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Anne Sims Hopkins collection of Sims family papers

Identifier: MSC-352

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of letters, photographs, invitations, a wedding gift registry, and other papers relating to the Sims family, particularly Admiral William S. Sims and his wife, Anne Hitchcock Sims. The papers detail the Sims family’s personal life and relationship as well as Admiral Sims’s career in the Navy.

Correspondence includes letters sent and received by Anne H. Sims, with the majority written to her husband and members of her family. Mrs. Sims wrote to her husband almost daily, keeping him abreast of the family matters, health, social life, financial matters, and diaries of their children’s activities while he was stationed on duty. She also wrote to her husband about current events and her thoughts on naval affairs, Sim’s naval career and legacy. Some of these letters found within this collection are handwritten copies or typewritten transcriptions, such as the letters written by Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 to Sims passing on his well wishes on their engagement.

Photographs consist of loose photographs of members of the Sims and Sowden families, with the majority being of Admiral Sims throughout his career. A photograph album titled, “Album of Snapshots,” and inscribed “To Willie from Anne and Elting – December 1954” was a gift from Sim’s daughter and son-in-law, Anne and Elting Morison to their brother William (son of Admiral Sims) documenting the schools, homes, and beaches they enjoyed while living in Newport, Rhode Island during their father’s tenure as President of the Naval War College.

Also found within this collection is a poem written by Admiral Sims and recited a dinner in 1922, his passport, commission as ensign signed by Chester Arthur, invitations to Buckingham and Windsor Castles, and calling cards. The couple’s wedding register book is also included and lists the gifts, letters, and flowers the couple received for their wedding, including a gift from Roosevelt.


  • 1844-1954
  • Majority of material found within 1905-1920


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to all researchers, unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

Biographical note

William Sowden Sims (1858-1936) was born on October 15, 1858, in Port Hope, Ontario Province, Canada to Alfred William (1826-1895) and Adelaide Sowden Sims (1835-1914). He was the eldest of six children: Louisa Peacock (b. 1861), James Peacock (1862-1863), Alfred Varley (1864-1944), Mary S. (b. 1868), and Adelaide Clarke (1874-1967). The Sims family lived in Canada until 1872 and then moved to Orsbisonia, Pennsylvania.

Sims was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from Pennsylvania in 1876. After graduation in 1880, he served on the USS Tennessee and later the USS Swatara, where he was promoted to ensign. Between 1882 and 1897, he served on USS Yantic, Saratoga, USS Philadelphia, USS Charleston, and the receiving ships Colorado and Richmond. In 1887, he received permission from the Navy Department to live in Paris for a year, where he perfected his French and absorbed French culture. This experience qualified him for an appointment as naval attaché to Paris, France; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Madrid, Spain in 1897, a position he held until 1900. During this time, he collected intelligence on Spain’s preparation for war and studied the gunfire systems of foreign navies.

In 1900, Sims was assigned to the China Station with the USS Kentucky, the Navy’s newest battleship. For the next two years, he continued to observe and report on the superiority of a new system of British naval gunnery that used the continuous aim method of firing developed by Royal Navy Captain Percy Scott (1853-1924). Sims felt that the U.S. Navy’s gunfire systems had deficiencies that imperiled the service’s effectiveness as a fighting force. After his pleas to the Bureau Chiefs and the Secretary of the Navy were ignored, Sims wrote directly to President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) about this in November 1901. President Roosevelt recalled Sims from China in 1902 and appointed him Inspector of Target Practice after the Atlantic Fleet had scored poorly in target practice. Sims held this position for six and a half years and also served as a naval aide to the president during the last two years of this assignment.

As a reward for his loyalty and service, Sims was named commanding officer of the Navy’s premier battleship, USS Minnesota. He held this post for two years until he was detached for instruction at the Naval War College as a member of the 1911 Summer Conference. He continued as a student in the 1911-1912 Long Course and remained on staff through June 1913. Following his tenure at the Naval War College, he assumed command of the Destroyer Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet and worked to devise new tactical maneuver doctrines for destroyers.

After a year as commanding officer of USS Nevada, Sims was selected as president of the Naval War College in February 1917 and promoted to rear admiral. The college closed two months later when the United States entered World War I and Sims was sent to London to act as a liaison with the Royal Navy. Soon after he was appointed Commanding Officers, U.S. Naval Forces in European waters as a vice admiral. In order to combat the heavy losses of merchant shipping from U-boat attacks, he devised a plan to use destroyers as escorts. The convoy system worked remarkably well and cut shipping losses in half. He directed the operations of nine admirals under his command and worked harmoniously with the other allied powers while sanctioning the laying of the North Sea Mine Barrage.

When the war was over, Sims returned to Newport and the presidency of the Naval War College, where he remained until he retired in 1922 at the age of sixty-four. During his tenure at the college, he increased the number of faculty and students and defended the college as a citadel of naval thought and intellectual training in warfare. He spent the last fourteen years of his life in Boston, where he wrote, lectured, and testified before Congress regarding what he considered deficiencies in the Navy. In 1921, Sims won the Pulitzer Prize for Victory at Sea, a factual and reasoned account of World War I. William S. Sims died on September 28, 1936, in Boston and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Throughout his distinguished career, Admiral Sims received the following medals: Spanish Campaign Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, Mexican Service Medal, Victory Medal, Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (Great Britain), Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor (France), Grand Cordon, Order of the Rising Sun (Japan), Grand Cordon, Order of Leopold (Belgium), and Grand Officer of the Crown of Italy. He refused to accept the Distinguished Service Medal because he objected to the Navy’s policy of awarding medals to undeserving officers.

He also received honorary degrees from the following universities: Yale, Harvard, Tufts, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Cambridge (England), McGill (Montreal, Canada), Queens (Kingston, Canada), and from Williams, Union, and Juniata Colleges, and the Stephens Institute.

Three U.S. ships bore his name. The destroyer USS Sims (DD-409) was launched in 1939 and sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. The destroyer escort USS Sims (DE-154, then APD-50) was commissioned in 1943 and served during World War II. The third USS Sims (DE-1059) was commissioned in 1970 and served with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

William S. Sims married Anne Erwin Hitchcock (1875-1960), the eldest daughter of Ethan Allen (1835-1909) and Margaret Dwight Collier Hitchcock (840-1912), on November 21, 1905, in Washington, DC. The couple enjoyed a close, supportive relationship and had the following children: Margaret H. Hopkins (b. 1907), Adelaide Fiske (b. 1910), William Sowden (b. 1912), Anne H. Morison (b. 1914), and Ethan A. H. Sims (1916-2010).

The donor, Anne Sims Hopkins, is the eldest grandchild of Admiral Sims, the daughter of Margaret and Robert H. Hopkins.

Chronology of Naval Service note

Born October 15, in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada
Graduated, U.S. Naval Academy
USS Tennessee (Screw frigate)
Promoted to Midshipman
Promoted to Ensign
Saratoga (Schoolship)
USS Philadelphia (C-4)
USS Charleston (C-2)
Naval attaché, Paris and St. Petersburg
Naval attaché, Madrid
USS Kentucky (BB-6)
Promoted to lieutenant commander
Inspector of Target Practice
Married November 21, to Anne Hitchcock
Promoted to Commander
Naval Aide to the President of the United States
CO, USS Minnesota (BB-22)
Student and later a staff member, Naval War College
CO, Destroyer Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet
CO, USS Nevada (BM-8)
Promoted to Rear Admiral
President, Naval War College and Commandant, Second Naval District
CO, U.S. Naval Forces, European Waters
Returned to the rank of Rear Admiral
President, Naval War College
Victory at Sea published
Retired from the U.S. Navy
Temporary duty with Bureau of Navigation and Aircraft Board
Commissioned Admiral on the retired list
Died, September 28


4 linear feet (5 Hollinger boxes, 1 oversize box)


This collection consists of letters, photographs, invitations, a wedding gift registry, and other papers relating to the Sims family, particularly Admiral William S. Sims and his wife, Anne Hitchcock Sims. The papers detail the Sims family’s personal life and relationship as well as Admiral Sims’s career in the Navy.


This collection is arranged in alphabetical order by genre.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Anne Sims Hopkins, granddaughter of William S. Sims, 4 October 2016 (Ms.Ac.2016.6)


Future additions are expected.

Related Materials

The following volume was separated from this collection to be included in Rare Books Collection at the Naval Historical Collection: Sims, William S. The Victory at Sea, John Murray: London, 1920.

Anne Morison Sims memories of a child’s life in the president’s house at the Naval War College, 1919-1922, MSI 378. Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.

William S. Sims papers, MSC 168. Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.

Please contact NHC staff at for information on other collections relating to the Sims family.

Processing Information

This collection was processed and arranged according to current archival standards in 2018 by Elizabeth Delmage.


Guide to the Anne Sims Hopkins collection of Sims family papers1844-1954 (bulk 1905-1920)
Dacs Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Delmage.
2018 Apr 27
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Describing Archives: A Content Standard (Dacs)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Naval Historical Collection Repository

US Naval War College
686 Cushing Rd
Newport RI 02841 US