Marion Dexter Learned (1857-1917)

Marion Dexter Learned (1857-1917)

Marion Dexter Learned was born on July 10, 1857, near Dover, Delaware, the son of Hervey and Mary Learned. Learned's family was of early English and Welsh colonial background. He prepared for college at the Wilmington Conference Academy, and then entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as a member of the class of 1880. While studying languages at the College, he was a member of the Belles Lettres Literary Society.

Following graduation, he served four years as a language instructor at the Dickinson Seminary in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, before going on to graduate work at Johns Hopkins University. He visited Germany for the first time in 1885 during his studies, and in 1887 was awarded the first doctorate degree in German ever bestowed at Johns Hopkins. Learned would remain at Johns Hopkins as an associate professor of German, but in 1895 he left for the professorship of Germanic languages and literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as the pioneering chair of his department until his death in 1917. Learned's life work involved the study and support of German-American cultural contributions. He received the decoration of Knight of the Royal Prussian Order of the Red Eagle in 1911 for services in maintaining peaceful cultural relations between the United States and Germany. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Modern Language Society, but it was as founder and editor of the Americana Germanica in 1897 and later of the offshoot German American Annals that he gained national prominence. By 1903, these publications had become the mainstay of both the German-American Historical Society, which he had helped to found in 1901, and the emerging National German-American Alliance. His own scholarship included numerous writings on a wide variety of subjects, such as The German Pennsylvania Dialect, German as a Culture Element in American Education, The Life of Francis Daniel Pastorius, and Bismarck's Service to German Culture. He was chosen to give the German address at Kaiser Wilhelm's celebration and the English address at the Bismarck Memorial.

Learned was one of President James Henry Morgan's closest friends and their families maintained close ties. Morgan frequently asked Learned for advice and aid in guiding the College and various other issues he faced. Learned maintained his own close relationship with the College, working as an informal advisor with the College's language department, especially with Cornelius Prettyman, who had been his student both at Johns Hopkins and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Marion Dexter Learned died on August 1, 1917 during a time when German American organizations were falling under intense patriotic criticism, as the United States had entered the First World War. Learned had been traveling in Europe when the conflict broke out. He was survived by his wife, Annie Mosser, of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, whom he had married June 26, 1890, and their three children, Henry, Mary, class of 1921, and Carola, class of 1925. Mrs. Learned died in Carlisle in 1929.

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Dickinson College Archives
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