Brown Logo

Office of University Communications
38 Brown Street / Box 1920
Providence RI 02912

401 863-2453
Fax 863-1650
[email protected]

Contact Mark Nickel


From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:

College servants

College Servants, those worthy persons who tended the buildings and provided food for the students and security for the campus, were often well-loved by the students, and some of them were truly legends in their own time.

John Reeves, an Englishman, was a provider of fruit and confections on the campus, who came to Providence as a boy around 1804, and after a life of many vicissitudes on sailing ships and adventures as a servant in China, came back to Providence in the late 1850s. Being forced to give up his occupation with a livery establishment after a violent kick by a horse, he turned to selling food to students. For about twenty years in his well-known stove-pipe hat he presided over a three-level tin box filled with confections from the catering business of Lewis H. Humphrey, the proprietor of the City Hotel, and only gave up his post on the chapel steps in 1878, at an estimated age of ninety.

Another favorite with the students was “Jumbo,” whose real name was Arthur Jefferson. He began selling food on the chapel steps in 1884, having paid five dollars to a former peddler named Asberry Neal, who had been in the business for seven years and was now leaving town, for the opportunity to replace him. In due time the students transferred Neal’s nickname, “Jumbo,” to Jefferson. As Jumbo’s customers and his supplies expanded, he was given space in the basement of University Hall to sell his wares. He was well-liked by the students, and was given a role in a Hammer and Tongs production, “Cupid ’96,” in which he played the part of a peddler selling food to students.

The men who kept the campus safe often did so singlehandedly. Captain “Cap” Cameron, the Scotsman, was the night patrol from about 1904. He was joined in 1919 by Sergeant Briggs, the daytime officer who came to Brown after 27 years with the Providence police. Bernard Hand, who came from Ireland and served in the Providence Police Department from 1902 to 1939, was the friendly campus policeman at Brown from 1939 to 1949, who “had a way with boys” and kept them out of trouble.

Nelson Lambert, “Nels” of Faunce House, was born in Guadaloupe in 1885, worked in ships traveling to Japan and China, Australia, and Europe, and lived and worked for a time in New Caledonia and Tahiti. He came to Providence, and several generations of alumni had fond memories of him as the janitor at Faunce House from 1909 (when it was still Rockefeller Hall) until his retirement in 1952.

The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright 1993 by the Brown University Library. It is used here by permission of the author and the University and may not be copied or further distributed without permission.

Return to Encyclopedia Index  |  University Home Page