Though the Porter-Phelps-Huntington legacy is deeply rooted in Hadley, many family members relocated to places around the world. Some moved across the country, motivated by work and opportunity. Others found themselves in a new place as a result of marriage. John Huntington, the son of James Lincoln and Sarah Huntington found himself stepping off of a plane at Heathrow airport in 1946. After 30 years of upbringing, work, and education in New England, London was to be his new home.
Recently, the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Foundation acquired a collection of John Huntington’s personal papers and photos, donated by his son, Benjamin. The acquisition has given us insight into the life of the 20th century expatriate, touching upon his career, family life, and time spent fighting in WWII. From photographs taken during his army leave in North Africa to telegrams received on the day of his daughter’s birth, the items have helped establish a more cohesive history of the more recent generations of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington family.
Born in Boston in 1916, John had an eventful adolescence. As a child, he attended the Dexter School in Brookline, MA and the William Penn Charter School in Germantown, Pennsylvania. At eighteen, he made his way to Phillips Exeter Academy in NH, where he became involved in theater and journalism. These interests prefaced his studies at Harvard University, where he graduated in 1940 with a degree in English.
In the wake of World War II, John tried to join the U.S military. He was rejected, however, and given a 4F classification as a result of an emergency throat operation as a child. In John’s own words, “To be rejected was a bitter pill to swallow, a bitterness to last a lifetime”. “(1) His only option to serve was to join the American Field Service as an ambulance driver with the British Eighth Army, traveling from El Alamein to Tripoli in North Africa. This experience became his firs t major introduction to Britain.
John’s uncle, Constant Davis Huntington, moved to London in 1905 to head G.P. Putnam’s Sons Publishers. Constant likely created the final bridge for John to officially move to England, offering him a job at the publishing company in the 1940’s. After a short stint of teaching and working at a Chicago-based newspaper, John turned down further work at Milton Academy and traveled to London. A year later, John married Kathleen Margaret Chadburn, an English physician. Together, they had four children: Anne Chadburn, Peter, Paul, and Benjamin.
In the 1970’s, John came out of retirement to work as an editor for The American, a newspaper published for Americans living in the U.K. He eventually began writing a column called “Sharps and Flats,” a biweekly publication capturing his best memories of life as an expatriate American in England. The column began in 1981 and continued until John’s death in 1987. In one piece, John comically referred to himself as “an escaped bean from Boston.” This quote eventually became the inspiration behind the title of his posthumously published book, “A Bean From Boston”, a compilation of his best pieces from “Sharps and Flats”.
John Huntington’s experiences are forever preserved and shared through his word. His wit and charm shine through in “Sharps and Flats” and offer the onlooker a small window into the life of an intelligent, good-humored man. His travels across the world mirrored the experiences of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. His desire to write and to document added countless papers to the collection of those before him. Despite spending many years away from the United States, it is clear that he had a connection to Forty Acres far beyond simple ancestry. Documents, photographs, letters and objects strengthen the collection and further our understanding of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington family. With acquisitions like this, the foundation is able to present a clearer and more thorough narrative of the people that lived here and the experiences they shared.