Eckley Brinton Coxe, Junior

Originally Published in 1916

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At the moment of being put to press, this issue of the JOURNAL has been held back owing to the death, on the morning of September 20th, of the President, Mr. Eckley Brinton Coxe, Junior. Though this blow was not unexpected, we were not in any sense prepared for it.

Mr. Coxe was born in 1872 in Philadelphia. When he was less than a year old his father, Mr. Charles Brinton Coxe, died in Egypt. This event, with the circumstances attending it, was not without its effect in shaping the son’s inclinations and achievements. Between the time when he was twenty-one and the time of his death, he made many journeys in Egypt and his taste for Egyptology grew with his personal knowledge of the ruins in the Nile valley. In 1904, after the Soudan had been reconquered from the Dervishes and made accessible to Europeans, he traveled through that country and visited Khartoum. During this journey he saw for the first time evidences of an ancient and unknown civilization which he was later to be instrumental in bringing to light.

In 1907 the Eckley B. Coxe, Junior, Expedition to Nubia was sent out by the Museum. Excavations were conducted at several points during a period of four years under the immediate charge of Dr. D. Randall-MacIver. The results of this expedition and of the publications based thereon were to give the world its first knowledge of an extinct civilization that had flourished in ancient Nubia, and to place in the Museum a fine collection illustrative of that civilization. At the time when that collection was first exhibited it was the only one of its kind in existence. Since that time other museums, guided by the work of the Coxe Expedition, have acquired similar collections, and thus the old Nubian culture, with its paintings and sculptures and inscriptions, has been made widely known.

At the beginning of 1915 the Eckley B. Coxe, Junior, Expedition to Egypt went out from the Museum. Important concessions were granted to this expedition by the Egyptian government, a strong and efficient organization was formed for the purpose of working these concessions in the interest of science and of the Museum. This organization, with a splendid record of discovery already to its credit, was in full working order at the time of Mr. Coxe’s death. The latest report from Mr. Fisher, written at the Ruins of Memphis and received the day before his death, lay under his pillow when he died.

In the field operations of this Egyptian work, as well as in its scientific bearings, Mr. Coxe took a deep personal interest. He visited the excavations in Egypt and Nubia, he followed closely the doings of the expeditions that bore his name and he understood thoroughly the historical significance of the discoveries that were made under these liberal auspices.

In 1910 he was elected President of the Board of Managers of the Museum, a post which he held till the time of his death.

Mr. Coxe’s interests in the Museum were by no means confined to the Egyptian Expeditions. That particular interest may indeed be taken as typical of his larger participation in all of its activities. He entered into its labors with zeal, he shared its trials with a cheerful spirit and he rejoiced with a heartfelt pride in the successful issue of its enterprises. In each person connected with its work he showed at all times the warmest personal interest, and by his fine sensibilities he won the affections of everyone.

An Appreciation by Charles Custis Harrison Spoken at a Special Meeting of the Museum Board Called on September 21st

We all know the object which has brought our Board together. In one of the last letters which Mr. Coxe wrote, and of which I spoke at the meeting of the Museum Board on Friday, he confessed for the first time to feeling ill. He asked me if I would explain the reason of his absence, and, as usual in the rare cases of his absence, if I would preside in his place.

After talking with Mr. Newbold and Dr. Gordon yesterday, it was concluded to hold a meeting today for the purpose of expressing the feelings of our Board at his death. It could hardly be said to be unexpected. He was President of the Board, and it is very rarely that a president had such close personal relations as Mr. Coxe had with many members of the Board. Mr. Newbold was a friend of many years, he was a friend of Dr. Gordon, he was a classmate of Mr. George L. Harrison, Jr., a kinsman of Mr. Cadwalader, and his father was a college classmate of mine. I had known Mr. Eckley B. Coxe, Jr., since 1893.

There are several points in his character to which I would like to refer. To my mind the two or three high qualities which Mr. Coxe had were that he took some time to arrive at a decision, but when he arrived at that decision it was a generous and just decision of a gentleman. The second quality which always impressed me was not so much the magnitude of his charities, for he was really one of the most generous citizens in Philadelphia, but it was the quiet way in which these large gifts were made, for he never wanted them to be known. In many of his large gifts to the University Museum, no one but the Treasurer or Assistant Treasurer knew that these gifts had been made by him.

I can say that Mr. Coxe was not only a fine gentleman, but a noble and generous citizen to this entire community.

The third quality was his devotion to his home and to those who surrounded him, especially to his mother, and the purity and cleanness of his entire life. In looking around in our community, I do not know where we are to find a person who in two of these regards, the justice and generosity of his decisions, his magnanimous and generous gifts as a citizen, and the quietness with which these gifts were made, can take Mr. Coxe’s place.

A Tribute from John Cadwalader

The recent death of Eckley B. Coxe, Jr., at his home in Drifton, at the age of forty-four years, has given occasion for the following account and estimate of his career.

Eckley B. Coxe, Jr., sustained the name and usefulness of one of the most distinguished families that this country has produced. Dr. Daniel Coxe, of London, from whom he was directly descended, was in 1678 the proprietor of West New Jersey and of Carolana, which included all the territory between N. Latitude 31st to 36th parallels, and prepared the first general plan for a union of the colonies.

Tench Coxe, the great-grandfather, at the age of thirty-three was a member of the Continental Congress, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to Alexander Hamilton in 1789, filled many important posts until his death in 1824, and it was said of him that he “was never forgetful of the duty of exerting his peculiar talents for the good of his country.” The grandfather, Charles S. Coxe, was a judge of the District Court, noted for its eminent judges, and rendered, among others, a most important decision relating to the privileges of_ consular as distinguished from diplomatic officials recognized generally by writers on international law.

His father, Major Charles Brinton Coxe, was the youngest of the five sons of Judge Coxe, all of whom were men of unusual force of character and distinction. The eldest, Brinton Coxe, was one of the most learned lawyers of his day, as shown in his work on Bracton and his unfinished analysis of the Constitution of the United States.

Eckley B. Coxe, after whom his nephew was named, was the most eminent mining engineer this country has produced, and held a very important position in the state, politically, and as the head of the firm of Coxe Brothers & Co., who operated the great anthracite coal fields owned by the Coxe family.

Charles B. Coxe, the father, was a scholar of a high order, having taken the highest rank in the University of Pennsylvania in the class of 1862, that included many of our most successful citizens, among them two provosts of the University.

His services in the army, having been Major of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, the only lancer regiment, were most conspicuous for bravery and unselfish devotion. He was equally popular with his fellow officers and men. Several of those in his company were long in the service of Coxe Brothers & Co., of which Charles Coxe was a member.

Ecldey B. Coxe, Jr., though not of vigorous frame, was full of determined energy and untiring in any work he undertook. Unlike many young men of independent means, he had but one object in life, which was to be useful, following the example of his great-grandfather. His father, having died in Egypt, his son had always felt a deep interest in that land of the earliest civilization. Growing out of this interest, he became connected with the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, and secured for it the result of the exploring expeditions which he entirely supported under concessions granted by the Egyptian government. Few persons understand to what extent this great department of the University has been dependent upon the liberality and generosity of a very few persons.

Mr. Coxe became President of the Board of the Museum, and had practically met the large annual outlay necessary to maintaining its work. This had been in addition to sustaining the expeditions and meeting the cost of the valuable publications constantly issued. Mr. Coxe did not limit his interest to these educational fields, but every charitable movement appealed to him.

The Children’s Hospital, the College of Physicians, the Orthopedic Hospital, many fields of work in aid of the miners and their families in the anthracite coal region, and the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania are only some of those that could be mentioned to which he has contributed on a very large scale.

There was a quiet, dignified reserve, with a gentleness of character, in Eckley Coxe rarely met with. Firm and decided wherever he had a positive view, it was always a pleasure to him to meet the wishes of those who appealed to him.

His generosity was not measured; but was indulged for the benefit of others, with little thought of himself. The concentration of wealth in the hands of such a man is productive of more good to the community than any possible distribution among many could produce.
His life was spent for the benefit of others, and he maintained a reputation without a blemish. To those who learned to appreciate his generous thought and to his immediate family his loss is irreparable.

He showed the value of inherited worth, and did not fail to sustain in every way what might have been expected of him.

Resolution Adopted by the Board of Managers at the Special Meeting Held on September 21st

The impulse that has brought us together is the common sorrow which we, as members of the Board of Managers, feel in the sad and untimely death of our President, Mr. Eckley Brinton Coxe, Junior. Our association with him has been a very pleasant and a very helpful one to each and all of us; its sudden ending brings with it a sense of loss much greater than we can express. It was an association that appealed with special force to Mr. Coxe’s generous nature and that engaged, on the part of his associates, the utmost loyalty and devotion to him whose purposes were wholly benevolent.

Without selfish interests or occupations, Mr. Coxe was devoted to the public service with his whole strength and with every means in his power. Though his self-imposed duties were so modestly and quietly performed that many of them remain unknown, some of his benefactions have been made conspicuous by their results, for their very magnitude brought them under general observation.

Among the public establishments which owe their successful existence in no small measure to his generosity and zeal, the University Museum occupied a favored place in the foreground of his thought.

The Museum was to him a great and vital interest. His heart was in it and he gave it his best energies. Its work appealed to his tastes and engaged his warmest sympathies. In all of its activities he took a deep personal interest and he was at all times its chief benefactor.

As President of the Museum he discharged the duties of his office with a rare sense of responsibility, and his devotion was such that even during the later days of his failing strength he continued to attend to its affairs with the utmost regularity and without complaint. His quiet determination enabled him to overcome many difficulties in the performance of these duties, and his modest patience made it possible for him to endure burdens that might have been too much for men of stronger mould.

Always firm in what he felt to be right, his nature was one of singular sweetness and gentleness. Strong and faithful in his friendships, considerate and thoughtful in all of his relations, his disposition was to be helpful to all, and in the exercise of that generous faculty, combined with a sweet filial devotion, he found his greatest comfort in life.

We cannot restore his loss and no action that we could take would lessen our sense of that loss, but we can and do hereby record our appreciation and esteem. And while we make this record of our feelings, we are moved to convey to Mr. Coxe’s family an expression of a genuine sympathy for them in their sorrow.

Cite This Article

"Eckley Brinton Coxe, Junior." The Museum Journal VII, no. 3 (September, 1916): 139-144. Accessed April 14, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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