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 A Mount Allison University Archives Virtual Exhibition

Biography of Dr. Winthrop Pickard Bell

  Bell family
  Mary Emerancy (Pickard) Bell
  Andrew Mackinlay Bell
  Ralph Pickard Bell
  Hazel Lawrence (Deinstadt) Bell
  Mount Allison University
  Further Education
  Doctoral Work with Edmund Husserl
  Professional Life
  Ruhleben Internment Camp
  Post-World War I activities
  Teaching career
  Business career
  Mount Allison University involvements
  Service to historical organizations
  Private Life
  Personal interests
Portrait of Winthrop Bell taken at Cambridge, Massachusetts circa the 1920s.

A portrait of Winthrop Pickard Bell taken by Stearns & Sons at Cambridge, Massachussetts circa the 1920s.

Mount Allison University Archives, Winthrop Pickard Bell fonds, 6501/17/2/1.

May only be reproduced with the permission of Mount Allison University Archives.

Winthrop Pickard Bell

Winthrop Pickard Bell was born May 12, 1884 in Halifax, Nova Scotia the son of Andrew Mackinlay Bell (1847-1918) and Mary Emerancy (Pickard) Bell (1847-1918). His early education began at the Old Albro Street School, Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1889 and continued at the Halifax County Academy.

He began his study towards a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours in Mathematics at the University of Mount Allison College in Sackville, New Brunswick during 1900 and graduated May 31, 1904. In the fall of 1904 he attended McGill University as a student with second year standing in the engineering program. In the summer of 1905 Bell began work for the Halifax and South Western Railway Company Ltd. as a surveyor in Sable River, Nova Scotia which he continued until the fall of 1906 when he returned to Sackville, New Brunswick to complete his Master of Arts degree. His Master's thesis was titled "The Defence of Europe" and he graduated in the spring of 1907. In the fall of that same year he resumed working as a surveyor in northern Ontario for the National Transcontinental Railway.

In 1908 he commenced further studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts towards the degree of Masters of Philosophy which he completed in 1909. In September of that year he sailed for England where he sought to further his education at Emmanuel College at Cambridge University. He was struck with pleurisy that fall and finally left England for a preferable climate in Germany in April of 1910.

In the fall of 1910 Bell began studying at the University of Leipzig and stayed on there until March of the following year. While in Leipzig he was influenced by the philosophical teachings of Prof. Edmund Husserl and decided to relocate in April of 1911 to Göttingen University to continue his studies and ultimately his doctoral work with this leader of the German phenomenological movement.

In the summer of 1912 he travelled to Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland staying with relatives. While there he visited the Bell ancestral home 'Drumnaha' at Magilligan and met with other members of the family, an experience which sparked his life-long interest in genealogy.

Between semesters in 1913 he travelled extensively in Germany and in September of that year was offered a position as the chair of psychology and logic at Mount Allison University. He ultimately turned down this offer citing his opinion that the denominational nature of the institution would not allow him the freedom to fully express his personal views.

On August 7, 1914 Bell wrote his doctoral exams at Göttingen University and was awarded his doctorate magna cum laude. However, his life quickly changed with the outbreak of World War I and an accusation from a fellow student that Dr. Bell had criticized the Kaiser. He was placed under house arrest at Göttingen University and the faculty later decided to annul his doctorate. Dr. Bell was subsequently transferred to the Ruhleben Prison Camp for enemies of the state near Berlin, Germany. He spent the balance of the war interned there with men from other parts of the British Commonwealth, many of whom became life-long friends and correspondents.

On August 7, 1918, shortly before the end of the war his father, Andrew Mackinlay Bell, passed away. A scant three months later on October 22, 1918, his mother, Mary Emerancy (Pickard) Bell, also died. The news was devastating for Dr. Bell and likely ensured his decision to extend his stay in Europe.

After his release from the Ruhleben Prison Camp Bell traveled to London, England where he met with Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden who introduced him to Col. Maurice Hankey - Secretary of the Committee for Imperial Defence. It was suggested that Bell be employed to gather information in Germany because of his knowledge of the country and language. He returned to Germany and remained there until November of 1919 filing regular reports as a correspondent for Reuters through the Danish Press Agency, Ritzau.

Bell returned to Canada in early 1920 and worked with his brother, Ralph Bell, to expand his interests in the lumber industry in southwestern Nova Scotia. During the fall of 1921 he returned to academia and taught philosophy at the University of Toronto and within the same time frame made an application to have his doctorate from Göttingen University re-instated. The formal doctorate was finally issued to Dr. Bell in May of 1922. His tenure in Toronto was to be short-lived and he resigned after the spring semester. In the fall of 1922 he took up teaching in the philosophy department at Harvard University.

On October 7, 1925 he married Hazel Lawrence Deinstadt at a private family ceremony at the Bell home, 'Boulderwood' in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was the daughter of the Rev. Thomas J. and the late Rebecca McCallum (Beer) Deinstadt of Saint John, New Brunswick. Her sister, Marguerite, was married to Dr. Bell's brother, Ralph Bell. He took the remainder of the year off from teaching and spent much of his time with his wife in Chester, Nova Scotia.

Dr. Bell took further time off from Harvard in September of 1926 to move his lodgings in Boston and care for his wife, Hazel, who had fallen ill and was rendered barren. He returned to teaching at Harvard University in October and continued until the spring semester of 1927 when he advised the university that he would not be returning in the fall. Thereafter, he and his wife moved back to Nova Scotia and took up residence in Lockeport, Nova Scotia where Dr. Bell acted as his brother's overseer in the fishing business in which he had purchased a stake. The Bells took a Caribbean and Latin American cruise during the winter of 1929. Dr. Bell remained involved in the Lockeport business until 1930 when he largely bowed out of his direct responsibilities to focus once again on private scholarship.

The Bell family home 'Boulderwood’ burned to the ground in a fire on February 24, 1933. The following month Dr. Bell received a retirement allowance from the Lockeport Company. On July 5th he sold his house in Lockeport to his niece, Mrs. Dorothy Maclaren and began to look for a new home. The Bells ultimately settled in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia where he was able to begin plans to construct his own home which he called ‘Drumnaha' after the Bell ancestral home he had visited in Northern Ireland in 1912. The construction began in 1935 and the Bells moved into their new home in April of 1936.

Dr. and Mrs. Bell made their first trip to Europe together in 1934 visiting many old friends and contemporaries from his university days and his internment at the Ruhleben prison camp. Dr. Bell remained very interested in corresponding with his friends as well as writing and sending letters to the editors of various newspapers and periodicals. He was also called upon to write a two-part article in 1939 for Saturday Night Magazine about Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

With the outbreak of World War II he once again sought to put his knowledge and expertise at the disposal of the British and Canadian governments. Ultimately, he became involved in the war-time aircraft industry which his brother spearheaded for the federal government. Dr. Bell spent much of this period away from home while his wife Hazel contributed her expertise to the work of the Red Cross and to helping raise the two small children of an old Cambridge University friend, Michael Pease.

After the war concluded Dr. Bell attempted to resume correspondence with many old friends in Germany. Once the lines of communication had been re-opened he and his wife immediately sought to begin the process of forwarding CARE (Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) packages and additional packets of food and clothing to his contacts in Europe to help them survive the immediate post-war period.

In 1948 Dr. Bell began a four year term on the Board of Regents of Mount Allison University and was very actively involved in the work of that institution. The year 1950 saw the Bells again travel to Europe to visit with friends and to see first hand the devastation that had resulted from the war there.

Bell was elected as the President of the Nova Scotia Historical Society in 1951 and during that same time period sat on the Board of Directors of National Sea Products Ltd. which was controlled by his brother, Ralph Bell. He also began in earnest his investigative work on the settlement of the Foreign Protestants in Nova Scotia. He conducted his research at the Public Archives of Canada (presently known as Library and Archives Canada) in Ottawa in May of 1951. Later in the year Dr. Bell experienced his first major health set-back with the occurrence of angina and arterial thrombosis. This condition forced him to curtail some of his former activities.

He returned to the Public Archives of Canada in May of 1952 to conduct further historical research. The 1950s also saw him become involved in helping a family and some of the children of friends in Germany to immigrate to Canada. He actively supported this process by providing factual information, corresponding with authorities and prospective employers in Canada and writing to his Member of Parliament. By 1955 he was also compiling documentation on the Bell family genealogy and stated that "realizing that nobody else would ever be able, later, to amass anything like the amount of material I have gathered, I have thought I should put it all down in proper tabular form, for printing, while I still could." (Source: Mount Allison University Archives, Winthrop Pickard Bell fonds, Letter to Marjorie Young Bell dated August 21, 1955, 6501/3/2/1, Folder No. 7, Item No. 5).

By 1957 Dr. Bell had almost completed his manuscript on the settlement of the Foreign Protestants in Nova Scotia and began to seek out a publisher. In 1958 he was asked by his sister-in-law, Marjorie Young Bell, to be her designated representative in the administration of the bequests that she had made to Mount Allison University. In 1960 he was able to secure a publisher for his magnum opus at the University of Toronto Press. Unfortunately, he suffered the first of two serious heart attacks that same year while in Toronto before meeting with his copy-editor. The direct result of his poor health meant that he was no longer able to travel and his writing activities had to be further curtailed. His book, The "Foreign Protestants" and the Settlement of Nova Scotia was finally published on March 4, 1961 and he later received a certificate of merit from the American Association for State and Local History for this work.

The following year Dr. Bell also finished his family research and had his book A Genealogical Study privately published by the Tribune Press Limited in Sackville, New Brunswick. The success of its completion was tempered by two serious falls that his wife, Hazel, experienced in 1962. These severely limited her mobility and precipitated a need for extended care.

The remaining years of Dr. Bell's life saw him continue to struggle against the effects of heart disease. His mind remained active and he sought to contribute to society by directing that the residue of his estate be used to create the Pickard-Bell Memorial Funds in support of another of his many interests, music. Thus, the main beneficiary of his largesse was the Music Department at Mount Allison University where his mother had once been a teacher. He arranged for the transfer of his personal library to Mount Allison University as well and instructed that his body be donated to Dalhousie University for the study of atherosclerosis, later to be cremated and buried.

Dr. Winthrop Pickard Bell died on April 4, 1965 at in his home, 'Drumnaha', in Chester, Nova Scotia just shy of his 81st birthday. His remains were later buried in the Old Burying Ground adjacent to his home. The headstone records that he was a scholar, historian, and author and the epitaph on his gravestone is a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi which reads as follows, "The good man is the friend of all living things".

Next topic: Mary Emerancy (Pickard) Bell

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This virtual exhibition project was made possible through the generous support of the Marjorie Young Bell Endowment Fund Committee, Mount Allison University.