A. Gustam

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A. Gustam was the Recording Secretary of the Theosophical Society in its early days when the Founders were in New York.

Theosophical Society involvement

An example of his writing as Recording Secretary was reprinted in Lucifer[1] This resolution became significant when the Founders moved to India:

Meeting of the Theosophical Society held at 302, W. 47th Street, August 27th, 1878.
Present, the President and a Quorum.
On motion resolved that, in case the Headquarters of the Society shall be at any time temporarily established in a foreign country, the President may in his discretion admit suitable persons to active fellowship upon their application in writing and their taking the oath required of candidates.
He shall also have full power and discretion to make such rules and regulations and do such things as he may consider necessary for the welfare of the Society and the accomplishment of the objects which it represents.
All Bye-laws inconsistent with the above are hereby repealed.
After the transaction of routine business the Society adjourned.
(Signed) A. Gustam,
Secretary

On May 22, 1878, he wrote a letter "To the Chiefs of the Ârya Samâja advising them that the Council of the T.S. has accepted the proposal of the Samâja to unite with them." In July of that year he resigned as Recording Secretary, and the vacancy was filled by William Quan Judge. In April, 1880, Gustam was named jointly with Sorabji Jamaspji Padshah as Librarian of the Society.[2]

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky mentioned Gustam in her 1878 diary:

November 25: "O’Donovan and A. Gustam dined with us, and after dinner they two and Wim. and I measured heights of body sitting on the floor backs against wall. I never saw this curious experiment before, and was amused and surprised at the result. Wim’s legs were 5 or 6 inches longer than Gustam’s and mine, while his body was more than half a head shorter."

December 15: "Dinner. Paris, Wimb., Tom, Marbles and Gustam."

[3]

Identity of A. Gustam

1879 patent application

Little else was written about Mr. Gustam in Theosophical Society records. However, historical and genealogical research makes it seem likely that he was Augustus Gustam of New York. The crucial piece of evidence for identifying his first name is an 1879 document of the United States Patent Office naming himself, inventor Thomas G. Hall, and William Q. Judge as assignees of a patent for "Improvement in Adjustable-Faces Vises."[4]

Augustus Gustam does not appear in U.S. Census records, but his wife and sons do, and the name is listed in several city directories. He was born in Scotland and arrived in the United States sometime before 1875, when he was a "superintendent" living in Hartford, Connecticut.[5] He moved to New York, and was listed at Brooklyn addresses with various occupations - secretary, agent, salesman.[6] He was married to Eliza Murch, and they had several children. Augustus Judge Gustam was born on February 7, 1880.[7] A daughter Ella was born in May, 1872, son Milford in November 1881, and son William around 1882.[8] After Mr. Gustam died, sometime before 1899, Eliza Gustam worked as a teacher.[9]

Notes

  1. A. Gustam, [Document (Aug 27, 1878)], Lucifer 17 (October, 1895), 165.
  2. "Executive Officers for 1880" The Theosophist 1.8 (May, 1880), 214.
  3. "H. B. Blavatsky Collected Writings Online" Volume I, page 422, 430. Viewed at KatinkHesselink.net, February 12, 2018.
  4. "Specification forming part of Letters Patent No. 219,719, dated September 16, 1879; application filed January 3, 1879." U.S. Patent and Tradmark Office Patents, 1790-1909. Ancestry.com
  5. 1920 U.S. Census for his son Augustus Judge Gustam; Geer's Hartford City Directory, 1875.
  6. Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1876, 1877, 1880, 1886, 1888.
  7. U.S. World War I Draft Registration Card, 1918.
  8. 1915 New York Census; 1920 U.S. Census
  9. 1900 U.S. Census; Brooklyn City Directory, 1899