John Christian Pflaum (1903-1975)

John C. Pflaum, c.1960

John Christian Pflaum was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 13, 1903. After graduating from high school in 1921, Pflaum earned both his bachelor’s degree in economics (1925) and his master’s degree in history (1929) from the University of Pennsylvania. Opting to teach instead of following his original intention of practicing law, he began teaching at a West Virginia high school while earning his master’s degree. He was a member of the faculty of Temple University from 1926 until 1933, and then again from 1938 until 1943, instructing at his alma mater during the interim. In the days just prior to the Second World War, Pflaum was traveling and studying in Europe when he was caught in the turmoil of the German invasion of Poland and the subsequent chaos it caused; he would later use these experiences to illustrate the human side of the war to many generations of his students. During the war, Pflaum served as an instructor at the Western Reserve Academy and as supervisor of the Signal Corps trainees at Princeton, Rutgers, Lafayette, and Temple.

Pflaum joined the history faculty at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1946; he would teach here for the rest of his career, inspiring and educating Dickinsonians in American and European history until his retirement in 1972. He also served as a class dean for eight years. Scores of his former students have praised his enthusiasm for his subject matter, as well as his eloquence both in the classroom and on many an impromptu field trip to local historical sites. This ability to inspire a love of history through lecture led to the establishment of the John C. Pflaum Lectures in History at his retirement. From 1972 until his death in 1975, Pflaum indulged his passion for travel, just as he had done as a student and fledgling professor. A lifelong bachelor, John Christian Pflaum died of heart failure while changing a flat tire on the roadside near his home in Naples, Florida in April, 1975. He was seventy-two years old.

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Dickinson College Archives
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