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The Sullivan Family Collection

Subject:
American Legion
American Red Cross
Miller, Rosa
Sullivan, Charles Henry
Sullivan, Theodore M.
Thompson, Sadie
Creator:
Harper, Donna Sullivan
Martin, Dominga
Martin, Savina
Type:
Collection description
Awards
Clothing and dress
Flags
lapel pins
Musical Instruments
Pipes (Smoking)
Playing cards
Purple Heart
Smoking paraphernalia
Weapons
Place:
Boston (Mass.)
Washington (D.C.)
Description:
The Sullivan Family Collection consists of twenty-eight objects related to the Sullivan Family, particularly Charles Henry Sullivan, Theodore M. Sullivan, Sadie Thompson, and Rosa Miller.
The conductor’s baton made of ebony, ivory, and mother-of-pearl, and brass bugle belonged to Charles Henry Sullivan, a conductor and musician. Theodore M. Sullivan earned the Purple Heart for military service during World War I. Also, the collection includes a print, depicting a soldier with a rifle kneeling before a woman identified as Columbia in front of a flag and other soldiers, dedicated to Theodore M. for serving with honor in the World War and being wounded in action.
Sadie Thompson received the American Red Cross lapel pins, including a fifty year pin, for her dedicated service. The American Legion lapel pins presumably belonged to Rosa Miller based on the American Legion card which is part of the archival collection.
The collection also includes a sword which belonged to Theodore M., a Russian pistol, a carved smoking pipe, a cigarette case, two pairs of socks, a crocheted white dress collar, a shoe horn, a lace table runner, an American flag folded in a triangle, and a deck of playing cards from Savoy Café on Mass. Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts.
A related archival collection – Sullivan family papers 1860-1994, bulk 1920-1960– which measures 2.25 linear feet and document the personal lives of four generations in the Sullivan family is available in the Archives at the Anacostia Community Museum. The papers are comprised of personal correspondence, school materials, legal documents, financial records, clippings, books, posters, and photographs. Contact the Archivist for more information.
In 1883, Abraham Sullivan welcomed his wife, Livinia and four children – Charles, Nynetta, Emma, and Theodore – to Boston, Massachusetts. Emigrating from New Brunswick, Canada, the family would remain in the Boston area for many generations to come. After the move to Boston, Charles Henry Sullivan rose to prominence in the New England music scene. He became a skilled craftsman in instrument-making and founded the Boston Victorian Orchestra, a multi-racial orchestra. He never married.
Charles’ brother Theodore married Anne Vann of Nova Scotia, Canada. Theodore and Anne raised two daughters from Anne’s previous marriage, Sadie and Rosa Jones (later Sadie Thompson and Rosa Miller). They also had four children of their own – Theodore M., twins Mary (later Mary Walters) and May, and Frances (later Frances Mendez).
Theodore and Anne’s son, Theodore M., began his family’s military tradition by enlisting in the army in 1917, during the First World War. He spent two years fighting in Europe before being honorably discharged at the end of the conflict in 1919. In the early 1930s, Theodore was awarded the Purple Heart by United States Secretary of War George Dern for eleven different wounds sustained in 1918.
Theodore M.’s example was followed by his immediate and extended family members during the Second World War. Many of the women volunteered in war efforts at home, and all three of Theodore M.’s sons – Lewis, Earle, and Edwin (Eddy) – enlisted for service in the armed forces. In 1943, Earle was accepted into the Tuskegee Institution’s program for training the first African American military pilots (now famously known as the “Tuskegee Airmen”) and was well into his training before his death at the end of 1943.
The Sullivan family continued their tradition of service for many decades through memberships with the Red Cross and American Legion. In 1954, Sadie Thompson, Theodore M. Sullivan’s half sister, was honored with an award for forty years of service in her Boston Chapter of the American Red Cross, and again in 1971 for fifty five years of active involvement.
Although the Sullivan family retained ties to the Boston area, several branches have spread throughout the northeastern United States. After his marriage, Theodore M. Sullivan began working for the Bureau of Engraving in Washington, D.C. Still connected to his Boston home, Theodore split his time between the two cities until his death in 1969. Upon her marriage to Thomas Mendes, Ethylene Mendez, daughter of Francis Sullivan Mendez, moved to Long Island, N.Y. She was eventually followed by her mother and sister, Lillian, where they lived until their deaths in the 1980s and 1990s.
Topic:
African American families
African American musicians
African American soldiers
African Americans
Armed Forces
Musicians
Soldiers
Volunteers
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1939-1945
Cite As:
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum
See more items in:
The Sullivan Family Collection
Anacostia Community Museum Collection
Data Source:
Anacostia Community Museum

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