Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Lewisburg, Union County
Poet, playwright, and university administrator, Lincoln Hulley taught at Bucknell University in the late 1890s.
Scholar and university administrator Lincoln Hulley was born near Camden, New Jersey in 1865. After working in weaving mills in southeastern Pennsylvania between 10 and 17, he went to school at Keystone Academy and then Bucknell University. He would later become a professor history at Bucknell. In 1904, Hulley began a thirty-year tenure as president of Stetson University, during which time he wrote numerous poems and plays. Lincoln Hulley died in 1934.
Lincoln Hulley was born near Camden, New Jersey on May 3, 1865. He was the sixth of seven children of Mary Ella Curry and George Hulley Jr. He was named for Abraham Lincoln, whom his father had seen lying in state in Philadelphia. The young Hulley showed early promise at academics, earning a prize for scholarship in elementary school. There would, however, be a lengthy delay in fulfilling that potential as his father set him to work in weaving mills in various towns in southeastern Pennsylvania for which his father was a foreman. This period of Hulley's life lasted from age 10 to 17. Through his Sunday School teacher, Hulley was able to maintain his education via night tutoring.
His tutoring enabled him to gain admission to the Keystone Academy (now Keystone College) in Factoryville, Pennsylvania at which he ranked at the top of his class. In 1884 he matriculated at Bucknell College (now Bucknell University) from which he would earn an A.B. four years later. Hulley went from Bucknell to Harvard, earning another A.B. in 1889. He returned to Bucknell as a professor that year and married Harriet Spratt the next year. The couple was not destined for a long life together; Harriet died in 1892, shortly after giving birth to their daughter Harriet in 1892. Hulley took a leave from Bucknell shortly thereafter to work on a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in Semitic Languages. While at the University Chicago, Hulley met and married Eloise Mayham in 1893. The couple had three children together. Returning to Bucknell in 1884, Hulley taught history there until 1904. While there, he gave numerous lectures on the Chautauqua circuit and published volumes of poetry like 1902's Annie Laurie: An Old Sweetheart of Mine, Love Lyrics.
In 1904, Hulley's life would change drastically. Though he had earlier turned down an offer from Colgate University to serve as its president, Hulley accepted the presidency of tiny Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. Part of Stetson's appeal to Hulley seems to have been the challenge of managing an institution riddled with strife over the question of who controlled the college: the Board of Trustees or the Florida Baptist Convention. Throughout the struggle, Hulley managed to put the college on sound economic footing and increase the enrollment from 210 to 500. He also enhanced the Stetson campus, securing a Carnegie grant for a library as well as building a number of other facilities.
One of those new buildings was a theatre in which a great number of Hulley's plays eventually found their first, and only, productions. Hulley was a prolific playwright, though many locals questioned the quality of his work. The director of theatre at Stetson, Irving Stover, apparently dreaded having to mount productions of the president's plays, according to Gilbert Lycan's history of the university. Despite Stover's lack of enthusiasm, Hulley himself is quoted as saying “My plays are better than Shakespeare's.”
Hulley was not only a playwright, but a poet as well. In addition to the small volumes he produced while at Bucknell, he produced several volumes in Florida. These volumes were numerous but not distributed widely. One example of his work is Saint Michael and the Dragon, a book-length poem about World War I. It is cast in the form of a traditional epic, invoking the Aeneid as a model. The metaphor in the title derives from the Book of Revelation, the Archangel Michael (the Allies) battling the evil spirit of the Dragon (the German Kaiser). Throughout the poem there are a number of sections that derive their influence not from Virgil's Aeneid, but from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. The narrative frequently tours hospital wards and graveyards, telling life stories just as Masters' headstones did in Spoon River.
Hulley was also an accomplished orator. He made himself financially secure with the proceeds of his speeches on the Chautauqua circuit. On campus, he preached at Sunday afternoon Vespers, drawing so many listeners that local ministers complained. Off campus, he used his oratory to win election to the Florida State Senate; he also ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1920.
After working to secure accreditation of Stetson University by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, Hulley died of a heart attack on January 20, 1934. He and his wife Eloise are both buried in a mausoleum on the Stetson University campus.
Lullabies and Slumber Songs. Lewisburg, PA: The Author, 1901.
Annie Laurie, An Old Sweetheart of Mine: Love Lyrics. Lewisburg, PA: The author, 1903.
Studies in the Book of Psalms. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1906.
Chivalry in Dixie: or, Metrical Love Romances Under Southern Skies. DeLand, FL: E.O. Painter, 1924.
The Jubilate of Rabbi Ben Adam. DeLand, FL: E.O. Painter, 1924.
A Farmer-Prince. DeLand, FL: E.O. Painter, 1925.
Brave Idylls of the Gallant South. DeLand, FL: E.O. Painter, 1925.
Saint Michael and the Dragon. DeLand, FL: E.O. Painter, 1925.
Angels That Beckon Me: or, The Costly Glories of the Higher Life. DeLand, FL: E.O. Painter, 1926.
Dramas in Twenty Volumes. DeLand, FL: E.O. Painter, 1933.
Whimsy: A Comedy, A Fantasy in Five Acts. DeLand, FL: L. Hulley, 1933.
Bowen, Olga. “Lincoln Hulley.” Typescript provided by Stetson University. 23 August 2005.