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William H. Zimmerman papers

Identifier: MS-0073

Scope and Contents Note

This collection contains patents, advertisements and clippings, photographs, and artifacts regarding William H. Zimmerman and his inventions.

This collection has been divided into two series: Series 1: Inventions and Series 2: Personal Papers.


  • 1860-1921

Access restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Publication rights

Copyright has not been assigned to Washington College. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Washington College as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical Information Note

William Henry Zimmerman (1839-1921) was born October 19 in Baltimore County, Maryland to John and Elizabeth Zimmerman. He graduated from Dickinson College in 1861. In 1863 he married Jennie Nelson Reed (1844-1918) of Virginia and together they had three daughters Nettie M., Grace E. B., and Jennie M. William Zimmerman was a professor of Natural Philosophy at Washington College and in 1873 was elected its Vice President under President William J. Rivers. A popular professor he worked hard to update the colleges laboratories and equipment, he also touted scientific advancements in geology, evolution, and anthropology. These advancements brought up discussions with his students about science and biblical teachings worrying many parents, the Board, and President Rivers. The President asked the Board to investigate any teaching that might lead students to “skepticism” and wrote the 1880 commencement address which warned against “anti-religious” philosophies. Two years later Zimmerman was asked to resign. Zimmerman filed several patents for improvements to hydro-electric lamps and in 1902 to a “scientific toy” and a Ludoscope. Similar to the Phenakistiscope of 70 years earlier his was manufactured and sold as a “Moving Picture Show in Your Own Home” by Harbach & Co. The viewer and six discs sold for fifty cents with six additional discs for fifteen cents. William’s wife Jennie made the illustrations of the prototype discs. On May 10, 1921 William H. Zimmerman passed away in Chestertown, Md.


.25 Cubic Feet (8 folders)

Language of Materials


Physical and Techincal access restrictions

Due to the fragile nature of the artifacts access is restricted. Please see the archivist for more information.

Custodial history

Collection was in possession of the family.

Acquisition information

Gift of LeRoy Longley, 1982.

Separated Materails note

The artifacts of this collection have been stored and cataloged separately and can be accessed through Washington College Digital Archives.

Finding Aid to the William H. Zimmerman Collection
L. Sheldon
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Washington College Archives & Special Collections Repository

300 Washington Avenue
Chestertown MD 21620