Skip to main content

Wheeler, David Hilton, 1829-1902



  • Existence: 1829 - 1902-


David Hilton Wheeler was born on November 18, 1829 in Ithaca New York. Soon after graduating from the Rock River Conference (Methodist Episcopal) Seminary, Wheeler accepted appointment as a professor of ancient languages at his denomination's Iowa Conference Seminary, now Cornell College, of Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Wheeler left teaching briefly during the mid-1850s to edit a newspaper in Carroll County, Illinois. He returned to Mt. Vernon, taking a position as professor of Greek at Cornell. Wheeler was active in the turbulent politics of his era and, as a reward for his campaigning in Iowa on behalf of Abraham Lincoln, received an appointment as United States Consul to Genoa in 1861. While stationed in Italy, he published two books on local themes: Brigandage in South Italy (1864) and The Conspiracy of Gianluigi Fieschi, or, Genoa in the Sixteenth Century (1866, translator). Wheeler left his diplomatic post to become a foreign correspondent for the New York and Chicago Tribunes.

Wishing to provide an American home to his children, in 1867 Wheeler agreed to take up an earlier appointment as professor of English literature at Northwestern University. Soon thereafter he was elected a Northwestern trustee (1867-1869) and executive officer of the Northwestern faculty (1868). From that position he served as Northwestern's de facto acting president until the inauguration of Erastus O. Haven in September, 1869. Wheeler's administrative service saw the completion of University Hall, Northwestern's main academic and administrative building. His work at Northwestern also included responsibility for the University library and Wheeler was influential in Northwestern's successful efforts to acquire the important book collection of Johannes Schulze, an official in the Prussian Ministry of Education and noted bibliophile.

Wheeler was a respected observer of both history and contemporary society and a literary critic. In 1872 he was associated with Erastus O. Haven in the management of the Lakeside Monthly Magazine. Wheeler left Northwestern to edit the denominational publication, The Methodist. He re-entered academic administration as president of Allegheny College from 1883 to 1888 and from 1889 to 1893. He died on June 18, 1902, in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Wheeler was the brother of Emily Frances Wheeler, a Northwestern alumna (WCAS A.B., 1875; Honorary A.M., 1880), instructor in French (1875-1877) and professor of Romance languages (1891-1897). Two of Wheeler's sons, Charles P. (WCAS A.B., 1876; A.M., 1879) and Frederick S. (WCAS A.B., 1881), also were Northwestern alumni. Charles served as a Northwestern trustee (1900-1920) and as president of the University's Alumni Association (1892-1893).

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

David Hilton Wheeler (1829-1902) Papers

Identifier: 3/4

David Hilton Wheeler (1829-1902) was a professor of English literature at Northwestern University, was elected as a trustee and executive officer of the faculty, and served as Northwestern's de facto acting president from 1868-1869. Wheeler's papers fill one half-sized box, span the years 1869-1966, and consist of biographical information and clippings, writings, and correspondence.

Dates: 1869-1966