Born in 1884 in the town of Greenfield to Winslow and Anna Carman he attended the Coy School District until the family moved to the hamlet of Wagman’s Ridge in the town of Saratoga. Miss Carrie Peck was his teacher in the one room school house and Harry achieved many Regents credits in her classes.
In the summer of 1902, he was approached by Dr. Abram Mark Hollister who was scouting for pupils for the Corinth Teacher Training Institute. In later years Harry remembered to Hollister: “Before you had departed you had won another country boy to come to Corinth in September.”
When Harry arrived in Corinth Hollister met him at the post office. It was the first time that the seventeen-year-old boy had ever been away from home. As the two walked down the street Dr. Hollister asked what his plans were for the future. Carman had only planned to teach in a country school, but Hollister asked if he ever planned to go onto college. That was the turning point in his life.
After receiving his certificate from the Teacher Training Class, he taught for a couple years at a small school for a salary of $7.50 per week. In 1905 he commenced his studies at Syracuse University and graduated in 1909. He was hired as principal of the Rhinebeck, NY high school. Four years later he returned to Syracuse for his master’s degree and taught history and political sciences at Syracuse.
He obtained his PhD in 1919 from Columbia University and later joined the Department of History at the college. Columbia senior students voted him the most popular professor for seven years. In 1943 he became Dean of the Teacher’s College at Columbia University until his retirement in 1950.
Dr. Carman was quoted in 1945: “There is a great and difficult job facing American colleges, the job of finding and financing the submerged brains of the nation, of whatever economic level, of whatever color and creed, the young men and women with good minds must be found and fostered. They are our greatest natural resource.” He was also an early advocate of gifted and talented programs in schools and a core curriculum.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower became president of Columbia University in 1948 and went on to have a close friendship with Dean Carman. Numerous college textbooks on U.S. History were authored by Carman. He also served for a quarter of a century on the New York City Board of Higher Education and on the boards of many colleges.
Among his publications were Social and Economic History of the United States, 2 volumes (1930–34); Lincoln and the Patronage, with R.H. Luthin (1943); Jesse Buel, Agricultural Reformer (1947); Preparation for Medical Education in the Liberal Arts College (1953); A History of the American People with H.C. Syrett (1960); Guide to the Principal Sources for American Civilization 1800–1900 in the City of New York, 2 volumes with A.W. Thompson (1960); and A Short History of New York State with D.M. Ellis, J.A. Frost, and H.C. Syrett (1957).
Harry James Carman eventually returned to his small farm near Schuylerville. Neighbors said one could find his farm easily asit was well planted with flowers. He died in 1954 a few days before his 81st birthday. Funeral services were held at the Church of the Visitation and he is buried in Schuylerville.
Rachel Clothier is historian for the Town of Corinth, operates the Corinth Museum, and is retired from Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls.
Photo of Harry James Carman courtesy New York Herald Tribune December 27, 1964.