American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Bradford Fuller Swan, 1907-1976

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1976



With a heavy heart we write these lines in memory of Brad Swan, who with gentle irascibility brought wisdom and manners, good judgment and humor to us all. Brad was not a great mountaineer; his alpine accomplishments were minimal. Indeed on one of the few occasions when he donned a rope, he slid off an easy slab. But, then, with typical humor announced that if we would have him, he would hence forth be our haulbag.

Brad climbed and hiked in the Himalaya, the Hebrides, the Antarctic, and the mountains of Western Canada. But his main qualification for election to the American Alpine Club was forty years of service as a volunteer guide and trainer of leaders for camp groups in the alpine areas of New England. No one knew the trails and vistas of the Presidential Range as he did. Few people are aware of the alpine flowers, but he was among that even smaller group that cared to study, describe and preserve their delicate environment.

He was Chairman of the Huts Committee for the Appalachian Mountain Club and served some years as editor of Appalachia, the oldest mountaineering journal in the Western Hemisphere. His greatest work, though, was as one of the principal figures behind the establishment of a vigorous mountain leadership program within the A. M. C. For this last labor he was in course named a Corresponding Member of that organization, a barely adequate recognition for one who gave so much.

In the real world Brad Swan was a giant. He served as President of the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Providence Art Club, as historian for the Society of Colonial Wars and was the author of a number of scholarly historical works. A member of many distinguished historical and bibliographical societies, he was also an artist of some taste who created many works in water color.

His ancestry was extremely distinguished, including sixteen Mayflower passengers; among them, John Alden, Myles Standish and William Bradford. Nevertheless Brad prided himself on his standing as a liberal Democrat, and took nobody very seriously.

The Possessor of the finest wine cellar in the Providence Plantations, as the principal arts and drama critic for the Providence Journal and Bulletin, he was for decades the leading arbiter of taste in one of America’s most historic cities. Nothing, however, was preserved from his wit, and as a devotee of Mencken, he laughed at everyone.

Brad Swan was our cook and counselor in the mountains, stooping over smokey heather fires in the rain and enjoying with vicarious glee the tales of ascents made by the younger members of the party. They, in turn, would gather respectfully every evening while he discussed the flowers and birds he had seen that day nearer to camp.

Brad had known for quite some time that without corrective surgery on his weakened aorta, his days would be limited. But, in a decision supported by all his friends, he elected to serve out his time in full intellectual vigor. On his last trip to the mountains he advised us that if he were to die there, that’s where he was to stay. And that is where we, who have lost so much, have taken his ashes.

William L. Putnam and Andrew J. Kauffman

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