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Julian Albert Leonhard Correspondence, 1903-1904

Identifier: SC MS 0227

Scope and Content Note

This collection is an exchange of letters between the President of Lehigh University, Thomas M. Drown and the parents of Julian Albert Leonhard (Freshman of Class of 1906) on the occasion of Julian’s death from typhoid fever attributed by the family and the family physician to a fraternity hazing incident.


  • Creation: 1903-1904, 2011


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Biographical Note

The subject of the eight letters in this collection is a Lehigh University Freshman of the Class of 1907 Julian Albert Leonhard. On September 26, 1903 of his Freshman year, Julian was involved in fraternity hazing incident that apparently led to his death October 20, 1903 of typhoid fever. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. Henry Leonhard, and the family physician, A.A. Lydecker, M.D. attributed the death to the humiliating hazing being forced to drink contaminated water from a local city saloon. Julian and another fraternity pledge apparently were blindfolded and forced to sit on the floor of the saloon and feed each other “water” (from a source assumed to be city water) by spoon. Julian becomes severely ill and goes home to Haledon, New Jersey where he dies. His parents begin the correspondence with Lehigh University President Thomas Messinger Drown relating in the letters their understanding of the incident determined from their son’s feverish accounting. Based on three newspaper articles about cruel hazing incidents in other universities, apparently the family physician is suggesting to the family to sue the University or at least try to stop the practice of hazing. President Drown responds with letters of condolence to each of the parents and a reassurance of his verbal denouncement of the practice of hazing. Possible some of the parents’ letters are in the University Presidents’ Correspondence files because some of the Drown letters to the parents indicate receipt of their letters. The family attributes the death to contaminated city water. The Brown and White student newspaper reports six cases of typhoid fever among Lehigh’s students at the time, although only one death results, Julian Leonhard. It is uncertain why a family friend in 2011 gets involved in donating the Leonhard correspondence to Special Collections but apparently after over a hundred years the Leonhard family still puzzles over the death attributed to Lehigh fraternity hazing.


15 components of the collection

Language of Materials



The letters in this collection were sent by Leonhard Family and Lehigh University President Thomas M. Drown about Julian Albert Leonhard's death from typhoid fever in his freshman year from a possible fraternity hazing prank. Leonhard’s typhoid was caused by contaminated water which was believed to be from the Bethlehem city water.

Organization of the Content

The materials are arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information

Material donated to Special Collections by John Debreceni, a friend of the Leonhard Family, May 3, 2011


No additions anticipated.

Related Material:

SC MS0003 Lehigh University Presidents’ Correspondence, 1866-1921.

L D788zt Talbot, Henry P. “Thomas Messinger Drown,” 1905.

Separated Material:

A single black and white 14.5 x 20 cm portrait photograph of Julian Albert Leonhard has been removed and filed in the Lehigh University photographs collection.

Physical Description

15 components of the collection 8 letters, 1 portrait photograph, 3 newspaper obituaries and 3 news articles about hazing.

Finding Aid of the Julian Albert Leonhard Correspondence, 1903-1904
William Ying
September 23, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)