Sarah Thompson, Countess Rumford

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Sarah Thompson, Countess Rumford
Sarah Rumford, c 1797.jpg
Sarah Thompson, Countess Rumford, stipple engraving by Joseph Peter Paul Rauschmayer (1758-1815), after a portrait painted by Kellerhofen in Munich in 1797
Born(1774-10-18)18 October 1774
Died2 December 1852(1852-12-02) (aged 78)
OccupationPhilanthropist
Known forFirst American countess
Parent(s)Benjamin Thompson
Sarah Rolfe

Sarah Thompson, Countess Rumford, (18 October 1774 - 2 December 1852) was a philanthropist.[1][2][3] She is the first American to be known as a Countess.[2][3][1][4]

Early life[edit]

Sarah's father, Benjamin Thompson

Thompson was the daughter of the Anglo-American physicist and inventor Benjamin Thompson[1] and of Sarah Rolfe, a rich and well-connected heiress, who was thirteen years older than her husband.[3] Both were born and brought up in the American colonies and married there in 1772.

During the American Revolutionary War of 1775 to 1783, Benjamin Thompson took the side of the British, and at the end of the war he moved to London. He was knighted in 1784. In 1785, when Sarah Thompson was eleven years old, her father moved to Bavaria to become an aide-de-camp to the Prince-elector Charles Theodore.[3] She, however, remained in New England with her mother.[3]

In 1792, Sir Benjamin Thompson was created a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. He took the name "Rumford" for Rumford, New Hampshire, which was an older name for the town of Concord, where he had been married, becoming "Count Rumford".[3]

Adult life[edit]

Around 1796, at her father's request, Sarah Thompson traveled to London to be with him, since four years earlier her mother had died.[3] In 1797, the Elector of Bavaria accepted Thompson as a Countess of the Holy Roman Empire.[3] In recognition of her father's military services to Bavaria, she was to be given one half of his pension of 2000 florins upon his death, with the right to live in any country she wished.[2][3] When her father died in 1814 she became "Countess Rumford".[2][3] Thompson spent her time between her homes in Brompton, London, and Concord, New Hampshire, with other trips in-between.[3] She often would travel to Paris and lived there for two and three years.[3]

Later life[edit]

Countess gravestone monument

From 1845, Thompson lived primarily at her home in Concord, New Hampshire.[5] She lived there in luxury with an adopted daughter until her death in 1852.[5]

Thompson established the Rolfe and Rumford Asylums in Concord, New Hampshire.[3][1] She provided assistance to and bequeathed large sums of money to charitable societies in Concord and Boston for needy children, motherless girls, widows, and the mentally ill.[3][1][5][5] The United Way in 1984 founded the Rumford Society in honor of the charitable donations given by Thompson.[1]

Her gravestone monument reads,

In memory of

COUNTESS SARAH RUMFORD

Only daughter of

COUNT RUMFORD

and grand daughter of

REV. TIMOTHY WALKER,

the first, settled minister of Concord.


As the Founder of the Rolfe and Rumford Asylum and Patroness of other institutions of a kindred character: She manifested a deep sympathy with the afflicted and a commendable regard for the poor.


Having passed a large portion of her life in Europe, she returned near its close, to her family mansion in this City, where she was born October 10, 1774, and where she died December 2, 1852.[1]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bradley, D. (1967). Count Rumford. Van Nostrand. ISBN B0000CM48T.
  • Brown, G.I. (2001). Count Rumford: The Extraordinary Life of a Scientific Genius - Scientist, Soldier, Statesman, Spy. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-262-02138-2.
  • Brown, Sanborn C. (1962). Count Rumford: Physicist Extraordinary. Doubleday & Co.
  • Brown, S.C. (1981). Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. Cambridge USA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-02138-2.
  • Nathaniel Bouton (1857). The History of Concord: From Its First Grant in 1725 to the Organization of the City Government in 1853. Concord: Benning W. Sanford.
  • Ellis, George E. (1814-1894) (1871). Memoir of Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. Ellis.
  • Larsen, E. (1953). An American in Europe: The life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. Rider. ISBN B0000CII01.
  • Metcalf, Henry Harrison et al., The Granite Monthly, published 1886, Original from the University of California, Google Books digitized.
  • Sparrow, W.J. (1964). Knight of the White Eagle: A biography of Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, 1753-1814. Hutchinson. ISBN B0000CM48T.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Find a Grave - Sarah Thompson". Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  2. ^ a b c d "Saratoga newspaper article". Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bouton, p. 572
  4. ^ Metcalf, p. 84
  5. ^ a b c d Burton, p. 573

External links[edit]