuscript Collections Repository

Contact:
100 Institute Rd
George C. Gordon Library
Worcester MA 01609 USA