Sidney A. Cook

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Sidney A. Cook

Sidney Albert Cook was an officer in the Diamond T Motor Truck Company in Chicago. He served as President of the Theosophical Society in America during the years 1931–1945, and international Vice President of the Theosophical Society headquartered in Adyar, India, from 1946 to 1959.

Early life

Sidney Cook was born in Needham Malket, England on May 18, 1887. His wife Ellen Mary __ was born in Yoxford, a village in the east of Suffolk, England.

A son, Aubrey John Cook, was born in Canada on November 26, 1913. The family emigrated to the United States on January 20, 1916, entering in North Dakota.[1][2] Daughter Myrtle Helen Cook was born on October 12, 1923 in Chicago. Mr. and Mrs. Cook became naturalized American citizens in 1929.[3]

Aubrey died in Chicago on March 5, 1928 and was buried three days later.[4] His father was very much affected. In 1937 Mr. Cook donated money to create the Aubrey Garden at the Wheaton headquarters of the Theosophical Society:

in memory of a lad, who was my son, whose life was precious but whose passing directed me to service In gratitude for his brief life... I give this garden that all may share its beauty... I dedicate it to beauty as he was beautiful. I consecrate it to service even as he has served.[5]

Medallion from Diamond T Motor Truck Co.

Business career

In the 1930s and 1940s, Mr. Cook was Vice President and Treasurer of the Diamond T Motor Truck Company in Chicago. The company was a major manufacturer of heavy-duty dump trucks and other types of vehicles. During World War II, production was shifted to construction of huge tank transporters and other military vehicles.

Theosophical work

Following the birth of his young son Aubrey in 1913, Mr. Cook began "the search which led him to Theosophy and his long years of service to the Society."[6] He became a member on February 8, 1914.

Mr. Cook relieved president L. W. Rogers of many duties so that LWR could return to lecturing. Cook also headed a department in producing The Theosophical Messenger. In January 1931, an announcement was made that Mr. Cook had been elected to fill a vacancy in the Board of Directors that occurred when Mr. M. B. Hudson of St. Louis retired.[7]

President of American Section


Sidney A. Cook in 1931

In 1934 Mr. Cook spoke on Chicago radio station WGN on the subject of brotherhood.[8][9]

He was also chairman of the Scout Committee for Troop No. 38. A benefit concert was held at Olcott to purchase uniforms for the members of that troop, which was sponsored by the staff at TSA headquarters.[10]

Some other accomplishments of this administration are:

  • Offered German-language classes in basics of Theosophy to audiences in cities with large foreign-born populations. Mr. Felix Schmidt conducted these lecture series from 1937-1939 in several eastern cities including Detroit.[11]

After his term in office ended, Mr. Cook was married to his longtime coworker, Etha Snodgrass. The wedding took place on Saturday, September 8, 1945 in the library at the Olcott headquarters. "The simple but beautiful ceremony was performed by Rev. Paul A. O'Neal, assisted by Rev Henry A. Smith. The Headquarters Library made a charming setting with its many candles and a profusion of flowers in tones of purple and rose.[12]

Sidney A. Cook packing to leave Olcott, March 15, 1946

International Vice President in Adyar

Sidney A. Cook, standing, under banyan tree. C. Jinarājadāsa is at right, with Etha Snodgrass Cook and Rukmini Devi Arundale at left
Sidney and Etha Cook with Olcott staff on March 15, 1946

International President Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa asked Mr. Cook to join his administration (1946-1953) as Vice President. On March 15, 1946, Mr. Cook and his wife Etha left the Olcott headquarters for India. The staff presented him with a photo album annotated in beautiful calligraphy. Travel was delayed due to postwar restrictions on steamships, but they finally secured passage on a cargo boat sailing from New York in late November, with the goal of reaching India in time for the convention in Benares.[13]

On August 15, 1947 at 8 a.m., the Vice President chaired a celebration of the first day of India's independence, held in the Headquarters hall. Speakers also included C. S. Trilokekar, Srimathi Rukmini Devi Arundale, and Dr. G. Srinivasa Murti. The hall was specially decorated with flags of all nations, and August 15-16 were observed as national holidays.

One of projects that Mr. Cook coordinated in Adyar was the publication of the Collected Writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Mr. Cook ensured that the questions of the editor, Boris de Zirkoff, were researched promptly in the Adyar Library and Research Centre and Adyar Archives. They conducted an extensive correspondence. Mr. de Zirkoff wrote to a friend from Los Angeles,

The collaboration with Adyar is splendid just now; nothing more to be desired. Sidney A. Cook is at it with hammer and tong, and is doing fine.[14]

After only four years of marriage, Mr. Cook's wife Etha died. The March, 1950 issue of The American Theosophist reported,

"Dr. Iris Jocelyn Todd-Naylor who through many months of devoted service cared for Etha Snodgrass Cook during her long illness in India, thus endearing herself to all about her, will accompany the Vice-President as his wife when he returns to this country in the spring, both to attend Summer Sessions at Olcott and to tour the Section for lectures and members' talks.

The forthcoming marriage will take place in a month or so. Later Mr. and Mrs. Cook will commence the tour which includes British East Africa, South Africa, England, and the United States.[15]

When Mr. Jinarājadāsa, suffering from ill health, retired from the presidency in 1953, Mr. Cook received seventeen nominations as a candidate to succeed him, but exercised his right to withdraw from the election.[16] Nilakanta Sri Ram was elected and Mr. Cook continued in his position as Vice President.

Later years

According to Joy Mills,

In 1959 he took up residence once again in Chicago, becoming chairman of the Theosophical Investment Trust, the establishment of which, although an achievement of Perkins' administration, had long been a cherished dream of Cook's. His beloved Etha had died in India in May, 1949; soon thereafter he was married to Dr. Jocelyn Todd-Naylor from England, who had nursed Etha during her final illness. Failing health took Cook with his wife to her home in England, where he spent his final years quietly, passing away on August 4, 1965.[17]


Like other Presidents of the American Section, Mr. Cook served as editor of section periodicals, The Theosophical Messenger and The American Theosophist. He also wrote many articles for those and other Theosophical journals. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 287 articles by or about Sidney A Cook and another 59 under the initials SAC.

Additional resources


  1. U. S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992.
  2. 1920 U. S. Census.
  3. Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Passenger and Crew Lists of Airplane Departures, 1947-1957. October 1, 1950 departure from Seattle fro Yokohama.
  4. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947.
  5. H. Douglas Wild, "Reliving the Convention of 1937" The American Theosophist 25.9 (September, 1937), 196.
  6. Joy Mills, 100 Years of Theosophy: A History of the Theosophical society in America (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 91.
  7. "Mr. Cook Elected to Board of Directors" The Theosophical Messenger 19.1 (January 1931), 293.
  8. Sidney A. Cook, "Brotherhood: A Radio Talk" The Theosophist 55.10 (July, 1934), 399-405.
  9. "The National President on the Air" The American Theosophist 22.6 (June, 1934), 144.
  10. "Olcott Scout Benefit Performance," The American Theosophist 22.8 (August, 1934), 188.
  11. "Theosophical Classes in the German Language," The American Theosophist 25.6 (June, 1937), 142.
  12. "Wedding at Olcott," The American Theosophist 33.10 (October 1945), 240.
  13. "Mr. and Mrs. Cook to Sail," The American Theosophist 34.11 (November, 1946), 262.
  14. Boris de Zirkoff letter to Judith Tyberg. November 23, 1948. Boris de Zirkoff Papers. Records Series 22. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  15. "Mr. Cook's Marriage," The American Theosophist 38.3 ((March, 1950), 63.
  16. "News and Notes: From the Recording Secretary," The American Theosophist 40.12 (December, 1952), 238.
  17. Joy Mills, 100 Years of Theosophy: A History of the Theosophical society in America (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 123.