Skip to main content

Charles Carlton Ayer Papers

Identifier: COU:73

Scope and Contents

The C.C. Ayer collection includes: I. PERSONAL MATERIALS Items relating to his life and death, photos of family/friends, publications, awards and travel. II. PHOTOS OF PUBLIC FIGURES Includes photos of authors/artists, composers/musicians, political figures, professors, ministers, royalty/nobility, stage celebrities, theatre scenes, groups and boxers/prizefighters, and trips. III. ART AND DRAMA Includes art catalogs, reproductions, school/museum information, drama information, and programs. IV. HISTORY, LITERATURE, AND MUSIC Includes textbooks and 2000 volumes library, catalogs, notes, author information, composer/musician information, and programs. V. GENERAL MATERIAL Includes newspaper clippings, language information, travel information, publications, University of Colorado material, University of Leipzig material. VI. SCRAPBOOKS Includes scrapbooks consisting of newspaper/magazine clippings.


  • 1897 - 1930

Biographical Note

Charles Carlton Ayer was born in Boston, Massachusetts on November 5, 1866. His parents were Don Carlos Ayer, a jeweler, and Arethusa Ann (Hibbard) Ayer. He attended the Boston Latin School, after which he matriculated at Harvard College, receiving his B.A. in 1889. He remained at Harvard as a member of the graduate department until December of 1889. He later had private tutoring until the fall of 1890, when he entered the University Of Leipzig, Germany. There he studied modern philology, the study of language in written historical sources. In January of 1893, he became an instructor of romance languages at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He returned to Germany the following year, where he secured his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Strassburg in 1896.

His career at the University of Colorado at Boulder began during fall of the following year, the early days of which he taught French, Spanish, and Italian simultaneously. As the university grew, he was able to relieve some of that burden as he developed a faculty. In 1900, he traveled to Paris, France as a delegate to the Modern Language Congress. He still continued to teach every year of his CU career until his retirement in 1931, with the exception of his 1910-1911 sabbatical, where he made a trip around the world and spent a winter in India. The purpose of his sabbatical was to further his knowledge and understanding of modern language. From July 1917 to November 1918, he gave weekly evening classes in French for doctors and nurses in connection with the war work of the Alliance Française of Denver. He was said to possess “an enthusiastic devotion to his duties as a teacher.”

Aside from his activities as an educator, he also had lifelong interests in music, theater, art and travel. He often traveled to New York and Chicago to attend concerts and theatre productions. He was a member of the Boulder Music Society, as well as the Modern Language Association and Gesellschaft fur Romanische Literature. He served as chairman of the university’s dramatics board until the 1920s. He established the first Player’s Club at the University of Colorado, and directed their first production; “The Violin Maker of Cremonia” by Francois Coppie and “A Cup of Tea” by Hiuttes. Of these early days in Colorado’s dramatics he said, “I recall, curious as it may seem, that it took coaxing and flattery to have the students take part in the production.” His efforts to promote music entertainment and theatre in Boulder were recognized, and he was awarded the Player’s Club Masque in 1931. In an article by a former student, it was declared that “Dr. Ayer had no superiors in the Rocky Mountain region for knowledge of drama and music. His criticisms of plays and musical events that appeared in the New-Herald came from the pen of one thoroughly versed in the subject.” From the start of his CU career to its end, he saw enrollment grow from 297 to 3,405. In 1931, Ayer announced his retirement after being a CU faculty member for 34 years. At this time, he was acknowledged as the oldest faculty member in point of service at the university. At his appreciation dinner, a presentation was made for Ayer by Dr. John B. Ekeley, his colleagues presented him with a gold watch, and he was named professor emeritus of romantic languages.

In September of 1938, Ayer was admitted to Community Hospital due to Parkinson’s disease and other complications. It was here that he spent the last 9 years of his life until October of 1947. He died one month shy of his 80th birthday, leaving behind numerous nieces and nephews, as well as a brother. At his request, he was cremated and his ashes were spread over Boulder, and also had a memorial stone erected at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He donated his 2,000 volume library, vast photo collection, a piano, and a Victrola phonograph to the University of Colorado. R.E. Ellsworth, the Library Director at the time, said “This is one of the greatest gifts we have received from an individual and is greatly appreciated.”


6 linear feet (12 Boxes)

Language of Materials



A graduate of Harvard University and the Universities of Leipzig and Strassburg [sic], Charles C. Ayer (1866-1947), was a professor of Romance Languages at the University of Colorado from 1897 to 1931. Professor Ayer traveled widely, took part in many dramatic productions, and was active in university and off-campus theatrical events. The papers contain photographs of prominent people, newspaper clippings and theater programs.


This collection is arranged into the following series: I. Personal Materials II. Photos of Public Figures and Nature III. Art and Drama IV. History, Literature, and Music V. General Materials VI. Scrapbooks

Brittany Thornton
June 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States