John Sykes Curtis Harvey Center

   for Healing and Stress Reduction

John Sykes Curtis Harvey


John Sykes Curtis Harvey [1872-1949], after whom the Center is named, was Emily Sander's grandfather ("grandfather Harvey").

Emily Sander looked up to her grandfather for his courage and bravery in the face of adversity, whether it was business challenges, medical illnesses or personal hardships. John Harvey died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1949 but only after playing a powerful role healing divisions, supporting organizations of peace, and planting seeds for a better world. [He is pictured above with his wife Emily Bishop Harvey at Pendle Hill, Pennsylvania in 1939].

John Sykes Curtis Harvey, was a man of many accomplishments. He was an astute leather manufacturer and dedicated Quaker leader. He left a legacy of kindness and caring that will always be remembered by his family, friends and community.

John was born into a hard-working Quaker family on August 15, 1872. Their farm was located near Columbus, NJ. John was one of the brightest and most dedicated students in his school. He attended Swarthmore Preparatory School hoping to then attend Swarthmore College. Unfortunately, John developed a cold which turned into pneumonia and he was ill for four months. Because the family funds saved for his Swarthmore tuition were spent treating his illness, John attended a more affordable business school in Trenton, New Jersey.

John married Emily Bishop, on October 8, 1901. She had grown up on a farm close to his in Columbus, NJ. Emily was also a Quaker and shared many of John's interests. Emily brought John on her visits to the homes of neighbors, friends and the general public to persuade them of the justice of their causes, which included politics, peace and prohibition. Emily remarked that John was one of the few men of those days who openly was willing to march with his wife in support of giving women the vote.

Together they raised a close knit family in Radnor, Pennsylvania on a place they called "the hilltop." Eventually, their three children, Anna (1902-2006), Curtis (1904-1969) and Tom (1908-1969), also raised their own families there. The hilltop was a place focused on family and family activities — whether playing tennis, touch football, riding horseback, swimming, or swinging on the porch swing. Many friends came from around the world to visit the hilltop home whose doors were open and always welcoming. Eleanor Roosevelt as First Lady came to tea accompanied only by her personal secretary. But many people of all backgrounds were welcome and always found a good meal and warm hospitality.

John Harvey was energetic and competitive. These traits helped him develop his skills as a leather salesman, leading many people to claim he was the best leather salesman in the world. Because of his reputation, John was invited to form the John R. Evans Leather Company partnership. Selling leather took John on trips all around the East coast as well as to England, France, and even eventually trips to India among other places.

John suffered all his life from nervous indigestion. He was hard-driven, so much so that when he returned home from business trips he was tired, and often became ill. Although the hilltop home was peaceful, the pressure from work was so great that John was not able to relax very often. John was a very enthusiastic and generous person. He gave money to Quaker activities, movements, and other charities. He provided funds to educate many students to attend George School and college. He and his wife Emily shared their home with many people. Nothing was too much trouble to do for a relative, friend or customer. His dentist said that John was so conscientious that he paid his bills even before the bill was sent out.

One of John and Emily's special loves was Valley Friends Meeting in Wayne, Pennsylvania. They sat on the facing bench regularly, spoke often and John enjoyed serving on the forum committee. According to one Valley Meeting Member, when she was a little girl, one day she asked John how long it took to become a Quaker. She thought that he was very wise and would know the answer. To her surprise, he said he was still seeking. John and Emily took their religion seriously. They played active roles in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the American Friends Service Committee, Pendle Hill (a Quaker study center near Swarthmore), and the Friends General Conference. After the First World War, they stood on the corner of Fifth and Chestnut Streets handing out appeals to pardon the conscientious objectors who were being held in prison.

One day as John and the first director of Pendle Hill were driving past the Radnor Friends Meeting House, which had been closed for many years, John said "there is a meeting that should be re-opened." He then took the steps needed to reopen the meeting by bringing in prominent Quakers such as Dorothy and Douglas Steere, their son, Tom, and wife, Elisabeth, along with many others. The meeting grew to having 60-70 Friends weekly in attendance. John Harvey was also instrumental in unifying the Hicksite and Orthodox branches of the Society of Friends. He tried to convince both sides that the differences that had caused a fissure back in 1820 were now minimal, and they should join together. He also did this by re-opening Radnor Friends Meeting, which was the second united (unified) meeting.

Moreover, enthusiastically sending his sons Curtis and Tom, raised as Hicksite Friends, to Haverford College, an orthodox school, also sent a message of support for the unification of the two branches of the Society of Friends. The family and Haverford College honored John Harvey's commitment to world peace and Quaker peace by commemorating the Harvey Peace Research Room in his honor in the Haverford College Library.

Sources: The above account largely based on Joan Curtis Harvey & Ross Reese's reminiscences of John Sykes Curtis Harvey. Description also draws on Anna Jones's Family Anecdotes (1962). [Joan was one of grandfather Harvey's granddaughters; Anna Jones was John Sykes Curtis Harvey's daughter.] We are deeply indebted to Joan and Ross Reese for their remembrances of JSCH.

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