Niles Carpenter was born March 25, 1891 to Orrin Frederick and Florence Hiltman Carpenter in Evanston, Illinois. He was the 6th of 7 children, with three brothers Frank, Nat and Fred and three sisters Florence, Cora and Catherine.
He married Edith Grace Durham of Oak Park, Illinois on December 27, 1917 when he was 26 and she was 27. They remained married until his death.
He had two children: Elizabeth Durham Carpenter born March 9, 1922 and Caroline Niles Carpenter adopted as a baby in 1930.
He died on July 10, 1971 of pulmonary edema. It was his second heart attack. After his first one he was resuscitated and was according to Edith very angry to be brought back. He said he had been in a totally beautiful and peaceful place and didn’t want to return to earth. In 1973, when I visited with Edith, she told me that his experience with near death had convinced her that there was nothing to fear. She trusted his account.
He was a student at the University of Illinois from 1909 until 1911 when he transferred to Northwestern University where he graduated in 1914 with a B.A. and in 1915 with a M.A. He received a PhD at Harvard University in 1920. In the spring and summer of 1919 he also studied at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His teaching career began early as a Fellow in Economics 1915-1916 at Northwestern and also an instructor of English there. From 1916-1918 he was the Robert Treat Paine fellow in social science at Harvard. In 1917 he won the Toppan prize in political science. In 1919-1920 he was instructor in economics at Simmons College. He had a Sheldon traveling fellowship from Harvard in summer 1920. From then until 1924 he was an instructor at Harvard. In 1924 he went to the University of Buffalo where he was head of the sociology department and later Dean of the School of Social Work there.
He was always also an Episcopal priest, becoming a deacon in 1919 and being ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1920. While teaching at Harvard he was on the staff at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. From 1929 on he was assistant minister at Trinity Church in Buffalo, New York. He felt equally called to academe and the church, and he never defined himself fully in either vocation.
He served in the military from 1917-1919 in the Army Quartermaster Corps, first as sergeant, then as second, then first lieutenant.
He authored five books, including the Sociology of City Life in 1931.
More information about him can be found in the papers of Elizabeth Lindsay Slaughter in the file 6/7. Also filed there are many photos of Niles and Niles with Edith.
Personal Recollections of Grandpa Carpenter by Elizabeth Slaughter