Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Crane, Thomas, 1803-75
Thomas Crane (1803-75) served on the first Board of Trustees and was a gifted entrepreneur. In 1906 Albert Crane, Thomas' son, presented the Tufts College Divinity School with a gift of $100,000 in memory of his father. This occasioned the renaming of the institution, subsequently known as the Crane Theological School.
Thomas Crane was born on October 3, 1803, on George's Island in Boston Harbor. His family moved to Quincy near Crane's Creek when the island was sold. His common school education consisted of a class of 204 children under the tutelage of one master. At fifteen Crane left to make a living. According to a twentieth century Quincy historian, Crane at this point had "a brilliant mind, but nothing to say."For some years, until his health failed him, Crane was a shoemaker. Next he moved on to granite cutting, and eventually, at the age of twenty-six, he took his trade to New York.
With two partners he purchased a stone-quarry, and began to accumulate wealth. Crane foresaw that land around the growing New York City would soon be in short supply, and after the New York fire he purchased several acres. He bought out his stone-quarry partners, and his land purchases were highly profitable. His fortune made, Thomas Crane turned his attention to education. An ardent Universalist, when his religious community determined to found a college based upon their faith, he became one of the most fervent supporters, and one of the most generous contributors.
The Crane Room, a classroom in Paige Hall and formerly known as the Crane Chapel, symbolizes Thomas Crane's legacy. Albert Crane and the town of Quincy, in 1882, dedicated an expensive memorial to Crane.
Thomas Crane died of natural causes in 1875.