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Nimitz Library

Arsène Napoléon Girault Collection, 1826-1998: Finding Aid

Published in July 2011

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 417
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Arsène Napoléon Girault Collection
  • Dates: 1826-1998
  • Size: 0.21 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box
  • Creator: Girault, A. N. (Arsène Napoléon), 1801-1874
  • Language(s) of material: English French
  • Abstract: Reproductions of original documents, typescripts, and genealogical material from various sources related to the U.S. Naval Academy's first professor of French.

Biography of Arsène Napoléon Girault

Arsène Napoléon Alexandre Girault de San Fargeau was born December 26, 1801 in Troyes, France, the third child of Germain Charles Girault and his second wife Marie Angelique Canqueray (or Cauqueray). The elder Girault made a fortune as a military contractor for Napoleon's armies but fell on hard times after the French defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. He died in 1819, just a few weeks after visiting Paris where Arsène had planned to attend law school. The change in the family's fortunes prompted Arsene's mother, whose relations with her son were already strained, to apprentice him to a stocking weaver.

After working as a clerk for several firms, Arsène left France for America in 1826. He found employment as a French and Latin teacher in Philadelphia and became a citizen of the United States in 1833. He established the Spring-Villa Seminary for Young Ladies in Bordentown, New Jersey in 1836. The school was on property that Girault bought from Joseph Bonaparte, Napoléon's elder brother, who had moved to the United States after the emperor's downfall. In 1842, Girault closed the school for financial reasons. He moved to Washington, D.C. where he taught French and Spanish.

In 1845, Girault was teaching in Baltimore when Commander Franklin Buchanan, first Superintendent of the new Naval School (later Naval Academy) in Annapolis, hired Girault to teach French. The only member of the faculty from outside the Navy, Girault received his commission as a Professor of Mathematics from President James K. Polk in 1848. Professor of Mathematics was the naval rank, regardless of subject taught. Girault headed the French Department at the Naval Academy until his retirement in February, 1866. He died May 2, 1874 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Girault had married Margaret Sullivan Wilson on October 6, 1831 at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. She was his second wife, his first wife having died in a railroad accident six months after their marriage. Arsène and Margaret had five children: Edward Lepelltier Girault, Annie Wilson Girault, Joseph Bonaparte Girault, Arthur Napoleon Girault, and Mary Pauline Girault.

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Description of Contents

The Arsène Napoléon Girault Collection consists of reproductions of original documents, typescripts, and genealogical material from various sources related to the U.S. Naval Academy's first professor of French. It is arranged alphabetically by document type into a single series with no subdivisions.

The documents include a copy of a manuscript in French on the Moravians. A Presbyterian, Arsène Girault was one of two founding elders of the First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis. There is also a typescript copy of part of a letterbook that contains information on Girault's life in France. This typescript was created in 1935 by Louis H. Bolander, Assistant Librarian, U.S. Naval Academy, from the original in the possession of Elinore Girault of Annapolis. There is also a photocopy of the entire letterbook. Another item of interest is a photocopy of the prospectus for the Spring-Villa Seminary for Young Ladies. Some material relates to Arsene's son Edward, who served in the Second Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade, Maryland Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.

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Arranged alphabetically by document type into a single series with no subdivisions.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Arsène Napoléon Girault Collection is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Elinore Girault; Philip Gladden; Dean L. Johnson; Donald R. Repsher; John A. McGeachy; Unknown

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Related Materials

Location of Originals

Originals of the photocopies in this collection are presumed to still be the property of Arsène Napoléon Girault's estate.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Arsène Napoléon Girault Collection, MS 417

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jennifer A. Bryan in July 2011. Finding aid written by Jennifer A. Bryan in July 2011.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Education -- United States
  • French language -- composition and exercises
  • Girault, A. N. (Arsène Napoléon), 1801-1874
  • Girault, Edward Lepelltier 1832-1910

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Legal documents
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Biographical and Genealogical Records, 1866-1998, undated

Box 1 Folder 2

Correspondence, 1827-1855

Box 1 Folder 3

Legal Documents, 1826-1874

Box 1 Folder 4

Navy Commission, 1848

Box 1 Folder 5

Pension Claim Records for Edward Girault, 1862-1956

Box 1 Folder 6

School Exercises, undated

Box 1 Folder 7

Spring-Villa Seminary for Young Ladies, 1841

Box 1 Folder 8

Writings, undated

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