Johnston Family Papers, 1865-1992 (bulk 1865-1972): Finding Aid
Published in September 2017
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 452
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: Johnston Family Papers
- Dates: 1865-1992
- Bulk Dates: 1865-1972
- Size: 11.84 linear feet (6 manuscript boxes, 6 flat boxes, 1 oversize folder)
- Creator: Johnston family
- Language(s) of material: English
- Abstract: The Johnston Family Papers, comprising 11.84 linear feet of documentation, span three generations of the Johnston and Merrell families from 1865 to 1992, with a majority of the documentation ceasing by 1972. The papers record, in varying levels of detail, the lives and careers of John Porter Merrell, Richard Howard Johnston, Cecil Younger Johnston, John Porter Merrell Johnston, and Frederick Halsey Tyler.
Biography of the Johnston and Merrell Families
John Porter Merrell Johnston
John Porter Merrell Johnston was born 4 September 1914 in New York City. A graduate of the Sidwell Friends School, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy from Missouri and graduated as a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1937. Following graduation, his first assignment was aboard the U.S.S. Houston (Heavy cruiser: CA-30).
In September 1939, Johnston joined the U.S.S. John D. Edwards (Destroyer: DD-216), which was deployed to China at the time. His service aboard this destroyer (through 1942) included Pacific combat. Due to a hearing disability, Johnston was next assigned to limited shore duty. Johnston reached his final rank of Lieutenant Commander, 2 January 1942. On 1 April 1943, Johnston was placed on retired active duty status, serving from January 1943 through August 1945 at the Advance Base Establishment and Maintenance Division, CNO.
In 1944, Johnston married Elizabeth Winchester King of Annapolis. Among his civilian accomplishments, LCDR Johnston worked for the Radiation Laboratory (MIT secretariat), earned an MBA from Harvard in 1947 and pursued a twenty-nine year career with the National Geographic Society, retiring in 1976 from the post of Purchasing Officer.
LCDR Johnston died, 25 October 1987, at the Carriage Hill Nursing Facility, Bethesda, Maryland and was interred at the Naval Academy Cemetery.
Richard Howard Johnston
Richard Howard Johnston, father of John Porter Merrell Johnston, was born in Granger, Missouri on February 2, 1880. Appointed to the Naval Academy in 1898 as a member of the Class of 1902, Johnston completed three and half years at the Academy before resigning on October 1, 1901. Following his resignation from the Academy, Johnston served as a public utility engineer.
On January 26, 1906, Johnston rejoined the Navy as an officer in the Supply Corps. Initially serving aboard U.S.S. Tacoma (Protected cruiser: C-18), Johnston was attached to U.S.S. Supply (Steamer), based in Guam, in 1911. In 1913, he returned to the United States, where he married Dorcas Merrell, daughter of Rear Admiral John Porter Merrell, on August 25, 1913. Throughout World War I, Johnston was engaged in transport duty.
Following the War, Johnston was initially attached to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. This duty was followed by assignments to the Mine Laying Squadron Atlantic Fleet (1921-1923), Chief Coordinator's Office of the Bureau of Budget (1923-1927), Destroyer Squadrons Pacific Fleet (1927-1928), Bremerton Navy Yard Accounting Office (1928-1929), Shore Establishment Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Navy (1929-1933), and the Newport Naval Torpedo Station (1933-1936). In 1937, Johnston was assigned to his final duty station at the Norfolk Navy Yard, where he served as Disbursing Officer until his retirement in 1945. Richard Howard Johnston died on May 16, 1967 and was buried at the United States Naval Academy cemetery.
Cecil Younger Johnston
Cecil Younger Johnston, brother of Richard Howard Johnston and uncle of John Porter Merrell Johnston, was born on June 20, 1889. Johnston entered the United States Naval Academy on July 8, 1907 as a member of the Class of 1911. Upon completing the academic course at the Academy, Johnston was assigned to U.S.S. Washington (Armored cruiser: ACR-11), U.S.S. Rhode Island (Battleship: BB-17), and U.S.S. Paducah (Gunboat: PG-18). In August 1913, he was attached to U.S.S. Connecticut (Battleship: BB-18) as Fire Control Officer. Following seven months of duty aboard U.S.S. Ozark (Monitor: BM-7), Johnston was detailed for submarine instruction in January 1915, after which he assumed command of U.S.S. G-3 (Submarine: SS-31). In March 1918, he assumed command of U.S.S. R-16 (Submarine: BB-93). Beginning in September 1918, Johnston received flight instruction in Coco Solo and San Diego, after which he was detached from U.S.S. R-16. Further flight instruction followed in January 1921, as well as radio instruction at Naval Air Station Anacostia later that same year. In December 1921, Johnston assumed command of NAS Anacostia, with additional duty as Naval Aide to the White House beginning in February 1922. In June of that year, he was transferred to U.S.S. Wright (Aircraft tender: AV-1) for flight duty with the Scouting Fleet. In November 1924, he was transferred to Naval Air Station Hampton Roads. On December 6, Johnston's plane crashed on takeoff from NAS Hampson Roads. While initially receiving a good prognosis, Cecil Younger Johnston succumbed to his injuries, dying on December 18, 1924.
John Porter Merrell
John Porter Merrell was born in Auburn, New York on September 7, 1846 to John Camp and Jane A. Merrell. In 1863, Merrell received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he graduated as a member of the Class of 1867. Following graduation, Merrell was assigned to the European Squadron, where he was attached to U.S.S. Minnesota (Steam frigate), Ticonderoga (Screw sloop-of-war), and Franklin (Screw frigate) from 1867 until 1869, as well as the Kenosha (Screw sloop-of-war) from 1869 to 1870. After a brief assignment to Washington for signal duty in May 1870, Merrell was attached to U.S.S. Guard (Steamer) of the Darien Surveying Expedition in the Isthmus of Panama in July 1870. Returning to the United States a year later, he was assigned to torpedo duty at the torpedo station in Newport, Rhode Island in January 1872. That same month, Merrell married Sarah Frances Tyler of Marshall, Michigan.
Between 1875 and 1882, Merrell returned to sea duty on the North and South Atlantic Stations aboard U.S.S. Swatara (Screw sloop) (1875-1877), Marion (Sloop-of-war) (1879-1881), and Shenandoah (Screw sloop) (1881-1882), punctuated by a tour at the Experimental Battery in Annapolis from 1877 to 1879. In 1882, he returned to the Naval Academy as an instructor in the Department of Mathematics. In August 1887, he was once again assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron as a staff member, with service aboard U.S.S. Pensacola (Steamer), Quinnebaug (Corvette), and Lancaster (Screw sloop).
In 1889, Merrell was attached to the Naval Academy for a second time as Head of the Department of Mechanics and Applied Mathematics. Following his separation from the Academy in 1893, he spent three years on the Asiatic Station aboard U.S.S. Baltimore (Protected cruiser: C-3) (1893-1895) and Olympia (Protected cruiser: C-6) (1895-1896). Merrell also served as a member of the State Department's commission investigating anti-foreign riots in Chengtu, China from October 1895 through March 1896.
Upon returning to the United States in 1896, Merrell was assigned to the 13th Lighthouse District in Portland, Oregon as assistant inspector, and then inspector, of lighthouses. He was then attached to the Naval War College in early 1898, but was transferred to U.S.S. Scipio (Steamer) following the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. Merrell finished out the war aboard U.S.S. Glacier (Stores ship), and was assigned to the New York Navy Yard as equipment officer in November 1898. Merrell served as commanding officer of U.S.S. Montgomery (Protected cruiser: C-9) from April 1899 through September 1900, before returning to equipment officer duty, this time at the Norfolk Navy Yard. Command of the New Orleans Naval Station followed in November 1901, after which Merrell was assigned to temporary duty at the Naval War College in June 1903.
In August 1904, Merrell assumed his final seagoing command as commanding officer of the battleship U.S.S. Oregon (Battleship: BB-3) of the Asiatic Fleet. Roughly two years later, he assumed the final command of his career, as President of the Naval War College. Although placed on the Retired List on September 7, 1908, Merrell continued as President of the War College, with the rank of Rear Admiral, until October 1909. John Porter Merrell died on December 8, 1916, and was buried at the Naval Academy Cemetery.
Frederick Halsey Tyler
Frederick Halsey Tyler, son of Samuel Tyler of Marshall, Michigan, was appointed to the United States Naval Academy on June 20, 1868 at the age of sixteen as a member of the Class of 1873. Upon separation from the Academy, Tyler was attached to U.S.S. Ossipee (Screw sloop-of-war), and later, Juniata (Sloop-of-war). Following promotion to ensign in July 1874, Tyler was attached to U.S.S. Wyandotte (Monitor) from 1875 until June 1876, when he was ordered home. Tyler's next sea duties were aboard U.S.S. Swatara (Screw sloop) and Marion (Sloop-of-war) until November 1879. Promoted to master on July 11, 1880, he next served aboard the training ship Saratoga (Sloop-of-war) until July 1881. On March 3, 1883, Tyler was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), accompanied by duty aboard U.S.S. Nipsic (Gunboat) until being granted sick leave in November 1885. Tyler was promoted to full lieutenant on May 19, 1886, and following assignment to the receiving ship Franklin, was attached to the Norfolk Navy Yard in April 1887. In July 1888 he was attached to U.S.S. Yantic (Gunboat), and a year later was transferred to the training ship Portsmouth. In November 1892, he was reassigned to the Norfolk Navy Yard, where he remained until his death on April 27, 1895. Tyler's widow, Josephine, later remarried to Supreme Court justice Henry Billings Brown.
Description of Contents
The Johnston Family Papers, comprising 11.84 linear feet of documentation, span three generations of the Johnston and Merrell families from 1867 to 1992, with a majority of the documentation ceasing by 1972. The papers record, in varying levels of detail, the lives and careers of John Porter Merrell, Richard Howard Johnston, Cecil Younger Johnston, John Porter Merrell Johnston, and Frederick Halsey Tyler.
Included in the collection are certificates, scrapbooks, photographs, correspondence, event programs, invitations, and other pieces of ephemera.
The Johnston Papers are organized into seven series. Each of the first six series are devoted to an individual family member, beginning with the youngest generation. Series 1: John Porter Merrell Johnston, focuses on the youngest Johnston's time at the Naval Academy and later career with the National Geographic Society. Series 2: Richard Howard Johnston consists primarily of orders, as well as ephemera and publications collected by Johnston at his last two duty stations in Newport and Norfolk. The series also focuses on the death of Richard Howard Johnston's brother, Cecil Younger Johnston. Series 3 pertains to the Naval career of Cecil Younger Johnston, including his early service in the surface fleet, submarine duty, and aviation training. Series 4: John Porter Merrell, focuses mainly on the early career of John Porter Merrell Johnston's maternal grandfather. Series 5 consists of material collected by and pertaining to Frederick Halsey Tyler, who was likely John Porter Merrell's brother-in-law. Series 6 pertains to cavalryman George F. Chase, whose relation to the Johnston and Merrell families is unknown. The seventh and final series of the collection consists of photographs, largely in the form of group and individual portraits, spanning all three generations of the Johnston and Merrell families.
The Johnston Family Papers are organized into the following seven series:
- Series 1: John Porter Merrell Johnston, 1933-1972
- Series 2: Richard Howard Johnston, 1877-1967
- Series 3: Cecil Younger Johnston, 1911-1924
- Series 4: John Porter Merrell, 1865-1910
- Series 5: Frederick Halsey Tyler, 1868-1908
- Series 6: George F. Chase, 1879-1910
- Series 7: Photographs, 1865-1992
Access and Use
Access is unrestricted.
Copyright and Permission
The Johnston Family Papers are 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.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Notes, exercises and examinations from John Porter Merrell's tours in the Naval Academy's Department of Mechanics and Applied Mathematics were transferred from the Activities of Faculty and Staff, Personal Papers series of the Records of the United States Naval Academy in October 2017.
Provenance and Acquisition
Gift of RADM Randolph King on October 5, 1992, October 26, 1992, December 17, 1992, April 27, 1993, and May 20, 1993.
Related Archival Material
Additional material pertaining to the careers and midshipman experiences of John Porter Merrell Johnston, Richard Howard Johnston, Cecil Younger Johnston, John Porter Merrell, and Frederick Tyler Halsey is available in their respective Midshipman Personnel Jacket/Conduct Record and Alumni Jacket (John Porter Merrell Johnston and Richard Howard Johnston only).
Additional correspondence from John Porter Merrell Johnston to Richard Howard Johnston is available in the John Porter Merrell Johnston Letters, MS 358, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.
Materials Cataloged Separately
No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.
Processing and Other Information
Johnston Family Papers, MS452
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:
Callahan, Edward William. List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900. New York: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1901.
Cogar, William B. Dictionary of Admirals of the U.S. Navy. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1989.
United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel. Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1814-.
This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in September 2017. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in September 2017.
These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Name and Subject Terms
- Brown, Henry Billings, 1836-1913
- Chase, George F.
- Johnston family
- Johnston, Cecil Younger, 1889-1924
- Johnston, John Porter Merrell, 1914-1987
- Johnston, Richard Howard, 1880-1967
- Merrell, John Porter, 1846-1916
- National Geographic Society (U.S.)
- Solar eclipses -- 1948
- Tyler, Frederick Halsey, 1852-1895
- United States Naval Academy -- Curricula
- United States Naval Academy -- Social life and customs
- United States Naval Academy. Class of 1937
- Printed ephemera
Series 1: John Porter Merrell Johnston, 1933-1977 Boxes 1-2, 7[OS]-9[OS]Series Description
Documentation of the life and career (both naval and post-naval) of John Porter Merrell Johnston, United States Naval Academy Class of 1937. In particular, the documents focus on Johnston's membership in the Class of 1937, including both his time as a midshipman and the Class' alumni activities, as well as his work for the National Geographic Society, notably his participation in the Society's expedition to study the 1948 solar eclipse. Included in the series are letters, certificates, scrapbooks, pamphlets, event programs, and other items of ephemera.
Also included in the series is material pertaining to the death of and memorials for Johnston's Naval Academy roommate, Clay Goodloe.
The personal correspondence in this series continues correspondence between Johnston and his parents available in the John Porter Merrell Johnston Letters, MS 358.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type and topic.
Series 2: Richard Howard Johnston, 1877-1967 Boxes 2-3, 7[OS]Series Description
Documentation pertaining to and collected during the Navy Supply Corps career of Richard Howard Johnston, United States Naval Academy Class of 1902 (non-graduate). In addition to containing Johnston's orders, the series documents the settlement of the estate of Johnston's brother, Cecil Younger Johnston, as well as Johnston's duties and experiences at the Newport Naval Torpedo Station and Norfolk Navy Yard, focusing on the Newport Casino Invitational tennis tournament and Navy Day celebrations. Included in the series are orders, event programs, magazines, certificates, clippings, and letters.
Included in the series are materials documenting the history and genealogy of Johnston's ancestors of the Howard family.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type and topic.
Series 3: Cecil Younger Johnston, 1911-1924 Box 4Series Description
Documentation of the U.S. Navy career of Cecil Younger Johnston, United States Naval Academy Class of 1911. Specifically, the series focuses on Johnston's early duties aboard U.S.S. Washington, U.S.S. Rhode Island, U.S.S. Paducah, and U.S.S. Connecticut, as well as his service in submarines leading up to World War I and his training and experiences as a Naval Aviator. Included in the series are orders, letters, diaries and journals, and clippings.
Several letters and documents in the series pertain to Johnston's 1924 aircraft accident that ultimately resulted in his death.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type.
U.S.S. Washington. Includes the ship's daily itinerary and routine, as well as sections on the universal speed gear; experimental firing of Delaware and San Marcos; communication and recording apparatus; the development of the torpedo; the proposed Narragansett Bay Naval Station; coaling from a collier; electric drives for screw propellers; reconstructing the Russian fleet; and the ship's wireless outfit.
Orders and Official Correspondence, 1922-1924
Includes a resume of Johnston's naval service, as well as material regarding duty as Naval Aide to the White House, command of NAS Anacostia, duty aboard U.S.S. Wright, work in aviation radio development, aerial test bombings of U.S.S. New Jersey and U.S.S. Virginia, and Johnston's death resulting from a plane crash. Includes a letter from President Warren G. Harding.
Series 4: John Porter Merrell, 1865-1910 Boxes 4-5, 7[OS], 10[OS]Series Description
Documents and ephemera from the U.S. Navy career of John Porter Merrell, United States Naval Academy Class of 1867. In addition to Merrell's commissions, the series focuses on Naval Academy events during Merrell's tour as Head of the Department of Mechanics and Applied Mathematics and the social lives and activities of the Navy's officer corps. Included in the series are certificates, invitations, visiting cards, a scrapbook, Merrell's will, and the watch-, quarter-, and station-bill of an unidentified steamer.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type and topic.
Series 5: Frederick Halsey Tyler, 1868-1908 Boxes 7[OS], 11[OS]Series Description
Documents pertaining to and (presumably) collected by Frederick Halsey Tyler, United States Naval Academy Class of 1873. The series includes Tyler's U.S. Navy commissions and U.S. Naval Academy diploma, as well as a scrapbook dedicated solely to Tyler's friend, Supreme Court Justice Henry Billings Brown (who later married Tyler's widow, Josephine).Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type.
Series 6: George F. Chase, 1879-1910 Box 7[OS]Series Description
Certificates, primarily in the form of U.S. Cavalry commissions, from the Army career of George F. Chase. Chase's relationship to either the Merrells or Johnstons is uncertain.Series Arrangement
Arranged chronologically within a single file.
Series 7: Photographs, 1865-1992 Boxes 5-6, 7[OS], 12[OS], MSOSSeries Description
Photographs, primarily in the form of black-and-white prints, spanning the Navy careers of all three generations of the Merrell and Johnston families. Much of the series consists of portraits, both of groups and individuals, portraying John Porter Merrell, Richard Howard Johnston, and Cecil Younger Johnston, as well as numerous other naval officers and Naval Academy alumni. Also included are photographs of the various ships that the Merrells and Johnstons served aboard, as well as photographs of events and activities at the Naval Academy.
Several portraits are inscribed to T. S. King, father of Rear Admiral Randolph King, custodian of the Johnston Family Papers prior to donation.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by topic.